HARD-NOSED NE­GO­TI­A­TION

BAR­TER­ING AWAY FIVE TO GET ONE AMAZ­ING TOR-RED SU­PER­BIRD

Mopar Muscle - - Event | Take 10 - TEXT AND PHO­TOS BY CAM BENTY

In the scheme of Holy Grail mus­cle cars, this has to be one of them. Not only does it fea­ture that awe­some wedge shape and clothes-line rear deck spoiler, it has red hot Tor-red paint and the most in­cred­i­ble pow­er­train ever: a 426-cid Hemi en­gine backed with a Pis­tol-grip-shifted four-speed and Dana 60 rear end.

Yep, this one checks all the boxes.

The restora­tion of this 1970 Ply­mouth “Trib­ute” Su­per­bird be­gan af­ter some pretty slick trad­ing by the owner. Part horse trader with more than a side of culi­nary acu­men, Brad Toles al­ways wanted one of the leg­endary wing cars. At the time, he had a num­ber of cars un­der con­struc­tion, but a back­yard full of cars need­ing some se­ri­ous love to re­vive. To get the pic­ture, Swiss cheese has fewer holes than the five cars Toles had lo­cated over time.

En­ter one very rough Road­run­ner. While a five for one trade rarely has merit, for Toles there was one el­e­ment of the Road Run­ner that re­ally caught his eye — the brand-new steel nose that came with the rough bird. As car ne­go­ti­a­tions go, this one was rather sim­ple. Five for one and where there once was a load of cars to be restored, Toles now had one on which to fo­cus.

DIG­GING IN

As has be­come his way, Toles loves Hemi-pow­ered ma­chines. While he has sev­eral cars that were orig­i­nally equipped with 426-cid Hemi en­gines, he has ded­i­cated him­self to build­ing cars that fea­ture these pow­er­plants. So it was clear from the out­set that the Road Run­ner would soon not only be­come a Su­per­bird cour­tesy of that rare steel nose, it’d be run­ning Hemi power un­der the Tor-red paint. It wasn’t long be­fore the Road Run­ner was go­ing un­der the knife, re­plac­ing those Swiss cheese pan­els for OE com­po­nents he had col­lected over the years.

With the new body pan­els in place, Trib­ute Su­per­bird be­gan to take shape. While it’s com­mon for Su­per­birds, both real and recre­ated, to have a fiber­glass nose, the orig­i­nal fac­tory cars wore the steel beak. Find­ing an orig­i­nal metal one isn’t easy. Upon re­view, the Su­per­bird’s hood and fend­ers are also quite dif­fer­ent from the fac­tory Road Run­ner parts. With the skill of a brain sur­geon, Toles and his team blended and shaped all of these com­po­nents to build out the proper Su­per­bird shape.

WINGED VIC­TORY

If you pulled up a photo of a 1970 Ply­mouth Su­per­bird in a mag­a­zine that fate­ful year, you’d prob­a­bly have seen the req­ui­site photo of a mag­a­zine jour­nal­ist sit­ting on the rear wing. The point to all of that was that these pieces were re­ally strong, des­tined to de­liver sig­nif­i­cant down­force on su­per­speed­ways around the NASCAR cir­cuit. With its strik­ingly pointed nose that cut through the Tal­ladega Speed­way air like a hot knife through but­ter, the Dodge Day­tonas and Ply­mouth Su­per­birds of the era struck fear in the com­pe­ti­tion from Ford and Chevro­let.

In his book, Amer­i­can Rac­ing Clas­sics, Bob My­ers quotes Chrysler Team GM Harry Hyde about his ex­pe­ri­ence with the Su­per­birds and Day­tonas of the era.

Said Hyde, con­cern­ing the Su­per­birds be­fore they were re­duced to 305cid for the 1971 sea­son, “There is no telling how fast they would have run. Two hun­dred and eighty wouldn’t have been out of the ques­tion with the tires we have to­day. But it’s re­ally just a guess as they (Dodge Day­tonas and Ply­mouth Su­per­birds) were al­most the per­fect race car. They were so sta­ble. They had real low drag num­bers, and we all know how im­por­tant low drag num­bers have be­come.”

As to han­dling, Hyde in­di­cated that the wing was paramount in im­por­tance, as My­ers quoted Hyde as say­ing, “You could just tilt the wing and make the car ei­ther loose or tight, what­ever you wanted. No mat­ter what the driver wanted, you could give it to him. The wing was tilted 11 de­grees to start with, and this was al­most per­fect. But if needed, you could change the han­dling of the car just by tilt­ing the wing. They were the eas­i­est cars I’ve ever had to work with [but] NASCAR could see that they were too fast­back then. The

speeds were get­ting out of con­trol. Yeah,” Hyde con­tin­ued, “The worst thing about the Day­tona (and Su­per­bird) was they helped cre­ate the car­bu­re­tor plate. Later in the 1970 sea­son, car­bu­re­tor re­stric­tor plates were re­quired at Michi­gan, re­sult­ing in speeds be­ing cut there by about 5 mph.”

The role of the Dodge Day­tona and the Ply­mouth Su­per­bird in rac­ing his­tory make this Trib­ute Su­per­bird all more sig­nif­i­cant. With a shape un­mis­tak­able from an era when high per­for­mance was a key to mar­ket­ing au­to­mo­biles in Amer­ica (re­mem­ber

the adage of the era: Win on Sun­day, Sell on Mon­day) these two ve­hi­cles did an ad­mirable job of sell­ing Chryslers — and share a legacy with Hell­cat Dodges, Red Eyes, and Demons that live on to­day.

“The Toles Trib­ute Su­per­bird is as im­pres­sive in per­son as it is in print,” says writer Cam Benty. “We pho­tographed the Tor-red Su­per­bird on a very hot day in Palm Springs, Cal­i­for­nia, and the car drove very well. It was 119 ac­cord­ing to our chase car temp dis­play, and we had no is­sues run­ning it around town. With that big camshaft the car cranked out a proper lope on idle and un­der power it roared through the Street Hemi muf­flers. It was a great day all

around – both car and sup­port team sur­vived the day.

Upon com­ple­tion of the ’Bird, Toles reached out to his for­mer trad­ing part­ner to show him just what had be­come of his rusty Road Run­ner. “He wanted to know if I wanted to trade back,” said Toles. “While that was a kind of­fer, I was pleased with the car and how my end of the bar­gain turned out. No deal!”

No kid­ding!

No Amer­i­can car in his­tory, with the ex­cep­tion of its cousin the Dodge Day­tona, strikes a more im­pres­sive pose than the 1970 Ply­mouth Su­per­bird.

That un­mis­tak­able Su­per­bird wing is ad­justable, al­low­ing rac­ers to turn the down­force of the wing to help the car han­dle at high speed. These wings were su­per strong as well — noth­ing sub­tle about this car in any way.

With the base­plate cov­er­ing the twin Hol­ley 800-cfm car­bu­re­tors, the en­gine com­part­ment looks a lot more like the orig­i­nal. Aside from the ad­di­tion of the MSD Bil­let dis­trib­u­tor and thicker than stock MSD wires, no one can tell the huge horse­power out­put it packs.

In keep­ing with the Hemi theme but stir in a help­ing of mod­ern en­gine tech­nol­ogy, the Su­per­bird sports a warmed up 426 Hemi that has grown to 477 cid and cranks out some­thing over 700 hp.

No race car would be ready for the track without hood­pins. This view also shows the dra­matic hood mod­i­fi­ca­tion re­quired to make it meet up cor­rectly with the steel Su­per­bird nose.

The trim tag on this Road Run­ner notes the large num­ber of per­for­mance and com­fort op­tions in­cluded with this car when new.

These fender vents al­low air out from un­der­hood to keep the front end from lift­ing at speed.

This tray, ahead of the core sup­port, helps to fill the void be­tween the nose and the front of the en­gine com­part­ment. It’s cov­ered by the ex­tended hood de­sign. It also lo­cates the hood latch mech­a­nism.

The Toles Trib­ute Su­per­bird uses all the fac­tory sus­pen­sion pieces in­clud­ing the Street Hemi rear leaf springs and Hemi tor­sion bars. The ride is very com­fort­able with no harsh qual­i­ties.

The Hol­ley dou­ble pumper carbs are wired so that the choke stays open, the heat of Palm Springs rarely re­quir­ing much of a warm up. The in­take is a Mopar Per­for­mance sin­gle-plane unit, and the Keith Black alu­minum cylin­der heads have been re­worked to help the 477-cid en­gine get to over 700 hp.

Su­per­birds also came equipped with the Road Run­ner horn. The sig­na­ture pur­ple horn is lo­cated in the far for­ward pas­sen­ger-side sec­tion of the en­gine com­part­ment.

The doors on the Su­per­bird were all busi­ness and as sim­ple as pos­si­ble with door re­lease, arm­rest and win­dow crank. No elec­tric win­dows here; power mo­tors would just have added un­nec­es­sary weight.

All Su­per­birds came with vinyl roofs to re­duce the amount of time re­quired by the fac­tory to metal fin­ish the tops. The vinyl roof cov­er­ing made up for a num­ber of fi­nal fit­ment chal­lenges.

Most Chrysler prod­ucts of the era had sim­i­lar dash­board equip­ment but the huge, by com­par­i­son, brake fail­ure light was a bad one if it hap­pened to come on when you were driv­ing.

The speedome­ter and tachome­ter were po­si­tioned right in front of the drive on the Su­per­bird, the tach at the right fea­tur­ing at clock at its cen­ter — thus called the “Tic Toc Tach.”

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