A Car Built for a King

Petty's Superbird

The 1970 Plymouth Superbird is a car that was never meant to be built. It was the height of the muscle car era when the adage "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday" was very much true. Going into the 1969 NASCAR season Dodge introduced the Charger 500 which featured a flush mounted grill and a rear window that was flush with the C-pillar making it significantly more aerodynamic than the standard Charger. Ford responded by introducing the Torino Talladega and it's sister the Mercury Cyclone Spoiler. The only major player in stock car racing at the time that did not develop an Aero Car was Plymouth. It was for this reason that then 2 time Grand National Champion and already a legend in the sport Richard Petty asked Chrysler to let him drive a Dodge instead of his famed Plymouths. Chrysler declined his request and rather than go through a season without even a chance of winning on the big tracks, he signed a deal with Ford for the year. This came as a shock to everyone at Chrysler. It's been stated that the flags at Plymouth dealerships throughout the south flew at half mast for the entire 1969 Grand National season. Things also weren't good at Dodge. The Charger 500 was not competitve against the new Fords and Mercurys. In response at mid-season they added a long pointed nose and huge rear wing to the Charger 500 to make the Charger Daytona. Going into the 1970 season Plymouth, in an attempt to lure Petty back, added a flush mounted rear window, a long nose, and big rear wing very similar to those found on the Charger Daytona to their Roadrunner developing the Superbird. Petty very happily rejoined Plymouth and drove his Superbird to 5 wins in 17 starts. He ran a regular Road Runner in the rest of the races and finished fourth place in points that year. Teammate Pete Hamilton had an equally impressive year. Despite running only 15 races, he won 3, the Daytona 500 and both Talladega races. For 1971 Nascar mandated that the Aero Cars race with 305 cubic inch engines while regular cars were still allowed to race 426, 428, or 429 cubic inch engines depending on the car's manufacturer. This change eliminated the aero cars competitiveness, and the manufacturers stopped development on future aero cars. Most of the race versions of the aero cars were reskinned as '70 or '71 Chargers or Road Runners. Petty Enterprises only had 2 Superbirds, and thankfully they are both still around. Richard Petty's own Superbird is in a private collection. Pete Hamilton's car has recently been discovered and given a complete restoration by Petty Enterprises after spending the last four decades skinned as a 1971 Dodge Charger. The Superbird at the Richard Petty Museum was never raced as a Superbird. It built in 1977 from a Road Runner race car. The nose came from the junkyard behind Petty's shop while the rear window was part of a conversion kit that had never been used. The Superbird was also drag raced, most notedly by the legendary Sox & Martin team, without much success. The fact that Plymouth developed and built 1200 Superbirds primarily to get Petty to come back shows the true power of a legend in his prime.


1970 Superbird

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