The Plymouth Superbird: A Race Car Classic

Genevieve Fraser
· 5 min read
classic race car
history lovers may be familiar with the 1970 Plymouth Superbird, many others have probably never heard of it. Plymouth is now a defunct American
car brand
, but the Superbird race car was a marvel of its time.
Here's everything that you need to know about this automotive and NASCAR classic, according to
Volo Museum Auto Sales
The Plymouth Superbird won plenty of NASCAR races during its short run.

How the 1970 Plymouth Superbird got its name

The 1970 Plymouth Superbird was a souped-up version of the Plymouth Road Runner. Yes, the same Road Runner of Looney Tunes cartoon fame.
While the Road Runner was a relatively standard-looking
muscle car
, the Superbird was seriously modified both in appearance and performance to make it a powerful competitor in the
NASCAR circuit
As a result, it really was more than a Road Runner. It was a more powerful bird, a Superbird. The logo for the Superbird was complete with the Looney Tunes Road Runner holding a white racing helmet.
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Why is the Superbird so rare?

Like many fascinating vehicles, the Superbird had a small and limited production run. Since its main function was not a consumer car, Plymouth reportedly only made around 1,920 cars, sold for $4,300 apiece.
Perhaps there would’ve been even fewer around if not for a certain NASCAR requirement. This dictated that “manufacturers … produce one car for every two dealerships they owned for the 1970 season,” according to Volo Museum Auto Sales.
While there is speculation that Plymouth may have made up to 2,700 Superbirds, the bottom line is that there were very few produced, making the car an incredibly
rare classic
What’s more, there were only about 136 of the models with the same specs as the NASCAR version.

The history behind the Superbird

In the 1960s, NASCAR legend Richard Petty drove for Plymouth. Well, as the story goes according to Volo Museum Auto Sales, Petty wanted to race a super cool car with a wing (a rear spoiler so high that's what it looks like).
Plymouth wasn’t up for it and told Petty no dice. As a result, Petty left Plymouth to drive for Ford racing.
The 1969 success of the newly-winged Charger Daytona muscle car from Plymouth’s sister company, Dodge, coupled with the loss of a renowned race car driver made Plymouth rethink the decision. The automaker eventually conceded to designing a car with a wing to tempt Petty to come back.
That's how the Superbird was born. The move worked, as Petty returned to race for Plymouth and won eight NASCAR races with the Superbird during the 1970 season.
The vehicle proved to be a racing giant, winning an additional 10 races that season.
The Superbird was essentially Plymouth’s take on the Charger Daytona, although there were some differences in styling, like the taillights and side vents, that came from the Superbird’s Road Runner roots.
It also featured rear-facing fender scoops, which enabled the Superbird to meet NASCAR’s height requirements.
The car came in a variety of colors like Blue Fire Metallic and Lemon Twist, and on the inside, it looked much like the Road Runner, with a few optional upgrades like bench seats or sporty front bucket seats.

Impressive performance specifications for the race car

The Superbird was a highly powerful vehicle, a far cry from its more humble Road Runner roots.
Besides its huge rear wing and 20-inch front nose cone, the consumer version of the Superbird had three V8 engine options to choose from.
The engine that powered the NASCAR Superbird was a 426 Hemi big-block V8. It offered 433 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque, and included two Carter Aluminum Four Barrel (AFB) carburetors.
Petty’s Superbird could reach speeds up to 200 mph, while the Hemi V8 available to the public was good for roughly 143 mph.
The less powerful engine choices were either a 440 Super Commander V8 or a Super Commander Six Barrel V8. Consumers also had their choice of a four-speed manual gearbox or a 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission.
Plymouth was able to produce a
top race car
, but the excitement was short-lived, as the Superbird didn’t meet new NASCAR regulations regarding engine size and weight.
Although Plymouth made some prototypes for a new 1971 Superbird, they never came to fruition, and the Superbird name came to an end.
Today, there are approximately 1,000 Superbirds in existence. Their prices range between $42,000 and $178,600, depending on the model. But, the one Richard Petty drove is pretty much priceless. At an auction, an incredible bid of $3.5 million was actually turned down by the car’s owner.
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