"I had a '68 Plymouth Sport Satellite when I was in high school. When I was about 19, I hit a tree and sent it to the automotive graveyard."
Mark Kittel spent the next 35 years waiting to replace that car. "Unfortu-nately, there weren't a whole lot of cars between then and now, so I guess this story isn't so glamorous," Mark says. And by "not a lot of cars," Mark means no musclecar-era stuff at all. In fact, this '69 Dodge Coronet R/T is his second try at building a street machine. We think he did OK.
To keep himself amused during the long, dark era, Mark read Car Craft and a couple of less worthy car mags (rhymes with Hot Rod), built models, and waited for a shot to get back in the scene. That chance came one year after his last child left the house. Why a year? "Because of the kids. They keep coming back," Mark observes. Wandering dependents not- withstanding, Mark managed to get out and look for his dream car. "I knew it was going to be a '69 or '70 vintage B-Body," he says. "I wanted a '70 GTX but there weren't a lot of them around."
Mark then came across the R/T in the local classified ads. He liked the lines of the car and the fact that it was straight with zero rust. "It's a car you can do a lot with." The paper was the Sunday edition that Mark bought on Saturday night, so he had to wait until the following morning to call the seller. "At 6:15 a.m. the next day, I called the guy from the golf course fairway and woke him up. "Do you still have the car?" Mark asked. "Yes, uh, I just put it in this morning's paper." "The owner said it was maroon with a black vinyl top, Keystone wheels, and a rebuilt 440 with an automatic," says Mark. "I told him I'd buy it and drove over to deliver some money so he'd hold it for me."
Of course it was raining, so Mark was satisfied to roll around under the car instead of driving it before agreeing on a price. They met again on Monday to do the paperwork. "I had to sit and stew all day knowing that I had to wait till 5:30 to go over and pick up this guy's car. It was probably the longest day in the office I had in months," he says.
When he got the car home, it looked big and the garage looked small, so Mark immediately planned on making an addition. "It was more like a 1.5-car addition. This car thing was starting to get expensive." Once the car was safely inside, his tools and parts began to expand to fill the space. As winter approached, the family cars were sent to wait it out in the snow while the street machine languished indoors. Sounds about right.
The car ran and drove fine, but it wasn't as "peppy" as it should have been, so Mark wanted to take the engine apart a little bit to see what was in there. "Good thing," he says. "I found out that the engine wasn't right, and I didn't like it that way. I know that if you think something is bad, then it is always five times worse." Once the engine was out, the transmission followed. The engine was beefed with a stroker package, and a Gear Vendors overdrive was plugged in for some freeway driving. The car was cruised late into the summer, but there was a problem: The paint job was a 20-footer. Back in the garage, the car was disassembled for paint. "I remember the paint was a slow process with lots of conversations about color," says Mark. "The car was delivered to the painter at the end of July and didn't come back until the following May."
When Mark started putting it back together for the summer events, he found the car looked better but still wasn't fun to drive. "It wasn't a musclecar where you could shift gears and have fun," says Mark. The car made it about 200 miles that summer before it was taken apart for the third time. Mark also wasn't happy with the stock frontend, so he looked into some alternatives. He purchased a Magnum Force tubular K-member and Wilwood brakes, and while the engine was out to install them, Mark finally caved to his dream, bought a five-speed kit from Keisler, and dropped it in.