Sometimes the search for that prized Mopar can take you halfway around the world, or farther. Or it can take you to someplace that’s almost right in your backyard, as Gary Fairchild’s search for this TorRed ’70 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird did.
Like more than a few Mopar guys, Gary had a hometown dealership (BZ Motors in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania) that sold performance Plymouths and Dodges alongside Ma Mopar’s civilian lineup. Gary’s mom worked there as a secretary, and Gary hung out in and near it, talking with the salesmen and learning from the mechanics. And, like many Dodge and C-P dealerships in the late-’60s and early ’70s, BZ Motors sponsored a local racer, Rick Wolf, and his 440 Six-barrel--powered ’70 ’Cuda that ran in the SS/GA class on the nearby dragstrips, whose pit crew many times included Gary.
But this Bird wasn’t the first one that caught Gary’s eye way back then. A Lime Lightcolored Bird that BZ Motors took as a trade-in was the one that Gary first saw and started dreaming about. Unfortunately, his folks thought the big-block under the hood was too much for the then 16-year-old driver. Instead, Gary’s first Mopar was a 340-powered ’72 Road Runner, which he began modifying almost as soon as he got it, and Gary street-raced it against his buddies’ Blue Ovals and Bow Ties.
In the summer of 1978, Gary was cruising through the nearby town of Milton when he saw something that grabbed his eye. Next to an old barn was this TorRed Superbird wearing some mis-matched paint over a poorly-done collision repair to its nose cone. It was in fair shape, Gary recalls. It was a 64,000-mile car, it had a little rust on the quarter-panels and a tiny bit of rust on the trunk floor. There was also a light-duty trailer hitch on it. A look inside showed an interior that was in excellent shape, though a Hurst Auto/Stick had replaced the OEM column-mounted shifter for the Bird’s 727 Torqueflite. Also inside: Two copies of the broadcast sheet, and the original window sticker showed that High-Impact paint, a tinted windshield, AM radio, and chrome five-spoke road wheels were the only extra-cost items, which bumped the ’Bird’s 1970 sticker price up to $4,485 (plus a $74 destination charge).
As simple as it gets—a front bench seat with a column-shifted 727. Gary removed an old Hur
A deal was done, and Gary now had two Road Runners, though the Superbird was driven less than his ’72 was. In time, Gary stored the ’Bird in his grandfather’s garage, where it stayed for nearly a quarter-century. I’d get it out maybe once or twice a year to start it to keep everything loosened up, and waiting until the time was right that I could do a restoration on it and do it right, says Gary. During that time, Gary got married, bought a house, started his own trucking business, and held on to the Superbird for that elusive someday.
That day came when his wife urged him to either restore the wing car or sell it. I started the restoration in December 2002, and it spent a couple of years at the body shop, says Gary. I totally stripped the car, and I did all the mechanical work. The only thing I didn’t do was the body and paintwork. It was put on a rotisserie and totally stripped. The underneath is as beautiful as the top is.
A Sun tach not only replaces the stock rev counter, it does so with a period-correct look
Getting the body just right took time--and finding the right shop to do it was one of the tougher parts of the project, per Gary, who wanted his Superbird to be absolutely perfect. I found the place to do it, but that took time, he says. Eventually, he found Larry’s Auto Body in nearby Watsontown, Pennsylvania. Owner Larry Sholly, another car enthusiast, had painted street rods and other cars when he wasn’t doing his bread-and-butter collision repair work. A friend of mine had some work done there, and I’d seen it, so I went and talked with him. He said he’d do it, but he wouldn’t guarantee me a time frame for the type of job I wanted. He does what he likes to do--he wants to do top-shelf stuff if people have the money and the time to do it right. He doesn’t like to do it just for the heck of it. He was interested in doing it because I wanted it done that way.
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.
Wing-car specific front end jack is in place as it should be. Imagine some first-time Supe
’70 Plymouth Superbird
Owned by: Gary Fairchild,
- Engine: Not what you expect when you hear the term standard engine. Ma Mopar’s 440 Magnum, restored to fresh-from-the-Mound Road Engine Plant condition by Gary and Badman Engine & Machine, Selingsgrove, PA. Additions include a Mopar Performance flat-tappet hydraulic camshaft, hardened exhaust-valve seats, and a set of .030-inch-over TRW pistons.
- Transmission: You had two gearbox choices with the Superbird (727 or A-833), and Gary’s has the column-shifted 727, rebuilt by Milltown Transmisison, Milton, PA. Gary got rid of a Hurst Auto/Stick floor shifter and put the PRND21 back on the column. Rearend: The same one that the Pettys used in their Superbirds--the 8-incher that came with the factory Performance Axle Package, which on this car included a 3.55-geared Sure Grip differential.
- Suspension: (Front) Longitudinal heavy-duty torsion bars, unequal-length A-Arms and tubular shocks with a front anti-sway bar (Rear) Mopar Performance Super Stock leaf springs and tubular shocks
- Brakes: Restored OEM front disc/rear drum brakes, power-assisted.
- Wheels and Tires: Five-spoke chrome 14x5-inch Magnum 500 wheels wear F70-14 Goodyear Polyglas bias-belted tires
- Body: Original ’70 Plymouth B-Body two-door unibody didn’t need any major rust or crash repair to restore it to its Superbird glory. Vinyl top on car is the original one that went on at Lynch Road Assembly.
- Paint: What else? One of the High Impact colors from ’70--EV2 TorRed, sprayed on in basecoat/clearcoat form by Larry Sholly at Larry’s Auto Body, Watsontown, Pennsylvania.
- Interior: Front and rear bench seats wear their original covers, while a new Legendary carpet graces the ’Bird’s cabin.