Killer bee: 1968 Dodge Super Bee

Posted in Cars
Andrew Storey’s plan was to build a car with a bit more room in it than a Camaro. I guess you could say he succeeded

Here at NZV8, we love Camaros. I mean, what’s not to love? They’re lightweight, easy to get parts for, easy to get big power into, and not too badly priced compared to many other old American cars. Waikato’s Andrew Storey loves them too, and about seven years ago he decided it was the right time to purchase one. He ended up with a ’68 RS/SS, and couldn’t have been happier. 

The problem with the car began when his kids kept on growing. As anyone who’s ever folded themselves into the back of a Camaro will attest, there’s just not that much room back there, which is fine if all your friends are midgets, contortionists, or amputees; however, most people aren’t. 

Using this as an excuse, he convinced his wife Kelly that perhaps they should get something else, but of course hold on to the Camaro too.

It wasn’t long until he was introduced to local Mopar guru Ian Kenyon of Obsession Muscle Cars, who just happened to have a ’68 Super Bee in his possession, which he was looking to move on. Being one of the top panel beaters in the country, Ian’s plan all along was to find a customer that he could build the car up for. Andrew’s plan was to find a car, and someone to help him build it — it was a match made in heaven, or a paddock in Matamata, but you get the idea.

When he told the kids and Kelly of the purchase, they couldn’t wait to go for a drive in the new car. You can imagine their shock when they were informed it’d be two years before they’d have that pleasure; they’d expected the purchase to be a completed vehicle, not a pile of parts.

The Super Bee was a rust-free solid shell with a tired 383 (6.3-litre) engine under the hood and a four-speed trans sitting in the boot. It was partially disassembled, and covered in a black epoxy primer to keep any moisture at bay. At first, Andrew had planned to just get it assembled, freshen up the 383, and cruise for a few years before giving it a proper makeover. But the more he looked at it, the more he decided that doing it once, and doing it right, was the best option.

“With Ian knowing these cars so well, he told me not to bother labelling anything when I stripped it down, as he knew where everything went,” said Andrew of the process he undertook before dropping the bare shell to Kiwi Metal Polishers in Rotorua to be dip stripped. Little did anyone know that the primer was too tough, so it ended up being taken off by hand — an unenviable task that Kiwi’s Doug took care of. Poor bastard.

The stripping had exposed the fact that both rear quarters had been refitted at some stage, but not lined up as well as they could have been, and certainly not to either Ian's, nor Andrew’s, standards. 

The plan from the outset was, that since the car wasn’t matching numbers, Andrew could modify it as he saw fit, and high on his list of priorities was making it handle well and nice to drive. So with both quarters removed from the shell for repairs, it made sense for the wheel arches to be widened before they were stitched back on.

Despite wanting the modern performance and road holding of wider wheels, one thing that Andrew was adamant about was that the car should retain its classic looks. With this in mind he ordered a set of 18x8.5- and 18x9.5-inch Magnum 500 billet-alloy wheels. As he says, “I love these wheels. It gives it that classic look, but bigger and better.” That sort of a statement is impossible to argue with.

While Ian and his sidekick Adam were tending to the bodywork in preparation for painting, Andrew was busy researching online and ordering the required parts. Included in his purchases was a bunch of interior trim items, but more excitingly, plenty of performance-oriented parts too. They included a suspension set-up, with heavy-duty PST torsion bars, double-adjustable, top control arms, adjustable strut rods, two-inch (51mm) drop spindles, heavy-duty sway bars, and Polygraphite bushes. Add to this some Bilstein shocks and the front end is now as good as a torsion-bar set-up can get. Out back you’ll now find aftermarket two-inch, dropped leaf springs, billet shackles, and matching sway bar and shocks. 

To equal that handling there’s now a set of Wilwood brakes, designed specifically as a bolt-on for the B-body cars, including 330mm rotors all round with six-pot calipers up front and four-pots on the rear. With brakes like that it’s almost a shame that the wheels keep them out of sight!

The plan to rebuild the 383 was soon put on hold when Ian received a phone call from one of his mopar mates offering him a 496ci (8.1-litre) Indy-equipped big block. The engine had been fitted to a ’68 Coronet in the UK and ran high 10s on the quarter mile; just the thing a street car in New Zealand needed! It wasn’t long before the engine was in New Zealand and rolling along the floor of a shipping depot, quite literally, as it fell off a forklift, damaging various parts in the process.

Thankfully the shipper’s insurer came to the party, and the engine now wears a fresh carb and rocker covers above its Indy heads and manifold. The bottom end, that was filled with parts like Eagle rods and Ross Racing pistons, thankfully was undamaged, and is now kept in check by a bunch of MSD Ignition gear.

With the car being a factory Hurst four-speed, Andrew wasn’t keen on changing to an auto; instead, he contacted Hurst and got a very cool five-speed kit shipped over. In the kit came a Tremec TKO500 five-speed, QuickTime bellhousing, a Mopar Street Performance clutch, a hydraulic-release bearing set-up, and the cross member, which would allow it to bolt straight into the car with no fabrication required. Well, no fabrication except for the major changes required for the trans tunnel, conveniently not mentioned at the time of the kit’s purchase. Thankfully the Dana 60 diff, fitted with a 3.73:1 ratio and Trac-Lok head, were a breeze to install.

The last piece of the puzzle was finishing off the interior. While a trim kit sorted plenty of it, finding suitable seats turned out to be a nightmare, even more so after Andrew thought he’d found some and paid the cash — and they never showed up. Looking locally for an alternative, he stumbled upon a set of seats from a ’79 Porsche, and they not only fitted perfectly, they looked the part too. Of course, a re-trim in locally sourced leather by Te Aroha Upholsterers really sealed the deal.

After 18 months in the build, the car was finished literally the day before Beach Hop 2013. And while the car was at the event, it spent more time on a trailer than off it because Andrew wasn’t able to get it certified in time. You can only imagine how frustrating it’d be to have a perfectly completed car such as this and not be able to drive it!

It’s all legal now though, and we can assure you it was well worth the wait, as not only does it drive perfectly, it has plenty of power and turns plenty of heads. Andrew has had it out as often as he’s been able to. All that’s left to do now is for him to come up with an excuse that he can use to get Kelly to believe they need a Hemi Cuda to park next to it.

Vehicle: 1968 Dodge Super Bee
Engine: 496ci (8.1-litre) big block Chrysler, Indy heads, Indy manifold, Ross pistons, Eagle stroker crank, Eagle rods, 870cfm Holley Street Avenger carb, Hemi high-volume fuel pump, MSD 6AL ignition, MSD coil, MSD leads, TTI 2-1/8th-inch low-deck headers, HPC coated three-inch exhaust, Flowmaster mufflers, Be Cool alloy radiator
Driveline: Tremec TKO500 five-speed manual gearbox, eight-bolt flywheel, Mopar Street Performance clutch, Dana 60 diff, 3.73:1 ratio, Trac-Lok head, adjustable pinion snubber
Suspension: Heavy-duty PST torsion bars, double adjustable top control arms, adjustable strut rod, two-inch drop spindles, heavy duty sway bars, Polygraphite front bush kit, 51mm (two-inch) rear drop springs, billet alloy leaf shackles, Bilstein shocks, rear spring torque boxes
Brakes: Wilwood six-pot front calipers, Wilwood four-pot rear calipers, 330mm rotors all round
Wheels/tyres: 18x8.5 and 18x9.5-inch Magnum 500 billet-alloy rims, 245/45R18 and 285/40R18 tyres
Chassis: Chassis connectors
Exterior: Custom Hemi orange with pearl paint
Interior: ’79 Porsche seats, Grant steering wheel, Hurst shifter
Performance: Untested — 10-second potential


Todd Wylie

Todd Wylie has been involved with NZV8 magazine since before the first issue was printed, and has been the editor for the last eight years. Growing up in the heyday of the Jap-import scene, he's not adverse to Japanese vehicles, having worked for NZ Performance Car previously, as well as owning a few well-known examples. These days he cruises at a slower pace in a 1956 Cadillac Coupe and dreams of building a Model A tudor.