During his inspection of the car, access panels that were built into the car were opened up, and the tell-tale Petty Blue paint was still there. Even during the restoration process, more Petty Blue paint was found. According to Ritchie, he was thoroughly convinced the car owned by Todd was definitely a Petty car, but he wanted to confer with Dale and The King before he committed to stating as a fact which car it was. He did, however, know it was a Ray Nichels chassis because of the rollbar design, which definitely narrowed down the possiblities.
For the next couple of months, the staff at Petty Enterprises-now Petty's Garage-poured over pictures and notes from their files, comparing what they had seen in Todd's car with what appeared in vintage images belonging to the Pettys. In an amazing discovery, it was determined that Todd not only owned a Petty-built car, he actually owned one of the only two Superbirds ever built and raced by Petty Enterprises. When the final decision was made as to which 'bird it was, the guys at Petty's felt confident that this was indeed the chassis/car that Pete Hamilton raced and won the Daytona 500 in during the 1970 season as a Superbird; the same one Richard raced at Riverside the following year as a Road Runner. After disappearing for almost 40 years, a piece of automotive history had been found. The next question was what to do with it.
Performing a restoration on a car with so much history is no small task. The history of the car must be preserved, which means that whoever does the actual restoration needs to know the history and what they are doing to correctly restore the car. This time, choosing the right shop to do the work was as easy as looking to the original builders-the guys at Richard Petty's shop.
In late 2007, the Petty NASCAR teams relocated to a new facility, so the historic Level Cross, North Carolina, facility was empty. King Richard decided that he needed to keep it viable and so started Petty's Garage. One of the focuses of Petty's Garage was the restoration and building (and rebuilding) of specialty and classic cars.
In 2008, Todd took the car...
In 2008, Todd took the car that he felt was Petty-built to Petty Enterprises in hopes that it could be authenticated. He had no idea what surprise awaited him.
But when restoring a car like this, how does one overcome the problem of finding the correct parts? Let's face it-for a NASCAR-style stock car, you can't simply order and bolt on a new panel from the aftermarket. Remember the hypothetical beginning of our story? That the guys would need to go upstairs and get new metal for the battered No. 40 car?
Would you believe that many of the replacement parts that Petty Enterprises had back in 1970 were still in storage on the Petty compound!? You read correctly. After 40 years, many of the parts used in the restoration were found throughout the various buildings and part lofts at the Level Cross facility.
Now, not all of the parts needed for the restoration were on hand. Todd told us of a situation where some sheetmetal was needed, but none was available at the shop. The story goes that when the teams' Superbirds were no longer being raced, some parts were sold to other racers or people just wanting to have a piece of Petty history. Such a case came about when fenders were needed. The gentleman who purchased them from Petty back in the '70s still owned them. He made a deal that the metal would be donated to the rebuild effort; in return, Todd would make a donation to the Petty Family Foundation-a foundation supporting the Victory Junction Gang Camp and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
With the restoration complete,...
With the restoration complete, the team at Petty's Garage pose for one last photo before the car leaves the shop for a second time.
Since this was originally a race car, it had been known to be involved in some altercations on the track, and even though the exterior metal was replaced several times, the floor and other non-removable metal was simply hammered back into place. During the rebuild, those dents and hammer marks were left as-is because they are part of the car's history.
Speaking of history, how many of you reading this would like to have a Petty-built Hemi for your ride? In this case, enough parts were located in-house to do just that.
The block is actually stamped PE1 71. In order to preserve the history, the block was not even repainted for the rebuild, and it still sports the Petty Parts Blue paint that was applied to it so many years ago. One difference to this Hemi build was that instead of Maurice building the engine, Timmy Petty, Maurice's son, actually handled the job-with Maurice overseeing the build.
It's a piece of automotive history that was thought to be lost. Thanks to guys like Chuck Shafer and Todd Werner, it's been rediscovered and brought back to its former self with the help of the guys who did it the first time.
It took just over a year to complete the restoration, and according to Ritchie Barsz, the 'bird should run about 194 mph.
1970 Plymouth Superbird Video Review