In the early days of American muscle ruling the street and strip, there were few words that struck more magic in a gearhead's heart than the mention of someone running a blown 392 Chrysler. The first series of Chrysler Hemi-head engines were held in such high esteem that young and old alike would do just about anything to get their hands on one. For '50s and '60s kids, the hot ticket was to buy an AMT 1/25th-scale '32 Ford model just to get a hold of the blown Chrysler engine it included.
For Larry "The Muffler Man" Taylor of Chattaroy, Washington, it wasn't AMT's '32 Ford car model that inspired him to stuff a blown Chrysler into his '55 Ford Courier, but rather a history dating back to '58 when he ran his first blown Chrysler-powered dragster. When it came time for Larry to detune the 392 Hemi to adapt it to his '55 Ford sedan delivery project, he contacted renowned Chrysler Hemi guru Gene Adams for a little advice on how to tame the blown beast. The first thing Gene did was refer Larry to Engle Cams to acquire a hydraulic grind that works real well for 392s. A little bit of a Hemi guru himself, Larry incorporated a few of his own tricks into the iconic Mopar motor. For the oiling and ignition system, Larry adapted a 340 oil pump and a late-model Chrysler electronic ignition. He told us, "You're not going to believe this, but I used cast pistons with 9.5:1 compression to plug .030-over cylinders (the key word is cast)." One thing that did not come as a surprise was that the Muffler Man fabricated his own headers and exhaust pipes for the '55.
Thanks to a Rochester Quadrajet carburetor perched on top of the Hampton blower with a Cragar intake manifold, the '55 gets relatively impressive gas mileage. Larry told us that he averaged over 16 mpg driving the Ford to the Spokane Goodguys show and around town while there. Larry also attributed the good mileage to the 3.70:1 gears the '55 came with in its original Y-block 272 with a Fordomatic transmission (as an aside, it's interesting to note that stick-shift Couriers came equipped standard with a 4.11:1 rearend).
One of the '55 Ford passenger car's weak spots was the front suspension-weak as in it didn't take much of a hit to tear the control-arm pickup points right out of the frame. Larry eliminated this problem while clearing the way for the 392 Hemi by crafting his own version of a Mustang II frontend. For brakes, Larry stuck with the stock Ford units, but he opted for a '68 Cad Eldo tilt and telescopic steering column to guide the '55.
The Muffler Man says special...
The Muffler Man says special thanks go to Leonard Wanke, John Wilson, and Mike Lane for slicking the '55 Ford in Kenworth orange Dupont Imron.
Bringing the Courier's body back to life was a project that took over four years for Larry to complete, mainly due to rust. Washington is a real nice place if you like lush green scenery, but the state's heavy rainfall takes its toll on vintage tin in a big way. After Larry dealt with the rust repairs and minor customizing, such as frenching the license plate into the tailgate to get the '55 closer to paint, the finishing bodywork was handled by Leonard Wanke of Sumner, Washington. With the bodywork out of the way, Leonard then sprayed the '55 in Kenworth orange Dupont Imron polyurethane paint. Once the '55 returned from paint, it was time to put the interior back together, but not before Glenn Thompson had a chance to string in a Centech wiring harness and hook it all up.
For the '55's seating arrangement, Larry stuck with the original driver's bucket seat along with the optional passenger bucket the '55 came with. In place of the Spartan brown vinyl upholstery with painted Masonite paneling and door panels, Pat O' Grady of Spokane reupholstered the interior from the top to bottom in two shades of gray Naughahyde, taking special pains to sculpt intricate flame designs into the panels.
After investing all the time and money that Larry has into his '55 Courier, one might assume he wouldn't consider selling it at any price. Funny enough, this was what Larry thought until he recently discovered another project he'd like to undertake. Next time around, Larry has decided to sell his '55 in order to build a '57 Ford Courier that has been stored indoors for over 30 years. When we asked Larry about the engine he intended to run, he surprised us by saying he was going to try something a little different this time: a blown 427 Ford.
A big ol' hairy blown 392-inch...
A big ol' hairy blown 392-inch Chrysler Hemi tucks nicely under the hood thanks to a hole allowing the Quadrajet-carbed Hampton huffer to peek out.
Pat O' Grady stitched the...
Pat O' Grady stitched the stock Courier buckets with the rest of the '55's upholstery in two shades of gray Naughahyde.
It's hard to beat the classic...
It's hard to beat the classic good looks of stock Ford hubcaps mounted on steelies from Wheelsmith of Santa Ana, California, shod with BFG tires.