Dale's Bird is capable of 160 mph, but it's still street legal.
What if you had a chance to break all the speed limits-legally? Some guys would choose a new Viper in ACR trim, which could stick like glue and thunder with ease to big mph numbers. Others might really go oddball and soup up a vintage '50s Fury, or an old Polara cop car, or a prewar Airflow, just to say they did it. However, for those of us inclined toward the Detroit muscle of the good ol' days, we think we'd be right there with Dale Kuehn.
Dale, whose vocation is working for the city of Caldwell, Texas, has been a well-known Mopar guy for years in the Lone Star State. He's owned everything from '50s-era, Hemi-motivated Power Wagons to Six Pack E-Bodies. as soon as we laid eyes on this car at the Lone Star Shootout in Houston last fall, we knew it was something. Dale had put it together himself and really built it to go.
The Plymouth Superbird was built in limited numbers as a '70 model at the end of 1969; its sole purpose was to win races on the NASCAR circuit and get Richard Petty back on the side of the good guys (he had defected to Ford for a year in 1969). As we all know by now, the cars sat on dealership lots and were never appreciated until the first true wave of musclecar madness hit in the '80s. They have aged like good wine and have become pretty pricy in recent years.
Dale knew if he wanted to build a wing car for events such as the Big Bend Road Race in southwest Texas, he would not be altering one of the "real cars." So he started out with a 383 four-speed '70 Road Runner, and began to amass the parts and pieces that would transform it into a flying wing. The plan was to build something that could crank off stable 160-mph speeds, get reasonable mileage above 125 mph, and be capable of taking home the gold at road events.
The interior is definitely all business: seats, a shifter, rollcage, and N.O.S. equipment.
The B-Body received a six-point cage, heavy-duty springs, a 1.25-inch front sway bar, a 1-inch rear sway bar, 2-inch lowering blocks in the rear, and frame connectors to tye it all together. KYB shocks are coupled with the standard front disc/rear drum layout and factory power steering to help the car cruise through the corners. For rolling stock, American Racing's 17x8 Salt Flat-style wheels are shod with Kumho Ecsta MX 245/45R17 rubber (V rated to 186 mph), with even wider 17x10 rims and 285/40ZR17 rubber under the back end.
The interior got dressed out with gauges, RCI harnesses from Lone Star Racing, APC front bucket seats, and a Garmin Plus III GPS system for high-speed navigation. One cool trick was using the '70 exterior dust stripe Road Runner decal inside on the upper door edge. The four-speed gets thrown via a Pistol Grip
The body received some donor parts (wing and fenders) from a real bird that Dale owns, and he also obtained some N.O.S. pieces to use in the car's eventual restoration. Ted Janak supplied a replacement fiberglass nose cone, and Classic Collision in Bryan, Texas, custom-made the steel hood. There is also a custom-made front belly pan that smoothes out airflow over the K-member and suspension pieces. PIAA driving lights and LED blinker assemblies (with clear Lexan shields for air deflection) were installed. After Dale got the body together, it went to Image Paint in Caldwell for a fresh coating of Dupont Sublime, then to Design and Sign for the graphics.
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That left the driveline to complete. Dale had Industrial Machine in Bryan prep a '69 vintage RB engine, which he then began to bolt parts to. A set of .030-inch oversize TRW forged pistons, coupled with a stock steel crank, prepped factory rods, and Sealed Power rings went into the bottom end. The center opening got a mild Crane bumpstick with .467/.494-inch lift and 222/234-degrees of duration for good cylinder scavenging. A set of ported 906-type heads with stock-size stainless valves and Proform roller tip rockers from Mancini Racing round it out.
Induction on the Superbirds was never perfect. Dale creatively worked around this by using a pair of K&N Filtercharger cone ilters mounted through the front support next to the radiator, where they can pick up clean air. Using custom 2- and 3-inch tubes, the cool air goes from that point to a pair of Supercharger Store carb bonnets mounted over the 650-cfm Edelbrock carburetors. In keeping with the old-school flavor, the engine uses the stock hi-po exhaust manifolds, a '79-vintage Offenhouser 2x4 intake, and M/T valve covers.
The rest of the driveline is pretty straight forward: an '80 Chrysler four-speed with a .73 overdrive final ratio from a half-ton pickup and a Zoom clutch that picks up power off the crankshaft and sends it rearward to an 8.75 rear. That in turn houses a 2.76 gear with a SureGrip unit for highway driving. Put 16 gallons of fuel in the trunk-mounted cell, and away you go.
Friends John Treeter of Treeter's Body Shop in Caldwell, Jake Meyers, and Al Lutz helped with the replication/restoration project, which was completed just two days before the Big Bend Road Race in Texas last April. This event is 118 miles with 100 turns. With 440 averaged 7 mpg at 135 mph, the Superbird has kicked up to 160 mph at just 4,140 rpm. At Big Bend, it ran in the 110-124-mph class in its debut, finishing .382 mph off the winning number. In October 2005 at the Road Runner Road race, Dale raced in the 120-140-mph class and took home two First place awards: one in the 120-mph division, and a first overall at +.002 mph (.0031 off a perfect time of .0000).
Dale added this interesting use of the Road Runner dust trail to the inside of the doors.
No race-only driver, this thing is completely street legal, and Dale has taken it out on several weekend jaunts since it was finished. Of course, like any good Mopar guy, he never drives it too fast when the road race circuits are closed.
The car almost got a Hemi
In June 2005, Dale bought a '67 Charger with a Hemi in it. It was built from a 361-powered version and had been sold by the deceased owner's relatives. Dale realized right away that the nice restoration included an unmolested '68 XS code elephant mill and K-frame from another Charger. The plan was to pull it out and begin making it into a stormer for the wing car.
Before that process began, he and Al Lutz got to talking one evening. Al had a '69 Hemi Charger up on the rotisserie getting ready for a full makeover. He had bought it with a 440 engine and standard RB K-member in the '90s; the factory motivator was long gone. The Hemi in Dale's purchase was a late build that could well have gone into a '69 car.
On a whim and a wish, Al asked Dale to go out and check the serial number on this engine. Armed with a flashlight and some cleaning gear, Dale read off the numbers. And you know the rest of the story-Al has gotten the original engine and K-member back for his Charger, and Dale is now chasing another 426-inch lung to make his bird fly faster.
Owner: Dale Kuehn, Caldwell, TX
Car: '70 Superbird clone race car
Engine: '69 RB 440
Heads: 906 style, ported
Camshaft: Crane 467/.494 lift, 222/234-degree duration
Crankshaft: factory '69 balanced
Rods: factory, rebuild prepped
Pistons: TRW forged
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Induction: Offenhauser twin carb intake with square-bore 650 Edelbrock carbs and custom air intake
Headers: factory EMO 440 hi-po cast iron manifolds
Transmission: '80s-era four-speed, .73 overdrive from a Dodge truck
Differential: 8.75 with 2.76 SureGrip
Wheels/Tires: American Racing 17x8 Salt Flat Specials, Kumho Ecsta MX 245/45RZ17; American Racing 17x10 Salt Flat Specials, Kumho Ecsta MX 285/40RZ17
Paint: Dupont Sublime by Image Paint
Graphics: Design and Sign
Best Performance: 160-plus mph on the street