This 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona broke an auction record, but could it have claimed more?
David Spade lost his crown last week. The funnyman claimed the record for highest price paid for a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona back in 2015, a $990,000 laurel wreath he wore until a Mopar ultra-fan plunked $1.32 million down for a Daytona at Mecum’s Indianapolis sale.
The collector market continues to burn white-hot, with record prices routinely hitting headlines and watering eyes. Muscle car prices have been particularly wild, hitting and exceeding highs set in 2008, a peak that hasn’t been seen since the global economy threw a rod that same year.
Zoom in closer, as we did just last month, and it’s clear that big-block Chargers have experienced one of the largest bumps—a 30 to 40 percent rise in values since late 2021. Yet at the time, we also noted that the most valuable Mopars of them all—those with Hemis—saw only gradual, incremental growth outside of the Charger’s overall run-up.
Enter Mecum’s F8 Green Daytona. Out of 503 Daytonas produced during the single model year, just 70 came with the explosive 426 Hemi; just 22 of them also had a desirable four-speed manual.
That drivetrain combo alone is enough to coax a blood sacrifice and an average of around $920,000 (Condition #1, Concours) according to the Hagerty Price Guide. But, as you might’ve guessed from all the hubbub, VIN #XX29J9B383276 is a step above the already superlative four-speed Hemi gaggle. This Daytona was special-ordered new by high-school English teacher Pat Harper of Phoenix, AZ in 1969, with Madame Harper checking essentially every box and build code on the order form. When both the check and the pencil dust cleared, she came into possession of the most well-optioned Hemi Daytona ever built.
In other words, this car has no problems justifying a seven-figure price tag. However, it does have a few stories attached to it. Frustrated and overheated from the unavailability of factory air-conditioning, Harper had a dealership add a white applique to the roof to stave off some of the desert heat. A short time later, a minor accident knocked the front nosecone clean off. A standard Charger grille was installed, and the car changed hands to a local politician in 1977, living much of its life adorned with the incorrect trio of a white wing, white roof, and white decals. Yuck.
The car was passed among no less than eight owners (extensive research done by Hot Rod magazine indicates there may have been even more). Its recent history is less than savory: It was mistakenly seized by the IRS instead of the target’s Hemi-Orange Daytona Hemi. The car was released back to the rightful owner following a court battle and as you can see from the pictures, now wears its glorious original getup. At Mecum, it was well-presented, well-documented, and legally sold. But the complex history and gaggle of previous owners might have dinged the car’s final winning bid this past week.
Yes, we’re saying we think it could have potentially sold for more. Perhaps, though, we’ve become as spoiled as everyone else has in this record-breaking market. Indeed, much of the scuttlebutt, both on the floor at Mecum and elsewhere, has been that sellers may be taking the post-pandemic frenzy for granted. Sales that rip our price guide to shreds, the likes of which we saw in January, are not normal and won’t go on forever.
Yet $1.32M is, at the end of the day, a lot of money, and it bought a killer car—the highest spec of what is ostensibly one of the most desirable muscle cars in existence, carrying its original engine and transmission.