During the Woodward Dream Crawl, uh, I mean “Cruise”, 1.5 million people flood into the metro Detroit area to feast their eyes on classics, customs and cars of all kinds on the legendary Woodward Avenue. As I crept through the annual traffic jam, I couldn’t help but think back to the hey-day of Woodward Ave., when street racers, gear heads and even the big three’s moonlight engineers came to the wide and welcoming streets of Woodward to stir up competition.
Bored by the daily drivers and everyday traffic that continue to overtake the event, I considered the millions of influential hot-rods that have left rubber on Michigan’s Highway #1. Despite the extensive amount of muscle machines that have graced Woodward Avenue, my mind kept going back to one car, a distinguished icon, an undisputed legend, a car that even decades later stands out amongst the rest, The King of Woodward: the Silver Bullet!
The Silver Bullet is a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX (ironically beginning life in blue paint) that was originally just a test mule for Chrysler, but eventually created a legacy still widely known of and respected to this day.
The car was conceptualized by a Chrysler think-tank composed of engineers, OEM supported racers and marketing experts who were tasked with assisting the brand in advertising direction. Together, the think-tank – also responsible for Chrysler’s recent racing success – came to the conclusion that dominating on the track just wasn’t enough to earn the respect of young buyers anymore. To truly display the raw power of a Mopar® muscle car, Chrysler would have to take a stock (or at least seemingly stock) car directly to the streets to show what a Mopar vehicle was capable of from the factory! Only in the 1960s would an OEM even consider what was being suggested: factory-backed street racing!
The blue B-body was selected as a guinea pig and reassigned a new mission: to make it known nationwide that Plymouth is #1, not just on the track, but even on the street!
The car was put on a diet; fiberglass doors, fenders, a hood and decklid shaved the weight down to nearly 3,000 lbs, along with the lightweight A100 van seats that replaced the bulky factory buckets. To power the feather-light B-body, a stroked 487 CUI HEMI® engine was stuffed into the engine bay. Despite the car’s hellish performance, the idea was to present a seemingly stock and relatively affordable car to the younger crowd that flooded the street racing scene, so it was essential the car maintained a docile appearance. With an unassuming silver paint job, most of its original interior and four huge Cadillac mufflers shushing it’s choppy idle, the car was the epitome of a “sleeper”. Some visible performance features had to be added, like the wide R/O hoodscoop to cool the huffing HEMI engine, and the subtly widened wheel flares making room for fat meaty tires.
Of course, even the fastest of cars can be slow with the wrong driver, so the suits at Plymouth carefully selected the pilot of their rolling advertisement. They needed someone mature and experienced enough to entrust with the responsibility, but also wild enough to willingly strap into an overpowered street machine and give it hell! Local wrench at the Sunoco station and HEMI guru, Jimmy Addison, became the obvious choice. Jimmy was Detroit’s go-to Mopar man if you were serious about going fast and was already well versed with handling high-powered machines right on Woodward Ave. With Jimmy behind the wheel and Chrysler’s best engineers at his disposal, the Silver Bullet ran 10-second passes right on the street, all while retaining a stock appearance (an unheard-of feat for the time period)! Despite the effort that went into constructing the car as a polite little sleeper, it only took a few weeks for word to spread and the Bullet became nationwide news. Competition came from all over the country to line up with the Silver Bullet, and with Jimmy careful about who he raced and when he raced them, the car maintained its reputation and became historically known as the undefeated, undisputed King of Woodward Avenue!
So how could a car so historic, so memorable and so legendary end up easily forgotten? The car spent many decades collecting dust and being passed around by a slew of uninspired owners; that is until it was rescued by a longtime admirer: Harold Sullivan. As a kid, Sullivan hung around the Sunoco station Jimmy Addison worked at just so he could drool over the Silver Bullet GTX that sat parked outside. Sullivan never dreamed he would actually get the opportunity to own the legendary street racer, but still he kept diligent track of where the car was and who owned it.
Being an avid Mopar fan, Sullivan eventually adopted a plethora of cars in his fleet, and when an opportunity came up to trade his Superbird for the real-deal Silver Bullet, he didn’t even hesitate. Harold Sullivan restored the Silver Bullet back to its exact former glory and proudly displayed the car at the 2008 Woodward Dream Cruise. To this day, the car still competes: here it is at the Milan Dragway in Michigan where current owner Harold Sullivan got original driver Jimmy Addison behind the wheel for one final hell-raising race. Of course, this time it was done legally, on a proper ¼-mile track.