Restored to its Daytona 500-winning...
Restored to its Daytona 500-winning colors and markings, this ex-Richard Petty '71 Road Runner looks ready to conquer the high banks again.
This is the last real stock car. The last one to win a NASCAR Grand National championship using a production-based body and engine. It's also the last one to win that championship before NASCAR's so-called "modern age" began, when big-bucks sponsorships rolled in and the schedule was shortened from 48 to 31 events.
It's also a car that almost tore down Mopar Muscle World HQ from the inside, when we had it on our dyno...but that's getting ahead of the story.
Spring 1970. Ma Mopar's engineering crew was hard at work on the aero packages for the all-new '71 Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge Charger bodies, successors to the "winged warriors"-the Charger Daytona and Road Runner SuperBird. Then they got a message from Daytona Beach, Florida: NASCAR mandated production bodies only for the '71-model cars in the Grand National Championship season, and much smaller (5 liters-305.5 ci) for any "winged" cars. Chrysler stopped all research and development on the '71 aero packages right there.
So what if it doesn't have...
So what if it doesn't have an "R" code on the VIN (or no VIN to begin with)! It's a real 426 Race Hemi, restored by Chuck Schaefer.
Later that year, into Petty's shop in Level Cross, North Carolina, came a new body-in-white, one of the '71 B-Body two-doors that wore Plymouth rear quarters. Not too much later came another new '71 body-in-white-this one the Dodge version, with its longer rear floorpan and distinctive "Coke bottle"-shaped quarters. These two bodies-in-white were built into Hemi-powered race cars- Richard Petty's No. 43 Plymouth, and Buddy Baker's No. 11 Dodge.
For '71, Ma Mopar sponsored only two cars -Baker's and Petty's-and the No. 43 was the only one of the two to run the full season. (The No. 11 car concentrated on the longer-distance, bigger-purse events on the schedule.)
Out of harm's way-the ignition...
Out of harm's way-the ignition box that sparks the big Hemi is located under the right side of the dash.
Still, it was a monster season for Richard and his No. 43 Plymouth. Entering 46 of the season's 48 points-paying Grand National events, he scored nine poles, won 21 races with 38 top-five finishes and 41 top tens, good for his third Championship. Those wins included the Daytona 500 (where Baker finished second), Atlanta's Dixie 500, the Texas 500 at Texas World Speedway, the Delaware 500 at Dover, and two wins each at Rockingham and Richmond. This is also the car that helped earn Richard the title of being the first driver to win $1,000,000-plus. This car and Richard actually visited the White House in September 1971 by a presidential invite.
Many of those wins-including Daytona-came in the car you see here. "The car has been restored, but it's pretty much all original," says Chuck West, the former Mopar Muscle tech advisor who manages the historic high-performance collection of Todd Werner.
With the end of Chrysler factory sponsorship after 1971, Petty Enterprises had to find support to run in what was now called the Winston Cup Series from somewhere else. "That's why they tried to attract other sponsors," says Chuck. "Obviously, Andy Granatelli came along with the STP deal, and that allowed Petty to continue testing and everything they needed to do to keep racing and stay competitive."
They also had to convert it from a '71 to a '72, which involved replacing the existing rear bumper with the redesigned '72 piece. "They didn't like having to change it to a '72," Chuck says. "The back bumper was actually tucked up pretty decently. They had aluminum aero plates bolted to the space between the bumpers and the body panel itself, so it would be cleaner, aerodynamically."
Wearing its new colors, the No. 43 Plymouth was still a popular car-and still a winner. In just 20 races in 1972, it reached Victory Lane eight times, with 18 top-five finishes and 19 top-tens, helping power Richard to his second straight title (and fourth overall). But change was in the wind-and Petty phased out the Plymouth before the end of the '72 season in favor of the Dodge.
In 20 out of 46 NASCAR GN...
In 20 out of 46 NASCAR GN races in 1971, this is how the competition viewed Richard Petty's latest Plymouth.
When they celebrated 50 years...
When they celebrated 50 years of the Daytona 500, the ex-Petty '71 led the procession that brought the crowd to its feet.
There was no rule saying that...
There was no rule saying that you couldn't give your bumpers some aerodynamic "help" back then, and the No. 43 car took full advantage of it.
Here's a dual-purpose device...
Here's a dual-purpose device on the floor where the back seat would otherwise be. It's the cooler that keeps the differential fluid in the 83/4-inch rearend cool, while also keeping Richard (or whoever drives it) plenty warm during the race!