Low-Buck Tech: Merging a ´47 Plymouth With a V6 Camaro and a Ford Crown Vic

By Staff Writer
Jan 19, 2021 | Plymouth, crown victoria, 24 Hours of Lemons, camaro, Low-Buck Tech | Posted in Features | From the Feb. 2021 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Courtesy the 24 Hours of Lemons

Story by Eric Rood

For years, 24 Hours of Lemons organizers have crowed about their desire–nay, need–for a team who has swapped engines pointlessly between two cars. The aptly named Bad Decisions Racing pulled off such a ridiculous swap and set a high bar. Their two-car swap? A 1947 Plymouth De Luxe and a 1995 Chevy Camaro. 

The swap started when Bad Decisions debuted the ’47 Plymouth in 2016. The Plymouth sported the original flathead six-cylinder engine and three-on-the-tree manual transmission. With 95 horsepower on a good day, the De Luxe plodded its way to an easy Index of Effluency.

Bad Decisions soon insisted on making the De Luxe a bit sportier and less luxe. After that auspicious debut, they plucked in the 3.8-liter V6 and five-speed manual from a hooptie fourth-gen Camaro. Ford Crown Victoria front and rear subframes slightly modernized the handling and also accepted General Motors’ ubiquitous engine. Bad Decisions eventually tossed in the supercharged version from a Pontiac Grand Prix GTP to make the mid-century sedan run down BMWs and Mustangs thanks to its 240 mellifluous horsepower.

So what do you do with a 1947 flathead engine? Well, you of course throw it into the Camaro’s empty engine bay. The heavy flathead construction weighs roughly as much as a Camaro V8, albeit with one-third the power. This is something of a feature instead of a bug: A flathead engine hardly makes enough power or compression to hurt itself, so it chugged along all weekend yet again in its new home.

Incredibly, Bad Decisions retained the Plymouth’s original three-speed manual. Rather than rig up the column-shifter setup, however, the team instead installed two separate shifters. Each shifter controls one axis of the shift pattern and moves forward or backward. So first gear is one shifter up, the other back. Second gear reverses them, and third gear is both shifters pulled back. If that sounds confusing, there’s a convenient diagram to help the driver.

Bad Decisions Racing: It’s more than just a clever name.

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View comments on the GRM forums
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
1/13/21 8:12 a.m.

Swapping the GM V6 into the Plymouth is an unusual and creative swap to begin with; swapping the Plymouth flathead into the Camaro is hillarious. It also has  a certain Bonneville ring to it - the sort of weird combo somebody might come up with looking over a spreadsheet of frontal areas, coefficients of drag, class records, and other factors to put together a combo that has no purpose other than to grab a soft record.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/13/21 8:50 a.m.

Im happier about the shifters than anything else. Although seeing a serpentine belt on the front of a flathead also gave me a giggle.laugh

jimbbski SuperDork
1/13/21 2:25 p.m.

Having worked with the BDR team for a number of years but not being an "official" member I got to witness  many  of their"bad decisions" over the years.  I've lend a had on occasion helping  them on their various builds.  I was the one that suggested the Ford Crown Vic front cross member/suspension swap  since the rear end is just a stick axle out of a Ford Explorer.  They raced the Plymouth with the Explorer  rear from the very start  so the Crown Vic swap was a natural as the bolt pattern for the wheels was the same. And as far as the flathead into the Camaro, well they had that big lump of metal sitting around for a couple of years taking up space and the price of scrap metal being what it is why not put that powerhouse to some use. 

I've lost count on the number of race cars they're built as I've haven't spent much time at their race shop the past  couple  of years as I had some projects of my own to work on. 

1/13/21 3:14 p.m.

In reply to Vigo (Forum Supporter) :

As the owner and one of the builders of both cars...not a serpentine belt on the flathead.  OE width V-belt with an alternator where the gennie once was.  It had one belt because...simpler times.


onkeludo New Reader
1/13/21 3:55 p.m.

In reply to MadScientistMatt :

It all came from the need to get rid of the rigid steering shaft to meet new (good) safety requirements...almost impossible to retain the column shifter.  So after lots of thought, a few beers and a couple of years the co-owner of the car convinced me we needed +- 300 hp.

Many engines were considered but never an LS because...its boring at this point.  We landed on the L67 3800 SC because I can still stand in my local PnP GM section on any roof and pee on three L67's.  When a fully drivable swapped (with headers, small pulley and the tune we use to this day) 4th gen dropped for $1100 on Craigslist, the die was cast.

The CV front subframe was supposed to be a shortcut to modern suspension and a rack and pinion to provide the clearance needed for the wider motor...it served both purposes but the coke-bottle style frame of the Plymouth made it much more complex than a bolt in it would be on the F1/100 trucks.

Not surprisingly, the Plymero (as we call the Camero) involved many more beers to come up with that foolish idea.

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
1/14/21 8:16 a.m.

I used to have a L67 powered Regal myself. It was the sort of car that made you wonder what mayhem you could get into with the engine in a different chassis.

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
1/14/21 9:13 a.m.

As the owner and one of the builders of both cars...not a serpentine belt on the flathead.  OE width V-belt with an alternator where the gennie once was.  

Ah, gotcha. I was just going off the width of it as i couldn't see fine detail.  Cool projects!! 

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