men pose with a custom 1953 Plymouth Suburban Wagon
small block chevy v8 engine in a 1953 Plymouth Suburban Wagon restomod
custom headlight in a 1953 Plymouth Suburban Wagon customized by rutledge wood
Redline Gauge Works vintage gauge panel in a 1953 Plymouth suburban
A Billet Specialties steering wheel in a hot rod restomod
1953 Plymouth Suburban Wagon Customized by Rutledge Wood

Kenwood Rod Shop proprietor Randy Allgood and his son Steve pose with the fruit of their labors at the Hot Rod Power Tour stop at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. The Plymouth started the 2014 Hot Rod Power Tour under its own power, but engine trouble forced Rutledge and his crew to load the car onto a hauler in Tennessee to get it to Norwalk.

The BluePrint Engines 408 cubic inch Mopar made some scary noises while on the road to Knoxville, Tennessee, the second stop on the Power Tour. The initial diagnosis was a spun rear cam bearing blocking the oil feed hole from the main gallery. Once the Suburban was back at Kenwood Rod Shop, Randy dug a little deeper and found that each pushrod had one ball end worn off. The standup folks at BluePrint Engines acknowledged the problem (improper heat treatment) and made things right by sending a new set of pushrods with assurances that they would take care of any other issues with the 408. We are glad to report the engine is happy once again and powering the Plymouth all over Rutledge’s hometown.

Yeah, that’s Rutledge’s mug in those headlights. The xenon headlights are from The Retrofit Source, which is kind of a supermarket for xenon, LED, and HID headlight conversions. The company also did the etching of Rutledge’s face; they’ll etch just about anything that will fit on a glass lens.

Redline Gauge Works did a bang-up job of rehabbing the Plymouth’s instrument panel. They redid the faces and added modern gauge movements so Rutledge knows exactly what’s going on under the hood. No tach though—Rut shifts the American Powertrain T-56 six-speed by ear.

A Billet Specialties steering wheel sits atop a Flaming River tilt steering column. You can also see the part of the Lokar shifter and custom leather interior by Gary’s Interiors (McDonough, GA).

The two-tone Sherwin-Williams Rutledge Wood Green and Brilliant White paint by Brian’s Paint and Body (Sharpsburg, GA) sure looks sharp. Kenwood Rod Shop did a masterful job of tucking in the front bumper closer to the body. The wheels are painted Wheel Vintiques smoothies shod in Coker whitewalls. And yes, sharp-eyed readers, the windshield was not installed when this photo was taken. Just pretend there’s glass and molding sitting there.

In our last update on the Rutledge Wood/Summit Racing 1953 Plymouth Suburban Wagon project, we talked more about Rutledge’s appearance at the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour stop at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park than about the actual car. We also hinted that Rutledge wanted to talk about his experiences taking the Plymouth and his ’49 Chevy Kurbmaster step van on the Tour. Rut is a very busy fellow, what with his Top Gear on History and NASCAR gigs, so it took him awhile to find time to turn his thoughts into this story.

As you’ll read, you’ll see that as much as Rutledge loves his cars, he loves his experiences with those cars more. That’s the real reason he builds things like step vans and old Plymouth wagons—and probably why you build the stuff you do.

And how did the Plymouth wagon fare on the Power Tour? Wonderfully—at least from Atlanta to the Power Tour stop in Knoxville, TN. First, the starter went kaput, easily replaced with one from the local parts emporium. Then came the ominous sounds from the engine compartment. Rather than continue driving the car, Rutledge had it trailered for the rest of the Power Tour.

Once the Plymouth was back home at Kenwood Rod Shop, Randy Allgood took a good look at the BluePrint Engines 408 stroker Mopar. What was thought to be a spun cam bearing turned out to be pushrods—the ball tips on the rocker arm end of each pushrod had worn away. To its credit, Blueprint Engines got to work with its vendor and traced the problem to a batch of pushrods that had not been heat-treated properly. The company sent a brand new set of pushrods, and the 408 is purring happily once again. That’s the kind of backup you expect from a class outfit like Blueprint Engines.

And for you guys that think having a car like Rutledge’s Plymouth would be cool, Summit Racing now has Rutledge Wood Plymouth Suburban Combos available. The combos include the basic building blocks to create your own version of the wagon—you supply the car.

Here’s what Rutledge had to say:

The Best Father’s Day Trip Ever

I knew that we were in for a special trip on this year’s Hot Rod Power Tour, but I had no idea that it was going to be the best Father’s Day trip a guy could ask for. Going with me was my dad Bill, my brother in-law Adam and his dad Jarrett, and Randy Allgood (who built my Plymouth), and his son Steve. We came back with some of the best father and son bonding time we’ve all spent together in years.

We rolled out of Atlanta in the ’53 with the Blueprint 408 rumbling under the hood. Just behind it was the Chevy step van we built last year and Randy’s ultra-low mileage 2007 Shelby Mustang. We all rolled together, each car driven by a father and son team, and watched the miles click off on the odometer. Each time we stopped for gas we attracted a crowd. I was so proud to show off both the ’53 and the van, and to have Randy and Steve, who spent so many hours wrenching on the Plymouth, along was just so cool.

For me, the best part of the week for me was when we rolled into Summit Motorsports Park. We got to display the Plymouth and the Chevy step van together for the first time, and I met really cool folks who watch my shows and have followed the builds of both vehicles. We met up with Ralph Sikes and his son from American Resto Mods, the folks that built the van. Even my friend Joe Coville (aka Shocker Joe) and his dad, Chris, drove all the way from Akron to hang with us. It was another father and son brought together by cars, but really the love of cars and being together.

This year’s Power Tour build was one of the craziest things I’ve ever been a part of.  There’s so many people that helped make it happen, but I have to thank my Dad most of all. Not only did he agree walk away from his restaurant and hit the road for five days with me, he’s the reason that I love cars so much. My dad had many wild times growing up with his family growing up at his dad’s car dealership in New Mexico, and those stories are what led me to find cars and love them so much. Who knows what I’d be doing if he grew up on a tennis court or the family pool hall?  If I haven’t said it lately, thanks, Dad.

There is one more father and son story, this time concerning the Plymouth wagon. I got the car from Richard Petty, but it he didn’t actually find and buy it. Nope, that was his son Kyle Petty’s doing. Kyle found the car in a back yard crowded with other cars and bought it for his dad because he thought The King would love it.  Richard did love the car, but never got around to building it. It was my good fortune that Kyle and I are good friends, and that he talked his dad into giving me the car so that I could continue the father and son legacy that it had. Now the Plymouth has the kind of performance that a car once owned by Richard Petty should have. My daughters love the car now—maybe this is the start of a father and daughter legacy!




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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.