A streak of blue zooming around a ribbon of black.
That's what the Petty Enterprises Plymouth Road Runner Superbirds looked like when they first ran at speed at Daytona in early 1970. Richard Petty (in the No. 43) and Pete Hamilton (in the No. 40) turned laps that made the Mopar faithful forget all about the previous two years in NASCAR's Grand National Division, where fastback Ford Torinos and Mercury Cyclones ran rings around the B-Bodies on the superspeedways of the day.
Hamilton won the '70 Daytona 500, and added two more wins while piloting the No. 40 Superbird that year--both at Talladega. Richard Petty recorded five wins in his Superbird (out of a GN-leading total of 18), despite missing five races after his crash at Darlington in May. Meanwhile, Dodge Charger Daytonas scored three '70 wins, by Bobby Allison, Buddy Baker and Charlie Glotzbach, in a year where Bobby Isaac drove the No. 71 K&K Dodges to the GN title.
Those eleven wins, out of 23 1970 Grand National events on tracks one mile or longer, were to be the high-water mark for Ma Mopar's "Winged Warriors." For 1971, NASCAR decreed a 305ci limit on the aero cars' engines and regular production bodies for everyone else, regardless of engine.
A NASCAR-grade rollcage surrounds...
A NASCAR-grade rollcage surrounds the interior, with Kirkey racing buckets up front. The steering wheel is a reproduction Mopar "Tuff wheel" on a Flaming River column.
Away from the speedways, the 1,920 streetable Superbirds built by Chrysler to satisfy NASCAR's 1970 rules didn't exactly move fast out of dealer's stock. In many cases, they sat unsold for months--if not years--with some dealers converting them into "regular" Road Runners in order to sell them.
What about converting a production '70 Plymouth B-Body into a Superbird in these times? It can be done, but you need more than just the droopy snoot and rear airfoil.
First, you have to find a '70 Plymouth B-Body hardtop, be it a Satellite, Sport Satellite, Road Runner or GTX. (You've noticed that this is a lot more difficult than it was, say, 20 years ago.) You also need the front fenders and hood from the '70 Dodge Coronet, which worked better with the aero nose cone than the Plymouth pieces, and a "plug" to go on and over the rear window opening to smooth out the roof's aerodynamics.
But to make it truly a SUPER 'Bird, you need to incorporate NASCAR-grade hardware inside that vintage B-Body--especially that which saved Richard Petty's life at Darlington.
Worn out stock seats don't...
Worn out stock seats don't make it. Kirkey racing buckets with G-Force harnesses make it, especially in this 'Bird.
That's what happened in the case of this former '70 Satellite. Thanks to the efforts of big-time Mopar devotee Bill Goldberg (who came up with the idea for this project), YearOne, and others, this well-used B-Body was turned into one that's track-ready.
When the Satellite landed at YearOne's Braselton, Georgia, shop, the first order was "addition by subtraction." "The car needed new quarters, rear wheel tubs, trunk floor, and extensions, all due to rust," says Phil Brewer, the Superbird's designer and project manager. "But, with what we had planned for it, that was not a problem."
One problem the team solved: getting the car to have that certain superspeedway "look" to it. "We did a lot of research and took some photos of original race cars to find out what had to be done to get the NASCAR look," says Phil. "The car had to be smoothed underneath, removing hanging framerails, original suspension mounts, and trimming the rocker panels. The frame was C-notched for the rear axle, the wheel tubs where widened, and the transmission tunnel raised to get the car lowered." They also opened up and raised the wheel openings by almost six inches to get the needed "aggressive" look.
Filling those reshaped fenderwells was a challenge, as 15-inch wheels were set to go in. "We had to work with Baer to come up with some big brakes that would fit into the 15-nch NASCAR wheels," Phil says. "Some trimming on the calipers had to be done before powdercoating them."