The Outrageous Superbird
29 Jul 2014
One of the most outrageous vehicles ever to come out of Detroit was the Plymouth Superbird. With a wedge-shaped aerodynamic nose and an huge wing mounted on the rear trunk, the Superbird was one wild looking car.
As you might imagine, there is a story behind these unusual ‘Birds and Akins Dodge Jeep Chrysler filled us in on the all the details.
The Plymouth Superbird existed for one reason only and it was to win Nascar races! Winning at Nascar was a massive branding statement that could sell a lot of a manufacturers cars but there was a problem; it was a “stock car race”. That meant in order to compete that you had to drive a car that was stock (available to the general public).
It also had to be sold in sufficient numbers. In 1970, NASCAR raised the production requirement from 500 examples to “one for each of a manufacturer’s dealers in the United States”. That meant 1920 Superbirds needed to be built and sold by the country’s Plymouth dealers so that they could be able to race in Nascar that year.
The Superbird was basically a modified Plymouth Road Runner. What the designers at Plymouth did was add an aerodynamic nose-cone, smoothed out the body, and added a very large rear wing. In the power department, the Superbirds could be optioned with two engines, a 440 cu. in. Super Commando with a single 4-barrel or a 440 cu. in. with a 6-pack. Alternatively one could get the full race engine, the famous 426 hemi. For those who are wondering how many of these things were made, only 135 street cars were fitted with the Hemi; 665 took the option of the 440 Six Pack, and the rest were equipped with the 440 Super Commando with the four barrel carb.
The Superbirds did reasonably well on the NASCAR tracks that year, winning eight big races and placing well in many more. It certainly didn’t hurt that Richard Petty, known as one of the greatest NASCAR drivers ever, was behind the wheel of a Superbird that year. In fact, he was the winner of many of those eight big races. For all the drama, Plymouth made quite a name for itself in the 1970s Nascar circuit but sales of actual Superbirds were another story. The exaggerated looks of the ‘Birds was a little extreme for many customers and most preferred the more conventional standard Roadrunner. As a result, Plymouth only made the Super Bird model for one year.
Today these cars, which represent a genuine slice of automotive history, are very, very valuable. A nice example of a genuine Superbird with the 426 Hemi option can bring $300,000 to $500,000 at auction.