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 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 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 is Petty built-this time however, Tim Petty, Maurice's son, ha
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.
When the 1976 season ended, Doc decided to retire the Charger-skinned chassis. Let's face it-in 1976, NASCAR race cars were evolving, and the aged Charger-skinned chassis was considered "too old" to be competitive. The Charger languished, collecting dust, and eventually Doc decided it was time to let the car go.
After it was sold, the car was painted a two-toned scheme of gold and brown, became No. 28, and spent several years racing on small regional West Coast tracks. Although we couldn't confirm it, it's thought that Doc may have sold the car without the Hemi engine. While in this gold and brown paint scheme, it ended up being raced with a small-block in it.
After that, our research takes us to Chuck Shafer of Portland, Oregon. How Chuck discovered and acquired the car is a bit of a mystery, but we do know that at one time, it was stored in a barn somewhere in Iowa. When Todd Werner expressed an interest in acquiring the car, he had to speak with Mrs. Shafer, as unfortunately, Chuck had passed away.
The interior is simple and race ready. Notice the small, silver access-panel on the floor
Todd was able to get small bits of information from Chuck's widow. All we know for certain is that Chuck felt confident it was indeed a Petty car by virtue of the research he had done before and during his acquisition.
If the name Chuck Shafer sounds familiar to you, it might be because he is also the man responsible for the restoration of the '71 Petty Road Runner that won the 1971 Daytona 500. In other words, he knew a Petty car when he saw one.
During the time that Chuck owned this car, he wasn't exactly sure which "Petty" car it was, but thought that it might be the '70 Road Runner that Richard raced at Riverside in 1971. We now know that his hunch was correct, but he never pursued the issue, and so the car languished for several years in the back of his storage area. Chuck passed away before he was ever able to verify the car.
That panel was removable, and when the race was underway, Pete could remove the panel, exp
That brings us to the current owner, Todd Werner. When Todd purchased the car, he knew Chuck's suspicions about it, but even though the car wasn't verified to be a Petty-built car at the time, he felt as strongly about it as Chuck did. In 2008, Todd decided it was time to see if the small bits of information he had gathered about the car's history could be verified, and he set up an appointment with Petty Enterprises. During this first meeting, a representative of Petty Enterprises-Dale Inman, who has been with Richard Petty since the mid-'60s-came out of the Level Cross compound and began to thoroughly scrutinize the car. Remember, the chassis has worn several different "skins" or body shells over the years, and verifying whether or not this was one of the Petty-Team cars is not something taken lightly.
Todd's suspicions were the same as Chuck Shafer's-he believed that this could have been one of Petty's Road Runners. After several hours of inspection, Dale felt this car might be something special. He asked Todd to bring it back the following day so he could have another gentleman look it over.
Upon returning the following day, the "other" gentleman, Richie Barsz, began to thoroughly check the car. For those of you who may not know the name, Ritchie Barsz joined the Petty team in 1970 and spent most of his time as the chief fabricator in the shop. Since he was there in 1970, he might know a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to Petty cars-specifically the Superbirds. Richie and Maurice, "Chief," as he was known in the shop, were responsible for the No. 40 Superbird when it was at the track and in the shop.
Finding reproduction decals is nearly impossible, so the guys at Petty's had them recreate
Also found in storage upstairs at the Petty complex was this complete Petty-modified Super
The wing uses Petty-built struts and a cable system that adds support.
Early during the 1970 season, the cars still had the factory side windows, and the door ca
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 that he felt was Petty-built to Petty Enterprises in hopes that
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, the team at Petty's Garage pose for one last photo before t
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.