Richard Petty tours his car collection; Explains after leaving Plymouth for Ford the CEO visited North Carolina and spawned the Superbird
Richard Petty has released a video of his race car collection. In the garage tour video below we’re hearing the first hand story of the famed ‘Aero Wars’.
In 1969, the Dodge Charger Daytona made it’s debut. Month earlier, Richard Petty saw this new car coming for his future trophies.
Petty went on a search for a new machine ahead of the 1969 NASCAR season after an early meeting with Plymouth. We needed an aerodynamic nose and a big wing to compete. Yet, at the time, the automaker didn’t want to make him a different car.
So, Petty went across the street to Ford and signed a deal.But, that new deal didn’t last long as the CEO of Plymouth visited Petty Enterprises in North Carolina. He asked Richard Petty what he needed to get back behind the wheel of a Plymouth.
They then went to the drawing board and built the Plymouth Superbird. The aero wars were born.
“It was a race car, built from the factory,” Dale Inman calls it.
Air scoops were installed over the top of the front wheels. That allowed hot air to escape the engine compartment. More importantly, it added travel to the front wheels.
However, it had a very short lifespan on the race track as well as at that dealership. Only 1,935 production versions of the car were built.
Richard Petty talks the move to Ford
Petty explained, “We had a good year in ’67 and a pretty good year in ’68. We was working with Chrysler Plymouth at that particular time.”
“We heard in ’69 that Dodge was coming with that nose and a big wing on the back. We’re getting ready for ’69, we go to Detroit.”
“We talk to the Plymouth people and say, ‘Are we going to get a wing?’ They said, ‘Well, you know, you win most of the races anyway. Why don’t you just stay where you’re at?’ “
“I said, ‘No. Just give me a Dodge, that’ll be ok.’ “
“Plymouth responded, ‘We can’t give you a Dodge because you’re a Plymouth man.’ “
“I said, ‘If you’re not going to do that then I’m going to go across the street and talk to Ford.’ They said, ‘Ok, go ahead.’ “
“Same day, we went over and went all the way to the top. Talked to whoever the big guy was up there. We walked out that day with a deal from Ford for 1969. They had the Fastback car and a little bit of a [slopped] nose. They were getting ready for the aero wars. That’s what we started with in 1969.”
Petty returns with the Plymouth Superbird
“Then, a couple months after that, the President of Plymouth came down here to Level Cross, NC by himself. I don’t know how he found the place.”
“He sat down and said, ‘What will it take to get you back in a Plymouth?’
“I said, ‘Give me a nose and a tail.’ So, they went back and they had already started working on this stuff. So, they knew what they was doing.”
Petty previously visited Detroit asking for these same things. But, this time, they were ready to listen.
“They just sorta halfway copied the Dodge. Then, we ended up with the Superbird.”
“The first time we ran it was a road course at Riverside. The nose was about 5 miles longer. It took me a little while to get used to that.”
Then, Petty Enterprises went to Daytona with two cars. Petty had issues early in the race. However, Pete Hamilton went on to give the first win to the Superbird.
Superbird outlawed in NASCAR; Reborn in ‘Cars’ Films 36 years later
The Superbird was only used on tracks 1-mile or longer. The Plymouth Coupe was used on the smaller tracks. This was during a time in NASCAR where the bulk of the schedule was filled with beloved short tracks.
As for the Superbird, the team won five races with it. The car dominated on the bigger tracks like Daytona and Talladega.
For the 1971 season, NASCAR limited the engine to 305 cu in. A bigger engine brought a weight reduction. The Superbirds were still legal but they would be forced to carry more weight, thus making them noncompetitive. The Superbirds were essentially outlawed via the rulebook.
Richard Petty concluded, “They had to outlaw it because it was just so superior to any other competition out there.”
The car lives on in digital form. Petty’s character in the ‘Cars’ movie franchise features the Plymouth Superbird. It’s painted in the exact shade of blue, in the films it’s labeled ‘Dinoco blue’.