1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird

Records indicate that only 77 Plymouth Superbirds were built with the mighty 426/425-hp Hemi engine and TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Fewer than 30 are known to exist today.

This genuine R-code 1970 Plymouth Superbird is one of those few, finished in Vitamin C Orange with a black vinyl roof. It also features a rare white-on-black bucket-seat interior with woodgrain-accented console and Rallye instruments. Documented with the broadcast sheet, it is equipped with power steering and power front disc brakes. 


SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird
Years Produced:1970
Number Produced:1,935, per Chrysler Historical Society records. Some contend that as few as 1,920 and as many as 2,734 Superbirds were built
Original List Price:$5,109
SCM Valuation:$190,000–$275,000
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:N
Chassis Number Location:VIN plate on the driver’s side instrument panel behind windshield
Engine Number Location:Pad on top of the block near the water pump
Club Info:Daytona-Superbird Auto Club
Alternatives:1969 Dodge Charger 500, 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, 1969 Ford Torino Talladega/Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II
Investment Grade:N

This 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird, Lot S238, sold for $177,550, including buyer’s premium, at Dana Mecum’s 25th Original Spring Classic Auction on May 19, 2012.

The theory of aerodynamics is simple: A bullet passes through the air easier than a brick. But in practice, it has taken decades for the study of aerodynamics to evolve to where it is today. Chrysler was one of the first manufacturers to apply aerodynamics to automotive design with their technically interesting but poor-selling Airflow cars of the ’30s. Then, 30 years later, aerodynamics inched — literally — into the world of NASCAR.

The slick advantage

Back in an era when stock cars were more than 75% factory stock, it took either a manufacturer’s new design, or outright cheating, to create a large competitive advantage.

The sleek, new 1966 Dodge Charger looked like a bullet with its flush, headlight-free grille and long fastback roofline, but the roof generated a few hundred pounds of unstable lift at the rear, so NASCAR allowed a one-inch plexiglas spoiler to be mounted on the tail in the interest of safety. David Pearson captured the championship that year with his Hemi Charger, and was untouchable on the long, high-speed ovals.

Ford Motor Co. fired back in 1968 with their new Ford Torino and Mercury Cyclone models, which looked much like clones of the 1966–67 Charger. The restyled 1968 Charger and new Plymouth Road Runner proved to be bricks on the racetrack in comparison.

Ford created racing-specific models called the Torino Talladega and Cyclone Spoiler II, equipped with an extended, sloping nose, for the high-speed ovals. NASCAR rules mandated building 500 of each for the street, but in the intense atmosphere of factory-supported stock car racing, where a win on Sunday literally translated into showroom sales on Monday, FoMoCo felt it was worth the expense.

Birth of the winged warriors

Chrysler countered with a special ’69 Dodge Charger, the Charger 500. It featured a flush-mounted Dodge Coronet grille in place of the deeply inset Charger piece. The Charger’s recessed “flying buttress” rear window was also replaced with special flush sheet metal and glass for less drag and rear lift. Creative Industries built 503 of these cars for Dodge, which made the Charger more competitive — until Ford introduced the 429-ci “Semi Hemi” engine later that spring.

Chrysler engineers estimated it would take an additional 70 horsepower to make the Charger 500 competitive with the 429 Talladegas and Spoilers. The famous 426 Hemi had little room for more power, so Dodge created yet another special Charger for introduction later in the season — the Charger Daytona.

The first of the “winged warriors,” the Daytona had a long nose, which reduced drag by huge amounts, while the wild rear wing controlled lift and increased stability as speeds neared 200 mph. Engineers saw a NASCAR-spec Daytona prototype hit 245 mph on Chrysler’s five-mile Chelsea Proving Ground oval — with Ford spy aircraft flying overhead.

Creative Industries again built the required 500 Daytonas for the street, and the new Daytona saw immediate success on the racetrack, winning the inaugural Talladega 500.

Plymouth’s NASCAR special

Not to be outdone, Plymouth introduced its own “winged warrior” for the 1970 season, similar to the Daytona, but based on Plymouth’s Road Runner. Although both the Charger and the Road Runner shared Chrysler’s B-body midsized platform, the body panels were completely different, so the Daytona and the new Superbird shared no sheet metal.

Bill France, NASCAR’s founder and ruling monarch, tried to dissuade the manufacturers from continuing to create these special models by increasing the number of street vehicles required to be manufactured before a car was allowed to race, so Creative Industries had to build 1,935 Superbirds for Plymouth.

End of the aero era

The insanity stopped in 1971, when Bill France outlawed all special racing models. The manufacturers, reeling from the expense of this racing battle, also withdrew all support from the NASCAR teams. The “Aero Era” was over, but the limited-production street vehicles that came out of these two seasons remain some of the most coveted and valuable muscle cars ever made.

The Superbird market

Dana Mecum’s 25th Original Spring Classic offered five Plymouth Superbirds. A 440/automatic in TorRed sold for $110,000, a well-documented 440/4-sp in Lemon Twist Yellow sold for $185,000, and another 440-powered Superbird in Lemon Twist Yellow reached $92,500 but did not sell. A more-desirable 440 Six Pack-powered Superbird, an amazing 5,400-mile, untouched, Bloomington Gold-certified Survivor, reached $188k in bidding but failed to sell.

That left our feature car, a rare Hemi-powered Superbird. This car had all the right options. Best of all, the original broadcast sheet that accompanied the car down the Lynch Road assembly line was recovered, verifying the authenticity of the Hemi.

Hemi power, light price

Anything with a documented Hemi typically commands at least $50,000 more than its less-legendary counterparts, and this Superbird should have done the same. A few years ago, Hemi Superbirds were selling for as much as $420,000, although the market has certainly softened from the peak of 2007–08, with $190,000 to $275,000 being a realistic range. That’s why $177,500 for this Hemi is a major disappointment. Or you could consider it a total steal.

Maybe the 5,400-mile Survivor stole this car’s thunder. Or maybe the large number of Superbirds for sale on the same day diluted the pool of potential buyers. My guess is that on a different day, this excellent Hemi Superbird may have sold for the current average, but on this day it was simply a spectacular bargain. Very well bought

Comments are closed.