Enthusiasts of the musclecar era get a big kick out of thinking what might have been. After all, if you had been in the position to order whatever you considered the baddest Mopar to ever leave the dealership lot, what would you have chosen? A 1964 Hemi lightweight drag car? A 1971 Hemi 'Cuda convertible? For Smith Stokes, the answer to that question came with the arrival of the original Superbird factory order sheet in late 1969.
However, unlike most of us, Mr. Stokes was in the position to order that perfect car. At the time, he was the sales manager at a North Carolina Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. So he used his knowledge to make sure this car got the full treatment. That meant a 426 Hemi engine coupled to a heavy-duty Torqueflite and a 3.55 Sure-grip 83/4 rear end. That meant power windows, eight-track stereo, and EV2 Tor-Red paint. When he was done, anything that could be ordered as an option, including door and wheel trim, ended up on this car. Many of the Superbirds were built simply to homogenize the body for King Richard Petty's return to the Plymouth fold; not many were pre-ordered, and fewer still with special options.
Of course, in addition to the big wing, nose cone and special decals, the Superbirds already had a lot going for them. They came with power front disc brakes, power steering, and Rallye wheels hosting big Goodyear rubber as standard equipment. Cars with four-speeds got the Dana 60 rear with the Trak Pak option.
After the creation of the new car and its subsequent "Superbirding" at Creative Industries in Detroit (the company that did the modifications for Plymouth), it arrived and Smith even drove it around as a demo for a while. Unfortunately, by this point in 1970, the supercar era was winding down very quickly, with insurance rates, low gas mileage, and its police-attracting appearance making buyers, even in the NASCAR-biased South, few and far between. In the end, Stokes made the financial commitment to keep it himself and the car ended up in his garage for good.
Fast forward. In 1990, Smith Stokes opened his own Chrysler/Plymouth/Jeep dealership in Reidsville, North Carolina, and has won Five Star Awards for every one of the last ten years. The Smith Stokes dealership is also deeply involved in supporting Mopar racing efforts, with everything from Ronnie Sox and Bob Reed in Super Stock to Ray Evernham's Dodge NASCAR team. And though it now shows almost 70,000 miles on the odometer, the Tor-Red Superbird remains part of the family.
Superbirds are unique by any measure, but Smith's does fit that "ultimate car" ideal. He is the car's one and only owner, and it has always been well-taken care of (including an occasional highway joy ride that sends the speedometer deep into the triple digits, which is just what that big elephant needs to breathe through all eight barrels anyhow). Although a leather interior option wasn't available in the Road Runner-based model, the black vinyl bucket seats show little sign of wear, and Smith still has every piece of paperwork that came with it, including the order brochure, the order blank, the window sticker and the maintenance guide that was created specifically for the Superbird.
Back in the old days, it frequently ended up over at the Sox & Martin facility in Burlington, North Carolina, for its annual tune-up, and Mr. Four-Speed himself was occasionally seen "test driving" it around the area. Therefore, a faded Sox & Martin Supercars dash plaque is one of the few deviations from the car's as-built, unrestored appearance, as is Richard Petty's signature on the Hemi Orange air-cleaner top.
When the Superbird is resting at home, Smith can always take one of the other cars out, like his own 1971 Hemi 'Cuda coupe, or a Viper, or whatever else he decides to cruise that day. On those sunny afternoons, though, there might also be a chance that the locals will hear that woosh of the wind as the "ultimate car" in Smith Stokes' possession gets a chance to breathe deep--just like in the old days.