Best Muscle Cars

Richard Petty’s Plymouth Superbird: When $3.5 million Is Not Enough

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richard petty superbird image

By Dave Ashton

Sometimes when a car goes up for auction, it simply doesn’t hit it’s reserve price. This was the case with Richard Petty and his 1970 Plymouth Superbird. Arguably one of the most famous American racing cars, bidding topped out at $3.5 million and was apparently far short of the undisclosed reserve price. If the reserve price had been met, it would have made the Superbird the highest priced NASCAR vehicle sold at auction.

Mecum Auctions live

A call from the auctioneer to start at a cool $10 million fell on deaf ears, with bidding starting at $1 million and ended with a $3.5 million phone bid.

The Superbird was part of the Todd Werner collection, which was amongst other tasty muscle cars ready to cross the auction block at Mecum. Petty 82, was also in the audience for the auction, stating ‘anytime you got in that car you knew you had a chance to win the race.’
Petty used a bunch of Superbirds during the 1970 race season and it was Todd Werner who had the eagle eyes to recognize this particular Superbird as one of the originals. The car was taken to Petty Enterprises where it was completely restored with its iconic Petty Blue paint and the no.43.

But Why, oh why is this elongated muscle car so significant?
Like any iconic vehicle, there are a number of factors. ‘The King’ Richard Petty was the driver to have in 1970 and being with Ford at the time, Petty would only go back to Plymouth if a potent ‘winged Warrior’ or ‘aero car’ was at his disposal, just like the Dodge Charger Daytona.

The 1970 Superbird which was only around for one season and featured a 426 Hemi V8 with the potential to hit 200mph. The formula worked and resulted in 18 race wins and 31 top 10 finishes. NASCAR then put a halt to aero cars competing after 1970. As the street versions didn’t sell very well, precious few remain and are now ultra collectors items, especially with a 426 Hemi V8. The rest of the street going versions featured a 440ci V8. Thus, rare, iconic and it also marked the height of the classic muscle car era where there was literally no replacement for displacement. The iconic Petty blue paint and the number 43 also standout as a hallmark for that period of racing. In many ways, if you want to own the ultimate golden era muscle car, this is probably it.

The other significant aspect of this car is the barebones interior. Modern NASCAR vehicles aren’t exactly plush limos inside, but the Petty Superbird in comparison is a steering wheel, a seat and that’s about it. Basically, seat of your pants driving and some would argue the most raw and purist form of the sport.

Read more about the original listing here.


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