Back in the heyday of muscle car culture, NASCAR superspeedways were main battling grounds for Detroit`s manufacturers. From mid-`50s Chrysler 300 C and early `60s Galaxies and Impalas, Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet were fighting each other for supremacy and bragging rights. In those days, NASCAR allowed only 100% stock cars (not like today) very soon, manufacturers realized that boxy designs aren’t very aerodynamic at high speeds.
To modify bodies for racing purposes was out of the question and Detroit started introducing sleeker, fastback coupes which were somewhat better than regular two-door sedans of the day. But, by the end of the `60s, Dodge and Plymouth were so desperate for winning that the companies decided to produce limited run, homologation specials designed and produced solely for NASCAR racing.
This was the first time that any American company produced road going vehicles just for homologation purposes. This marked the start of legendary “Aero Wars” of the late `60s and early `70s and also paved the way for Aero Specials of the mid-`80s, as well. Today, we will tell you about a handful of those fantastic and often misunderstood machines that present a very unique part of muscle car culture.
1. Dodge Charger 500 (1969)
Most muscle cars fans know the Charger lineup well, including the wild Charger Daytona from 1969. But, Daytona`s predecessor called Charger 500 was far less known and not so successful. In the late `60s, Dodge was desperate to go racing in NASCAR and the Charger was the perfect candidate. However, since NASCAR cars already approached high speeds of almost 200 mph on newly constructed superspeedway tracks, aerodynamics played a key role in a car`s performance and results.
With deep grille and concave rear glass, the standard Charger wasn`t very aerodynamic and despite powerful engines and good drivers it just couldn`t achieve speeds required for winning. Dodge decided to introduce a limited edition Charger 500 (named 500 because it was produced in that many examples) with flushed grille, fixed headlights, and regular rear glass, in order to improve the aerodynamics of the car. The 500 was somewhat better but not quite as good, so Dodge decided to go even further and present the Daytona.
The Charger 500 was offered with two engines, standard 440 and optional 426 Hemi.