Monday, 20 July 2015

Petty Superbird

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Three fun facts about the Plymouth Superbird: it had a special horn that sounded like Road Runner saying 'meep meep'; its towering rear spoiler was actually kinda practical, given that it was mounted on the wings and the boot was so long - the boot could still open beneath it; the aero nosecone made the obscenely long car even longer - adding 19 inches, the car measured 18' 5" nose-to-tail.
Now, younger readers may be looking at this car and seeing Strip "The King" Weathers, the Dinoco-blue racer from the movie Cars. That's no coincidence. The character is a homage to the 1970 NASCAR Superbird, and is in fact voiced by Richard Petty, who drove the very car you're looking at here in the 1970 season. Petty had left Plymouth to race for Ford in '68, and the Superbird was unashamedly designed specifically to lure him back to the Mopar fold; it worked, and he rubbed Ford's faces in it by taking a solid eight victories.

The Superbird's progenitor, the Charger 500, was the first American car to have its aerodynamics honed using a wind tunnel and computer analysis - that car then became the Daytona, and the Superbird was the ultimate evolution. The racer was powered by a 426 Hemi, although a slightly less shouty 440 Super Commando was an option on road cars.
It was a devastatingly effective tool - so much so that 1970 was its only year in production and competition; a victim of its own might, it forced NASCAR rules to change for '71, capping the aero cars' engines to 305ci and forcing them to carry weight penalties. These extravagantly bewinged curios were very much of their time, and it's great to see Petty again behind the wheel of this massive, brutal old warhorse. You can see him driving it here.

More pics from the 2015 FoS here.

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