Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

With success of the aero-warrior NASCAR Dodge Charger Daytona against fastback Ford Torinos and Mercury Cyclones, Plymouth would get its own version of this winged wonder. This model added a goalpost spoiler to catch wind well above the body, and a shark shaped nose cap. It would also lure Richard Petty back to Plymouth after defecting to Ford for a year. While spectacular on the track, consumer response was luke-warm, leading some dealers to remove the wing and nose, making them appear more like normal Road Runners. In the 2000s, these would fetch among the highest prices of any muscle car at auctions.

Trying to capture some of the success that their Dodge brothers had in 1969 with the Charger Daytona, Plymouth tried the same thing in 1970 with their creation, the Plymouth Superbird. According to Road Test magazine, performance was around 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.5 seconds, 1/4 mile in 14.3 seconds at 104 mph with the Hemi. Although similar in appearance, the Superbird was actually quite different from the Daytona. The Superbird was based on the Plymouth Road Runner and the nose, airfoil, and basic sheet metal was different between the Daytona and Superbird. The special nose added 19-inches (483 mm) to the overall length (the Daytona's was 18-inches or 457 mm), and the trunk spoiler was more angled and higher than the Daytonas. On both models, the spoiler was three feet high. Although it created quite an impression on the street, the wing was not needed at normal highway speeds; it was designed for speedways, to keep the rear wheels to the ground at 150 mph (240 km/h) and higher speeds.

NASCAR only required 500 copies to be built in 1969, but in 1970, NASCAR required a manufacturer to build one unit per dealer. In the end, Plymouth built a total of 1,920 Super Birds. Super Birds were available with three different engines. The most popular was the basic Super Commando 440 V8 with a single four barrel carburetor rated at 375 bhp (280 kW). Next up was the 440 Six Barrel rated at 390 bhp (291 kW). At the top, and ordered by just 93 buyers, was the mighty 426 Hemi, rated at 425 bhp (317 kW). Despite the success of the Super Bird on the tracks, 1970 would be the only year it was made.

The reason for using such a large spoiler is unclear, since the engineers said they started out with a much smaller version. One story has it that the aerodynamics became more favorable as they made the spoiler taller; another story is that it was raised to allow the trunk to be opened; although one could argue that changing to a trunk mount (from a rear-fender mount) would have solved that problem.

Cars featured include: Mecum Auctions in May, 2012; RM Auctions event for John Staluppi in December, 2012.

Source: Mecum Auctions; RM Auctions; Wikipedia, 2011
Photo Credit: Teddy Pieper, Mecum Auctions

Plymouth Road Runner Superbird