Known for its odd styling, including a “bullet-shaped, bolted-on nose and sky-high wing in back,” the 1970 Road Runner Superbird, was more of a joke to car owners, selling only 2,000 in its heyday. Now the laugh may be on all those who scoffed at its unusual looks, as Southby’s has valued one going up on the auction block the end of this month, as worth somewhere between $400,000-$500,000.
Originally developed specifically for NASCAR racing, the Superbird, was Plymouth’s answer to the Dodge Charger 500 which came out in 1969, and was the first car produced by an American company with aerodynamic styling. The Charger’s tail and nose were later modified into the Daytona.
In the meantime, The Superbird's “smoothed-out body and nosecone” were redesigned even more adding 19 inches to its original length with the addition of fiberglass retractable headlights and by mounting the rear wing was mounted on high vertical struts to increase the “efficiency of the downdraft that it placed upon the car's rear axle.”
However, the aerodynamic improvements did little if anything to improve its speed, either on the street or dragstrip. In fact, experts state that “the 1970 Road Runner was actually faster in the ¼ mile and standard acceleration tests due to the increased weight of the Superbird's nose and wing, and only showed any benefit when the car was pushed above 60 mph.
It also came in three engine options: the 426 Hemi V8 engine, the 440 Super Commando with a single 4-barrel carburetor, or the 440 Super Commando Six Barrel with three two-barrel carburetors. However, only 135 models were fitted with the 426 Hemi.
However, due to NASCAR's official mandate that “vehicles that were to be raced had to be available to the general public and sold through dealerships in specific minimum numbers, the organization increased the 1970 production requirement from 500 examples to one for every two manufacturer's dealers in the United States; thus 1,920 street versions of the Superbirds were manufactured that year fitted with the less expensive 440 engine.
In the end, it didn’t really matter since 1970 was the only year it was produced due to more stringent emissions regulations, on top of major increases in insurance premiums for high performance cars.