Wings Over Alex City
The Museum’s Great Group of NASCAR Warriors; the Wellborn Musclecar Museum will display three at MCACN on Nov 17-18.
Story by Geoff Stunkard
“Back in 1969, my dad took me to the Talladega race, and that was when I became interested in the Bobby Isaac Daytona; when that Dodge was going around the track, it just permanently became ingrained in my mind. I never dreamed that someday I would own the real car and drive it, especially not in Germany and at Goodwood and places like that.”
While many people know the Wellborn Musclecar Museum for the terrific collection of 1971 Hemi Chargers there, the aerodynamically-enhanced 'wing car' models from 1969 and 1970 have also been part of the collection since before it started. As Tim states, his attendance at that first race at Talladega played a huge role on his impressionable mind back in 1969; as a result, the car he drove in his high school years was a real Dodge Daytona. This car, Hemi Orange with a 440 and white interior, was his regular driver, but in 1979, it became an even larger tribute to the car Bobby Isaac had piloted back on that September on the high banks of Talladega.
“I found a 2100-mile ‘68 Hemi Road Runner that been totaled, and took the engine, K-member, wiring, everything, and just swapped it right into that Daytona. It all fit perfectly, I got everything needed for a B-Body Hemi, and my goal was to make this into a tribute to Bobby Isaac and the K&K car. So I decided to letter it up, and had the call-out letters, ‘Dodge’ lettered on the nose, and pinstripes painted on it.”
He drove the car for a couple of more years, but money was tight; when he made plans to get married, the Daytona was sold to a gentleman in Atlanta, and Tim lost track of it. As things became better economically, Tim wondered whatever happened to it. Ironically, it came back to him 22 years later.
“I’m getting ready to load up for Barrett-Jackson on a Wednesday night, and I get a phone call. It is the owner I had sold that car to,” he recalls. “I asked him some questions and he says, ‘do you want to buy it back?’ I said, ‘absolutely,’ and I drove straight to Atlanta that following Sunday afternoon when I returned, wrote him a check, and brought it home. It came back showing just 312 miles since the day I had sold it.” Talk about preserving history…
By now, Tim and Pam had already purchased a few other Daytonas and Superbirds. In fact, they were able to purchase the original K&K Insurance Daytona that had been part of the collection at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. This car had set records at Bonneville, and, through Tim’s efforts, got the very first 528” crate motor Hemi from Chrysler. Tim, licensed to drive at speed, then toured the car in exhibition races across Europe, driving it at 150+ mph speeds at places like Germany’s legendary Nürburgring and Goodwood’s Festival of Speed. This car has been on display in the new NASCAR Museum in Charlotte since the day that facility opened.
One car in particular does stand out. This was a Charger Daytona that Tim had found and bought from the owner’s ex-wife, and it has a story. The car was sold through the Lenox Dodge franchise in Atlanta; its origins of its ordering are lost; it was likely bought by the owner Tim found out about through Lenox’ used car department as a repo. CONTINUED
“This guy had been sent out to buy a refrigerator, and came back with this car. His wife was not very happy about that,” Tim laughs. “So, as you can imagine, that marriage didn’t last, and when they split up, she kept this car basically to spite him. Then it sat out under a tarp in her yard for a long time.”
Tim got a call from somebody who found out about the car, and soon made plans to go see it. It was rough; the car had been repainted Petty Blue and was showing a large amount of surface rust, though the substructure rust normally feared about was non-existent (great trunk, floor pans and cowl). Seeing the car initially, he was pretty skeptical at first glance, until he saw the 999 paint code on the fender tag. Then he pulled the back seat up to see if the build sheet was in it.
“When I saw that color, my heart jumped,” he says.
Omaha Orange was never a color offered by any of the major manufacturers; it was a color used for taxi cabs running around the Haight-Asbury and other San Francisco places at the time. To date, there is only one other Daytona painted that way, and its whereabouts are questionable. Tim gave the unrestored car to Roger Gibson, who spent a couple of years reworking it into one of the most accurate restorations of any wing car.
As built, the car got the special paint, the 440 Magnum, four speed transmission, and Dana 60 rear. It got deluxe bucket seats, console, and AM radio. Like the interior, the wing was black. Most of these cars were built as sales bank cars and very few got special ordered. This one is unique for all of those reasons. The car originally came with 15” body-color painted rims. While Gibson restored the original set, Tim has chosen to use a set of the rare 15” Kelsey Hayes wheels that were recalled almost immediately due to failures; they fit the car perfectly.
The museum also has other Daytonas beyond these two and the #71 racecar – one is a 6000-mile Hemi survivor and another that is 440 powered, now stored is among the ‘barn finds’ displayed in Alexander City. The Hemi with be at the upcoming Musclecar and Corvette Nationals in Chicago on Nov 16-18.
The following year, Plymouth used a similar group of changes to build a group of cars that helped bring Richard Petty back into the fold. These cars were modified from Road Runners and used sheetmetal pieces from the redesigned 1970 Dodge Coronet to get even more streamlined. The slippery pieces developed for the Dodge were reworked with some improvements and, unlike the 500 cars built by Dodge, NASCAR now required one for every two dealerships – over 1900 units.
As a result, the Plymouth wings are found in more variety and abundance than the Dodges. The museum has three Superbirds, one Hemi-powered, one Six Pack, and one using the 440 combination (those were the three engines available in the model). The unrestored Hemi Superbird will also make its first public appearance away from Alabama at MCACN.
The museum’s Charger 500, the first aero-styled redesign that preceded the ‘nuclear option’ Dodge Daytona release, will also be at the Illinois event; it too is Hemi powered.