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posted: 11/19/2012 5:00 AM

Aerodynamic 1970 Plymouth Superbird pleases watchers

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  • 1970 Plymouth Superbird

      1970 Plymouth Superbird
    Photos Courtesy of Prestige MotorCar Photography

  • Doug Schellinger now heads up a national car club for owners of Superbirds and several other similar "aero warrior" models.

      Doug Schellinger now heads up a national car club for owners of Superbirds and several other similar "aero warrior" models.

  • Doug Schellinger and his father, Monroe, after taking the Superbird to a car show in the summer of 1977.

      Doug Schellinger and his father, Monroe, after taking the Superbird to a car show in the summer of 1977.
    Courtesy of Schellinger family

  • Other than new paint, the Superbird is unrestored and all original.

      Other than new paint, the Superbird is unrestored and all original.

  • This rear wing spoiler and a longer, conelike nose on the front end were some of the aerodynamic features of this "aero warrior."

      This rear wing spoiler and a longer, conelike nose on the front end were some of the aerodynamic features of this "aero warrior."

 
By Matthew Avery
Special to the Daily Herald

It's only fitting that Doug Schellinger and his dad, Monroe, would come to love and appreciate the Plymouth Superbird by watching it in its natural environment -- in action on the racetrack.

Four decades ago, the father and son would watch United States Auto Club stock car races at the Milwaukee Mile.

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"I can remember seeing the Superbirds and Dodge Daytonas go around the track with their large wing, making it stand out against the other racers," Doug Schellinger said.

Even though the Superbird had a short history -- produced exclusively in 1970 -- Doug's forward-thinking father saw its off-track potential.

"He was interested in the cars as he recognized it as a great candidate to become a modern collectible," the New Berlin, Wis., resident said.

In November of 1972, Monroe Schellinger purchased this Limelight Green 1970 example after being tipped off by his son-in-law, who was working as a car salesman at a local Plymouth dealership at the time. The dealer failed to make an acceptable offer on a trade-in involving the winged machine, whose power proved to be a bit much for the previous owner.

"A 19-year-old college student had been using the car to drive back and forth to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After one too many speeding tickets, his parents told him to had to sell it," Doug said.

The lead-foot youngster was the second owner of the vehicle, which had a mere 8,600 miles accumulated on the odometer. To gain traction during the icy months, Polyglas GT studded snow tires were used and were still stored in the trunk.

"After the dealership turned him down, my brother-in-law got the kid's phone number and Dad and I made an appointment to go see the car. Dad purchased it for $1,620 -- quite a big discount from the original sticker price of $4,500." Doug was just 11 at the time.

While they were popular in Southern stock car racing markets, the eccentric Superbirds were generally a tough sell. About 2,000 were built by Chrysler-Plymouth for public consumption in 1970, which allowed the Superbird stock cars to comply with NASCAR rules and compete on the track.

Demand for muscle cars worsened when insurance premiums became an issue in the early '70s and gas-gulping models began to drastically fall out of favor. Despite those odds, Superbird prices managed to climb as its fan base grew.

The Schellingers were among the biggest fans. In addition to local cruising, Monroe and Doug drove their winged machine on two different occasions to Alabama for NASCAR races at Talladega Superspeedway, as well as to the 1981 Mopar Nationals. Doug now also serves as president of the national Daytona Superbird Auto Club, www.superbirdclub.com.

Other than some minor paint repair in 1987, this classic Plymouth is unrestored and all original. Underhood is a 440-cubic-inch V-8 engine, responsible for 375 horsepower and 390 foot-pounds of torque. Doug admits, however, the car is not built for slow speeds.

"Around town, it handles like a big green school bus. Once you get it out on the highway, it truly becomes a joy to drive."

Just as Doug's father predicted some 40 years ago, no matter where this aerodynamic classic goes, it always garners attention. "For sheer shock value, the car cannot be beat.

Despite its race pedigree, you really cannot go anywhere quickly," Doug said. "People always want to come up and see the car up close."

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