The 1970 Superbird Magnum is a highly modified Plymouth Roadrunner which in turn is a modified Dodge Daytona. The Superbird progression was available only for the one year and only in a hard top. The car is specifically designed to meet and beat the competition at the funny car haven, NASCAR. Although very few of the models produced ever made it to NASCAR because the little bit quicker Roadrunner was a preferred choice on the race track.
© Raytags | Dreamstime.com – Superbird Photo
The Superbird and its elder siblings the Daytona and the Roadrunner have a shape that was designed using a wind tunnel to increase the aerodynamics. The smoothed out lines on the body and the Roadrunners nosecone with retractable headlights give these cars a very sleek look. The Superbird and Roadrunner have a few more progressive alterations than the more conservative Daytona in addition to the nosecone which makes them both 19’ longer. The rear facing fender scoops are only to hide the hood cut-outs. The car only has 7.2’ of ground clearance and the larger opening in the wheel wells is to give enough clearance for large tires. While the unusual but prominent rear spoiler sitting high to increase downdraft, distinguish the Superbird from all others and give it a special appeal to some. The spoiler did not really take the market by storm and many ‘birds sat on car lots until as late as 1972 with a large number having the spoiler removed to sell the car as a basic Roadrunner.
The ‘bird never lived out the life the engineers had planned for it but the car is still very successful in that the selling price to a collector is upwards of $107,000.00 U.S. funds at the moment which is a rise in value of about 60% in the last 10 years. There is actually an aftermarket kit available to turn your basic Roadrunner in to a Superbird Roadrunner if you like.
© Swtrekker | Dreamstime.com – 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird Restoration Photo
For many years it was thought that the rear spoilers design was to get the spoiler high and into undisturbed air. But it is not a complicated physics secret of Chrysler’s engineers; the height was simply to allow the trunk lid to open fully and the rear spoiler makes little if any difference at lower speeds and actually only somewhat assist handling in excess of 90 mph (140 km/h); providing some downdraft on the rear end and axles. The car comes with all the Roadrunner badging in the form of decals with one on each side of the rear spoiler uprights and another on the driver’s door showing the Roadrunner with helmet in hand ready to go.
The ‘bird power option came with either of two carburetor combinations for the 440 engine; a four barrel or the six pack with 3 two barrels. The third option is the much sought after and rare 426 Hemi version with only 135 units produced.
NASCAR driver Richard Petty left Plymouth’s racing team and joined the Ford team with the Superbird was partially designed to lure him back. It worked and Petty did modestly well in 1970 driving the ‘bird with wins in eight races on NASCAR tracks as well as placing in many more facing other strong contenders. The car he drove is a key element in the 2006 movie “Cars”. The fate of the Superbird was sealed when a NASCAR ruling for the 1971 season set a limit on the power to weight ratio on cars with an “aero design” and this ruling would have either limited the ‘bird to a 305 cu in (5.0 L) engine or the car would need to carry more weight to be considered for competition. The ruling came about because the cars competing at Nascar were exceeding speeds of more than 200 mph (320 km/h) and there was a real fear at the time of these cars exceeding the bounds of the safety standards in effect at the time.