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The Yankee Express.

Joined
Sep 29, 2021
Messages
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66
Location
Salisbury, Vermont
The Yankee Express is a 1967 Dodge Coronet 500 that has been heavily modified and customized. It's a one off car built for my own enjoyment.
At present, November 2021, it is in primer ( 6 coats) with the front clip painted in body color.
The list of mods and fabrication is long and it's been in the garage since October 2014 with a brief period where I rolled it out onto the driveway in 2018 while testing my steering modifications.
This car, when I purchased it, was a 100% complete example that was running and drivable. It had the factory wheel covers and cert-i-card intact.
It's a 318 V8, A/C, tinted window glass, buddy seat, 3 spd column shift car with 69,000 original miles on it. Cream yellow color with black interior. Everything worked on it when I got it and the rust was minimal with three areas that had been smacked and repaired.
I paid $3750.00 for it.
Now for some back story:
I'm 63 yrs old and spent 30 years in the US Army in combat aviation. I was medically retired from the service in 2015. I'm a combat veteran OIF/OEF and 100% disabled and unemployable.
Knowing that I was about to be retired at 57 years old I made plans to fulfill a life long dream of MOPAR muscle car ownership and building it the way I had dreamed about for decades. I simply never lived in one place long enough to have a reasonable expectation of being able to start and finish a project of this complexity.
I had NOT planned on being retired with TBI and PTSD however and this has made it exponentially more difficult to realize my dream. I'm not a quitter, fortunately.
Prior to purchasing the car I had a lot of ideas banging around in my head about what I wanted to do to it, but, the plan only really came together after I had the old girl home and trapped in the garage.
My pal Rick and I walked around the car and sat around spitballing this and that for mods that COULD be done.
After compiling a long list of crap we tried to filter it by keeping those that would look like the factory did it, and that would blend in so well that anyone who saw the car and knew what it was supposed to look like in stock form would be scratching their heads trying to figure out what had changed. They also had to be symmetrical and not stick out like a sore thumb.
So, here's what I did to it.


Mods:
Front to back------ Front bumper sectioned, shortened, turn signal rectangular holes filled, recurved to fit the new fender noses and to hug the sheet metal. Also enlarged the center license plate cut out into a ram airduct.
1967 Charger grill and revolving headlights. Custom electric headlight motors, mounts and linkages.
Front fender noses swept back to a 90* angle ( Think 70 Road Runner).
Front disc brakes swap from a 76 Aspen.
All rubber bumpers and bearings replaced.
Inner fender close out smooth panels to hide wiring etc.
Smooth firewall with relocated wiper motor to under dash as is everything previously on the firewall.
Battery to box behind passenger seat.
Wiring pass through tubes running along outside of inner fender just below the fender mounting flanges and into the cab through the firewall.
Wiring passthrough boots in the door frames.
2004 Audi A6 Quattro dash/console /steering and center pull E Brake. And everything in/on the dash console too.
Audi door panel elements fabricated into new panels that align with the Audi dash.
Puddle lights and rear facing marker lights on the rear face of the inner door surface, so it can be seen when the door is opened.
Power everything.
Custom steering linkages.
dual M/C and new hoses/lines.
10 way, power/heated bucket seats leather.
1967 Plymouth Sport Fury rear seat topper mounted just behind bucket seat tops and close out roadster type panels from there to the back glass. (Think 59 Corvette)
Audi armrest with 4 analog gauges hidden inside.
GPS speedo
spare tire under the roadster panels in what would have been the center of the rear seat. Close out panel between cab and trunk.
Fabricated shift linkage and lever. Hand made pistol grip and reverse lock out.
Fake quarter panel side scoops opened up.
dual motorcycle pop up gas filler caps, one on top of each quarter near the trunk lid front corners.
fabricate the entire rear face of the car to accept 1966 Thunder Bird tail lights.
Trunk lid on gas lifts
17 gallon fuel cell with dual filler necks.
trunk close out panels
rear wells tubbed
leaf springs relocated to under the frame rails.
center pull E Brake cables
move spring perches
remove spare tire well
1970 Road Runner rear bumper lengthened 4 5/8" and recurved to hug the sheet metal. TTI exhaust to exit through those back up light holes.
Remote trunk release.
'shave gas filler door
ditch the 318 in favor of a built 440 Magnum, and build a 727.

All of these mods have been completed.
Ambitious, I know...that's why it's been under construction since 2014. I had planned on being able to hold a job while building it so that there would be a budget. But, alas, that has not transpired and even more money has gone towards other needs. So, this has been done on no budget in a single space garage bay with simple hand tools. Truly. By me, without assistance. The only part that got farmed out was the motor machine work which went to RPM Racing Engines in Georgia, VT.

So that's the story, pictures and commentary to follow.... thanks for reading.. Ghost.
 
Joined
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Location
Salisbury, Vermont
Here's some snaps of it after driving it off of the trailer at home, and in the garage on day one. Rick sat those 340 Duster scoops on the hood for grins and giggles. They didn't make the cut though...lol. We trailered it back to VT from way up in NY state by the St Lawrence Sea Way. These pics are at Ricks house since it was his trailer. I drove it home from there several miles, and into the garage.
 

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Joined
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Location
Salisbury, Vermont
There were several things straight away that I didn't care for about the car. The way the front fender noses angled forwards so that the hood contour lines could flow onto them, the fake side scoops, the tail light set up, the side trim, the wheel covers, the under powered 318 V8, column shift, the lack of space in the wheel wells for wide tires, drum brakes, the buddy seat, the bare bones dash and the gas tank fill door on the side of the quarter panel. From this list was born the modification list since changing all of this engendered more ideas for changes.
After deciding on the list I began the disassembly of the car. These changes would mean stripping the car down to a bare shell. All of the many bits and pieces would be bagged and tagged, stored away for later use, customization or restoration. I made another list of the items that I would not need on the finished project. These were sold off to help with the build budget. 67 Coronet parts are expensive and difficult to locate. If it was a 1968 and up model the parts are plentiful. 67 and down are like hens teeth. I ended up with multiple buyers for every part.
I had several offers to help tear it apart but I declined all of them as I wanted to become intimately familiar with this car as I would be the one putting it back together.
 

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Joined
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Location
Salisbury, Vermont
More disassembly...
 

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Joined
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Location
Salisbury, Vermont
To tell this story I'll start at the front of the car and work my way to the rear. So, accordingly, the front bumper is first up.
To complete the change to 67 Charger grill and headlight buckets the front bumper would need changing, or modifying. The Coronet bumper had the turn signals on the bumper, great rectangular lights. The Charger has them in housings/bezels at either end of the grill. About this time I ran across pics of another 67 'Net online that the owner had customized. It became the example I used to change mine.
The other mod that drove the bumper changes was the fender nose fabrication. Since they would now be a few inches rearward of stock the bumper ends were going to be hanging out in thin air. So the fender work needed to be done before the bumper work. Let's begin there....
The fenders angle out at a 45* angle from the front of the car. I hate it. The 1970 Road Runner however, I DID like. So, i decided to sweep those nod=se angles back to approximately 90*. Both fenders had been smacked at some point in the cars past so cutting out some of that damaged sheet metal was a bonus. I ended up having to sort of jigsaw the pieces together so that the curve along the top of the fender would look right and the contours on the fender sides would align together. I bought a chunk of used 67 fender for cutting up. Once that was complete I then had a landing location for the ends of the front bumper. The bumper was sliced into seven pieces. I needed to remove the curved sections to flatten out the back edge line and also reshape the ends. I trimmed the ends to exactly match the profile of the fender pockets. I filled the turn signal holes with new metal and welded them up. A little bodywork and Bob's yer Uncle. As an after thought I decided to widen and enlarge the center license plate holder cut out to act as an air dam. Here's a picture showing the amount that the fender nose was cut back and the stages of bumper modification...
 

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Joined
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More of these
 

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Joined
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Location
Salisbury, Vermont
The 67 Charger grill and headlights are a much larger modification, along with the hardware there's wiring and fabrication as well. I disliked the 54 year old clunky headlight motors because they were...well, clunky and because rebuilt ones were expensive. I shopped around across the planet for electric motors that had the ummppff to turn the heavy buckets and were 12v and that had a three point mounting system to withstand the initial torque in turning the loaded buckets. I found a set out of China that met the bill. Fortunately the Coronet and the Charger share an identical front end, Mexico market models even came standard with the Charger front end installed. The only real difference is in the lower grill support bar because the trim is different. Easy mod in normal circumstances. Once I had the entire assembly mocked together on the benchtop I began the task of figuring out where and how to use those new motors.
Here's the thing....the OEM motors have a 'snout' that pokes through a 'donut' and connects directly to the buckets which serves to keep the center axis of the rotation in alignment and to connect the two together. My new motors had none of that. I had to also devise a method of keeping those buckets turning on a centered axis. The spacing between each section of the Charger front end is critical in order to end up with a dead straight line across the front when they are closed, and have equal spaces between everything. Once I had it set up correctly I sat around looking and thinking of ways to achieve my goals. I tried a few things that didn't work as well as I wanted them to before finally opting to use hard white nylon bushings. They could be sanded down for thickness and drilled out for ID while still retaining their shape and would stand up to use. I needed a set to hammer into the center of the 'donuts' that would corral the snout' post coming off of the bucket end, which would in turn keep them on a centered axis. Also I needed to have a spacer on the outer side of the mounting plate in order to keep the bucket face spaced correctly, left to right, so when assembled there would be no glaring miss spacing across the front when open or closed. In addition to all of that I needed to devise a way to connect the new motors to that drive post sticking though the 'donut' face. The motors have a 1/4" "D" shaped drive shaft and the bucket post end is a 5/8" post with a 3/16" hole through it for a set pin. lol.
I determined that I would need a set of steel tubes that slide within each other and have set screws to lock down against the 1/4" shaft flat section AND slide OVER the post with a hole for the set pin to go through both the tube and the post. In the pics i'm using clunky bolts to attach them together but when done i'll be using black oxide set screws. Unfortunately, due to constraints caused by lack of possible location surfaces for the motor mounting plates on the upper and lower grill support bars, I ended up with about 4" within which to make this connection happen. I also didn't have the skills and machinery to make the connection in a one piece tube. Hence the two pieces that slide within each other. The center portion of the two piece part would also need to be drilled and made ready for a set pin to slid through.
I had fun with making this part....lol. Another task was to position the motor body's so that they were "axis shaft centered" as well as angled so that they missed the lower support bar rear edge AND missed the front of the transmission cooler face behind them. A matter of fractions of an inch either way. Lot's of head scratching. The trim bolts right up, however, I had modified the fender noses and the "C" chrome end sections of the Charger grill trim were molded for the OEM fender nose shape. I trimmed the rear inside edge of each one so that they could be rotated rearwards while still aligning with the sections coming across the front and top. Here's the pictures....
 

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Last edited:
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More on this...
 

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Joined
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I'm months into this project and haven't progressed past the radiator yet! It's going to be a long road!
The car came with a 26" radiator so that was a bonus but the trans cooler was tiny. I bought a 1986 Dodge Power Ram pickup a few years later because I wanted the 440 Magnum engine the PO had installed in it. It had a large trans cooler on yet another 26" radiator, so I opted to use the bigger one. I shaved the fender top turn signal indicator mounting holes and the antenna hole too. Inside the engine bay the inner fenders were wrinkled a little from being smacked so i hammered them out some before determining that I either needed to replace them or hide them. Hiding them was easier so I did. I fabricated a set of close out panels .
Next on the hitlist was a smooth firewall.
In order to make this work I needed to relocate the washer motor from the top of the firewall to under the dash and then fill in the dent where it sits with new metal. While I was at it I sliced out the cowl end walls and welded in flat metal. They are wrinkled on every one of these cars and look like hell.
I cut out all portions of the stock firewall that protruded out past the baseline plane of the wall. Leaving the rest in place for strength purposes. I fabricated a one piece panel to slip into place and welded it up. Figuring out where to place the wiper motor was interesting too. It's always fun to blaze trails...
 

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The right end of the cowl top turned out have been bashed in by a tree falling on it. They Bondo'd over it. So I cut out the bad spot and welded in new metal and body worked it back to perfection. The close out panels are mounted by slipping Allen head chrome bolts down through the surface and through nylon bushings as spacers leaving 1/4" space under them to hide wires. Neat trick...
If I decide to use stripes down over the side of the hood onto the fenders i'll also waterfall the stripes down into the engine bay and onto the close out panels.
 

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One of the three biggest modifications, the front end, the rear end & the interior, was a long detailed job. The Coronet dash and interior just didn't do it for me. I had always wanted to try installing a modern dash and interior into a 1960's muscle car. Seemed like a doable thing if I could find a modern car/truck dash and interior that would both work, and that I liked.
I took measurements of the space between the A pillars at the dash top and height of dash and depth of dash. Also from dash bottom to top of trans tunnel hump.
Armed with these numbers and a tape measure I spent the summer of 2015 traipsing all over several wrecking and salvage yards in NH, VT & NY states. I was unable to find anything that caused a buzz. Then one day I was talking to someone about foreign cars I had owned and spoke about a 1986 Audi 5000 Quattro sedan I had purchased from a West German dealership brand new in 1985. Great car! This got me to thinking about Audi's as I had always liked them for fit and finish. I poked around the internet looking at interiors from 2000-2006, these being what was likely to be in wrecking yards at the time. I liked the '02- '04 Audi A-6 dash and doors and console set up and remembered that there was one sitting in a yard near by. I went the next day and looked for it and found it sitting with doors closed, windows up and in an accessible spot. It was an 04 Audi A-6 Quattro All Road wagon and was dry and complete inside. I got out the tape measure and crossed my fingers for luck. The measurements were spot on! I had found my donor car.
I took it all, right down to the floor panel and the firewall. I also took the rear door panels.
Once I got it all back to my place I learned that the while the top of the dash was the right length the mounting pads of the aluminum SKELETON the dash mounts to was like 4" too short on each end. Drat!
So I had to devise a mounting plan for this thing because, come hell or high water, I was going to use the damn thing.
I ended up welding a couple of fabricated and angled 3/16" thick plates to the inside of each A pillar and bolting the dash skeleton to them. Works fine. The third mounting spot involves the frame that the brake pedal hangs from.
The Audi dash was deeper than needed and the windshield curve was much tighter. I cut away a lot of dash top at the front edge to match the Coronet windshield curve but still didn't impact the dash vents. It's still twice as deep as the stock dash was. lol. Many things came into play at once. The dash height, trans tunnel height and door to dash spacing all had to coincide so that the center tower of the console would mount up correctly and so that the door panel top sections would align with the dash ends when the door was closed.
Speaking of which, the Audi door panels wouldn't work as is, I ended up having to slice them up into separate sections and then further modding those so they would work with the big Dodge doors. The top section of the door panels ended up interfering with opening the wing windows so I modified them so that I could use the windows about half way open. A lot of thought and trial and error went into just those two doors where they align with the dash contours and the console tower connection. There's only one configuration that works and I had to find it. I had a full head of hair at the start of this project and am now bald. lol. But hey! It looks super trick in there!
Here's a snap of what the Audi interior looks like when assembled and ones of my fabrication.
 

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For this floor shift console, I wanted a short throw Pistol grip shifter. They are crazy expensive for an original so I decided to try to make one from scratch. I used 3/16" plate steel for the handle blank and white oak wood from a downed limb I found out in my woods. It took a couple of iterations before I got it dialed in for shape. I bent the handle angles to suit my hand and arm when sitting in the car. I ditched the plastic chrome bezel and used a square bottomed 4x4 rubber shift boot from the 86 Power Ram truck so now it looks like a 4 speed handle but it's an automatic. I bought a used Inland Shifter assembly and disassembled it to use the guts for the reverse lock out. It works by pushing down on a rod with the heel of my hand. The dash and console causes the shifter base to set rearwards from stock by about 9" so the connecting linkage rod will need to be lengthened. I used two left side parking brake cables for the center pull handle. The rotating armrest pad over top of the e brake handle houses four small analog engine and fuel gauges. The Audi dash gauges are pulse operated. I'll be using an adapter on the speedo cable so it will work. The bucket seats are 2006 Volvo XC-90 units with power lumbar, and ten positions as well as heat. real leather with "baseball " Stitching. I used a few other cars as inspiration for interior design and colors.
 

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more of this
 

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Some pics from earlier in this tale that got missed...lol..the shots showing the bumper ends before sectioning, the door upper sections during fabrication and the Express pulled out onto driveway in 2018 to check the rolling status and steering.
 

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Building the door panels became a challenge the more I got into it. The Audi doors are tiny compared to the Coronet slabs. The panels boosted a curved face that matched the dash end face but wouldn't work on the 67 doors. Too small. So I cut away each element of the Audi panel and ditched the curved background panel. I determined that I didn't really NEED the entire section that mated up against the dash end, I just needed to top half. The 67 doors are much longer than the Audi ones too so the Audi front door panel top section was too short. I had the rear door panels as well and the top section on them was much longer than the front doors so I took that section and sliced it in 2/3 and married it up with the front 1/3 of the front door top section to make one that went across the entire top of the 67 door. I fastened it to the 67 door frame with 4" drywall screws passing through plastic PVC tube sections that I cut to make the part stand off from the door at the right distance and angles to match the dash end. Once it was locked down I back filled the parts shell with spray construction expanding foam. The screwed down part kept the thing from moving because of the pressure from the foam expansion and in turn allowed the foam to expand into every nook and cranny. Once dry I trimmed it all and coated it with filler, sanded it down and it's ready to be covered with the vinyl. The top section houses the tweeter speaker for the Bose Symphony stereo system and the door pull latch. The latch being in the opposite corner now from stock had me building a rod system to cross the door diagonally so it would unlatch the closed door properly. I also had to make sure to miss the door glass and anything else inside the door like the window crank etc..
The other elements of the panel are the armrest/ switch housing/ door pull and the tilt out cubby that houses the electric seat memory buttons and a subwoofer speaker.
I laid a door out flat on my work table and played around for days with placement of each item on the door panel card, keeping in mind the way I wanted the upholstery to look and also ergonomics concerning where the seat sat in relation to the panel. Fortunately the deep dash caused the seats to have to be mounted rearward about 9" otherwise they would have been unworkable with the door panels.
The door cards needed to be able to be slid underneath the bottom edge of the top section so when I was applying filler there I mocked up a door card and upholstery section and applied the filler over top of that. Once done and removed the gap was left for later during upholstery.
The pull armrest part need some fabrication too as it had a curved base that matched the Audi panel I threw away. I ended up making a piece of white oak in a teardrop shape for the front end of the handle to land on and placed a metal panel, "shoe" behind the rear end where it curved up, it would be covered in vinyl later. The cubby at the bottom of the door card sits just below the window crank travel and just rearward of the door glass runner inside the door cavity at the windows front edge.
The arm rest houses the switch panel for the power windows and door locks. I had to figure out how to mount everything to the panel in order to be able to remove and replace the entire finished panel in one piece. I finally got it after much fooling around.
The wiring harness from the Audi had these little rubber pass through boots on the A pillars. Once I removed them I saw how they went together. It's a clever little plastic collar that snaps into the sheet metal and the rubber boot snaps over the collar. Cool German engineering. I transferred them to my A pillars and doors ,the Audi doors also had a set of lights that included one red and one white. Little rectangles that also snapped into the sheet metal. The white one sits under the door shell on the bottom facing downwards as a 'puddle ' light and the red one faces rearward on the door shell as a 'marker' light for when the door is open. I adapted the power lock mechanism to the Dodge latch as well. The door shells will get insulated and a dust seal plastic sheet overtop of them before the door cards go in.
 

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more door stuff...
 

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There are "roadster" type panels that begin just behind the bucket seat backs and go to the rear windshield. These came about because In my plans for the rear face of the car I would have a 1970 Road Runner rear bumper so the exhaust could exit through the round back up light holes in the bumper. In order to achieve this I needed the spare tire well removed from the trunk. With the well removed the gas tank hung out unprotected, plus, I was going to shave the fuel filler door as well. So, all of that meant that I now needed a place to store a spare tire. The rear seat area filled the bill but how to hide it? I futzed around with a few ideas before noticing a 1967 Plymouth Sport Fury rear seat topper for sale in the forum classifieds. It's out of another B Body so the width is right and they look like a set of wings. I wondered what they would look like if set up directly behind the FRONT seat backs. So I bought the piece and mocked it up....perfection! Worked like it was designed for the job. Once I had the positioning set right it was just an exercise in trimming and forming panels. Under those panels will be the spare tire, the battery box, fire extinguisher, and detailing supplies.
An added bonus is that the center trough of the panels is the same width as the contour lines in the deck lid and the hood, so, the lines flow all of the way through the car. They will be covered in vinyl.
 

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There is a steel firewall panel across where the rear seat back would be to separate the cab form the trunk. I replaced the passenger side floor pan. The Audi center pull E Brake was a simple location and mounting drill. The cables are two left hand Coronet cables that meet in the middle. The forward ends extend into the cab through the front top of the transverse frame hump behind the front seats.
The fake side scoops always bothered me. I mean, why bother? So I thought that I would open them up. I simply sliced along the horizontal inlet lines and pushed the sheet metal in on a gentle curve. All that was left was to cut some tiny bits to fill in around the edges and some body work. They are closed out with black plastic covers faced with SS mesh.
 

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I shaved the filler door. I never understood why Ma MOPAR thought it was a great idea to create beautiful Coke Bottle quarter panels and then slap a great ugly filler door right in the middle of all of that greatness. What a bad design cue. It had to go. Period.
I toyed with placing a 69 Charger style flip open cap on top of the quarter panel but it seemed too clunky and not trick enough. About this time I happened to watch an episode of Bitchin Rides where they hid the filler neck behind a 1953 Pontiac's rear quarter medallion and used the medallion as the pop up cap. So cool and way trick.
So I bought a weld in aluminum motorcycle pop up gas cap and placed on the quarter up next to the front left corner of the trunk lid. Smooth, hidden and trick, what's not to like? It looked wrong and for a few days I couldn't figure out why. Finally my pal Rick stopped by and saw the cap and said it was way cool. But, that I needed a second one on the OTHER side of the trunk lid for symmetry! THAT'S what was wrong. lol. So I got another one and placed it in a mirror position of the first. Now it looked right.
They both work and feed into a 17 gallon fuel cell from either side. The trunk is finished out with close out panels and carpet.
 

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The trunk lid is on gas filled lift rods and the mounts for them have a hole for the gas filler pipes to pass through the mounts. Trick.
I fabricated a flat trunk floor and welded it in over a new brace underneath. The brace holds up the full fuel cell and the exhaust hangers attach to the lower edge. The rear wheel wells are tubbed over to the frame sides. I used a Mancini Racing leaf spring relocation kit to achieve this. There is now 15 3/4" of tire space in each well. I had to add a second filler neck to the fuel cell too...lol.
 

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