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Barn Finds 

DODGE CHARGER 500 AND PLYMOUTH SUPERBIRD BARNFIND

Back in 1969, Dodge had an issue with its new-model Chargers in NASCAR. The big open grille in front and the recessed rear window gave the car all sorts of issues on the track. So Dodge used wind tunnel testing to smooth out those areas, and eventually developed the 1969 Charger 500, which used a 1968 Coronet front grille and a flush rear window. While those fixes were a step in the right direction, Dodge wanted to push the envelope further and developed the Charger Daytona, with its trademark pointed nose and large rear wing. When Plymouth needed to bring Richard Petty back into the fold in 1970, it developed the 1970 Superbird along those same lines, based on the Road Runner.

And there I was standing in front of a 500 and Superbird in an actual barn. They had both been in there for decades, and it showed. On the side of the barn that the 500 was next to, hay was stacked almost to the ceiling. Hay had fallen down over time and nearly filled the engine compartment. The Superbird had been saved from the falling hay, but neither could escape the birds. You could tell where the cross brace for the ceiling was because there was a distinct stripe of bird excrement across the nose of each car.

The 500 was the most complete. The engine and transmission were there, though most of the interior was missing. The grille had been stored in the empty passenger compartment. The Superbird had been partially disassembled years ago, and recently had the engine pulled and sent out for rebuilding. There had been movement on the car, just not movement out of the barn.

Scott went on to tell us about how he got the cars in the first place. When he was 17 (he’s 53 now), he looked at the automobile classified ads in the local Milwaukee newspaper and saw an ad for a 1969 Dodge. That’s all that the ad said, nothing about being a Charger or a rare 500.

He called the guy and asked him about the car. The guy on the other end of the phone told him it was a 1969 Charger, but not a regular one; the owner had thought that someone had put in the different grille. That was enough for Scott. He grabbed whatever cash he could get his hands on and raced over to the car. Pulling into the owner’s driveway, the 500 was sitting there, and he instantly knew what the car was and basically threw the money at the owner. The owner agreed and Scott drove it home.

About the same time he picked up the 500, he was friends with a guy in the Winged Warriors club, which required ownership of a Daytona or Superbird to be a member. This Superbird was advertised in the club’s newsletter. The ad said the car was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was in a barn not very different than the one the car sat in now, in pretty much the same condition the car is currently in, as well. So, he jumped in his friend’s Ford flatbed pickup, drove out, and picked it up. The odometer shows only 32,000 miles. What Scott thinks happened was that the engine wasn’t built right and the previous owner parked it and parted it out. Thankfully though, just three weeks after getting the Superbird home, he was able to acquire a N.O.S. Superbird wing and nose cone.

For just about 30 years the cars, for the most part, sat. Scott had other projects and life obligations. But now his children are grown and he has the ability to work on the cars, so he has! The Superbird is having the engine rebuilt. He dug the nose out.

Scott was enthusiastic about me being enthusiastic about his car, he agreed to do me a favor. I had told him about the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals, that I organize the Barn Finds & Hidden Gems section of the show, and that I thought that the 500 would be perfect for the show. He agreed. Just a few days before the 2016 MCACN show, he dug the car out of the barn, made sure it rolled, threw the grille in it, and dragged it down to the show, hay and all! It was positioned right at the front of the section, and it was a hit. It helped that the hood wasn’t on the car so you could see that original 440 in the engine bay, covered in hay.

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