Dodge Charger Daytona
Article by Mark Trotta
From it's wedge-shaped nose to the 23-inch rear wing, the 1969 Daytona Charger measured 18-feet long and was capable of speeds no other production car could match. Powered by Dodge's 426ci Hemi motor, the winged Charger brought a year-and-a-half of NASCAR dominance. Not only is it one of the most famous Dodge cars ever built, it's also one of the most popular in NASCAR history.
The second-generation Dodge Charger was a good-looking car by anyone's standards, but proved to be aerodynamically inefficient. With blunt grilles inducing drag and tunneled rear windows causing lift, they were unable to reach speeds necessary to win on NASCAR racetracks.
Throughout the 1968 season, Dodge finished behind the Ford Torinos and Mercury Cyclones. Unable to pull more power from the already mighty Hemi engine, engineers began developing a more "slippery" body.
Working throughout 1968, Chrysler's Special Vehicles Group designed and built a smoothed version of the production Charger, with a flatter, Coronet grille and rear window moved flush with the roofline. Called the Charger 500, it proved to be a half step toward their ultimate goal. 500 were built in accordance with NASCAR rules.
Ford continued to win on the big NASCAR tracks, including the 1969 Daytona 500. Dodge engineers went back to the wind tunnel for testing.
Midway through 1969, Dodge took the Charger 500 and added an 18-inch nose and chin spoiler. The hood and front fenders were modeled after the upcoming 1970 Charger, with the flush rear window of the Charger 500 retained. Reverse scoops on both front fenders further reduced drag. The Charger Daytona came out of the wind tunnel with a drag coefficient (cd) of 0.28.
On-track testing revealed the pointed nose gave the car the down-force engineers were looking for, but the rear end lifted at high speeds. To solve this, a large wing was mounted to the back of the car, bolted through the rear quarter panels and into the rear sub-frame. The wing was made 23 inches tall so the trunk lid could be opened without hitting the bottom of the wing. Aside from adding additional down-force, the wing helped give the car directional stability.
Offered as an option package, the Dodge Charger Daytona was introduced on April 13, 1969. Standard equipment included heavy-duty suspension and brakes. A Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission was standard, with a four-speed manual optional.
Base motor was the 440 cubic-inch Magnum V8, producing 375-horsepower at 4,600 rpm, with 480 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm. The optional 426 Hemi motor was rated at 425-horsepower at 5,000 rpm and had 490 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.
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Despite its high-speed capability and wild looks, the Daytona did not sell well. At the time, most consumers found the aero-look unattractive, plus it was not an easy car to live with every day. Parking the 18-foot long car anywhere was difficult, and when driven too slowly, the motor could overheat. Between 500 to 510 cars were built, enough to comply with NASCAR rules.
1969 NASCAR Season
Before the introduction of the Charger Daytona, Ford was beating Dodge handily in competition. Fords took the top five spots at Atlanta, the top four at Michigan, and finished first and second in eight of their thirteen victories. All of that changed in September at the Alabama International Motor Speedway.
When built, the Talladega NASCAR track in Alabama was the longest and most steeply banked track in the country. Both the new track and aerodynamic body improvements allowed cars to run faster than ever, with speeds surpassing the capabilities of current tire technology. Both Firestone and Goodyear announced that neither could supply a tire capable of running at such speeds.
With safety a main concern, many NASCAR drivers banded together and voiced concerns. When their request to postpone the race was denied, Richard Petty, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Donnie and Bobby Allison, James Hylton and others staged the first and only NASCAR driver boycott. Charlie Glotzbach had run a lap time of 199.466 mph in qualifying, which would have put his #88 Charger Daytona on the pole. Due to the driver walk-out, neither he nor the car were in the Talladega race.
1969 Talladega 500
September 14, 1969, marked the inaugural Talladega 500 race. It was also the NASCAR debut of the Dodge Charger Daytona. Because of the walkout, only two Dodge Daytonas ran at the inaugural Talladega 500, the red #71 driven by Bobby Isaac, and the blue #99 driven by Richard Brickhouse.
As the boycott depleted most of the regular drivers, the rest of the field was filled with Camaros, Firebirds, Mustangs, and a Javelin, all of whom had run the 400 mile race the night before. Bobby Isaac's spirited driving set a NASCAR record lap of 199.658 mph, although tire issues saw him finish fourth. The race was completed with no crashes or spin outs, with first place going to Richard Brickhouse.
1970 NASCAR Season
Driving the 426 Hemi-powered, Chrysler Engineering #88 Daytona, Buddy Baker became the first stock-car driver to turn a lap at more than 200 mph. After several attempts during practice at the Talladega track, the crew put on a fresh set of tires, adjusted the wing, and added tape over the front grille opening to reduce wind resistance. A few tries later, Baker ran a 200.096 mph lap, four laps later running 200.448 mph. The record would stand for 17 years.
Plymouth applied the Daytona formula to their Road Runner in 1970, creating the Superbird. With Chrysler deciding to field only one winged race car, production of the Dodge Charger Daytona ended, although several were still campaigned in the 1970 NASCAR season.
One of the most famous NASCAR Dodges is the red #71 Daytona driven by Bobby Isaac. At the 1970 Talladega race, Isaac broke Buddy Baker's fast-lap record, running 201.104 mph. Isaac went on to win the Grand National title that year, with 11 wins and 38 top-tens in 47 starts.
After the 1970 season, NASCAR changed eligibility rules - engine displacement of winged cars was limited to 305-cid, while non-aero cars were allowed to run engines up to 429-cid. The aero-cars had had their day.
Dodge Charger Daytona Breaks Records At Bonneville
In September 1971, NASCAR driver Bobby Isaac took his Daytona Charger to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Isaac broke 28 world speed records, most notably the two-way flying mile speed of 216.946 miles per hour.
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