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The Only Cool Thing the EPA Ever Did...
Reaganite Republican ^ | June 3, 2012 | Reaganite Republican

Posted on 07/03/2012 1:31:14 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican

alas, to statist ends...




As many of you are likely aware, the 1970 Plymouth Superbird was a special 'aero' version of the popular Plymouth Roadrunner created as a NASCAR homologation special (the company was required to build a minimum of 500 cars in a street version of any specific model to qualify in NASCAR as a 'production car'). 

Similar to the aerodynamically-advanced 1968 Dodge Charger 500 and further-evolved 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, Plymouth's 1970 Superbird was intended not only to hit 200mph on NASCAR Superspeedways like Daytona and Talladega, but was also an attempt to lure King Richard Petty back (from Ford) to Plymouth- which it did.

Due to some additional demand 1935 examples of the Plymouth Superbird were screwed-together it's one and only model year, yet a mere 135 came with the Earth-shaking 426 Hemi option (cars worth a quarter-million bucks today, easy).



The most obvious variances from a standard Roadrunner involve radical styling including wind-tunnel tested 19-inch aerodynamic steel nose with hidden headlights, chin spoiler, smoothed body, and a sky-high rear wing: it was said this was meant to clear the trunk lid, yet the foil did provide useful down-force at speed while operating in undisturbed air. 

None of this was just for show: the Superbird was among the first cars to be tested in a wind tunnel with computer-developed aerodynamics, and Chrysler engineers achieved an astonishing drag-coefficient (.028) not matched in the industry for many years to come (42 years later, a slick-looking 2012 Chrysler 300 still scores an inferior .032).

Under the hood came one of Chrysler Corporation's three most powerful engines: the 440 Super Commando (4 bbl) at 375HP, optional 440 Six-Pack (6 bbl) with 390HP, or the legendary
-and rare- 426 Hemi bringing 425HP (a figure widely assumed to have been understated for insurance reasons- the Hemi was a thinly-veiled race engine with solid lifters and a real lumpy cam, and some consider the actual figure to approach 475-500HP).


How ironic it is then that the federal government's Environmental Protection Agency or EPA -an aggressive bureaucracy that was to doom -along with the insurance industry- the entire US supercar market with smog regs- came to own their very own Plymouth Superbird... the embodiment of all they were out to destroy (or at-least banish).

See, back in the early 70s there was a lively and unresolved debate going on amongst environmental experts and other scientists as to the actual sources of urban smog in this country. Beside auto, diesel, and jet exhaust, some theoried that auto brake dust was a major source, others argued as to how much plane exhaust dispersed or dwelled, etc.


Finding the cost of an indoor lab to test jet engines prohibitive even for their bloated budget, the EPA decided to meter aircraft emissions by chasing planes (with testing equipment) right-down-the-runway at takeoff: all they needed was a vehicle actually capable of keeping-up with a rapidly-accelerating jet(!)

The gub'ment put out bids and the winner came in at $25,000: Plymouth NASCAR builders Nichels Engineering proceeded to obtain a 1970 Plymouth Superbird with 440 Super-Commando V8 and TorqueFlight automatic trans: not only were the car's performance credentials suitable, the NASCAR-inspired aerodynamics were of great help while attempting to accelerate the car directly into a plane's jet-blast. As the Chrysler's factory racing effort's preferred race-car builder, Nichels knew instinctively that a Superbird was the car for the job.


Back at the shop they swapped in a heavy-duty 4-speed manual trans and a NASCAR roll-bar along with other upgrades beneficial for repeated high-speed runs, repainted the car Ice Blue Poly (over the original Alpine White), installed an aircraft-band radio that allowed the driver to contact the plane and/or tower, then added minor performance mods along with EPA equipment designed for sampling air pollution, noise, and tire/brake dust on the fly.

In the event, the EPA did indeed run the powerful supercar -to my eyes gorgeous sans stickers/stipes and with base dog dish hubcaps- behind jet planes for three years. Testing with this very car is said to have led directly to regulations banning asbestos in brake-pads as well as to the introduction of unleaded gasoline, leading some enthusiast wags to brand the car 'The Traitor'.

Long after EPA testing programs were complete, the Superbird was sitting in a government surplus warehouse in 1979 with 10,000 hard miles on the clock -listed ingloriously as '1970 Plymouth car' and almost hidden between dated office furniture and worn-out forklifts- when it was auctioned off for a mere $500. That buyer cleaned it up, painted it white again, and drove it for 20 years before it found it's way to it's current anonymous owner, who pledged to restore the 'bird to its original glory.


And boy did he ever: Restorer Brian Chaffee of Middlefield, CT says the buyer put $700K into the Superbird to bring it back to exactly the way it was the day the EPA took delivery, including all the testing equipment and yet another color conversion, back to Ice Blue Poly. Sadly for his client, in February of this year the reserve price of $750K was not even close to being met and the car was withdrawn from auction. 

If you take away the story, that's a lot of money for a 440- one could have an ultra-rare Hemi Superbird for $250K in today's recession... although this EPA car has got to be the cleanest-looking one I've ever seen, I'll give him that- love the 'undercover cop car' look.


Pics/more at Reaganite Republican
________________________________________________________

HowStuffWorks   Car and Driver   TopSpeed   AutoBlog   Hemmings   EverythingMuscle   Wikipedia   EPA.gov


TOPICS: Government; History; Politics; Science
KEYWORDS: cars; epa; polution; supercars

1 posted on 07/03/2012 1:31:23 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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To: Reaganite Republican

Compared to the AMC Pacer or Gremlin, it’s an okay car, but it’s truly a ***butt ugly*** vehicle:

http://sportscaradvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/05/1970-plymouth-superbird.jpg

A car only Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles could like.


2 posted on 07/03/2012 1:36:33 PM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs and most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: Reaganite Republican
In 1969, I was a 10 year old motorhead growing up in a college town.

By then, I had most of the easy to find Hot Wheels cars and track and had built most of the cool models, etc. Mom drove a V8 Barracuda with the push button transmission. Both my sisters were in college and all their boy friends and girl friends had or drove cool cars. It was 1969. How could you not be a motorhead?

I remember the day the mom of the guy my sister married got a brand new Daytona Charger. We all rode our bikes over to check it out. It was easily the coolest car anyone had ever seen.

It looks a bit dated now, but I still remember seeing that first one.

3 posted on 07/03/2012 1:58:00 PM PDT by revo evom
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To: Reaganite Republican

700,000 dollars to bring that thing back to stock?

That’s crazy. What did they do charge him $700 dollars an hour to work on it.


4 posted on 07/03/2012 2:02:18 PM PDT by Venturer
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To: Venturer

I think a lot of it was restoring original Nichels NASCAR-grade upgrades and EPA test equipment, cost obviously no object for this buyer.

That cost is 3-7x times what any other matching-#s Superbird would bring in perfect condition, no doubt


5 posted on 07/03/2012 2:18:59 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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To: ken5050; AdvisorB

*** PING ***


6 posted on 07/03/2012 2:19:54 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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To: Reaganite Republican

Odd exhaust modification there - possibly to prevent the chase car's own emissions from interfering with the on-board measuring equipment.

Whether you think this car ugly or stunning, the buyer in '79 got one heck of a bargain.

7 posted on 07/03/2012 2:23:56 PM PDT by Charles Martel (Endeavor to persevere...)
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To: Reaganite Republican

http://www.legendsofnascar.com/Ray_Nichels.htm


8 posted on 07/03/2012 2:26:58 PM PDT by nascarnation
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To: revo evom

I have a very similar memory

Although from a Ford family -Dad/relatives worked there-
I will never forget my uncle pulling into our driveway with a brand-new, Lime Green 1970 Roadrunner... hitting the horn ‘Mneep mneep’ as he turned onto the apron

AWESOME


9 posted on 07/03/2012 2:37:05 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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To: carriage_hill

Most buyers back then agreed with you in 1970 too, and favored the standard-bodied car

Me? Without all the stickers, I really like it... this is the best-looking one I’ve ever seen, actrually

To each his own~


10 posted on 07/03/2012 2:46:24 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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To: Charles Martel

I was checking out the pipes too, either EPA spec or something Nichels came-up with


11 posted on 07/03/2012 2:47:30 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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To: Reaganite Republican

I have a HS buddy who still has his ‘67 383ci Dodge Dart GTS
and his after-grad ‘70 426 Street-Hemi Plymouth SB. They both “go like stink”, draw crowds, but I’d take this one, any day:

http://a.abcnews.com/images/Business/abc_shelby_090428_ssh.jpg

Just me.


12 posted on 07/03/2012 4:22:17 PM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs and most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: carriage_hill

So many cars... so little time (and money!)


13 posted on 07/03/2012 6:12:47 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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To: Reaganite Republican

Yep. Wouldn’t you like to have a-hole Jay Leno’s collection? (((sigh)))


14 posted on 07/03/2012 6:44:36 PM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs and most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: carriage_hill

Oh, yeah


15 posted on 07/03/2012 7:48:20 PM PDT by Reaganite Republican
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