- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2010

When Charles E. Johnson graduated from high school in 1965 he wasn’t particularly drawn to the Satellite models that Plymouth was offering that year. His interest was piqued a few years later.

However, 25,201 other motorists were interested enough to buy new Satellites, with only 1,860 being convertibles. The 23,341 hardtops were far more popular. Each 3,220-pound hardtop Satellite rode on a 116-inch wheelbase and had a base price of $2,649.

One of those hardtop Satellites left the factory with a 318-cubic-inch V-8 engine and 42 years later ended up in Rougemont, N.C.

That’s where Mr. Johnson first saw the car. He had gone on a car shopping trip to see a Chevrolet Chevelle in Wilson, N.C. and when that car didn’t work out he stopped on his way home to Upper Marlboro to check out the Plymouth.

Mr. Johnson discovered that the owner had started to make a race car out of the Plymouth. Then, part way to his goal, he changed his mind and decided to turn the Plymouth into a powerful street car.

The original 318-cubic-inch V-8 had been discarded and replaced with a 440-cubic-inch V-8 that wasn’t even available in 1965. The monstrous engine was capped by a single four-barrel carburetor. Mr. Johnson learned the automatic transmission had been rebuilt, as were the front seat cushions before they were reupholstered.

Negotiations continued for a month. “I went back in February,” Mr. Johnson says. He decided to save the Plymouth from a life at the race track. “You can light up the tires but that’s not for me,” Mr. Johnson says. “I wanted a cruiser.”

Nowhere on the car was the word Plymouth. By the time Mr. Johnson got the car the only identifying labels on the it read Satellite; the Plymouth lettering had been removed.

Soon after acquiring the car, Mr. Johnson was stopped at a traffic light with the throaty engine sending rumbling sounds out the exhaust pipes when another motorist stopped beside him, lowered his window and said, “That’s music to my ears. I just want to listen to it for a minute.”

That’s exactly the same sentiment Mr. Johnson has about his car. “I don’t try to go on any long trips,” he says. He guesses the big engine would deliver highway mileage of about 8 mpg.

Inside the Plymouth is a console on the floor between the front bucket seats. Peering through the two-spoke steering wheel, the 120 mph speedometer is clearly visible.

“It will do that,” Mr. Johnson says. The interior of the Satellite is covered in red and black vinyl with a red headliner overhead and a black carpet underfoot.

The only surprise Mr. Johnson has experienced since buying the car occurred soon after he took possession.

He was unaware, he explains, that the new antique car had been wired for drag races and was calmly driving to an antique car show when the coil exploded creating cause for alarm.

The Plymouth Satellite has only two headlights with rectangular parking lights mounted in the bumper directly below the headlights. On either flank of the red car are seven chrome-plated faux louvers. Right around the rear corners are the two backup lights, one on either side of the license plate.

When taking his Plymouth out for some exercise, Mr. Johnson notes the absence of a right side mirror. “There were no outside mirrors when I got it,” he says. The power steering is useful when turning the 15-inch wide tires.

“It burns a lot of gas,” Mr. Johnson says, “but you go in style. I got it to have fun.”

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