Joe Medwick, of Columbia, Pennsylvania, received a phone call in February 1987 from a close friend of the Green family of Harleysville, Pennsylvania. Their patriarch, Harry Green, had passed away two years prior, and the family had decided it was time to part with his big blue car. After all, two newer small cars would fit in the same space in the garage. The friend of the family was simply trying to determine the Plymouth's value. The caller was unable to fill in the more important details, which would determine the value, so Joe agreed to make the trip to see the car. But before we go any further, we need to back up to the beginning of story.
In 1970, Harry Green was considering trading in his current driver: a '64 Ford Galaxie XL convertible with a dual-quad-fed 427 with a four-speed. His friend told him about two very unusual cars sitting at nearby Lansdale Chrysler-Plymouth. They were Superbirds: one Tor-Red and the other Petty Blue. Harry went to have a look and was going to purchase the orangish one until his friend told him that it looked too much like a pumpkin, so he chose the blue one. Both of these particular 'Birds were 440-powered cars. The story goes that Harry and his friend drove straight from the dealership in the Superbird to the local hospital to visit Harry's wife and newborn daughter.
For most of the next fourteen years, the Superbird was used as Harry's daily driver (and Harry was not known to be the easiest person on a car). It was even seen on occasion towing a utility trailer made from a pickup bed. It survived 14 years of southeast Pennsylvania's salt-laden roads.
Now we fast-forward to 1987. After examining the Superbird, Joe was able to strike a deal with Harry's widow; he assured her his intension was to restore the 'Bird rather than just cut it up. the 'Bird was Harry's mode of transportation for business (he was a lawyer), so all receipts had been kept for tax purposes. As a result, the entire history of the car is documented.
For the next twelve years, the 'Bird sat. Joe partially disassembled the car to determine what it was going to need. the list became so long that parts were acquired as opportunity and funds allowed. Fortunately, most of the special Superbird parts could be reused.
Originally, the bird came...
Originally, the bird came with a black interior. Joe has replaced the black with a sanitary white cockpit that accents the blue perfectly. Since the photos were taken, Joe has found an N.O.S. steering wheel to replace the aftermarket one.
The giant Plymouth lettering...
The giant Plymouth lettering and the tall wing are cool and indicative of the race heritage of the Superbird, but these giant B-Bodies sat on dealership lots for years afterwards. Seems the normal John Q. Public wasn't too interested in driving Richard Petty's blue wing car.
In the fall of 1999, Joe met Dennis Kohr of Kohr's Kustoms in Meyerstown, Pennsylvania. After some discussion and an examination of the 'Bird by Dennis, it was decided it would be put on the waiting list at Kohr's Kustoms to await its turn at restoration. In the meantime, the parts gathering and services arranging continued. It officially entered the Kohr's shop at the end of April 2001.
A short trip to Robesonia to talk with engine builder Ray Barton determined that a 440 stretched to 488 inches would be appropriate for the 'Bird. Ray and his shop built a low-rpm, high-torque monster for easy cruising on premium pump gas. Joe provided a '78 block and new stage IV heads, along with a new timing cover, oil pan, and valve covers. Ray came up with everything else. The original AVS Carter feeds this 488 and provides reasonable fuel mileage.
The original 18-spline Hemi four-speed was carefully put aside in favor of a different combination. Close friend and fellow Mopar fanatic, Dennis Garber from New Holland, Pennsylvania, put the internals from an overdrive four-speed from the late '70s into a case from the late '60s-a 23-spline four-speed. Some internals needed to be replaced, so Denny put in an order with Passon Performance for the needed help. The results mean highway cruising is done in the low-to-mid-2,000-rpm area. The big 488 doesn't mind the relatively large rpm drop between gears. The Kohr's tied the two together with a stock bellhousing, enclosing a dual friction Centerforce clutch assembly.
The original 3.54 geared Dana 60 rear axle was in good shape and was given to Joe's friend, Steve Kruger, for a simple freshening. Steve reported that Joe could have changed the gear oil and put it back in the car. However, all bearings and seals were replaced just for good measure. Steve was also instrumental in acquiring many other new parts for the 'Bird thru his family's business, Lancaster County Auto Parts. The combination of the overdrive four-speed and the 3.54 gearing makes for a final drive ratio of the about 2.50 to 1.
The engine was replaced in...
The engine was replaced in the mid-'70s as a warranty job. At the time, the dealership didn't have an engine to install, so one was removed from a new station wagon on the lot. Now, the 'Bird is powered by yet another engine since the warranty engine is in Joe's garage. Ray Barton was commissioned to build the 488 with driveability in mind.
Atop the internally modified...
Atop the internally modified 440 is what one would expect-the venerable Carter four-holer feeding the motorvator.
Trailering home any winged...
Trailering home any winged B-Body is going to get you plenty of stares. Even though the 'Bird needed a lot of help, Joe laughs that this was the easiest car he ever had to tow home.
Joe also carefully thought out the 'Bird's suspension. It's all new at both ends. The front was upgraded with larger torsion bars, a larger front antisway bar, and matching Mopar Performance shocks. Polyurethane bushings were used in the sway bar mounts and links only; all others were standard moog replacement items. The rearend received new XHD rear springs, matching shocks, and a rear sway bar from Mopar Performance. The combination rides well and handles great for a big car.
The steering was upgraded with a modified police power steering box and matching fast-ratio Pitman and idler arms from Firm Feel. Joe tells us the 'Bird's steering feels a lot like a late-model performance car. The factory power disc/drum brakes were redone with all new parts.
The resurrection (this was way more than a restoration) of the 'Bird required all of the Kohr's body working skills. Alan Kohr spent many long hours cutting, fabricating, welding, and fitting. It took approximately six months of work before the 'Bird could even be placed on a rotisserie for further work. Except for the hood, roof, and wing, nearly everything else needed either large amounts of massaging and/or replacement. Even the subframes needed extensive work. The rear pieces are repaired pieces from the aftermarket, while the front subframe and inner fender panels were taken from a solid '69 Satellite station wagon that Joe had saved. The original radiator support was repaired.
The Kohr's refurbished the interior using supplies from Legendary Auto Interiors and Year One. The original interior was black with silver piping, but since Joe always liked a black-and-white interior, the change was made. The current seats are not the originals.
To say the 'Bird was in rough...
To say the 'Bird was in rough condition when Joe found it is an understatement. According to the guys at Kohr's Kustoms, the only salvageable piece on the car was the roof. The front frame needed replaced, the rear frame needed replaced, the quarters, doors, inner firewall structure, outer firewall structure . . . and the list goes on.
Removing the original black vinyl top revealed some Petty Blue paint on the C pillars and above the windows that had never seen the light of day. Dennis Kohr was able to use this to match the paint. Even the primers were tinted blue to match. After the body was finally in shape for finish, Dennis coated it with many layers of Petty Blue. This car is painted in places the factory never bothered to coat. Joe decided on a white vinyl top as he felt it would contrast well with the Petty Blue. He then decided he would continue the white theme to the nose to make it all match. If Joe had wanted to, a few pieces, some black paint, and a short time in the shop is all it would take to make the Bird look like it did at Lansdale Chrysler Plymouth in 1970. The idea was if a 'Bird could have been ordered this way, this is how it would have looked. No, it's not correct, but Joe tells us that many people have told him they think it looks better. At least it's one more Superbird that's back on the road.
The resurrection took the Kohr's three years. They usually turn out a championship-winning car in about a year and a half. That's how bad this car really was.
Joe had the Korh's replace...
Joe had the Korh's replace the black exterior accents with white pieces. It gives the 'Bird a whole new distinctive look.
The 'Bird paid her dues as a daily driver for 135,000 miles. She now enjoys the life of a pampered cruiser and show car. Joe has covered about 2,000 miles a year since the 'Bird emerged from the Kohr's shop in early May 2004. He tells us the car is a great cruiser and is educating many to what a Superbird is.
On June 18, 2005, Joe took the 'Bird back to Lansdale for the annual "Under The Lights" car show. He wanted to see if anyone might recognize it from her days on the streets of Lansdale. There were a few people who did, and they told Joe several interesting stories of her history. Harry's 'Bird was back and better than ever.
Owner: Joe Medwick, Columbia, PA
Car: '70 Plymouth Superbird
Color: Petty blue, white vinyl top, white accents
Engine: 440RB stroked to 488 ci, 4.15 stroker MP crank, JE 9.5:1 pistons, Mopar Performance Stage IV cylinder heads, original AVS carburetor, TTI headers
Transmission: A-833 four-speed manual transmission with late '70s four-speed overdrive transmission internals
Rearend: Dana 60, 3.54 Sure Grip
Wheels/Tires: Front/Rear: Ralley 15x7, BFGoodrich 235/60/15