This is Part 2 of the story on our new 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona Project Car. In future Parts we will update you on the Project Car itself and the restoration process. (Start with Part 1)
As the engineers at Chrysler were bragging about their new Charger 500 and its presumed dominance, the Ford race engineers and race shops quietly planned their own aero improvements to their existing Torino and Cyclone. In addition, they were developing their own, all new bigger semi-Hemi 429 cubic inch monster engine.
With these new huge engines, just how important is aerodynamics? Chrysler engineers had well established that increasing race track lap speeds by 1 MPH in the 190 to 200 MPH range required an additional 17 horsepower and improved handling. Approximately half of the horsepower required is used to overcome aerodynamic drag! Preliminary calculations during the design development of the Daytona showed that a 15% drag reduction over the standard 1969 Charger 500 race car would produce an extra 5 MPH lap speed! This became the engineers’ goal and was achieved by the Daytona Race Car.
When all the race teams showed up at Daytona in February 1969 for Speedweeks and the beginning of the 1969 NASCAR season, the new 1969 Charger 500 was there but so was the new 1969 Ford Talladega. Ford had gone so far as to name its newest model after the soon to be opened Super Speedway in Talladega Alabama. The new Ford Talladega also had a flush mounted grill but it also had a radical nose job. The factory fenders had been extended and drooped, the grill was moved out flush with the edge of the nose and sealed tight to the body with a rubber molding, and the body was even legally lowered 1” by modifying the rocker panels.
Unfortunately for the Chrysler Corporation, the Fords did a better job of aero design and even with their old 427 engine, they could outrun the new 426 Hemi Charger 500. The Dodge and Plymouth boys also knew that the new Ford Boss 429 semi-Hemi race engine would soon be joining the new Mercury version of the Talladega as soon as the homologation requirement of 500 production cars was met.
Adding insult to injury, long time Plymouth racer, King Richard Petty abandoned the Plymouth brand at the end of the 1968 NASCAR season to join the Ford Team and drive a Petty Blue Ford Talladega. Things got even worse for the Chrysler boys when the new Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II and the Ford Boss 429 race engines showed up at the racetracks in the spring of 1969.
That is when the real Aero Wars broke out. Dodge was determined to again dominate NASCAR and improve its win on Sunday sell on Monday record. The Chrysler engineers went back to the drawing boards and pulled out all the stops. The cost was no object. The results were the 1969 Dodge Daytona. They took the new Dodge Charger 500 and kept its sloped rear window roof line but added 19” of sloped nose aerodynamics to the front. Hidden headlights, along with a front spoiler and a huge 23” rear wing, were also added. Not only did the rear wing assist with downforce but also acted as a stabilizer, keeping the car steady on the high speed straights and banked high speed turns. The cars were ridiculed for their strange appearance but no one criticized their speed. They were fast.
The results for 1969 were mixed. Although David Pearson and the Ford Talladega again won the Championship and Richard Petty with his Talladega came in second, the Dodge Boys were stepping up their game and winning races. Dodge was late to the season with the Daytona, It may be that the fight in 1969 wasn’t all that fair since Dodge got to the races late with the Daytona and both Ford and Mercury had aero cars. The other Chrysler product, Plymouth, did not have an aero car. Unfortunately, in 1970, Ford factory support went away and Plymouth entered the race with its own version of the Daytona called a Superbird. Richard Petty returned to Plymouth and it was the Chrysler Corporation that would be the NASCAR Champion with Bobby Isaac in a Dodge Daytona. So we never did have a full season with factory backed Aero Warriors from both companies fighting it out on the superspeedways.
For the Dodge Charger Daytona and the Ford Talladega to be legal for NASCAR racing, each had to build 500 examples and have them at the dealerships for sale to the public prior to the Daytona 500. This was a massive and expensive undertaking for the factories, but the “Win on Sunday Sell on Monday” mantra of the day was strong and was based on real sales statistics. The price point of $3,993 MSRP for the Dodge Daytona was high for the day but was far less than the reported $10,000 per car it cost the factory to build these very special machines.