Let's begin by taking a hypothetical trip back to the Tuesday morning after the 1970 Charlotte Grand National race. The crew at Petty Enterprises has just assembled in the shop at Level Cross, North Carolina, to assess the damage to the No. 40 Superbird driven by Pete Hamilton. It was a rough weekend at the races, and the car needs a little body repair. The right front corner of the No. 40 car hit and moved the wall in the second corner. The guys know it's going to be a long week replacing all that sheetmetal, and as the meeting begins, The King might have said something to the effect of: "Guys, it's a good thing we have a lot of extra metal upstairs, because we need to change a lot of it on this car-again."
In the world of Grand National-and what is now NASCAR racing-a race car's body panels may be replaced several times over the course of a season, and these guys are used to it. Crew Chief Dale Inman directs the guys on where to begin with the repairs. We can also imagine fabricator Ritchie Barsz already tearing off the front end of the car, wondering what's taking Dale so long to get started.
To make a long story short, they replaced the bent body panels, hammered out the wrinkled firewall and floor area, and got the car to the next race. Pete continued to drive the car during the 1970 season, and the guys at the shop continued to make any repairs as they were needed.
Like we said earlier, many...
Like we said earlier, many of the parts were located upstairs at the Petty shop.
Pete had a great year in 1970, winning three races for Petty Enterprises. His first race was the Daytona 500 (where he started in ninth place), the other two were at Talladega; all three were super-speedway wins. In the latter part of the 1970 season, Mopar decided to decrease financial support for the NASCAR teams at the end of the year, and Petty Enterprises was forced to reduce the number of Plymouth cars they could race. Hamilton's No. 40 car was not in the budget, and Pete moved on to driving for Cotton Owens.
In January 1971, at Riverside, the No. 40 car arrived but not as a Superbird. During the off season, the crew at Petty's stripped the car of its wing and nose, and then took the car to that first race of the year to be raced as a '70 Road Runner with the number 43 on the doors.
Notice the original paint...
Notice the original paint on the heads.
The reason for the "reverse aerodynamics," if you will, was because of the sanctions against the aero styling of Plymouth's wing cars, which made them virtually invincible. The car could have remained a Superbird, but the restraints on engine displacement effectively removed the Superbird's competiveness. Since the Petty organization was now planning to sell the car due to Plymouth's reduced financial backing, making it competitive was paramount.
Following the race at Riverside, a West Coast racer by the name of Doc Faustina expressed an interest in the car, and before the hauler could leave the track, a deal was struck; a couple of weeks later, "Doc" received his new Road Runner. It's not known at this time whether or not Doc knew that this car started its career as the No. 40 Superbird driven by Pete Hamilton.
Just like in 1970, the Hemi...
Just like in 1970, the Hemi is Petty built-this time however, Tim Petty, Maurice's son, handled the building.
Doc painted the car a dark blue, and covered the door with the number 5. He was what's considered a hobby racer today, and campaigned the 'Runner for only three races that year-1971.
During the third race, Doc had the misfortune of being involved in an accident that damaged most of the car's sheetmetal. This accident was the catalyst to replace the Road Runner "shell" with a more aerodynamic third-generation Dodge Charger skin. With the Charger skin painted silver with a white 5 on the doors, Doc transitioned himself from driver to team owner. Over the next several years-until 1976 actually-several drivers piloted the No. 5 car with limited success.