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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Superbird Supermen

By Robb Lowe

The fastest I've ever been is somewhere around 160-180 mph in a modified Hemi Superbird, the Plymouth variation of the winged warriors. It belonged to an old truck driver who's only taste was in his mouth. This thing was white with Petty blue 'eyebrows and wing with a 3'' chrome and rubber molding on the side, wire basket wheels, and a Petty blue tuck and roll interior. Motivation came from a 426 Hemi flowing into a 727, coupled to -- are you ready for this? - a 2.76 single traction rear end. Going down I-85 at about 70 mph, it was an average 3500-lb. muscle car.

On the return trip, he said, "Punch it," and I did. The second Carter AFB woke up after a 20-year sleep, none too happy. Finally the monster came to life and didn't really start stroking until 120 mph, and then rocketed to what the speedo said was 180 mph. I didn't doubt it, as everything was a blur. The most amazing thing, however, was how the car squatted and became rock solid stable. The nose and wing did their jobs, and I felt more comfortable at 160+ than I did at 60.

This would have been around 1985. I was 17 years old. He wanted a whopping $12k for the car, and we all thought he was crazy as hell. Today, returned to its original state, it would bring five times that much. He was the original owner, and the odometer only showed 22,000 miles.

While we are talking wings-n-things... here's a tale to make you laugh.

Local redneck boy here owned two of the Petty blue 'birds. From what I've been told, they were both pretty ratty, both 440 powered, and both in typical '70s high-boy fashion with rear shackles, side pipes, and Keystone mags. Even for Podunk, SC, they were a rare and usually unwanted sight.

Between Chesnee and Spartanburg is a one-stop-light town called Mayo. No, mayonnaise wasn't invented there, although the local fishcamp mixes gallons of it with relish since they are too cheap to buy tartar sauce. The distance between Chesnee and Mayo is about five miles, I would say, which goes by pretty fast on the 4-lane highway with a double lane center. The 45-mph speed limit is usually obeyed, since the scenery isn't bad and you never know when Junie May Fulbright's daughter might be sunbathing. The Appalachians aren't the only mountains around here.

However, on one sunny Friday afternoon in the summer of 1977, the trip lasted in real time only moments, but in the mind of the travelers, at least for two of them, it lasted an eternity.

The owner of the Superbird was demonstrating the wing's strength in the parking lot after school that day. "This sucker is aircraft grade alum-nee-um. Why, lookee here, I can jump up and down on it!" And he proceeded to do just that. The crowd gave their 'oohs' and 'ahhs' but then a brave -- read that smoked-brain -- soul stepped forward with a bet he shouldn't have taken.

"I bet it would be fun to hang off that wing and fly like Superman!"

"Why SURE it would, in fact, I've DONE IT! Why, we only have to go 20 mph or so and the wind will pick you right up and hold ya thar!"

With the coaxing of the crowd, of course, the deal was done, and now there was no backing down. Not that anyone would have, as they actually thought that not only would it work, it would be fun!

Drug use was rampant back then; did ya know that?

Meanwhile, most everyone had already left for the drive-in as was the ritual, expecting the not-ready-for-prime-time Supermen-to-be to arrive in a few minutes. After all, at 20 mph, it would take them a little while to make the five-mile trip.

Someone forgot to tell the driver...

He was right. At 20 mph, you DID start to get some wind. But it was NOTHING compared to what 70-mph would do!

Oh -- I forgot to mention -- the aforementioned Superman (super dummy, to his friends) had talked his buddy into going with him as Superman # 2.

So here he comes... Homer Simpson meets the Dukes of Hazzard in a blur of Petty Blue and rusty chrome with TWO teenage Evel Konniptions in tow -- straight the hell out -- and FLYING down the highway at somewhere around 70-100 mph! For the full, five miles, I kid you not.

Into the parking lot they came... The driver, of course, was laughing his ass off. He actually fell out of the car from lack of oxygen. The two genetically challenged airborne rangers on the wing were white as sheets, their lips pulled back around their heads like wetsuits leaving only teeth and gums. Lucky for them, it wasn't bug season yet. 

Prying their fingers off the two-foot high stabilizer was another task for some kind-hearted soul. A soul who obviously had to step over the driver -- whose only punishment for this act of speedo-masochism was burning his hand on the crackling Thrush side pipe. He grabbed it for a handhold as he was gasping for breath, still laughing like a 9-year-old seeing his dog hump his granny's leg the first time.

As usual, a good time was had by all. The Supermen were never to fly again, and the Superbird was to meet its fate at the hand of laughing boy one night leaving a bar. He insisted on demonstrating its ability to corner at 150 mph. The big blue stabilizer worked well for downforce but didn't cut it as a roll bar, and the sheetmetal nose didn't fare any better. He later sold both of his Superchickens for $600. A sad day in Mudville, as I wasn't the purchaser.

You'll have that from time to time...

Robb Lowe


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