A Very Special Dodge Daytona 500
OK, it looks like I've gone and done it again. Chris Hafner wrote about the Capri, I did the Capri II. He did the Plymouth Superbird, now here I am with the Dodge Daytona 500. But hey, for inspiration, I get it where I can.
To some MOPAR (MOtor PARts) fans, both of these cars are known as aero cars, and they are also corporate cousins of each other.
Of course, the Plymouth Superbird was only made for 1970 and the Dodge Daytona 500's year was 1969. Each car was made for one model year so that the car could compete in NASCAR races with the pointed nose and rear wing/spoiler, both designed by NASA. These aerodynamic additions and others (please note the flush rear window) to the car body gave it quite an advantage over lesser rounded cars of this vintage. The rear wing was very sturdy--there are even photos of a man sitting on top of it just to prove its rigidity.
But what makes this particular car so special is not its condition or rarity. Nope, it's special because it is one of only two Dodge Daytona 500s left on the planet that are still in the possession of their original owners.
Now let's fast forward 40 years, from 1969 to Father's Day, 2009, at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. The museum has a small but notable collection of cars, including the only running Chrysler Turbine Car in a private collection, as well as Bobby Darin's 1960 DiDia Dream Car. Admission was free that day, but the cold drinks weren't--and it was sweltering outside!
Mr. Hoehn (I won't give his full name here for privacy purposes) was more than glad to show us around his car, answer any questions we had, and pose for the camera with his car for this post. He even offered to drop the hood for the photos, but I didn't want to put him to the trouble. I do wish that the 440-cubic-inch Magnum had shown up better in the picture, though. My bad.
He said that the third surviving original Daytona 500 owner had recently passed, leaving him and one other to continue this proud tradition. I don't know who the other original owner is, but it sure would be nice to get these cars and folks together.
Virtually everything about the car was original, though it had been repainted with the original colors. He showed us how the gas cap worked, as it took a separate key than the one used to start the car.
He went over the history of his car, how he found tires for it, how he painstakingly cares for it.
These cars made movie history, too. In Joe Dirt, a ratty Daytona 500 was the ride of choice for David Spade's character. The 1969 Charger (less the Daytona 500 package) was also the base car for the General Lee of The Dukes of Hazzard TV and movie fame.
All were proudly displayed in a glass case next to the car. Don't these prices look ridiculously low by 2010's numbers! I wish the delivery charge on a new car was $62. A total sticker price of $4,638.20? That's close to the sales tax today on a new top-end Dodge Challenger here in Tennessee.
I don't know if I could own the same car for more than 40 years, but I guess I could if it was a special one like this. A Daytona 500 will always raise eyebrows, as they have since they were new. And thanks to meticulous preservation efforts like the one here, we'll have great and special ones around for a very long time to come.
Here's to you, Mr. Hoehn!
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
Thanks to Wikipedia for some technical advice on these aero cars. I took the photos on the St. Louis Museum of Transportation grounds.