A trip to the Bonneville Speed trials and we stumble across this sweet 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
When we are on the search to cover some of the world’s most incredible automotive events, it normally brings forth for some amazing metal and Bonneville Speed trials was no different. As we walked around the pits, where all the racers were preping, there was one motor we were instantly drawn to. This was Bobby Urwin’s tough Dodge Charger Daytona.
What a machine to see up close and personal, so it was the perfect location to capture it in it’s full glory to find out its story. Here is what Bobby shared with us on this fine day of racing heaven,
I’ve been a gearhead most of my life. First experience I remember was when I was three years old. My Dad had the hood up on our car – a 1957 Plymouth. I wanted to see what makes the car go, so I climbed up the bumper and grill to look at the engine, slipped and went face first into the engine compartment. Fortunately, the engine was cold and not running. My Dad came out of the house and had a good laugh at me sitting in the engine compartment with a greasy face and hands and a cut forehead. I was able to drive a standard trans at the age of six years (learned on a 1950 Nash Airflyte – still have the car). First motorcycle at 14, car at 16. Mopar is it. Ford, Chevy was okay but always Mopar first. Basically I like anything with wheels. My Dad was a gearhead as well. At one point, between the two of us, we had 23 cars and trucks.
So this takes me to this Daytona. I first saw the car in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in May of 1978. I was flat broke, no job, no car, had just moved away from home. I was riding a borrowed bicycle with black electrical tape wrapped around the tires to hold the tubes in…as I said – flat broke. I was circling the car on the bike looking at it, thinking this is cool – don’t see Daytonas very often. The owner came out of an apartment building with his future wife and told me “Car is for sale. We are getting married and want to use the money to buy a house”. Within the next 2 weeks, I got a job with an oilfield service company that I had been trying to get on with for 6 months. I made a deal with the owner for $5400. My Dad agreed to co-sign for a loan. I went to a bank to sign papers and receive the cash to purchase the car – the bank manager said “I don’t think this is a very good deal. You can go down the street 2 blocks to the Buick dealer and get a brand new car with warranty for $3400 but your Dad is the co-signer so we will lend you the money”.
I didn’t care, I just wanted and needed the car as I had no wheels and Daytona Chargers don’t come along very often. I got the deal done. The car was my daily driver for one year. Drove it in the winter on snow and salt covered roads. Took it to ski hills – great car for that. Good heater, lots of room for four guys and the trunk is big enough for all the ski equipment and baggage. Got some pretty weird reactions from people driving a winged car in the snow. As I said – it was my daily driver as it was for previous owners. After driving it for a year, I put it into storage – for 36 years. I was “going to do a rotisserie restoration on it – someday”.
In October of 2014, I learned about a wing car gathering going to take place in Alexander City, Alabama, USA at the Wellborn Musclecar Museum in October of 2015. There were going to be some people involved with the development of the Daytona at that gathering so I made it my mission to get the car running and get it to that meet one way or the other. Over the next year, I got the engine built, transmission rebuilt and obtained the parts needed to get it running. In September of 2015, I took two months off work, put the car into a bay at a friends’ automotive shop (where I had tools, hoists, expertise etc. at my disposal; many thanks to Tracy Palmer) and spent the next 6 weeks at 12 to 15 hours a day doing whatever it took to get the car mobile. No concern whatsoever was paid to how the car looked – the priority was to get it running.
Originally, the car came with a high performance 440 engine, 4 bbl carburetor and model 727 Torqueflite 3 speed automatic transmission. The original engine and transmission were not in the car when I bought it. Car has one option, a floor mounted shifter with console. No power anything, drum brakes, body colored steel wheels with “dog dish” hubcaps, no radio (which is unusual for a Daytona). Original tires were Goodyear Custom Wide Tread Polyglas F70-14 with a red stripe insert. The original spare tire is still in the trunk (boot). It is coded as being made in May of 1969 in Akron, Ohio.
The engine is a brand new 426 Chrysler Hemi. The short block assembly was purchased from Gratiot Auto Supply in Detroit, Michigan, USA in the fall of 1979. Gratiot had purchased all of Chrysler’s stock of Hemi short blocks. Chrysler did not want them anymore as they had stopped putting Hemi engines in cars in 1971. A friend of mine and I bought the last two new Hemi short blocks they had. My buddy and I were having a beer one Saturday afternoon and I read an ad from Gratiot Auto Supply in Hot Rod magazine – “New Hemi short blocks $795.00”. We phoned them and learned “We have 2 left and they aren’t making them any more”. We sent the money the following Monday.
It is not a reproduction block. It has a casting date of July 28, 1969. When I received the assembly, I had it checked over for any major defects and then coated it with grease, wrapped it in heavy plastic and put it away – for 35 years. I then spent the next few years getting all the parts needed to complete the engine.
The engine has CNC ported aluminum heads, 10.8 to 1 compression, factory 2×4 bbl intake with ports matched to the heads, Chrysler electronic ignition with no vacuum advance – mechanical advance set 35 degrees at 3500 rpm. The solid lifter camshaft is from Comp Cams built to specifications from the engine builder. The engine is balanced and blueprinted with all clearances checked and confirmed. All engine work and assembly including head porting was done by Alyn and Wade Lee of ARL Racing Engines in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. Al has almost 40 years’ experience with Hemis, building as well as racing them (set NHRA SS/A record 16 times in the 80’s and 90’s with his 1968 Hemi Cuda). Carbs are Edelbrock reproduction Carter AFB’s flowing 625 CFM. Headers from TTI with 2 1/8” primary tubes followed with 3” exhaust with an H pipe and FloPro mufflers. Transmission has 2500 rpm stall torque converter with all internals built to withstand 1000 hp; assembled by Larry Scott at Victoria Automatic in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I added a Gear Vendors overdrive. The rear end is Chrysler 8 ¾” with 4:10 gears and a Detroit Locker positraction assembly.
The drum brakes have not been changed from factory. New wheel cylinders were installed and the master cylinder was rebuilt. The wheels are 15” x 8” front, 15” x 10” rear; tires 235 -75 R BF Goodrich Silvertown Radial (Coker Tire reproduction) front and Hoosier Pro Street 29 x 12.50R15 LT Radial
As for the physical condition of the car: All the wiring is as original. The interior is original. The original steering wheel was stolen along with the carburetor, valve covers and battery. It has been painted 3 times plus factory. There is a lot of plastic body filler in many areas of the car, most notably in the nose as evidenced by the chunks falling off of it. The white hood is off of a 1970 Charger – this bolts on with no modifications. The original hood (which I have) was damaged when I drove the car without putting the hood pins in place and the “latch tray” was not installed (was not on the car when I bought it). I went for a drive and the hood came up at approximately 40 mph. It is fixable. There is minimal rust; the floor and trunk pans along with all the undercarriage components have minor surface rust. The rear quarters are rusted at the bottom – the duct tape on the rockers and on the rear quarters is in place to keep salt from getting into places where it is hard to remove.
The signature on the trunk (boot) lid – it is from Mr. Larry Rathgeb, one of the five engineers from Chrysler that designed and tested Daytonas back in 1968 – 1969. He signed the lid when I was at the winged car gathering in Alexander City, Alabama in October, 2015.
The car has not been made to look like a “rat” on purpose. It’s just the way it turned out. It was a daily driver for me and the previous owners and when faced with a repair, it was done with economics in mind, not “this is a future classic and should receive the absolute, best possible workmanship available”. We had bills to pay and groceries to buy. When I put it into storage in July of 1979, I was quite aware of the rarity of the car. It is a real Daytona, not a clone. A restoration in the future is a possibility but for now I am going to leave it as is. As one gentleman said to me in Alabama last year “Don’t restore it. I see perfect Daytonas and Superbirds all the time, this car has character”. He does have a point. The scratches, dents, rips, broken console, white hood, exposed filler etc. have a story to tell. Besides, if someone touches it, I don’t care. If it gets another scratch in the paint, there’s another story.