The 1969 Dodge Daytona Was Designed To Win Races

The only reason the public was able to buy Daytonas was so Dodge could run in and win NASCAR events!

Once upon a time NASCAR was referred to as stock car racing. Why? Well, because back then, before the cars were standardized, the race cars were based on, and built from, real production cars and drivetrains. When American car manufacturers were designing new cars, they were also thinking about aerodynamics and what they could tweak in their designs to give their racing divisions an edge on the track. These were glorious days indeed, when Ford, Chevy, and Mopar slugged it out for bragging rights that they hoped would translate to dealership sales.

This led to more than a few cars that were built solely to benefit the racing side of the ledger—cars of which they would manufacture just enough to follow the “production car” rules. One such car was the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. Yep, only 503 of these big-wing aerodynamic marvels were made, and the only reason us mere mortals were allowed to buy one off the dealer lot was because Dodge wanted some NASCAR wins.

The Daytona featured a massive 23-inch rear-deck wing and a sheetmetal “nose cone” that replaced the grille and let the Charger slice through the air. The Daytona, named in honor of the Daytona 500, was the first NASCAR vehicle to hit 200 mph on the track, which was a pretty big deal back then. You see, the 1968 Dodge Charger 500 wasn’t doing all that great, and Plymouth’s star driver, Richard Petty, was leaving for Ford (don’t worry, he came back, in large part due to the winged cars). The Daytona was just what Dodge needed, and it won its first race, the Talladega 500, being driven by Buddy Baker.

The 1969 Dodge Daytona ended up winning two races for 1969 and another four in 1970. Its replacement, the 1970 Plymouth Superbird, won eight more races in 1970! When most people see these cars, they think of the Superbird, but it was the Daytona that got the aero ball rolling. The Dodge Daytona set quite a few records and had many wins in ARCA and USAC races. We guess they did a bit too well, since NASCAR banned aero specs on cars with engines over 305 inches. By the end of 1970, all four of the aero cars from Ford (Torino Talladega), Mercury (Cyclone), Dodge, and Plymouth were banned.

Daytonas and Superbirds weren’t great sellers with the general public. First off, the 117-inch wheelbase and extra-long nose made them hard to park and live with as daily drivers. With the standard 440 engine they sold for right around $4,600, which was a lot of money in 1969. Legend has it that dealers converted a few back to regular Chargers to move them off the lot, which today seems nearly criminal.

Well, these days Daytonas, like their Superbird cousins, bring big bucks at events such as Mecum Auctions. The example shown here is fielding the 7.2-liter 440-inch Magnum engine, but they could also be ordered with the optional, and legendary, 426-inch Hemi V-8. Only 70 of the 503 Daytonas built had the Hemi and they are priced accordingly. Still, the 440 car was no slouch at 375 hp, and easily fetches six figures at auction.

The transmission options were a four-speed manual or the three-speed Torqueflite 727 automatic, as in this example. Fun fact: All 503 Daytonas built started life as Charger 500s before being shipped to an offsite shop, not owned by Dodge, to get the Daytona transformation. This one carries the rare CW6 white interior option.

The one-owner Daytona seen here (Lot S148) is going across the block at the 2022 Dallas Mecum auction being held in early September. It’s well-documented with the original paperwork, including the broadcast sheet, and was given a complete restoration in 2002. Be sure to check out the window sticker in the gallery and marvel at things like an optional three-speed wiper motor for a whopping $5.40! All we know is that when we see these big wing aero cars from the past, we start to miss the days when race cars that you could actually buy off a lot fought it out across the country.

1969 Dodge Daytona For Sale at Mecum Dallas 2022 Highlights: