Back in 1970, NASCAR was still dominated on the track by Richard Petty. NASCAR’s King won 18 races that season behind the wheel of a Plymouth Superbird, think Plymouth Road Runner with a huge wing and bullet nose added. A second Petty driver, Pete Hamilton, won three races in an identical Superbird. In those days car manufacturers wanted all the glory they could get on Sundays, so Plymouth had built the Superbird with one goal: Win NASCAR races.
But there was a problem.
Under NASCAR’s rules, a car that was raced on the track had to be able to be seen on the streets; cars that won on Sunday’s needed to be able to be purchased by fans on Mondays. So Plymouth built 1,920 road-legal Superbirds to sell to the public. One of those cars is now looking for a new home. The car clad in High Impact Lemon Twist Yellow complete with the racecar’s bolt-on, air-piercing nose cone and rear wing is heading to auction in Arizona.
Petty won 18 races in a Superbird in 1970; Petty driver Pete Hamilton won three despite entering only 16 of 48 races.
What makes this car even more special is that it is the only one of the street legal Superbirds 308 equipped with a 440 cubic-inch Super Commando Six Barrel V-8 engine and a four-speed stick-shift.
While that might not make it as powerful as the top of the line high-output 426 Hemi version, the 440 put out 390 hp—just 35 horses shy of 426. And that’s enough power to send the Superbird to 60 mph from a stop in around 5.5 seconds and get a top speed of 150 mph.
The car, with 80,000 miles on the odometer, has been fully restored to a numbers-matching collector and comes with its original VIN, fender and body tags. It includes the famous Road Runner decals on the sides of the rear wing and an interior clad in all period-correct black vinyl with a wooden pistol-grip shifter and trademark ‘Beep! Beep!’ horn.
Auctioneer Russo and Steele estimate the car’s value at $250,000 to $300,000. At a Mecum auction last March, a fully restored 440 six-barrel, four-speed sold for $357,500.
As for the rest of the remaining Superbirds, no one is quite sure where they are all at. Those that sat on dealer’s lots remined mostly unsold for years. NASCAR outlawed the track version starting in 1971, teams basically removed the wing and took off the nose making them Road Runners again, Petty thumbed his nose at the ‘Man’ and won 21 races that year, and the Superbird faded into history. A Superbird would appear again, in the movie ‘Cars” where Petty voiced the character Strip “The King” Weathers who was a blue No. 43.