04 Aug 2019
A 1970 Plymouth Superbird driven by Richard Petty more than doubled its pre-auction estimate as it went under the hammer in Pennsylvania.
The legendary car headed to the Mecum sale in Harrisburg with a pre-auction estimate of $1-1.5 million (approximately £820,000-1.2 million at current exchange rates), but bids ended up exceeding $3.5 million. However, the huge amount reportedly fell short of the car’s reserve price.
The Superbird, which was built to lure Petty back to Plymouth after he switched to Ford in 1969, is arguably the most famous and recognisable car in American motorsport history.
Originally it was thought that this particular example was driven by Pete Hamilton, Petty’s team mate in 1970. However, research later revealed it to actually be one of Petty’s cars.
Petty won 18 of the 40 races he competed in 1970, claiming 31 top-10 finishes in total. He finished fifth in the points that year, but he didn’t compete in the full calendar of events. That season’s crown went to Bobby Isaac, who missed just one of the 48 championship races.
The iconic car was designed to compete in superspeedway events but ended up being outlawed after a single season on safety grounds. ‘Aero cars’ like the Superbird were starting to exceed 200 mph on-track, so to curb the ever-increasing speeds, NASCAR mandated that such cars would have to run smaller engines and carry more weight.
Petty’s Superbird wasn’t the only legendary car driven by ‘The King’ being offered for sale at the Mecum auction in Harrisburg. A 1971 Plymouth Road Runner that Petty drove to the third of his seven NASCAR Cup titles (above) fetched $412,500. Both cars were part of the Todd Werner collection – a group of more than 40 rare American road and racing cars which were all put up for sale.
Other highlights of the collection included one of 33 1987 March 87C Indy cars and multiple drag racers driven by the late Dick Landy.