Years of storage kept the OEM vinyl top in good shape, so it stayed on during body repairs
For the next couple of years, the Superbird’s unibody was there--first it was stripped down to the bare steel below the beltline (with the original vinyl top staying on), then the rust and nose cone were repaired and the other panels made right for the re-application of the OEM EV2 Tor-Red paint (in basecoat/clearcoat instead of the original acrylic enamel). Inside, only a new carpet from Legendary Auto Interiors was needed, along with a re-conversion of the 727 to its original column shift.
While the body was on the rotisserie, the powertrain was removed and refurbished. The original 440 block received an .030-inch overbore and other machine work at Badman Engine & Machine in Selingsgrove, Pennsylvania. The U-Code 440 also got a new set of TRW pistons, a Mopar Performance flat-tappet hydraulic camshaft, hardened exhaust-valve seats, and an Accurate Exhaust system complete from the numbers-matching manifolds to the aluminized 2-inch exhaust system. Milltown Transmission in Milton rebuilt the 727, and Gary did all the reassembly work himself.
The standard Superbird engine—the 440 Magnum, whose internal upgrades are invisible under
In all, the project took about four years, resulting in the retina-searing red ’Runner you see here. Almost as soon as it was done, Gary began showing it--and winning trophies with it. He scored a Best in Show the first time out and has since won plenty of First in Class and Best in Show awards with it. He’s also been asked to show it at Chryslers at Carlisle twice--first, in the special winged-car display at the 2007 event, and then in the retro showroom in 2010.
What’s it like to drive? It drives like a brand-new car, says Gary. Better than new, I would say. Since the resto was completed, Gary figures that he’s put about 600 miles on it--with some of that mileage coming on the track.
Gary’s a member of both the Winged Warriors and the Daytona Superbird Auto Club, both made of those who own, restore, and enjoy the Aero Warriors like the Superbird and the ’69 Dodge Charger 500 and Charger Daytona. I trailer it to their national meets, and then we all get together and drive to events that we have planned. One year, I did about 25 laps around Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway. In 2009 their meet took them to a track long associated with the wing cars and high speeds. Last year we were at the Winged Warriors’ 40th Anniversary of the wing cars celebration at Talladega, he recalls. We got a parade lap around the track with all the wing cars before the October race at Talladega. Did anyone have a problem with dirty air off the back of the Superbird or Charger Dayton in front of them? We weren’t going that fast! Gary says with a big laugh. The fastest we went was probably 50-60 miles an hour. All the race teams and crew guys were out there watching us parade by when we were down on pit road.
The trunk holds the supports for the Superbird’s rear wing, a full-size spare tire, and mo
With his automotive history, it’s no surprise that Gary’s a Mopar-Or-No-Car guy. There are at least a half-dozen other Mopars in his past, plus a garage that now contains a daily-driven ’78 Plymouth Volare, a fully-restored ’72 Plymouth Satellite Sebring Plus, and an ’08 Dodge Ram 3500 Cummins beside his Superbirdand that same ’72 Road Runner that was a substitute for the first Superbird he saw, which is now getting a much-deserved restoration.
Regardless if your interest in Mopars runs toward Superbirds and other rarities, or refurbishing a one-time daily-driven C-Body, Gary says that Mopars are a lot of fun to do. They’re not like your typical Blue Oval or Bow Tie like everyone else has, and you can pick up parts for anywhere. Some of that is most of the fun--searching around and finding parts. He adds, It’s a whole different challenge to build a Mopar than your typical Mustang or Camaro--you’ve got to love ’em.