When Cars Flew: The Story of the 1969 Dodge Daytona
It was 1969, and the folks at Dodge were worried. Their ’69 Charger 500 had done a miserable job competing on the so-called “super-speedways” (tracks longer than one mile). So, they went back to the drawing board, abandoning conventional designs in an all-out effort to produce a winning stock car. They succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, creating one of the most heralded speed machines in automotive history: the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona.
The Dodge Daytona is one of the five “aero-warriors” that dominated NASCAR races during the 1969-70 seasons. Powered by a 440 CID Magnum engine, the Daytona earned its “aero” designation from the sheet metal cowl placed over the vehicle’s front grille. This was done to reduce drag, thereby improving aerodynamics.
The Daytona also featured a stabilizer wing in the rear, a cap over the Charger’s normally recessed rear window, and fender-mounted cooling scoops for the brakes. In place of the 440, a 426 CID Hemi powered a handful of Daytona models. If you own one of these Daytonas, count yourself very lucky. Only 70 were ever built.
The Daytona, along with its successor the Plymouth Superbird, won a total of 14 races between 1969-70. Meanwhile, the Charger 500 continued to dominate short-track races, winning 21 such contests during ’69 and ’70. Then, for reasons that make little sense to me, the suits at NASCAR decided that the aero-warriors were just too good at winning races. They passed rules in 1971 that effectively banned all five of the vehicles from further competition.
Despite this ignominious ending, the Daytona has a huge fan base to this day, with numerous websites devoted to not only it but also the other aero-warriors. This nostalgia for one of the great racing vehicles of the 20th century has helped to boost asking prices for the models that remain. One with the 426 Hemi engine, for example, will set the buyer back around $300,000, money well spent in the mind of this writer.
Photo Credit: Mecum Auctions