Collector Car Corner

The Legendary 1969 Dodge Charger 500 And Daytona


Q: Greg, please tell me about the 1969 Dodge Charger 500 and how it grew into the Dodge Daytona with the big wing on back and aero front end. Thanks much, and keep these columns coming. Al Miles, Chicago, IL

A: Al, I’d be glad to. Specifically, the 1969 Charger 500 was purposely built to compete on the NASCAR tracks and go after the Ford and Mercury domination. Dodge designers decided it was time to strike back aerodynamically and make several changes. They took the 1969 Charger, added a straight rear window along with a new grille to improve downforce on the superspeedways.

Legendary 1969 Dodge Charger 500 And Daytona

1969 Dodge Charger 500 advertisement. (Compliments Chrysler Group LLC)

The Charger 500 was officially introduced to the public in the fourth quarter of 1968 as a 1969 model. The base entry 500 came with a 440 Magnum V8, while the 426 Hemi was a $648.20 option. The base Charger 500 carried a $3,842.00 retail price and the street model offered several options.

However, the 1969 Charger 500 failed to beat the more aerodynamic Ford Torino and Mercury Talladega cars on the superspeedways, so it was back to the drawing board.

This all leads us directly to the unbelievable 1969 Dodge Daytona and 1970 Plymouth Superbird, the “grand daddies” of them all when it comes to aero and actual public availability. Instead of a grille change and a rear window upgrade, Dodge (and later Plymouth) went full-bore-forward by adding an 18-inch long nose extension and a 23-inch tall rear wing, all of which were tested at Lockheed-Martin’s wind tunnel in Georgia. The wing, by the way, was bolted directly into the rear subframe so it would hold up at speeds in excess of 200-mph. Chrysler also admits that the rear facing hood “scoops” were necessary for tire clearance, but actually reduced drag by three-percent. Combined with the front nose and rear wing, this setup gave MOPAR the slipstream and downforce needed to defeat the Fords and Mercurys. . .and boy did it!

Legendary 1969 Dodge Charger 500 And Daytona

NASCAR legend Dave Marcis behind the wheel of his race ready 426 Hemi Dodge Daytona. (Dave Marcis collection photo)

To my luck, I was able to attend the 1970 Rockingham 500 thanks to being stationed at Fort Jackson, SC. Richard Petty won that day in his No. 43 Plymouth Superbird, even after spinning out in the fourth turn all by himself and ending up in his pit box (!!!), where the Pettys changed his tires, fueled him up, and sent him on his way to victory. Rockingham, by the way, is a smaller track of just over a mile in length, but it was clear that the Superbird and Daytona were superior. The cars also dominated the superspeedway races, too, in 1970.

Notable, too, was NASCAR’s “public availability” rule that was way different in 1969 and 1970 than it was in 1963, when Chevy introduced its famous “Mystery 427” engine that required only 50 to be built.

Unlike 1969, with a rule of 500 units, NASCAR demanded in 1970 that any vehicle raced on its tracks had to be available on a “one-car-per-every-two-dealerships” formula. The Dodge Daytona snuck by with the 500 unit rule as it was introduced in 1969, but sibling Plymouth Superbird, released in early 1970, had to build 1,920 Superbirds based on dealer locations. Although not verified, it is said Plymouth built near 2,800 Superbirds, much to the public’s delight.

In contrast, only 503 Charger Daytonas were ever built, with 433 coming in street version 440 Magnum trim. The pro race teams and some lucky collectors gobbled up the other 70 Hemi Daytonas.

NASCAR finally put a stop to the overuse of aero kits in 1971, penalizing any winged car with a strict less horsepower limitation via a 305-inch engine limit. By 1971, only one Dodge Daytona competed in the season opening Daytona 500, driven by the late Dick Brooks to a seventh place finish.

Hope this all helps and thanks for your letter as it brought back great memories of my days at Ft. Jackson.


Reader Recalls 1954 Kaiser Darrin Fiberglass-bodied Sports Car


Q: Dear Greg, I enjoy reading your articles in Auto Round-Up every two weeks. In 1982, I was in Hastings, NE, visiting a former US Navy shipmate of mine. While there he took me to visit a friend of his that had a welding shop.

During this visit the owner took us out to see his antique car collection that he had accumulated over the years. Most of them were of Kaiser manufactured cars, including four complete and running Kaiser Darrin fiberglass-bodied sports cars.

Recalls Kaiser Darrin Sports Car

The 1954 Kaiser Darrin sports featured sliding doors . (Photos courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

The doors slid into the front fender, which I had never seen before or since. He said that only a few hundred were manufactured. Can you tell me more about these cars? Gordon D. Clark, Forest Lake, PA.

A: Gordon, I’d be glad to as I also had a similar experience when my friends and I visited a car collector’s collection in Ohio. But he only had one Kaiser Darrin!

To be specific on your question, the 1954 Kaiser Darrin was the brainchild of the late Howard Darrin, Kaiser’s chief designer and personal friend of Henry J. Kaiser. Darrin created a clay model in 1952 with full backing from Kaiser, and worked with his son in California on the car. The duo selected the company’s Henry J chassis and a 90-horsepower Willys 161-inch six-cylinder engine for power.

As you note, the Darrin was produced for only one year in 1954 and only 430 Kaiser Darrins were ever built. Rumors have five 1953 pre-production models assembled, although only one pre-production model has even been documented.
Ultramodern for its day in every sense of the word, Darrins featured a two-seat fiberglass body, Cyclops style front grille, thee sliding forward doors you note, one piece tinted windshield with wipers and washers and a three-position Landau hood (to name but a few of Darrin’s many innovations). It is regarded as one of America’s most unique sports cars, and only one year behind the introduction of the ’53 Corvette. Only four colors were initially available: off-white, light green, red and yellow. Later in the year, special order colors were accepted.

Recalls Kaiser Darrin Sports Car

The 1954 Kaiser Darrin sports car is a rare beauty, and well ahead of its time. Some 300 of the original 430 built still exist today. (Photos courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

Sadly, Kaiser gave up on automobile production in mid-1954 to concentrate on “non-car” vehicles. Darrin himself purchased the last 100 Kaiser Darrins from Kaiser-Willys, and then added way more power to the remaining Darrins by ordering and installing powerful 331-inch Cadillac V8 engines. He sold the remaining V8 Darrins through his personally-owned dealership in Los Angeles, CA.

The V8-powered Darrin could do 145 mph, and sold for $4,400 while the 90-horsepower version, which could do just over 90-mph top speed, sold for $3,600. Also, two of the production 1954 models came equipped with supercharged 6-cylinder engines, making it a fast sports car and extremely rare.

Collectors lucky to own a Kaiser Darrin have a very unique piece of automotive history on their hands, be it a 6-cylinder or the V8. As for current prices at Mecum and Barrett-Jackson auctions, 6-cylinder original to fully restored Darrins can go from $90,000 to $150,000 or more. As for the supercharged Darrin, one went for $220,000 at a Barrett-Jackson Auction back in 2010. I’m waiting for a V8 Darrin to cross the national auctions one day in 2014, and feel it could bring $250,000 to $300,000, maybe more. (My personal opinion.)

Experts say 300 Darrins remain in the hands of serious collectors, so keep your eye open for Darrins at upcoming Mecum or Barrett-Jackson auctions.

In Memory Of Andy Granatelli



As we close out 2013 and usher in 2014, we’ll take time this column to thank one of the car industry’s most talented and legendary individuals, Andy Granatelli. Granatelli, who is best known for his wins at the Indy 500 and his beloved STP brand of oil treatment, died of heart failure Sunday afternoon, Dec. 29, at the age of 90.

In Memory Of Andy Granatelli

The legendary STP logo. STP stands for Scientifically Treated Petroleum and is still a popular oil additive to this day. (Compliments STP).

Aside from his excellent promotion and marketing of the STP brand through motorsports, and the subsequent millions of street-driven vehicles that carried the STP decals, Granatelli’s major influence started with Studebaker Corp., the noted independent car and truck manufacturer. Granatelli served as CEO of STP after Studebaker put him in charge of the Chemical Compounds Corp. and one of its products was the STP Oil Treatment.


In Memory Of Andy Granatelli

Advertisement for the record breaking Studebaker Avanti from 1962. In 1963, Granatelli upped the speed to over 190 mph. (Compliments former Studebaker Corp.)

As time went on, Granatelli became the principal at Studebaker Racing in the early 1960s while also involvedwith the McCulloch Supercharger Company that supplied superchargers in 1957 and 1958 for those beautiful Golden Hawks.

McCullough and Paxton, by the way, were pretty much one and the same and the brainchild of Robert Paxton McCulloch, thus the name branding. McCulloch established a Paxton Supercharger division in 1956, and by 1962, Granatelli, who was then President of Paxton and still head of Studebaker Racing Division, spearheaded a Studebaker purchase of Paxton Superchargers.
It was a perfect fit.

Granatelli’s influence and talent was immediate, as the 1962-63 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawks and Studebaker Avantis came with Paxton Superchargers as standard equipment. Granatelli also designed the engine under the hood and then drove an Avanti himself (see photo) at Bonneville’s Salt Flats. In 1963, he guided an Avanti with a Paxton supercharger to a timed run of 196.58 mph and proclaimed Avanti as the world’s fastest street car.

Of course, Granatelli went on to worldwide fame with his STP Indy Cars and his 30-year long STP sponsorship of the “King” of NASCAR, Richard Petty. In addition to Petty’s numerous wins and championships, Granatelli experienced victory at Indianapolis when he won in 1969 with Mario Andretti (fans surely recall Andretti receiving a victory lane kiss from Granatelli) and again in 1973 with Gordon Johncock.” Said Indianapolis Motor Speedway

President J. Douglas Boles, “Andy Granatelli, known as ‘Mister 500,’ understood better than anyone the spirit and challenge of the Indianapolis 500. He had a remarkable ability to combine innovative technologies with talented race car drivers to make his cars a threat to win at Indianapolis every year. Andy leaves a legacy of historic moments that will live forever in Indianapolis 500 lore.”

In Memory Of Andy Granatelli he is pictured here with Mario Andretti who won the 1969 Indy 500

Andy Granatelli was a motorsports legend when it came to marketing. His STP sponsored cars were winners as shown here with 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti, left, and Granatelli. (Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo)

In ending, Granatelli’s book, “They Call Me Mr. 500,” is a great read and goes in depth on the man’s influence in marketing, motoring and racing.

Rest in peace, Andy Granatelli, and thanks for all the memories.

What Is The Value Of A 1967 Mustang with a 6-cylinder engine?


Q: Hi Greg, I have a ’67 Mustang with a 6-cylinder engine. It needs some work but looks good from 10 feet. I want to sell this car and have no idea on how much it is worth. Could you give me some advice as I would appreciate it very much. Leroy Gonzales, Anchorage, AK

A: Leroy, first and foremost you have a desirable Mustang, be it a 6-cylinder or a 289-V8. Granted, the V8s are more popular and bring more money, but today many enthusiasts that get their hands on a ’67 in good shape won’t shy away because of the smaller engine. Your 6-cylinder Mustang is listed in current NADA classic value books at a low of $5,180, average of $15,760 to a high of $21,360.


Value of 1967 Mustang

Leroy Gonzales has a very nice 1967 Mustang at his home in Anchorage, Alaska. The car is worth in the neighborhood of at least $12,500. (Submitted photo)

Had it been a 289-V8, pricing would go up to $7,446, $22,655 and $30,705, respectively. The top value is the 427/425 horse V8, which commands $10,683, $32,505 and $44,055, respectively.
If I were you, I wouldn’t let my Mustang go for anything less than $12,500 as many retro hot rodders or drag racers buy these 6-cylinder cars, add new engines, transmissions and 9-inch Ford rears, and end up with $40,000 plus vehicles. Good luck and thanks for your question.

Value of a 1967 Mustang

An ad for the 1967 Ford Mustang when it was released

American Motors, Nash, Hudson, Sister Laurentina and the Rambler Metropolitan


Q: I enjoyed your article on the Metropolitan. But I did notice a few errors-_maybe a slip of the word processor!

American Motors was formed with a merger of Nash and Hudson, not Nash and Rambler. The Rambler was a model in the Nash line. The first Rambler car came out in 1902 manufactured by the Thomas Jeffery Company in Kenosha, WI. The name was later changed to Jeffery and then to Nash when Charles Nash bought the company. Nash then re-introduced the Rambler name in 1950 with the Nash Rambler.

When Nash and Hudson merged in 1954, there were Nash Ramblers and Hudson Ramblers in 1955 and 1956. In 1957 they were just called Rambler, with the Nash and Hudson names dropped. There were Nash and Hudson Metropolitans in 1955 and 1956, but again the Nash and Hudson part of the name was dropped in 1957 and they became just Metropolitan. I don’t believe there was ever a Rambler Metropolitan. The Rambler American came out in 1958, not ‘59, and it was a re-introduction of a slightly restyled 1955 Nash/Hudson Rambler as the 1956 Nash/Hudson Rambler was a completely new car and remained basically the same through 1962 except for styling and dropping the Nash/Hudson names. Steve Parsons, Washington, IL

A: Steve, first and foremost thanks for your letter. Many times, readers will prance on a writer if they make a mistake, but you handled it like my favorite teacher from back in the 1960s used to, namely Sister Laurentina of the Sisters of Saint Joseph who taught me at Sacred Heart High School in Vineland, NJ, from 1964 to 1967.

Instead of belittling a student, Sister always “gave an exit” for keeping a kid’s head high. Sister Laurentina also always stressed to me that if I followed what I loved, (and she knew I loved cars and racing) that regardless of how much money I made, I’d always be a success.

Thank you Sister and Steve!

Rambler Metrolpilitan

••Advertisement for the 1960 “Rambler-Metropolitan,” explains why some would think of the car as a Rambler Metropolitan. (Ad compliments of former American Motors Company.)

Anyway, you indeed caught me in a brain fade error on the ’58 Rambler American and the official Nash/Hudson agreement, but Sister Laurentina would be the first to offer an exit on the Metropolitan in question. She would mention that from 1957 through 1962, all Metropolitans without the Hudson or Nash badge were available only at Rambler dealers, officially Rambler-Metropolitan showrooms. Thus, the consumer took for granted he or she was buying a “Rambler Metropolitan.” (See attached advertisement of 1960 Metropolitan.)

I’ve been writing a lot about Hudson/Nash/AMC/Rambler recently, and the person who made Nash such a commercial success was George Mason. I should have explained how I came up with the Rambler Metropolitan name, but I’ll let the artwork and Sister Laurentina’s memory handle that for me.

Your letter gives an excellent time capsule of Nash and Hudson, and I appreciate it very much. Have a Happy New Year and if you see me mess up again, don’t hesitate to write.

Car Models Yesterday and Today: AMT, Jo-Han, Monogram, Revell, MPC and Lindberg


Q: Greg, I am a model car lover and remember all of the great model companies from the 1950s through today. I was wondering if you know of the heritage of these companies, including Jo-Han, AMT, Monogram and the others. I used to build these cars when I was a youngster, and still enjoy the hobby although my eyesight is not as good today, as I’m now 76 years old. I know you like models, too, as I read your column on them a while back. Matthew H., Easton, PA

A:: Matthew, I indeed love models and when time permits, I still enjoy building a few. I started building models in the 1950s, one of first being a 12-passenger VW Bus from Monogram.
The major model companies I recall are:

Car Models Yesterday and Today

••The Lindberg 1961 Chevy SS 409 is a popular model. (Photo courtesy Lindberg)

1: AMT – founded in 1948 with the initials standing for Aluminum Model Toys. However, in 1950 AMT began using plastic injection molding, and to this day, AMT is still the premier model company. Along the way, AMT was sold to Matchbox in ’78 and then to its present day owners, Ertl, in the 1980s. I’ve probably built 500 AMT models in my day and still have several cases of new models. Memorable are the “3 in 1” kits, which could be built stock, slightly modified or fully customized. My favorite to this day is the 1940 Ford Coupe and Sedan.

2: Jo-Han – always a favorite of mine as they released models of cars that weren’t as popular as a Corvette. Jo-Han offered Rambler station wagons, police cars and even a hearse if I remember correctly. Founded in 1947 by John Hanley (thus the Jo-Han name), the company made its mark building promotional models in 1955 for General Motors that were given away by the dealers to consumers. Jo-Han’s famous plastic model kits include the Richard Petty Plymouth No. 43 from the 1960s, the Chrysler Turbine show car and several of the off-brand kits mentioned earlier. To this day, Jo-Han models are popular on the internet sites.

3: Monogram – I think every modeler loved the Monogram kits as they were really cheap and offered a different series of cars than Jo-Han and AMT. Who can forget the first kit, namely a Midget race car with the driver figure that debuted in 1953? Next was a “big car” Indy Offenhauser racer, similar to the midget kit in that you actually glued each side together. Monogram then got real serious, releasing the 1/24 scale “Black Widow,” “Green Hornet” and other popular kits that to this day are in demand (and many re-released). Monogram is also big with airplane models, too.

4: Revell: Perhaps the granddaddy of the big model kit companies, Revell was founded in 1943 and began its foray into plastic kits in the mid-1950s. You’ll notice today that sometimes Revell and Monogram appear on the kit box as these companies merged in 1986 and to this day continue to release great kits, especially muscle cars and drag cars.

5: MPC – Model Products Company (MPC) came about when then AMT president and model world “Godfather” George Toteff resigned from AMT in 1964 to form his own company. MPC to this day also sells re-released models to hobby shops nationwide by the name “Round 2.” Great kits, I might add, including everything from Connie Kalitta’s “Bounty Hunter” to a ’78 AMC Pacer!

Car Models Yesterday and Today

•The Ramchargers Dodge Dart Funny Car is just one of many MPC has released over the years. (Photo courtesy MPC)

6: Lindberg – this company, based in Illinois, rounds out our top six major model kit manufacturers. Lindberg is also known for muscle and drag racing cars. I still have the ’64 Ramchargers Dodge and a ’61 Chevy 409 SS yet to be built.

All of these companies still offer models at hobby shops and numerous websites. Thanks much, Matthew, for taking our readers down model kit memory lane.

The Very First Sport Utility Vehicle: The Jeep Station Wagon


Q: Greg, I enjoyed reading your column about the first ever domestic hatchback, which you gave to the 1949-1954 Kaiser Traveler utility sedan and sibling Frazer Vagabond from 1949-1951. You said that both had had “all of the necessities to be called the ‘Godfather of the modern era hatchback.’ If you could mention what you feel is the first ever Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV), which model would it be? Of course, we’re looking for made in America vehicles. Thanks, George Andrews, Dover, DE

A: George, thanks for remembering my column concerning the Kaiser Traveler and Frazer Vagabond, both available starting in 1949. These vehicles offered the consumer a hatchback style drop-down trunk, a flip up rear window and rear seats that folded down. The cabin featured wood skid strips that helped hold the cargo in place, and Kaiser advertising pointed to the fact that an owner could put a double bed in the pickup truck like cargo space.
As for naming the first ever SUV, that’s an easy call to make.
Of all vehicles out there, the 1949 Willys Jeep Station Wagon in my opinion is the very first SUV ever built, as it included a strong four-wheel drive underbody with the flexibility of the station wagon body design.

Jeep Station Wagon: The Very First SUV

•The 1949 Jeep Station Wagon receives recognition as the first ever Sport Utility Vehicle in this week’s Cars We Remember. Built in Toledo, OH, less than 4,500 wagons with the 4×4 option were ever built. (Ad complements former Willys-Overland)

Willys-Overland called the creation simply the Jeep Station Wagon, which debuted as a standalone model in 1946 but available in rear wheel drive configuration only. Available through 1948, this initial rear-drive wagon received power from a four cylinder for the first two years and then a new six-cylinder in 1948.
However, when Willys offered four-wheel drive as an option on its 1949 wagon, the die was cast. Not only was Jeep the first ever official SUV, this vehicle laid the groundwork for a great future ahead that includes eight decades through 2014. Notable, too, is the rarity of that first SUV, as less than 4,500 1949 “4x4” wagons were produced at Jeep’s Toledo, Ohio, factory.

The importance of this end of the Forties decade innovation, however, cannot be disputed. To this day, Jeep inspired 4×4 SUVs still combine passenger room, off-road capabilities, towing ability and cargo space are the hallmarks of success. Today, millions of modern-day Jeeps travel the nation’s highways, with a lucky few still motoring in 1949 wagons.

Jeep Station Wagon: The Very First SUV

•By 1963, the Jeep Wagoneer replaced the popular Jeep Station Wagon and became a best seller for American Motors Corporation (AMC). (Ad complements former AMC)

Produced through the 1962 model year, the original wagon received an upgrade in 1963 dubbed Jeep Wagoneer (see photo). Next came the Jeep Cherokee in 1984 and then a bevy of modern day marvels culminating in this year’s brilliant 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4.

Thanks for your question George, and also thanks to Willys-Overland, AMC and Chrysler LLC for keeping the Jeep SUV brand at the top.



Q: Greg, I enjoyed your article about Studebaker being the first non-“Big Three” (GM-Ford-Chrysler) independent to build an overhead valve V8. I’m a Cadillac fan, and want your input about their huge V-16 engines that were around in the 1930s era. Thanks for the interesting columns. Harry L., Baltimore, MD.

A: Harry, Cadillac was always a major developer of engines and transmissions, debuting its first V-8 in 1915. As for transmissions, Cadillac was responsible for the very first syncro-mesh transmission that appeared in 1929.

However, as the Great Depression was in full swing, Cadillac built and sold both a V-12 and a V-16 powered car in 1930. The V-16 in question lasted until 1937 prior to a new, and final, V-126 engine built for 1938 and through 1940.

The initial V-16 came in at 452 cubic inches and were pretty much two, straight eight engines mated into the “V” by using a single crankshaft and crankcase. Horsepower was not real high, as it was rated at 165-horses although a big number back then. The second V-16 came in at 431 cubic inches but produced more horses, at 185.


Here’s a photo of Cadillac’s V-16 engine from back in the 1930s decade. Sized at 452 inches, it mated two straight eight engines with a main crankshaft, which was shared in a “V” format. (Cadillac Photo.)

Notable, too, is Cadillac’s V-12, also built for 1930 and lasting until 1937. Displacement came in at 352 inches and horsepower was listed at 135-horses.

Other Cadillac engines of note were the 472 and 500 cubic inch V8s, which appeared in 1968 through 1976 Cadillacs, the potent CTS-V LS1 through LS6 (Z06 Corvette) engines of the 2000 decade, and today’s turbocharged, CTS-V that puts out 556 supercharged horsepower from just 6.2-liters and goes from zero to 60 in just 3.9 seconds.

Additionally, the very first overhead valve V8 came thanks to Cadillac and Oldsmobile, in 1949 and the first valve train and cylinder deactivation system came in 1981 with the Cadillac V8-6-4 engine. Although the latter was plagued with electronic trouble, is was the forerunner of today’s successful engines that rely on this cylinder deactivation theory.

It is also important to note that to this day, Cadillac still has mechanical autonomy versus other GM models to build what it feels is needed to compete globally. In ending, I’ve been a Cadillac fan for years, and I have owned a 1972 4-door Sedan Deville and a 1975 Coupe Deville 2-door, both of which I enjoyed immensely. As for styling, it was the 1948 Cadillac designed by legendary Harley Earl that first sprouted tail fins. •Thanks for your letter.


Cadillac’s new cars, like the 556-horsepower CTS-V, utilize what they learn on the world’s race tracks and then incorporate the technologies into the street-driven, high horsepower Cadillacs available today. (Cadillac photo.)