Ante’s ’70 Plymouth Satellite

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I can’t tell you about Ante’s very cool 1970 Plymouth Satellite – the one with the 440 big block, and 4-speed – without telling you about how big of a role his family has played in his hot rodding. Especially his wife Caroline.

“She’s made all my dreams come true,” Ante said about Caroline. “This is just another example of that. We’ve got two little boys and a great family. None of this would have been possible without her.”

And it’s not just Caroline. As Ante grew up, his dad instilled the strong work ethic and mechanical inquisitiveness that Ante’s applying to the Satellite today.

His parents grew up and met in Croatia. (The story of how his mom and dad met is wonderfully romantic, but we’ll save that for later.) They immigrated to Canada where Ante and his three siblings were born.

His dad started a very successful business building custom kitchens. And in his shop space, he’d repair the family car whenever it was needed. “He wasn’t a mechanic,” Ante told me, “but he wasn’t afraid to take it apart. We almost never paid for car repairs.”

The shop was on the outskirts of Toronto in an industrial area. There was an auto repair and body shop next door. A man named Stan owned it and his body guy was Reinhardt, who Ante said “looked like he walked out of a Mötley Crüe video. He was a super energetic and fun guy.” Stan and Reinhardt would let Ante poke around their shop to learn a bit. Ante fell in love with the ‘68 Barracuda they were building.

And Ante is the first hot rodder I’ve ever met who was inspired by his… French teacher?

“Mr. Buccilli was my Grade 8 French teacher,” Ante told me. “He was sort of old school, but in tune with kids. If he sensed he was losing the kids, he’d change the topic. One day we were in the middle of a lesson and someone in the class made a comment about an engine. ‘Do you know how that works?’, he asked. And he launched into a two hour lesson about pistons and valves and engine oil. I’ll never forget that lesson.”

With those inspirations, the hot rodder in Ante took root and last year he set out to find himself a muscle car.

Early in his search, he saw an ad for the Satellite. The fact that it had a big block and a 4-speed really appealed to Ante and he and his father drove from Toronto to Montreal to look at it. The owner in Montreal had bought the car from the person who restored it. The only change he’d made since the restoration was to downsize the carburetor from a Demon 850 to a Holley 770.

Ante drove it and talked with the owner. He was pleasantly surprised by the condition of the car – it was pretty solid. But Ante thought the price was high and he didn’t want to jump into the first car he looked at. So he left and continued his search.

Over the next few months Ante kept checking in on the car – and he started watching Nick’s Garage videos on YouTube. Nick Panaritis posts videos about wrenching cars, usually Mopars, and it turns out this Satellite was on the show for the carb swap. “I got to know the car a little bit that way,” Ante said, “and I learned more about Chrysler motors.”

In January, he and Caroline and her brother drove over to Montreal to make the purchase. They stopped at Nick’s actual garage and talked with Nick’s right hand man Vasilis, and then they towed the Satellite back to Toronto – just beating a winter snowstorm on the trip home.

That trip was a lot of fun for Ante. “Every once in a while, while we were driving home, someone would be hanging out the window of their car, thumbs up, just going crazy about the Satellite. I used to be that guy. Now – because I’m a very lucky person, I’ve got my health, a decent paying job, a fantastic wife – all that has put me in a position to be on the other side of that coin.”

He’s been hot rodding the Satellite ever since.

The 440 features high flow ProMAXX aluminum heads, a Mopar M1 single plane intake manifold, and the Holley 770 Street Avenger carb. An MSD electronic ignition works with the stock Plymouth distributor. A set of Hooker Competition headers flow into 3” dual exhausts with Flowmaster mufflers. Even after a complete tune-up, the big block wasn’t running to Ante’s satisfaction, so he’s installed an air-fuel ratio sensor into the exhaust and is still tweaking the Holley.

Ante’s got some dyno sheets from the engine while it still had the Demon carb and they show the 440 putting out just over 500 horsepower at the flywheel. The smaller Holley has probably reduced that a bit, but Ante estimates it still somewhere around 450.

There’s an A833 4-speed sitting behind the big block, controlled by the iconic Hurst Pistol Grip shifter. Ante’s been working on the clutch, because something’s not quite right. The pedal feels different as it goes through its travel. Ante’s driving the Satellite a bit gingerly until he diagnoses and fixes the problem. “You want to mash the pedal and see what’s she’s gonna do,” he said, “but driving it in that condition can’t be good.”

The 4-speed turns the stock 8¼” rear end. With the power the 440 is putting out, Ante was concerned the 8¼ might be the weak link in the powertrain, so he purchased and started rebuilding an 8¾”. He’d taken it apart, cleaned it, and was about to buy new bearings for it, when he found the Dana 60.

“How do you pass on a Dana 60?” Ante said. “It’s a complete rear end, a little expensive, but the 8¾ still needed a lot of money too.” So he’s sold the 8¾ to buy the Dana. The only reason the Dana isn’t already in the Satellite is that the rear end is in the States. Ante can’t get it yet due to the pandemic. But he and the seller are keeping in touch and are hopeful they’ll be able to work something out soon.

The Plymouth’s front brakes have been upgraded to disks. The rear are still the original drums. They are power assisted, but with the engine set up the way it is, it produces very little manifold vacuum, so there’s a vacuum pump in the trunk for the power booster. Ante is enjoying power steering as well.

Right now this classic muscle car is riding on 15″ Cragar S/S wheels and BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires. Ante has been thinking about a change to steel wheels, painted to match the body color, with hub caps. He’s been thinking about it, but now he’s pretty sure he’ll make the change since he’s seen what the Satellite will look like with the steelies.

Ante started corresponding with Will Egly (@egly_auto_design on Instagram) about Will doing a drawing of the Plymouth. Will’s drawing (shown above) incorporated Ante’s vision of what he wanted the car to be. When he saw it with the steel wheels – and a Six-Pack hood – Ante was convinced.

He found a Six Pack hood and is in the process of fitting it to the Satellite – learning a little about fiberglassing along the way. He’s already got hood pins like the ones Will included in his drawing and will install them once the hood is properly fitted.

The hood is going to stay black, although whether it will be flat or gloss hasn’t been decided yet. The black hood will be a nice offset to the Satellite’s lime green paint. To say Ante likes the lime green better than the factory original F8 green would be an understatement. In talking about the F8 all he could say was, “I can’t… I guess it was a thing back in the 70s. I don’t get it at all.”

In this generation, Plymouth’s Road Runner and GTX shared the same body and chassis as the Satellite. Ante’s car has some Road Runner decals, and it used to have the dust stripes down the sides as well, but his car wasn’t intended to be restored as a Road Runner. The car still has Satellite components, including the taillights and the rear valance. Ante considers the car a “Road Runner tribute” restoration.

The interior is really well done, with white bucket seats and vinyl trim. It’s got the complete set of Rallye gauges, including the Tic Toc Tach. The Satellite’s audio system consists only of an AM radio, but that’s OK with Ante. He’s a big baseball fan, and he’s looking forward to leaving the radio tuned to the Blue Jays’ channel when baseball season finally starts.

With a big carb and a single plane manifold and aluminum heads, the 440 is set up pretty aggressively. It can be difficult to start. At one time, Ante was thinking about de-tuning the motor to make it a little more friendly to drive.

“But it kicks in around 2500 RPM,” he told me. “You can tell you hit a sweet spot with the heads and exhaust. The sound completely changes. The car kind of hunkers down and really delivers power. The first time I drove it like that, I thought ‘OK, I get it now.’ Maybe I’ll just learn to cope with it.”

Ante misses being able to hang out with other hot rodders at car shows, but he’s adapted to the current reality by posting a lot of the work he’s doing on Instagram. And he’s amazed at the responses he’s been getting.

“I found that a lot of the people you get in touch with are really, really kind about saying ‘try this, think about this, you might want to try this’,” Ante told me. “How fortunate am I? I’m talking to people in California. I’m following a guy in Sweden. The friendly tips are mind boggling. It’s heartwarming.”

But it’s not as heartwarming as the story of how Ante’s mom and dad met. They were still in Croatia and his dad was replacing a window in the house next to his mother’s house. Ante’s dad saw her getting off the bus coming home from school. He didn’t know her, but he decided he had to meet her.

The problem was, he was just about finished with the job. So when no one was looking, he smashed the window he’d just replaced with his hammer, ensuring he’d have to come back.

They got married in Croatia. His dad had the opportunity to move to Canada, so he borrowed the equivalent of about $200 from friends in his village, and went to Toronto. When he’d saved enough money (after he’d paid back the money he borrowed), he moved his wife out with him. They had four children, put them through school, and got them all started on the right foot.

Ante knows how hard his dad worked to succeed in a new country where he didn’t even speak the language. He knows how fortunate he and his siblings are to have been raised the way they were. And he knows how blessed he is to have Caroline and his sons by his side.

Those are the most important things in Ante’s life.

A very cool 1970 Plymouth Satellite with a 440 and a 4-speed? That’s just icing on the cake.

Photos courtesy of Ante
Drawing of Ante’s Satellite courtesy of Will Egly
Follow Ante on Instagram via @4ondflor
Click here to see more photos of Ante’s Satellite

GHR

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