I’ve got a thing for Winged muscle cars: the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona and the 1970 Plymouth Superbird, specifically. I’ve written quite a bit about them in articles here and in book form. And as you might imagine, to really understand any car, one must drive and/or ride in as many of them as possible. Not too long ago, I had the chance to go for a ride in a Superbird once owned and raced by Richard Petty. If you have ever seen a famous Superbird, you’ve seen this one.
In 1970, Plymouth decided to slap a nosecone and a wing onto their Road Runners in an effort to catch up with the Dodge Charger Daytona that had come out the previous fall. They also needed to lure Richard Petty back to Plymouth. He had recently defected to Ford but said he might return if an aero car was available for him to race. The winged cars campaigned for the full 1970 season but were put out to pasture in 1971. And, as happens throughout history, no one recognized the value of the things at the time. It took a while for anyone to realize that the price of winged cars would skyrocket in a few decades. So, many of them were sold, traded, parted out and so on, lost to the ravages of time.
A gentleman named Todd Werner came across a car which had all the hallmarks of having been a former NASCAR racer and he bought it. If his hunch was right, the car was a former Petty Superbird that had been rebodied and repainted since the good old days. He brought it to Level Cross and asked the folks at Petty Enterprises if they recognized it. After going over it in detail they confirmed it was, indeed, one of the Superbirds campaigned by the Petty team in 1970. That year, Petty had a few Superbirds, including one raced by a young driver named Pete Hamilton who did quite well.
The Petty folks agreed to help Werner restore the Superbird back to the configuration it was in during the 1970 season. And that is what you see in these pictures. I saw the car at Atlanta Motor Speedway where some winged cars were allowed on the track to do some laps. Todd was kind enough to let me sit on the passenger side floor of the car while he drove and, since this is the age of social media, I documented it with a camera and a GoPro.
The car is an amazing museum-quality piece. But its race Hemi still rumbles like it did back in the day. And trust me: Sitting on the floor of a 1970 NASCAR stocker, doing laps at a super speedway is as close as one can get to riding in a time machine these days. Just check out the video:
Steve Lehto is a writer and attorney from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law. His most recent books include Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow, and Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird: Design, Development, Production and Competition. He also has a podcast where he talks about these things.