Some of the world's most interesting cars have the greatest stories behind them. The Dodge Daytona and the Plymouth Superbird are no different. At their core, they were built to shame Ford and Chevrolet in NASCAR, but Dodge was so adamant to ensure the car's success that it went through great engineering measures. Like, bringing on an individual from Chrysler's missile division to engineer the car.
Yes, Chrysler had a missile division, as Donut Media recalled in its latest episode of "Up to Speed." Chrysler built ballistic missiles designed by Nazi scientists that the United States brought back following the end of World War II. You can dive deeper into the program, called Operation Paperclip, on your own. Back to the Dodge Daytona.
The rocket scientist's name was John Pointer and he helped Dodge engineers and designers create the pointy, streamlined Daytona. The massive wing stuck the Daytona to the track and provided immense grip, and the fender scoops secretly relieved air pressure that built up under the car to provide even more grip. It also helps the Dodge Daytona was incredibly fast, as in, the first NASCAR to break 200 mph kind of fast.
Then came the Plymouth Superbird, which underwent a few exterior modifications to make it a slightly more attractive machine to sell. The nose was resculpted and the wing moved up further on the trunk, and argubaly, it does look better. However, it was about 3 mph slower than the Dodge Daytona on the track, which made a big difference on race day.
Still, none other than Richard Petty returned to race for Plymouth in the 1970 NASCAR season and decimated with the slightly slower car. In fact, the Superbird and Daytona won 33 out of 48 races in the 1970 season. NASCAR eventually introduced regulations to curb engine displacement for aero cars like the Superbird and Daytona, which effectively killed both cars in one swoop. Still, to this day, both represent something pretty special: a true street-legal race car.