The Powerful 1970 Plymouth Superbird: Dominating NASCAR and Defining Muscle Car Era

In the world of NASCAR racing during 1969-70, the 1970 Plymouth Superbird stood tall with its high wings and sleek design. This monstrous big block machine was specifically engineered to outperform its competitors on the track. Acquiring our very own Superbird through an eBay auction has allowed us to delve deeper into its legacy.

The Engineering Marvel

Plymouth’s objective with the Superbird was to conquer the NASCAR circuit. They achieved this by modifying the popular Roadrunner model and equipping it with powerful engine options: the 426 Hemi, the 440 Super Commando, or the 440 Commando with a six-pack carburetor. Drawing from their experience with the Dodge specials in 1969, Plymouth understood that aerodynamic enhancements were vital for improved performance. By adding an elongated, tapered nose that increased the overall dimensions by 19 inches, along with tall tail fins and retractable headlights to minimize wind resistance, the Superbird attained higher top speeds. However, this advantage was mainly noticeable at the upper end of the velocity curve. To meet NASCAR’s regulations, a minimum of 1,920 Superbirds had to be produced, based on a revised formula that required two cars per dealer across the United States. Despite their impressive features, these somewhat impractical cars faced difficulty in sales and spent months sitting unsold on dealer lots.

Superbird’s Triumph at NASCAR and Beyond

Nevertheless, the Superbird proved its worth not only on the NASCAR track but also in automotive history. The 426 Hemi engine, capable of producing a staggering 425 horsepower, propelled the Superbird from zero to sixty in just 4.8 seconds. However, only 135 Superbirds were equipped with this mighty engine. With a drag coefficient of only 0.28, very few cars today can boast such impressive aerodynamics. In March 1970, at Talladega, the Superbird set a new NASCAR record by achieving a speed of 200 miles per hour. This was the first time a stock American car had officially surpassed the 200mph mark, reminiscent of the 1921 Paige Daytona claiming the first stock 100mph achievement. The front-end styling, combined with the enhanced downforce generated by the tail, played a pivotal role in the Superbird’s exceptional performance.

The Superbird’s remarkable design even enticed Richard Petty, a legendary NASCAR driver, back to the Plymouth brand. He secured eight victories in Superbird-equipped cars and consistently performed well in other races. However, NASCAR changed its rules in 1971, limiting car displacement to five liters or less. Heavy weight penalties were imposed on teams opting for larger engines, effectively eliminating these powerful cars from competition. NASCAR’s decision aimed to ensure safety by reducing speeds, a theme that carried on into the future. Consequently, this marked the end of the Superbird’s illustrious racing history.

Debunking Controversies

Controversial claims have surfaced regarding the Superbird’s distinctive streamlining features being deemed too flamboyant or “out of stock” for the NASCAR theme. Considering the loose relationship between a stock car and a modern NASCAR racer, it is challenging to support these allegations. However, such discussions have persisted over time.

The Superbird’s Appeal

When the Superbird hit the market, sports car magazines recognized its appeal to owners who sought a production performance car that would stand out on the highways. The ’70 Plymouth Superbird, along with its near-identical counterpart, the Dodge Daytona Charger, emerged as prime choices for those seeking a unique driving experience. Road Test Magazine estimated that due to their limited production run of merely 2,000 units, most, if not all, were pre-ordered before production even commenced. These specially crafted “Birds” successfully propelled Plymouth back into the stock car racing business, ensuring their presence in the headlines as winners.

To authentically portray the amateur history of NASCAR, an integral component of our broader exploration of sports car racing in America, we deemed it essential to include a Superbird in our collection. The recorded achievement of 200mph with a Hemi engine represented a significant milestone in automotive history. Although acquiring one of the rare Hemis was an ambitious goal, we found satisfaction in securing a Super Commando model, particularly one equipped with a manual transmission featuring the handsome pistol grip. Another detail that drivers of the time appreciated was filling in the seam where the Superbird nosecone connected to the Roadrunner front body. In stock cars, this vertical seam could be visually distracting, and those vehicles with a leaded seam appeared more visually appealing. It is worth mentioning that Petty’s cars also featured this minor but significant modification.

After meticulous inspection to ensure matching numbers, a manual transmission, and overall authenticity, this Superbird enables viewers to relive the exhilarating era of muscle cars. Furthermore, it aids in defining the amateur history of NASCAR. While NASCAR evolved into a professional sport, deviating from the focus of our collection, the Superbird remained a symbol of a NASCAR car accessible to anyone who wished to experience its raw power and enjoy the thrill of the road.

In Conclusion

The 1970 Plymouth Superbird left an indelible mark on both NASCAR racing and the wider automotive industry. Its aerodynamic design, formidable engines, and impressive records continue to captivate enthusiasts to this day. By acquiring our own Superbird, we have not only embraced the legacy of this iconic vehicle but also preserved a significant piece of American racing history.

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