LADY WITH WINGS
But With a Passion for Hemi Power, She’s no Angel
But with a passion for Hemi power, she’s no angel
Godfather of Soul James Brown was known for crooning, “It’s a man’s world.” That’s generally true in the world of muscle cars, but then again, he never met Janice Sutherland. She’s a lady with four Hemi-powered Mopars: a 1970 Superbird, 1969 Road Runner, 1966 Satellite, and an exacting 1969 Charger Daytona “re-creation.” There’s a 440-powered Superbird in her collection, too. And she has owned two of them, the Hemi Superbird and Satellite, since brand new. That’s far more muscle than we can pack into one feature, so we’ll highlight the Hemi Superbird and Road Runner here, along with a few words about the Daytona, and peel out from there to bring you the other cars in a later issue.
Janice’s muscle car saga began back in 1966, when she and her then-husband Les, a Dodge mechanic by trade, bought the yellow Satellite for racing. They tore up the tracks around Ukiah,
California, but that wasn’t enough for her. Lightning struck when Janice saw a 1970 newspaper article about
Buddy Baker busting the 200-mph barrier in an outrageously antisocial, winged Daytona.
“That’s the kind of car I wanted,” Janice recalls. “It was my forever car.” Truth be told, she actually mistook the Charger Daytona for a Superbird. The two are somewhat similar, with a few differences in the nosecone, body, and rear sail panels, so her confusion was somewhat understandable.
Mopar history buffs already know that the 1970 Plymouth Superbird was a follow-up to the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, the
first American car with a body developed in a wind tunnel and by computer analysis. (Prior to that, automotive aerodynamics were analyzed by taping tufts of yarn to the body and filming the car at speed.)
The Superbird took this digital design approach to even greater lengths. The nose on both models added 19 inches to the base car’s overall dimension, but the rear sections were not the same. While the Charger had a flat window covering over the rear tunnel, on the Superbird the rear sail panels (C-pillars) were extended for better airflow. This modification resulted in all Superbirds having a vinyl top to cover up the rough, improvised metalwork (due to production being done at furious clip, 2,000 units in only two months).
The tall aluminum rear wing, mounted on struts on the trunk, increased downforce. Reportedly it really only needed to be about a foot in height to serve its purpose, but one retired Mopar engineer claimed that it was elevated 23 inches to allow the trunk lid to open all the way. Supposedly Richard Petty liked the extra height solely for the intimidation factor.
Smitten by the winged monster she saw in the newspaper, Janice promptly made a beeline for the Ukiah Mopar dealership to put in an order. But the sales manager emphatically refused,
“If it’s going to have
the wrong engine, it might as well be the
right wrong engine”
fearing any warranty claims. Little did he know just how well Janice would take care of her much beloved Hemis in the coming decades.
Loaded and Then Some
Fortunately, a dealer further south, in Pittsburg, California, was far more accommodating, and she was able to grab the last Hemi Superbird in the state. The car came fully loaded, with every possible option and then some. Besides the automatic transmission and Rim-Blow steering wheel (just squeeze the edge to sound the purple beep-beep horn), it also had an eight-track player, plus a center console and a sixway adjustable driver’s bucket seat (most came with a bench seat). At the time, all of these items would be surprising to find on a Road Runner given its reputation as a stripped-down muscle car (as you will see in the B5 Blue companion car).
One more odd thing popped up on the build sheet: a rear speaker. Although technically not available as an option, with no box to check on the order form, it somehow made it onto the car from the factory.
Janice says she did a bit of street racing in her Limelight Green Superbird against her husband in the yellow Satellite, mostly
“She was able to grab the last Hemi Superbird in the state”
the usual stoplight drags and Saturday night antics. But right after the Interstate 5 freeway opened up, she hit the fresh pavement to run her Superbird up to 150 mph. (The street gearing was too low, however, to duplicate Buddy Baker’s 200mph feat.)
She also used the Superbird as a daily driver to take her kids to school and run errands. What a sight that must have been, seeing such a colorful car tooling around town, and her getting groceries in a NASCAR-derived ride. She even occasionally used it to tow a horse trailer, and also a flat-bottom drag boat from Ukiah to Lake
Shasta! (More about what happened to the Hemi in that boat later.) It was like putting a thoroughbred to the plow.
Eventually the kids grew tired of being teased about their Mom’s “upside-down Hula Hoe garden tool,” and they asked her to drop them off a block away from their schoolmates. As they grew older, though, they came around and asked if they could drive the Superbird to high school. How cool was that?! Was she worried about putting a Hemi in the hands of a hormonal teenager? Not really.
“We all have lead feet,” she laughs. “We were not the kind of parents that most parents would like to see their kids with.” Usually the cops would pull over her son Les because they just wanted to check out the car, and he’d get away with only a warning and a knowing smile. (On the other hand, Janice admits that she’s always one ticket away from losing her driver’s license.)
Over the next 15 years of regular use, Janice’s Superbird went through three restorations. The original Hemi engine never required more than a mild refresh (new gaskets and seals). Larry Snow, who oversees her collection to a remarkably
“It was like putting a thoroughbred to the plow”
Each year, Bob Ashton and the team that puts on the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals assemble a number of special displays to put MCACN’s cars in a form of organized context. There are anniversary year displays, celebrating cars from 50 and 45 years ago. There are featured marque displays, supercar builder displays, areas for unrestored cars, and those everpopular barn finds and hidden gems.
Right inside the main entrance to the show is a centerpiece display, the knock-your-socks-off collection of ultrarare or desirable muscle that drops jaws and shakes heads. One year it was a gathering of almost every Trans Am convertible Pontiac made in 1969. Another year, Bob and his crew brought together 27 of the 39 Hemi E-Body convertibles that are known to exist.
For the 10th anniversary MCACN, and the 50th anniversary of the 1968 model year, Bob and company assembled representative cars—as well as priceless memorabilia and historical documents— that were a part of Chrysler’s famous Scat Pack/Rapid Transit System marketing campaigns of the late 1960s to early 1970s. The story of the Dodge Scat Pack and Plymouth Rapid Transit System tells of how talented advertising men and women helped fuel the fire for the muscle car mania that still leaves an impact today. These artists and writers helped shape the personality of the cars that captured the hearts of a generation. When the dust settled, that generation has never forgotten the allure and excitement of the raw brawn of the big-cubic-inch, high-horsepower V-8 Detroit muscle car.
Dodge Scat Pack
Amidst the rising tide of muscle car mania in 1967, Dodge realized that it needed to market cars aggressively to horsepowerhungry enthusiasts. Bob McCurry, the vice president of the Dodge division, directed the advertising agency BBD&O to come up with a marketing campaign to promote the high performance Dodge cars of the coming 1968 model year. Probably playing off the popular Hollywood Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford, someone came up with the concept of creating an automotive Scat Pack.
“Part of the Scat Pack excitement was all about putting big motors in compact cars”
When the 1968 model year arrived, there would be three Dodge Scat Packs: the Charger R/T, the Coronet R/T, and the Dart GTS. Dodge called the Charger R/T “The Clean Machine,” the Coronet R/T “The Time Machine,” and the Dart GTS “The Scat Pack Compact.” All three majored in performance but catered to the various preferences of Dodge fans.
Though other manufacturers were involved in pushing highperformance marketing campaigns, Dodge was the first manufacturer to attach criteria for Scat Pack membership. First, the car had to run 14.99 in the quarter or quicker. Second, these cars would be recognized as “the cars with the bumblebee stripes.” The creation of said criteria set the Scat Pack Dodges apart from other efforts.
The Dodge Scat Pack marketing campaign offered membership to the Dodge Scat Pack Club. For a mere $3, “young, swinging car enthusiasts” could join the Scat Pack Club and receive a Scat Pack poster, Scat Pack jacket patch, Hustle Stuff parts catalog, bumper sticker, membership card, and monthly newsletter. Membership was intended to increase sales and showroom traffic, while building allegiance to the Dodge brand.
Dealership Scat Pack promotional kits and stylish magazine advertisements served to further the visibility of the Dodge Scat Pack cars, pushing them into the spotlight of the muscle car generation.
Plymouth Rapid Transit System
As the 1970 model year loomed, Plymouth determined it needed a marketing campaign that would build an enthusiast base to rival the Dodge Scat Pack marketing program. Already rife with
“A knock-your-socks-off collection of ultrarare or desirable muscle that drops jaws and shakes heads”
“Mopar was serious about making the RTS successful”
bold and beautiful images and illustrations, as well as the winning Pro Stock teams that would host Rapid Transit System Super Car Clinics, one could say that the Rapid Transit System landed with feet running. Advertising would be crafted to capture the imagination of the younger generation caught up in a culture centered on drag racing and street/strip cars.
Plymouth explained the Rapid Transit System this way: “As the name implies, it’s a system, a total concept in transportation that goes beyond eight pistons and a steering wheel. The Rapid Transit System is racing … at Daytona, Riverside, Cecil County … and the race cars themselves … Dragsters, Super Stocks, Oval Stockers … the essence of high performance machinery.”
For 1970, Plymouth clearly had as much or more to offer the public over the Dodge Scat Pack. The friendly Dodge/Plymouth rivalry that exists in the Mopar camp can heat up a bit, but when the smoke cleared, the Dodge Scat Pack and Plymouth Rapid Transit System would complement one in another in winning the racing and muscle car world over to the Chrysler side of the aisle.
Rapid Transit System Caravan Cars
The Rapid Transit System Caravan was essentially a traveling car show that ran for two years, 1970 and 1971, in an effort to promote the RTS vehicles. Mopar was serious about making the RTS successful, as evidenced by the hiring of the International Show Car Association’s Bob Larivee to supervise the effort. Four RTS Caravan cars were built for the RTS Caravan: a 1970 RTS ’Cuda, a 1970 RTS Duster (revised for 1971), and 1970 and 1971 RTS Road Runners. In addition to these show cars, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme’s Rapid Transit System Plymouth Barracuda Funny Car was part of the RTS Caravan.
The RTS Caravan proved to be highly successful for Plymouth. Jim Schild, in his excellent CarTech book Dodge Scat Pack and Plymouth Rapid Transit System, wrote that the RTS Caravan premiere for the 1970 model year in New York City was highly successful, with 73,626 people attending. Cars, parts, catalogs, and cutaway engines all served to make the Rapid Transit System a household name among muscle car enthusiasts.
“It sat from 1977 until 2009, racking up only
n While the overly tall wing increased downforce, it was not to everyone’s taste when Superbirds were sold in 1970. It’s been said that some dealers actually converted some of them to regular Road Runners to makea sale. For Superbird fans, that’s tantamount to sacrilege.
n With a 19-inch nosecone and Coronet front end grafted onto a Road Runner body, Janice Sutherland’s Superbird is so long she can barely fit it in her garage.
n While the 426 Hemi was rated at 425 hp by the factory, actual output was likely about 100 horses more. The Hemi in Janice’s Superbird never needed more than mild freshening over the years.
n Janice’s granddaughter Alyssa squeezed the Rim-Blow steering wheel to demonstrate how to sound the famous beep-beep horn.n Most Superbirds came with a bench seat rather than the buckets seen here, in keeping with the Road Runner’s stripped-down nature.
n When the Road Runner was introduced in 1968, the list price for a base model with a 383 was less than $2,900. The extra charge for a 426 Hemi was only $715, a screaming deal in hindsight.
n For the 1969 model year, the Road Runner was lightly face-lifted with a restyle grille. The cartoon bird decals were finally in color, too.
n The Road Runner’s taillights were also revised for 1969.
n With the creation of the Rapid Transit System(RTS) came the creation of the Rapid Transit System Caravan.Three of the four RTS Caravan cars, formerly owned by the late Steven Juliano, were on display together at the 10th Annual MCACN.
n This is the actual drawing by Jim Hanna that led to the creation of the Dodge Bee, the mascot/logothat accompanied much of the Dodge Scat Pack advertising from 1968 to 1971. Ken Hanna had nineof his father’s original drawings on display.
n A close-up shot of the Kultgen A12 Super Bee highlights the Dodge Scat Pack Bee emblem in the grille, the lift-off hood, gloss-black wheels (with no hubcaps), and redline G70-15 Polyglas tires. The 440 Six Pack motor produces 390 hp and featured numerous highperformance and reliability upgrades. It was the ultimate boy racer street car package.Ken Hanna and Jim Secreto explained how original artwork eventually became the actual final advertising or catalog content. In this case, the top image was the original artwork for explaining various options of performance levels of Scat Packages. The bottom image was the finalized version of the content.
n The Scat Pack and RTS showcase featured Darlene Charles’ 1969 Charger Daytona. Her car was driven sparingly early on, and then sat from 1977 until 2009, racking up only 9,147 miles. It was restored at Clark Classic Restorations. The 440 four-barrel engine, four-speed manual A833 transmission, and Dana 60 3.54 rear are all born-with components. Also featured in the showcase was Tom Lembeck’s 1969 Dodge Hemi Charger Daytona.
n For midyear 1969, Dodge and Plymouth offered the A12 440 Six-Pack option on the Super Bee and Road Runner, respectively.The Dodge Scat Pack advertisements for the Super Bee A12 read, “Six Pack to Go,” and went on to describe the features of the highperformance 440ci engine with the three twobarrel Holley carburetors mounted atop an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold. This A12 Super Bee, owned by Brent and Jeff Kultgen, served as the perfect representative of the beauty of the “lift-off hood” B-Body Mopar.n
n Part of the Scat Pack excitement was all about putting big motors in compact cars like the Dart GTS. Dodge called the Dart GTS the “Compact Scat Pack.” It was equipped with either the standard 340/275-horse V-8 or the optional 383/300hp engine. Mr. Norm had Dodge build 48 examples of a 1968 Dart GTS that was stuffed with the 440 engine, which he called the Dart GSS, often referred to as an M-code. Bill Sefton owns this 440-powered Mr. Norm’s 1968 Dart GSS.
n One of the key advertising slogans of the Dodge Scat Pack marketing campaign identified the Scat Pack cars as “the cars with the Bumblebee stripes.” They never looked better than on the rear of the 1970-1972 Challengers. The white V9W Bumblebee stripe on Cory and Joann Flick’s 1970 Hemi Challenger R/T is an excellent example of the Scat Pack presence on the gorgeous E-Body.
n Dodge Scat Pack advertising for the 1969 Dodge Dart GTS invited the reader to “Run with the Dodge Scat Pack.” A celebrity of sorts among Dodge Scat Pack cars of 1969, this 1969 Dart M-code GTS was a Car Craft magazine test car. The Bumblebee stripe, GTS emblem, and 440 hood callouts were the only indicators of the performance potential of this big-inch A-Body. Owner Richard Gottlieb had Jeff’s Resurrection in Taylor, Texas, do a complete “nuts and bolts” restoration on the car, with superb results.
n As part of Ken Hanna and Jim Secreto’s display, this original artwork would be proposed to the marketing director for revision and development. The obvious influence of the psychedelic era was intended to reach the youth market. The list of 1970 Dodge Scat Pack cars is bolstered with the dominating image of Dick Landy powershifting his way down the quarter-mile.The finalized version of the artwork in the above image was used on the Scat City electrically powered scale model dragstrip. Though primitive by today’s standards, the model promoted drag racing and muscle car excitement to children who would one day take the wheel of a Scat Pack muscle car.
n Not surprisingly, the Dodge Scat Pack advertisements capitalized on the photogenic 1969 Charger R/T. One ad has a sneaky Charger R/T perched low at an angle with the phrase, “We’ve Got You Cornered.” Another straight-on bulbous nose shot declares a red Charger R/T as “Wailer” with the standard 440 four-barrel 375hp engine. Marc and Darlene Rozman brought their 1969 Charger RT/SE to MCACN to represent those glorious Scat Pack machines.
n In 1971, Dodge received its own version of the popular Duster, and called it the Demon. Doug Bergdahl had his Plum Crazy 1971 Dodge Demon 340 on hand with the optional flatblack hood treatment with nonfunctional hoodscoops and dog dish hubcaps.
n The Scat Pack droptop Sublime Green 1970 Hemi Challenger R/T is owned by David MacNeil of Lagrange, Illinois. He reports that this car is the highest optioned Hemi Challenger in existence. It is powered by the optional 426 Hemi engine mated to a 727 TorqueFlite transmission. Other options include the A36 performance axle package Sure Grip 8.75 rear, Rallye dash, power windows, and luggage rack. This is one of four Hemi automatic Challenger convertibles ever made.
n Dodge finally ventured into Trans-Am racing with the creation of the 1970 Challenger T/A. Michael Hamilton from Davenport, Iowa, brought his Plum Crazy 1970 Challenger T/A to be part of the Dodge Scat Pack showcase. Though Dodge talked about extending the T/A into 1971, that plan was ditched when the automaker essentially abandoned Trans-Am racing involvement after 1970.
n Longtime F.A.S.T. drag racer Tony Dicicco had his bright and striped 1970 Dodge Super Bee on display. A stout 440 moves the Super Bee down the road, and probably down the strip, in style. Dicicco’s car served as a reminder of the importance of the 1970 HiImpact colors offered on the Scat Pack cars.
n Daring redesigns of Mopar muscle cars included the brash new look of the 1971 Charger. The advertisements for the Dodge Scat Pack campaign featured a 1971 Charger Super Bee declaring, “The run of the mills is anything but run of the mill,” and, “If you want more run for your money, join the pack.” Steve Price is all in on the 1971 styling, evidenced by his fantastic 1971 Charger Super Bee Six Pack that he brought to the Scat Pack Invitational.
n The 1970 birth of the Plymouth Rapid Transit System saw the incorporation of the wild cartoon images used in 1968 and 1969 to exaggerate and highlight the bold styling features of Plymouth’s muscle cars and high-performance machinery. This particular work of advertising genius incorporated many of Chrysler’s key figures in competitive drag racing, who were shaping the face of the Plymouth Rapid Transit System.
n Franklin Finkenbinder’s father bought him this 1970 Plymouth Superbird brand new before he even had a learner’s permit. Yes, Franklin’s first car was a Superbird. His father’s thinking was the police would surely know who was driving, and therefore Franklin could not afford to drive recklessly.
n The Rapid Transit System was “Coming Through.” If one 1971 ’Cuda is good, two must be better. A 340 ’Cuda and a Hemi ’Cuda are side-by-side in the ad that reads, “There are two kinds of Barracudas in this world. Those that do … and those that really do.” We’ll take those that really do.
n Chuck Miller constructed the Candy Pearl Orange 1971 RTS Road Runner working off a couple of renderings by former Mattel Hot Wheels designer Harry Bradley. The front end of the 1971 RTS Road Runner was extended more than 6 inches, complete with a built-in roll pan and steel mesh grille. The hood and trunk lid are fiberglass; the rest of the car is steel. The custom hood has a recessed area that makes for a ram air inlet. The rear has similar restyling. The headlights are striking, and perfect for the early 1970s vibe at the RTS Caravan car show.
n The RTS Caravan 1970 Road Runner was heavily modified with custom taillights, a bold custom spoiler, and radical rear flares. Big Goodyear tires and aluminum slotted wheels created the street machine look of the early 1970s.
n The 1970 RTS Duster was painted CandyRed but received a major revamping for 1971, which included a lime-green paint job. Rear custom valence incorporated dual exhaust outlets and paint scheme to draw in the observer.
n Ricky Greer’s 1971 440+6 Road Runner came complete with the A34 Super Track Pak and the N96 Fresh Air Package. Ricky gets props for buying his Road Runner back after being separated for 28 years.