Mar 04

Profile: Plymouth Road Runner Superbird

The muscle car era saw it’s fair share of characters, but none more wild then the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird. The Superbird was Plymouth’s version of the 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger and while the two were very similar, they were very different as well. The Superbird was more smoothed out and refined then the Daytona Charger with a nose cone on the street version that would accommodate the pop out headlights; which was some 19 inches longer then the original Daytona. The story of the Superbird’s huge wing was shrouded in mystery for years only to have a much simpler reasoning.

Hit the jump for more on the Superbird.

The Sueprbird’s trademark giant rear wing was long though to be a derivative of complex mathematics. For decades fans thought that it was the exact right height for max downforce around NASCAR’s ovals, however the truth is much more practical. In the 1990s a retired engineer who worked on the Superbird project revealed that the wing was set at its tall height to allow the trunk to open fully, putting the mystery and speculation to rest.

The only reason the Superbird saw production was to satisfy NASCAR’s rules that there must be one car sold to the general public for every two dealerships, meaning Plymouth had to produce 1920 Superbirds, although some say as many as 2783 were built and sold. These cars were offered with three engine options: The 440 Super Commando with a 4 barrel carb, 440 Super Commando with a six pack, and the 426 Hemi. The Hemi was the rarest and most expensive of the group with only 135 produced.

By 1971 NASCAR had changed the rules so that the aero cars such as the Superbird could have an engine no bigger then 305 cubic in., thus making the Superbird’s power to weight ratio unattractive for competition. This signaled the end of the aero car era in NASCAR and meant that the Superbird production would be stopped as well.

The over the top styling of the Superbird meant that it didn’t sell well. Many cars would sit in dealer’s back lots for years. As a result many of the Superbirds were converted back to regular Road Runners to make them more attractive to buyers. It is generally thought that just over 1000 Superbirds remain today making them highly collectible. At the height of the muscle car collector insanity of the mid 2000s one Superbird sold at Barrett-Jackson for 1.2 million dollars. However, since the height of that era the market has corrected greatly and prime Superbirds can now be had for 100-200k dollars.

While the Superbird only lasted one year it certainly made its mark on the car world with its outrageous styling, colors, and performance. It is a prime example of what the muscle car era was all about. It’s unlikely we will ever see anything like the Superbird again, but at least some prime examples will live on forever in the hands of collectors.

Sources: Aero Warriors
Supercars: The story of the Dodge Charger Daytona and Roadrunner Superbird by Frank Moriarty


  1. Chris B.

    I never knew about the trunk-lid thing. Interesting stuff! Don’t forget that these cars are beasts down Fujimi Kaido! lol.

  2. Jason

    lol, indeed it is the official Fujimi Kaidobird.

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