THE HANDMADE TALE

ERUPTION, IAN NEARY’S VIPER-POWERED ’68 PLYMOUTH, IS POTENTIALLY NEW ZEALAND’S GREATEST MUSCLE CAR BUILD OF ALL TIME

STORY ANKELLY PHOTOS ALASTAR RTCHE

IN 2005, avowed Mopar man Ian Neary built an award-winning ’59 Ford Skyliner, which led to an invitation from the New Zealand distributor of Mothers car care, Peter Ellmers, to join him as a judge for the Shine Award at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Peter, who has judged cars at SEMA for many years, thought it would be a good opportunity for Ian to see what can be done to cars if you have the passion and the time.

On his return to NZ, Ian’s focus for a new project had changed.

“I now wanted to build my own version of automotive muscle car art, he says. New Zealand might be a small country in terms of its population, but they punch well above their division when it comes to building epic street machines, as Ian’s ’68 Plymouth GTX shows.

“I called the car Eruption because as I was designing it ideas kept erupting out of my head in the middle of the night, says Ian. “The whole design of the car was done by me, and the E logo I used is a Mopar symbol turned sideways.

Despite values for B-body Chryslers skyrocketing in recent years, Ian chose the luxurious GTX model to start with, rather than the stripped-out Road Runner muscle car.

That said, the Plymouth he bought turned out to be a real pup. “The car initially was a stock car from Texas, and it was rough and rusty, he says. However, while a rotten and banged-up body would be a problem for most of us, it played into Ian’s hands perfectly. Once stripped and welded to a chassis table, the factory unibody core was cut out and the custom fabrication work started. This included: new chassis rails from the firewall to the rear; new transmission crossmember and driveshaft loops; a custom K-frame and tube control arms in the front; new handmade floorpans; rear wheel tubs; mini-tubbed front inner guards; extended front and rear quarters; sills extended 65mm with recessed side-exit exhaust tips; new front and rear valances; custom radiator support panel and inner boot liner; tube supports between the front chassis rails and the A-pillars; and a bespoke four-link rear-end.

Mopar fans will notice that there really is almost nothing left untouched on Ian’s GTX. The list of parts unique to Eruption doesn’t seem to end: stainless trim; sump; boot lid; dashboard; centre console; bumper bars; grille and tail-light panel; bonnet liner; billet bonnet hinges; tail-light bezels; accelerator pedal linkage assembly; fuel tank; cowl panel in front of the windscreen; AC Cobra fuel filler; one-piece side glass; even the GTX badges – all were custom-made.

Once he had the body sorted how he wanted, Ian shot the big-hipped coupe in PPG products. The main part of the shell is Chrysler PW7 Bright White, with details done in Dark Quartz Metallic and a custom-mixed Toffee Orange Pearl; these hues relate to the Eruption name. “The white is the snowy top, the orange is lava, and charcoal is the base rock, explains Ian. “All the paint on, in and under the car has been fully colour-sanded and polished, plus all the fittings on Eruption are Speedflow items, which are done in a custom colour to match the charcoal used on the car.

IAN CHOSE TO SLOT IN A 505CI V10 FROM THE THIRD-GENERATION DODGE VIPER SUPERCAR

ENGINE BAY: The 505ci V10 tends to distract from all the other amazing work in the engine bay, like the smoothed custom inner guards and sanitary firewall. The radiator is a custom piece with a Spal thermo fan for cooling, while an Autronic ECU runs the show. Ian hid a Mazda 626 wiper motor under the dash instead of sticking with the firewall-mounted stock unit. The Viper donk wears a custom intake manifold, which is fed air by a wide-mouthed custom intake that runs into the handmade radiator support panel. Those billet bonnet hinges use struts to hold the big flat panel up instead of the original spring set-up

The detail in Eruption is simply mind-blowing, and Ian went to extraordinary lengths to perfect aspects of the car most people would never see.

“All the brake lines have been hidden and so have the fuel, electrics and air con lines, which we’ve either run through the inside of the car or under the custom centre console, he explains. “The front and rear bumpers were custom-made from scratch out of mild steel, then we laid 2kg of copper on each before being finished in brushed nickel.

“The stainless trims around the screens and drip rails are original, but we blasted them with OE-grade crushed glass at 30psi. All the stainless trims have been done in satin finish to replicate natural metals, too.

“The rear trim panel and tail-light bezels are billet aluminium, based off the original ’68 GTX items but cleaned up, and we reshaped the corners and changed the inset of the lenses. The grille is also styled on the original item but refined, with the frame made out of billet aluminium and 72 bars and spacers in the middle.

While GTXs could be optioned with a range of V8s, including the fire-breathing 426 Hemi and 440 big-block, Ian again chose to elevate Eruption by slotting in a 505ci V10 from the third-generation Dodge Viper supercar. With a custom intake manifold, fuel rail set-up, 85lb Bosch injectors, and a handmade exhaust, it churns out 580hp and puts the hurt on the Viper-spec Tremec T56 six-speed manual gearbox, Centerforce clutch and a custom three-inch driveshaft.

Ian chose to keep it Mopar under the rear with a new version of the heavy-duty Dana 60 that ’68 Plymouths could be optioned with. The Strange Engineering Dana Ultimate 60 runs a Truetrac centre with 3.7:1 final drive and 31-spline axles, and has been hung off AFCO Racing adjustable coil-over shocks in place of the stock leaf springs. Eruption also features AFCO coil-overs in the front end, along with custom control arms and sway-bar, plus a Mustang II steering rack so it’ll handle better than any factory B-body.

“Over the eight-year build I’d say there is over 14,000 hours at 40 hours per week in the car, so keeping focused was a challenge at times,” says Ian. “Winning at the CRC Speedshow in 2017 was a special highlight, as the second-place car was a ’57 Chevy that was a MotorEx Superstar in 2014, and the thirdplace car was a ’55 Chevy that won the Two-Door Hardtop class at the 2017 Grand National Roadster Show.”

Hopefully we get to see this bad-arse B-body over the ‘dutch’ – maybe at Summernats or MotorEx – some day soon.

MOPAR FANS WILL NOTICE THAT THERE REALLY IS ALMOST NOTHING LEFT UNTOUCHED ON IAN’S GTX. THE LIST OF PARTS UNIQUE TO ERUPTION DOESN’T SEEM TO END

IAN NEARY 1968 PLYMOUTH GTX

Colour: PPG PW7 Bright White & Deep Quartz Metallic

ENGINE

Type: 505ci Dodge Viper V10

Intake: Custom

ECU: Autronic

Injectors: Bosch 85lb

Fuel system: Custom rails, Aeromotive in-tank pump

Oil system: Custom sump Cooling: Custom radiator, Spal fans

Exhaust: Custom headers, 3in system, Flowmaster mufflers

Ignition: Autronic CDI

TRANSMISSION

’Box: Tremec T56 six-speed manual

Clutch: Centerforce dual-friction

Diff: Strange Dana Ultimate 60, 31-spline axles, 3.7:1 final drive

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Springs: AFCO Racing (f & r)

Shocks: AFCO Racing (f & r)

Chassis: Custom K-frame, custom control arms, custom four-link, Ididit column, Mustang II steering rack, custom sway-bar, Detroit Speed bushes, custom pedal box

Brakes: Wilwood six-piston disc brakes (f), Wilwood four-piston brakes (r); dual under- dash PBR master cylinders, BMW park brake

WHEELS & TYRES

Wheels: Custom American Racing; 18x8 (f), 20x10 (r)

Tyres: 245/45 (f), 315/35 (r)

THANKS

Barry Wadham at Car Colors of North Shore; PPG Paints; Greenlane Speed Shop and Speedflow; Swann Insurance; Terry Bowden at Terry’s Chassis Shoppe; Peter Ellmers at Mothers; Kicker Car Audio; Dynamat; Ian Goodwin Car Upholstery; Tim Kerr at ProCoat Industries; Rocket Speed Equipment NZ; Jason Swann at Auckland Performance Tuning; Diffs R Us; special thanks to my wife Tracy for her endless patience