Following the voluntary Auto Manufacturers Association ban against racing in 1963, Chrysler cars fell into the familiar pattern of pulling in behind Ford in the NASCAR winner's circle. Owner/drivers Richard Petty and Cotton Owens did offer the corporation a brief respite from its lackluster oval competition success, but as a factory effort, racing success proved to be an elusive prize. New hopes were pinned on the redesigned Dodge Charger in 1968. The 426 Hemi was operating at maximum output and efficiency; however, the Charger's design left it about 5 mph shy of FoMoCo's awesome 429 Mercury Cyclone.
What to do? The Hemi was thoroughly tapped, so the only real option for shaving off the 5-mph disadvantage was to rework the Charger's aerodynamics. While Chrysler engineers pondered the possibilities, Ford-again-captured the '69 Daytona event.
The "problem" became the property of Bob Marcell, Gary Romberg and John Pointer, all of whom were charged with improving the aerodynamics of the Charger. Following Romberg's expertise as an aeronautical engineer for Boeing, the group focused its conceptual development in the wind tunnels at Wichita State University, with fullsize testing completed at Lockheed-Georgia's facility in Marietta, Georgia.
The original problems with the Charger were twofold. Most significant was the nose profile: The squared front end performed something akin to a bulldozer blade at high speed. The solution? Create a front end that would part the atmosphere like a knife. That came in the form of an 18-inch nose cone incorporating retractable headlamps and a narrow, 3x23-inch grille opening. While the sleek nose design had the desirable effect of piercing instead of plowing through the air, it also created a bit of undesirable front-end lift. This was countered by installing a front spoiler to help keep the car's leading edge down, which also reduced speed-robbing air drag underneath the vehicle.
However, the developmental approach to the redesigned aerodynamics was from a whole-vehicle point of view; all areas influencing the aerodynamics of the car were tackled simultaneously, because a positive effect from one change could have a detrimental effect on another.
An additional problem was unacceptable turbulence behind the rear glass. To fix this, engineers grafted a steel plug onto the back of the car to make the standard notchback configuration more of a semi-fastback. This reduced the air-trapping, sloped roof from a 45-degree tilt to a more efficient 22 degrees.
The most radical design feature, and the one for which the revised Charger would forever be recognized, was the rear wing.
At the time, NASCAR homologation rules called for a minimum of 500 production cars based on a race entrant to be sold to the public. That meant the primary design features of the race car had to be part of the regular production models. Wind tunnel and track testing had determined that the race Charger's new profile required a wing to stabilize the vehicle at high speeds and keep the rear end planted solidly on the asphalt.
Initial testing was successfully accomplished, with a wing assembly featuring struts mounted to the rear edge of the quarterpanels and spanned by a stabilizer. While this configuration worked perfectly, the decklid could only be opened a few inches-not a problem for the NASCAR track, but a big problem for the street cars needed to homologate the program. The solution, while exceedingly simple, would prove to be the hallmark of the new car. The vertical stabilizers, made of sand-cast aluminum, were extended to 24 inches in height, allowing the decklid to clear the wing.
Was this attack on aerodynamic efficiency successful? You bet. Driving the Daytona, Dodge's name for the revamped Charger, Charlie Glotzbach set a closed-lap speed record at the car's introductory race at Talladega in September 1969. The following spring, Bobby Isaac pulled down an even faster run at the same track in a Daytona, then took the car to Bonneville to set 28 additional records.
Colby Lynch of Brookfield, Connecticut, owns one of the limited-production street versions of the '69 Daytona wing cars. Best of all, it's a low-mileage original. He's the fifth owner of this particular Lite Yellow car, which sports a white wing, 440 engine, 727 auto tranny, and 3.55 rear gears. Originally purchased by an architect from Husker Dodge in Omaha, the Daytona spent most of its life out West, heading to Michigan for a short time before winding up in California, where Colby purchased the car from his friend, Jeff Post.
As an unrestored original, the Daytona is precluded from seeing a lot of highway miles, but with sterling racing accomplishments to back up its outrageous profile, this aerodynamic wonder has little else to prove-on the asphalt or the show field.