As if the Plymouth Superbird wasn’t unique on its own, this one has an unusual history to go along with it. It was purchased by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1972 to test airplane emissions. Now it’s been recently restored, and it’s heading up for auction at Barrett-Jackson in October.
Specially fitted with emission-testing equipment by Nichels Engineering under contract of the Federal Government, this one-of-a-kind Superbird was designed to withstand and record data from jetliners taking off at speeds of around 100 mph. Its massive rear wing and streamlined body was one of the biggest factors when purchased.
Its stock 375-horsepower V8 was able to withstand the 100 mph takeoff speeds. Unfortunately, the column-shifted automatic wasn’t, and was swapped out for a Chrysler four-speed manual. This ensured more accurate control at high speeds during the 40-second tests.
It was used for a number of years by the EPA, before it was auctioned off for a mere $500 in 1979 to a high-school shop teacher. He then stripped the original testing equipment from the car, and returned it to stock. He kept it for 24 years before selling it off in 2005, where it was then restored to like-new condition, re-fitted with the same testing equipment found in 1972.
It will be a centerpiece of Barrett-Jackson’s upcoming Las Vegas auction this October - but don’t expect to snag it for $500. With Superbirds regularly exceeding six figures at auction, this unique piece of automotive history should go for even higher than that.
Gallery: 1970 Plymouth Superbird "The EPA Bird"
This Superbird was purchased in 1972 by the EPA, who commissioned Nichels Engineering to equip the car to perform air-quality tests while chasing commercial jets down runways. Nichels Engineering installed special testing equipment inside the car to monitor air pollution; noise and tire dust being omitted. The car was used by the EPA for approximately one and a half years and was then placed in a government surplus area. Later, the car was purchased by a resident of Cape Carteret, NC, and then by the current owner. The car has undergone an extensive three-and-a-half year restoration back to the specs done by Nichels Engineering. Comes with photos of the car being turned over from Ray Nichels to John Moran of the EPA. It's equipped with a 440ci V8 and manual transmission.