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History of the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird
For just one year, homologation requirements moved Plymouth to produce one of the most storied muscle cars of all time. The 1970 Superbird was designed to race with NASCAR, but series rules required that the automaker produce at least one car for every two dealer franchises to qualify the cars to race. Officially, Plymouth made 1,920 Superbirds; however, legend has it that more were made, and this makes provenance critical when considering one of these cars.
The Superbird was based on a modified Road Runner two-door coupe. This model is best known for its high rear spoiler and extra-long nose, which added 19 extra inches of length to the front of the car in an effort to be more aerodynamic. The headlights are also faired into the body on these cars, to further reduce drag.
The glory of the Superbird is that it worked. Plymouth took the Daytona 500 win with Peter Hamilton driving a Superbird that year, and Richard Petty’s Superbird is among the most recognizable race cars in history. NASCAR put the brakes on high-powered aerodynamic designs in 1971, but with its racing success, already in the books, the Superbird quickly became a legend.
Production Superbirds sold new for $4,298, or about $1,000 more than other muscle cars. Buyers could choose from three engines – a basic Super Commando at 440 cid and 375 hp, a 440-cid “Six Pack” engine with 390 hp, or the 426-cid Hemi V-8 at 425 hp. About 100 Hemi Superbirds were built, making them by far the most collectible. Transmission options included a four-speed manual and two- or three-speed automatics.
Plymouth Road Runner Superbirds are one of the high points of American muscle, and most often sell at high-profile auctions, though they do pass through dealerships as well on occasion. Regardless of the venue, documentation is an absolute must, as transforming a fairly common Road Runner into a rare Superbird has been cost effective for many years, and thus many clones exist.
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