1953 plymouth suburban wagon body on jackstands
Rutledge Wood and Randy Allgood discussing hot rod build plans
plymouth 217 cubic inch six cylinder engine on a pallet
408 stroker mopar blueprint engine
interior shot of a 1953 plymouth hot rod build project in progress
man holding a gauge cluster for a 1953 plymouth
vintage air vent and heater controls from a 1953 plymouth

The patient awaits surgery. The stock rear axle will be replaced with a Heidt’s 9 inch Ford filled with Strange axle shafts, a Summit Racing gear case, a Detroit Locker Trutrac differential, and 3.89 gears from Motive Gear. That rear bumper will be getting a shave job as well.

“…and the motor will go right about here.” Rutledge Wood and Randy Allgood, owner of Kenwood Rod Shop, discussing how to fit 408 cubic inches of fuel injected small block Mopar where a flathead six used to live in Rutledge’s ’53 Plymouth wagon. The car’s suspension and front end sheetmetal have been removed in preparation for engine and Heidt’s suspension fitment.

The Plymouth’s original 217 cubic inch six cylinder engine made a paltry 97 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and 177 lbs.-ft. of torque at a cellar-low 1,200 rpm. That’s not a lot of ponies for a car that weighs 3,200 pounds.

The flathead’s replacement is this 408 cubic inch stroker crate small block from BluePrint Engines. This fuel injected Mopar makes 445 horsepower and 500 lbs.-ft. of torque. That’s plenty of power to get Rutledge and his family down to the local ice cream stand—or on a 1,500-mile road trip from, say, North Carolina to Wisconsin.

When the guys at Kenwood Rod Shop got the Plymouth apart, they discovered some rot in the floorboards and the front seat mounting platform, but overall the car was pretty solid as you can see.

Rutledge and his gauge panel. The panel is on its way to the gauge clinic at Classic Instruments for a rehab, including modern internals, a chrome bath for the housing, and an updated face.

This is what passed for climate control in 1953. Vintage Air is supplying a complete climate control system for the Suburban so Rutledge doesn’t sweat when it’s hot or shiver when it’s cold.

Relax. Events at the Kenwood Rod Shop aren’t as alarming as they sound. It’s just Randy Allgood and his team hard at work disassembling Rutledge Wood’s latest project with Summit Racing, a 1953 Plymouth Suburban two-door station wagon.

As we explained in our first story on this project, the Plymouth was given to Rutledge by NASCAR legend Richard Petty. The car will combine traditional hot rod style with modern mechanicals, including a fuel injected, 408 cubic inch small block Chrysler, a T-56 six-speed transmission, a Mustang II front and four-link rear suspension, and a custom dual exhaust from Magnaflow. 

“I am really happy to be a part of this project,” said Randy Allgood, owner of Kenwood Rod Shop. “Rutledge is a pretty wild guy, and with help from Summit Racing, I think we can make this car just as wild as he is. We’re going to make this car a modern street rod but keep the classic appeal of the family wagon.”

“I’m so excited to be doing another build with Summit Racing,” Rutledge added. “Randy Allgood is master builder, and when I saw some of the cars he had built, I knew I wanted to let him work his magic on my ’53. I’m glad we’re going Mopar with it—the BluePrint 408 stroker under the hood is going to be perfect!”

The project’s momentum has really picked up since our last update. Despite the bizarre winter weather in the South, the big brown truck has delivered a bunch of parts to Kenwood Rod Shop. The Suburban’s wheezy flathead six, three-speed transmission, front suspension and sheetmetal, glass, and interior have been removed in preparation for suspension and drivetrain surgery.

As you’ll see in the photos (above) and the video clip (below), the 60 year-old wagon was not as solid as Rutledge first thought. That means some sheetmetal replacement is on the horizon. Let us know how solid your bodywork is when you reach that age.

We also have confirmation that Rutledge will be bringing the Suburban and his nutso 1949 Chevy step van on this year’s Power Tour. Plans are to do the whole route from zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin—with a stop at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, OH. We’ll keep you updated on that.


Here is a list of the major components being used on the Suburban wagon:

BluePrint Engines 408 CID small block Chrysler crate engine with EFI

American Powertrain T-56 six-speed transmission

American Powertrain hydraulic bearing conversion kit and flywheel

McLeod clutch, pressure plate, and pressure plate bolts

Quicktime conversion bellhousing (T-56 to Chrysler)

March serpentine accessory drive system

Be Cool cooling module

Heidt’s Mustang II front suspension, four-link rear suspension, and rear axle housing

• Custom Strange axle shafts

Detroit Locker Trutrac differential

Summit Racing 9 inch Ford gear case

Motive gear 3.89 ring and pinion gears and installation kit

Wilwood parking brake kit and master cylinder

Summit Racing power brake booster

Flaming River steering column

Painless Performance 18-circuit wiring harness



Author: Alan Rebescher

Editor, author, PR man—Alan Rebescher has done it all in a 25 year career in the high performance industry. He has written and photographed many feature stories and tech articles for Summit Racing and various magazines including Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Popular Hot Rodding, and edited Summit Racing’s Street & Strip magazine in the 1990s. His garage is currently occupied by a a 1996 Mustang GT ragtop.