As a long-time wing car owner and collector, Bob Jennings is always on the look-out for winged warriors. He tells us, “I have been looking for two more wing cars to complete the flock; a V-code 6-BBL in a desirable color (to me), and an R-code Hemi. Since the Hemis are as rare as a Congressional compromise, I decided I wanted to get a Hemi before getting a 6-BBL. I preferred a console equipped car but with only 139 Hemi Superbirds ever made and only 70 Hemi Daytonas ever made, I knew I could not be too picky.”
He continues to say, ” I had looked for several years and the only two I had ever found were both Daytonas that were way out of my league financially. I advertised for months and months on forums online but never even got a lead. After two years of searching I had still not given up but was starting to get realistic enough to realize that it might not happen. Having been to the big auctions, I was not going to buy one there unless I was able to physically and personally inspect the car closely. A few Hemi cars came up for auction but the timing of these auctions just didn’t work out.”
A while back, a friend named Joe Colacino that Bob had bought his Daytona from several years sent him an email about a Hemi Superbird that he knew of. The car was owned by Mike Hill, another Superbird enthusiast. You may recognize his name as him and his son are the ones that fished the two Superbirds out of the woods years ago; one of which was restored on TV at Graveyard Carz. As it turns out, Mike’s Hemi Superbird was the lowest original mileage Hemi on the planet, even now with only 1,484 original miles on the odometer. The car wasn’t a street car by any means, instead every mile was basically put on a 1/4 mile at a time.
After researching the car, Bob found an incredible history going back to Day 1, including the car being the 1970 NHRA SS/EA Summernationals champion. The original Hemi was long gone, but it had a date correct Hemi in it with the correct carbs and intake. It was originally B5 Blue with a white bench seat car interior and a column shift automatic. It had been raced as the “Karl Gould Hemi” by the famed Tim Richards (who won the NHRA meet that year), and then raced more as “Infamy”. Finally, it was painted a wild psychedelic scheme at some point in the 1970’s. The car still wears that paint job today, along with a really cool mural on the trunk lid.
During the drag racing years, the Superbird had many invisible and visible racing modifications. To lighten the car up for racing, numerous items were stripped out of the car such as the jute pad under the carpet, the guts out of the power steering pump, all of the seat belts, the headlight actuators and mechanisms, the spare tire, jack and trunk pad. The antenna was removed and the hole welded up. It also had some other modifications such as an old Sun tach screwed to the dash pad, modified rear spring locations and mounts, a 1969 dial-model radio, an oil pressure gauge where the Tic Toc Tach would of been and dozens of more small things. A line-lock equipped automatic shifter was also installed on the floor and the original 3.55 geared 8 3/4 rear end was replaced with a 4.89 geared Dana 60.
About five years ago, Mike found the car in Pennsylvania, where it had spent its entire life. It was without an engine or transmission, but the shell was as described. Mike bought the car, found a date correct drive train and got it running. He showed it in the barn find section at MCACN (Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals) a couple of years ago and then at Carlisle. At some point, he installed an old set of headers given to him by the previous owner so the car runs open headers to an unattached, original exhaust!
Bob says, “I called Mike, and like any buyer and seller we checked each other out, with me finding that he had an impeccable reputation and frankly was a super guy. I hope he found the same out on me! We agreed on a price and the next weekend my wife and I took an open trailer to South Carolina, loaded up the car and drove straight through over the Smoky Mountains back to Indiana to beat a major snow storm, unloading the car into my shop just as the snow began falling. My work requires lots and lots of air travel so the car sat essentially untouched until Feb. 4 when I got home, cleaned it up, fixed a couple of little things.”
Recently, Bob entered the Superbird into the World of Wheels car show in Indianapolis with three of their other wing cars where it was the hit of the show. He tells us that audience reactions were 75% don’t change anything and 25% you need to restore it. Amazingly, the car shows very little rust, and the interior is nearly perfect after Bob invisibly fixed the one tear in a seat. The 45 year old paint job still looks fantastic from 5 feet away. Lots of little, non-racing related things have been left un-repaired over the years, but it is basically in “as raced in 1975” condition.
“My plans are unknown. Mike was undecided on what to do and I am also torn between leaving it untouched as a history piece or restoring it. My wife and friends are 100% on the “don’t change it” side because, as they say, it is a history piece. They made a 1:18 scale die cast out of this car and its paint job along with a Johnny Lightning toy car. I am leaning towards their side, but I love to drive my cars and the car is not street driveable as it sits with slicks, no exhaust, horrible brakes and a leaking transmission.However, plans always change.”
Bob finishes by saying, “The 43 year barn find that you wrote about 2 years ago that I thought I would sell is now entering the final stage of a 100% restoration as a 2-owner, low miles, numbers-matching everything to be revealed at MCACN in November so I can’t say what the future will bring. However, I am still looking for a V-Code 6-BBL with a console!”