NASCAR's premiere shindig--which started out as the Strictly Stock Series--later turned into the Grand National Series before morphing into the Winston Cup Series, followed by the Nextel Cup Series, and then the Sprint Cup Series. Obviously, change is part of the game in this sport, but it's all starting to resemble a sketch comedy routine. For instance, when Jimmie Johnson crosses the finish line in First, it's not his Chevrolet Impala that got him there, but rather his Lowe's Chevrolet Impala. And Jimmie never forgets to remind you of that in his post-race interviews either. Likewise, of the only three active drivers with multiple championships under their belts, none of them speak with a proper drawl, and two are California hippies for goodness sakes. Who would've imagined that a sport once defined by hillbilly hooligans trading licks on the infield grass would one day be superseded by scripted drivers sanitized by corporate sponsors?
Nonetheless, NASCAR has flourished in recent years, and as a race fan, the aforementioned gripes are merely minor distractions. After all, the action is still plenty intense. As automotive enthusiasts, however, the notion that these purpose-built race cars are even distantly related to actual production cars is downright preposterous. All Sprint Cup cars now run identical tube-frame chassis and sheetmetal. What's a brand loyalist to do, root for the stickers? If that's not bad enough, Chevys, Dodges, and Toyotas are powered by lumps that share absolutely nothing in common with any production engine ever built by each respective manufacturer. While NASCAR's attempt to limit costs is commendable, the whiny purist in us laments for the era when stock cars represented the pinnacle of hot rodding. Apparently, we're not alone in our assessment. An all-star cast that includes Year One, pro wrestler Bill Goldberg, and Gillett Evernham Motorsports have pitched in to recreate what's arguably the most revered machine from NASCAR's heyday: the Plymouth Superbird. Armed with a genuine 780hp Cup motor and a thoroughly modernized chassis, this 'Bird might even be better than the original.
The wild course of events that would create this wicked contraption was set into motion by NFL lineman turned pro wrestler, turned actor, Bill Goldberg. He called up his buddy, Kevin King, at Year One, and pitched the idea of building a modern rendition of a vintage Superbird. "He wanted it to look as close to a vintage stock car as possible, but with an updated powertrain," Kevin explains. "He had already talked Gillett Evernham Motorsports into donating an actual Cup motor and driveline for the project. Ray Evernham was awesome to work with, and he basically invited us to his shop and let us take whatever we wanted. The catch was, Bill wanted a car that could be tagged and driven on the street as well."
While maintaining some semblance of streetability would prove difficult, the most daunting aspect of the buildup by far was reshaping the body into period-correct form, which required tremendous foresight and planning. To accomplish this, the crew from Year One scrutinized real NASCAR-spec Superbirds at the Motorsports Hall of Fame museum in Talladega, and took copious measurements and photos. "We've all seen Superbirds from back in the day in photos and on TV where they look very sleek, but in person, they're big honkin' cars. The challenge was taking a production car, and getting the lines, stance, and profile just right to accurately replicate that look," says chief Year One fabricator, Phil Brewer. "Even when stock cars were production based, there was nothing stock about them. The NASCAR rule book from that era stipulated a minimum hood height of 27 inches. To achieve that height, a stock B-body would have to be sitting on its framerails, but the NASCAR guys made it all work and still managed to meet the ground clearance requirements."
Using a vintage rule book and their notes as a guide, the crew from Year One went to work. Emulating the chassis and suspension was an epic undertaking, and starting with a '70 Satellite instead of a Road Runner further complicated matters. "To get the car as low as we needed, we basically shaved everything below the rocker panels so the only thing hanging below them now is the exhaust. According to the rules in 1970, NASCAR allowed teams to build frames for unibody cars," Phil explains. "We first removed portions of the stock subframe, torque boxes, and floorboard, then built a new frame on the topside of the floorboard inside the car. The frame and the rollcage look very similar to what the NASCAR guys were doing back in 1970, but we welded up much more bracing and used modern materials to make it legal for various SCCA and land speed racing classes. To allow for adequate suspension travel and help the overall aesthetic proportions of the car, we made the wheel openings 7 inches taller in the rear and 8 inches taller in the front." Other tricks include a custom X-brace, a C-notched rear frame that enabled moving the wheeltubs and rear springs inward, and a trans tunnel that's been raised 4 inches. While the chassis takes cues from the past, the suspension has been fully modernized with a Magnum Force K-member, a custom four-link, and QA1 coilovers.
The interior blends race car...
The interior blends race car cues with modern touches. Occupants sit in Kirkey seats and face Auto Meter instrumentation, and a Year One steering wheel. The custom aluminum dash emulates that of a stock car, replete with toggle switches and Allen bolts. The aluminum floor inserts lend a racy look, as does the NASCAR-spec shifter.
The Evernham-supplied 358ci...
The Evernham-supplied 358ci small-block is a real-deal NASCAR Cup motor slightly de-tuned with lower compression. The headers are also from Evernham, and Year One tweaked some of the tubes to get them to fit. The motor plate and radiator core support are also modified Cup items. The custom air cleaner assembly is a custom piece designed to draw air from the cowl. Like all Cup motors, fuel supply comes from a mechanical pump driven off of the motor.
Stock Satellites and Road...
Stock Satellites and Road Runners had very small wheel openings. To give the appearance of reduced overhang, Year One elongated the openings in addition to making them taller. The wheels are genuine Cup items, and they're wrapped in BFG slicks.