To many Mopar fans, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona and 1970 Plymouth Superbird are the true Holy Grail of Mopars. Dodge built 503 Charger Daytonas back in 1969, just a hair over the 500 units required to allow them into NASCAR competition. While many registries and databases exist, no one really knows exactly how many of those 503 originals are left.
Many clones and replicas run the street today but there will always only be 503 of those true blood Daytonas. There are quite a few original Daytonas out there, ranging from fully restored OE spec examples to project cars and everything in between. There are a few though, that have unfortunately been lost to time. Case in point; a very rough red Daytona owned by Ted Stephens of Stephens Performance. Stephens has shared some back history behind this particular one.
Above: XX29L9B405184 as it sat for many years in the Stephens Performance salvage yard.
Above left: The main location of the damage from the accident which left the inner fender, frame rail and cowl areas badly damaged. Above right: Dan Woods from Chop, Cut, Rebuild discusses the current plan of attack with the team. Below left: The “mad scientists workshop” at the AMD Installation Center. Notice the Superbird quarter panels hanging on the wall! If it’s a Mopar, they can fix it! Below right: Dan and the team hard at work chopping out the rusty and bent sheet metal from the Daytona. Take a look at that rocker panel!
“In the summer of 1969, a 1969 Charger Daytona bearing VIN# XX29L9B405184 began life at Chrysler’s Lynch Road Assembly Plant and was shipped to Crown Dodge in Gadsden, Alabama; a short distance from Talladega Superspeedway. Ownership of the incredibly visible bright red Daytona must have been quite an experience for the young man who drove it off the Crown dealership lot.
Unfortunately, the time would be short before this youthful pilot would learn a hard lesson on ‘flying too close to the ground.’ A bad decision to run from the law made him the focal point of a massive multi-city chase that would come to an abrupt end with a reported 100-plus mph crash. The impact would send the mangled Daytona to Kelly & Spurlock Auto Salvage in Attalla, Alabama and confine its owner to a wheelchair.”
Above far left: Besides the visually rusty areas, the bulk part of the inner core of the Daytona would be saved and reused for the project. Above middle left: Even though it sat outside for 20-plus years, the inner roof structure and A-pillars turned out to be very nice. AMD will soon be reproducing these parts! Above inner right: Take a look at the inner roof structure above the wheelhouse- it’s amazing what hidden havoc water can cause. Above far right: Woah! Even the rear seat braces rusted out at the bottom – wild!
Above: The Daytona’s skeleton gets loaded up for transport.
Above left: Using a precise jig system, the team assembles the new core structure for the Daytona with brand new AMD pieces. Above right: Rather than trying to straighten the original badly bent metal, it was decided new AMD pieces would be used to ensure the Daytona was straight as an arrow.
After the incident, news spread in the Mopar community about this mangled wreck of a Daytona sitting in a junkyard. It wasn’t long before crucial parts of the Daytona were plucked. First the wing was pillaged and then the drivetrain. Next up was the back glass and plug, both of which were hacked out with little regard to the rest of the car. As other parts off “405184” found their way to other cars, the wrecked ball of steel that was once a shiny red Daytona was slowly reduced to nothing but a disfigured shadow of its former self.
According to Ted Stephens, noted wing car expert David Patik examined and documented the wreck way back in 1981. He concluded that although it was the real thing, it was just simply too far gone to restore. At the time, it definitely was. It was eventually rescued from a date with the crusher by Mr. James Masters before being sent to its long term slumber location; Stephens Performance. It was placed at the front corner of the Mopar salvage yard where it would serve as a popular topic of conversation with visitors.
Above far left: That looks a lot better than the original mangled mess we saw previously! AMD practically makes everything you’d need to rebuild your B-body. Above middle left: Once the original core skeleton was mated to the brand new AMD lower structure, the Daytona started looking like a car again. Above middle right: The highly trained team at Classic Muscle Metal hard at work installing the radiator support. They make sure everything is 100% to spec and better than it came from the factory. Above far right: With the brand new metal installed and some of the original stuff repaired, you can’t even tell this Daytona was in a bad accident!
Above left: With the addition of the front sheet metal and legendary nose cone, this Daytona is finally looking like the winged warrior it is! Above right: Dan Woods and the guys from Classic Muscle Metal look over the rear window plug and wing holes while being filmed for Chop, Cut, Rebuild.
Above left: A Daytona isn’t a Daytona without it’s legendary wing! Above right: Dan and the team gives this warrior it’s wings. That wing wasn’t just for looks, it was proven to be very functional!
“You’re kidding, you guys parted out a Daytona?! That was the common remark,” says Ted. Every time pictures would make their rounds on the internet, people quickly chimed in wanting to know where this rare beast sat. Many dreamed of being able to get their hands on it, claiming they had what it took to restore the mangled wreck. Others still said it was just too far gone and would never see the day it would be brought back from the dead. Since the day it arrived at Stephens’, nothing was removed from the car. Because of the story behind the Daytona, Ted felt, it should be left alone to rest in peace.
And that’s exactly what happened. While the Daytona was moved around Ted’s yard a few times, it was left in the exact shape it had arrived in. However, twenty plus years later, thanks to an invitation from Tim Wellborn, the Daytona was dragged out of the yard and displayed at the Aero Car Reunion at the Wellborn Musclecar Museum in Alexander City, Alabama back in October 2015. While on display at the event, many wing car die-hards started wondering because of the amount of reproduction parts available nowadays from Auto Metal Direct, if the rusty, mangled hulk could be rebuilt.
Above left: Once the front spoiler, hood pins and fender scoops were installed, the Daytona’s body was complete. Above center: Check out that absolutely fantastic install job! It doesn’t get much better than that. The team at Classic Muscle Metal has what it takes to make your Mopar look new again! Above right: Once outside in the sunlight, the team was able to check for any flaws or panel gap issues. Everything looks on point from here.
Top left: Dan congratulates AMD Installation Center’s Craig Hopkins on a job well done. This was a true team effort! Way to go everyone! Top right: The front suspension, 8 3/4 rear end and various other suspension goodies await their install. Bottom left: The team hard at work getting ready to install the front suspension and K-member assembly. Bottom right: Can’t beat fresh wheels and red line tires. There is just something about them.
That got the wheels turning and from there; a meeting was set between Auto Metal Direct CEO Mark Headrick, AMD Installation Center/Classic Muscle Metal owner Craig Hopkins and Ted Stephens. It seems a lot of people wanted to see the Daytona rebuilt. It was set; the Daytona would be brought back from the dead and in a special way to boot. It was decided that the AMD Installation Center would be doing the work with fresh AMD metal supplied from Classic Muscle Metal. The entire rebuild would be the center point of the new season of MAVTV’s “Chop, Cut, Rebuild” TV show with Dan Woods.
Once the team at Classic Muscle Metal got their hands on the Daytona, what was left was quickly stripped apart so they could see what little they had to work with. It appeared that in the accident, the hardest hit was done to the right front corner, leaving the inner fender, frame rail and cowl badly damaged. Since they weren’t fixable, the inner fender and frame rail were removed to make clear for new pieces. The same was done with the remainder of the quarter panels and the roof skin. From there, the rest of the bent and rusty metal was removed leaving only a bare skeleton.
Top left: For the first time since almost new, the Daytona rolled into the sun light on it’s own wheels! Many thought this day would never happen. Top right: Check out those quarter panel lines, one of Dodge’s best designs! Bottom left: The Daytona is guaranteed to turn heads rolling down the road, even on a trailer! You just can’t beat the look of a wing car. Bottom right: The team of skilled guys that were responsible for the resurrection of the Daytona. You can’t wipe those smiles off their faces. Well done everyone! XX29L9B405184 lives again!
Once that was complete, using a special jig, the crew welded together a brand new bottom structure for the Daytona using Auto Metal Direct reproduction pieces such as rear frame rails, torsion bar cross member, floor pans front to rear and front frame rails. When that was all ready to go, the original skeleton of the Daytona was lowered into place on the assembly and everything was buttoned together. Finally 405184 was looking like a car again. The guys then added the critical Daytona only pieces such as a mint condition nose cone, fender scoops, rear window plug and wing to make this Charger look like its former NASCAR bloodline self again.
When the body was complete and in true Daytona form, the team then started bolting on fully restored suspension components and the rear differential. A set of Magnum 500 wheels matched with classy red line tires were chosen for the job and then mounted on the Daytona. Finally, the Daytona was rolled out into the day light on its own wheels for the first time in decades. Some bet it would never see the road again but thanks to the hard working teams at Chop Cut Rebuild, Classic Muscle Metal, Auto Metal Direct and Stephens Performance, this once bruised and beaten Daytona is one step closer to terrorizing the streets once again. This time though, without any police chases.