A car with a history that precedes its outstanding performance. With a portfolio that includes seven NASCAR titles, numerous Piston Cups and more then over 200 races in its back pocket , transforms this muscle car in a true american icon.
Build for the purpose of beating the Ford Torino and win at NASCAR, the Plymouth Superbird was basically a modified Plymouth Road Runner, but it was realized that while it was acceptable on the street to have the ’aerodynamics of a brick’ (typical of most American cars of the period), something far better would help at high racing speeds.
So, following the lead of the previous year’s Dodge Charger Daytona, the Superbird sported an aerodynamic nosecone adding nineteen inches to the length and containing retractable headlights, a slightly smoothed-out body, and to counter a tendency to lightness at high speed, a rear wing was mounted high on very tall tailfins. The reason for the fins was mostly to give clearance beneath them to lift the trunklid, but it probably didn’t hurt that it put the wing into less disturbed air.
The Superbird and Charger Daytona were among the first American cars to be designed using a windtunnel and to use computer analysis for aerodynamics. The Charger Daytona itself was a result of the more aerodynamic Dodge Charger 500.
One of the more interesting chapters in technological history was the 1969 Dodge Daytona. This vehicle had a drag coefficient (cd) of just 0.28, better than most cars made today (the $50,000, has a cd of over 0.5). It would have produced even less drag, if it weren’t for the tall spoiler (added to keep the rear wheels on the ground at high speeds). But, despite its 200 mph speed record (set by Buddy Baker on March 24, 1970, at 200.447 mph around Talladega), the car didn’t sell well at some dealerships because people thought the aero look was ugly! The price, about $4,000, was high, but not exorbitant .
There were three engine choices available. All Superbirds used for racing were fitted with the 426 Hemi engine, but for the street, two lesser engines were available, the 440 Super Commando with a single 4-barrel carburetor and the 440 Six Barrel with three two-barrel carburetors. Only 135 street cars were fitted with the 426 Hemi; 665 took the option of the 440 Six Barrel,(the Dodge version of this engine was called the Six Pack) and the rest were equipped with the 440 Super Commando (the Dodge version of this engine was called the 440 Magnum).
The most expensive and most powerful engine available to the Superbird was the 426 Hemi, it produces 425 horsepower, and it carried the Superbird from zero-to-sixty in just 4.8 seconds and reduced the quarter-mile time by almost a second.All three could be mated to either the heavy-duty four-speed manual or the 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission.
Despite being a sub-series of the Road Runner (all Superbirds share the Road Runner’s RM23 VIN prefix), options and availability were limited. While bucket seats could be upgraded from the standard front bench seat, they could both only be in black or white. Exterior colors were limited to Alpine White, Tor-Red, Vitamin-C Orange, Lemon Twist, Lime Light, Corporation Blue and Blue Fire Metallic. All cars were also fitted with a black vinyl roof, regardless of paint color, to reduce the already labor-intensive time needed for fitting the Superbird-unique body panels.
While the Air Grabber hood was standard on the Hemi-Powered Runners, thanks to the unique front fender contour, the plain hood was installed over all powerplants in the Superbird. Power steering and power front disc brakes were mandatory options. As far as production was concerned, it was scheduled to be built at the rate of one per two Chrysler-Plymouth dealers (1,920 were built), more than adequate to become homologated for NASCAR.
On the track, Superbirds proved to be the cars to beat, if only by a hair.The Superbird did reasonably well against strong Ford opposition on the NASCAR tracks that year, winning eight races and placing well in many more. It didn’t hurt, of course, that Richard Petty, known as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers, was behind the wheel of a Superbird that year.
The Superbird’s styling proved to be a little extreme for 1970 tastes (many customers preferred the regular Road Runner), and as a consequence, many examples sat unsold on the back lots of dealerships. In fact, some were converted back into 1970 Road Runners in order to sell them. In recent years, a Superbird has become quite valuable. A car in good condition can reach $50,000 to US$70,000 or more, even with the more common 440 Super Commando, and examples with the 426 Hemi fitted at the factory (retrofitted doesn’t count) and in near-perfect condition have changed hands for about $250,000. On eBay, bids for original Superbirds crossed $100,000. In such a market, some manufacturers are currently making kits to convert standard 1970 Road Runners and Satellites into Superbirds.