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Fine Lines: 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona

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Khatir Soltani
Parked on the showroom floor beside a hulking Monaco wagon or plain-Jane Dart sedan, the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona must have looked like it was from another planet . . . or at least another world.

Truth be told, that wasn't far off the mark since back in the late 1960s, car sales were heavily connected with racing and, of course, winning. Since
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)
you had to race what you built for street, the Daytona's slippery shape -- and the strange bodywork that went along with it -- was solely intended to play along -- and play with -- the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) rules of the day.

Sure, the roof and doors appeared to be regular-issue, but the protruding snout and giant-sized wing that extended high above the trunk were anything but.

Who in their right mind would want to be seen driving such an oddball contraption? Chrysler Corp. probably didn't care at the time since its focus was on race-track speed, not the street cars that had to be built to attain it.

A bewildered public could actually thank NASCAR rules makers for the Daytona, so named for Daytona (Fla.) speedway where the NASCAR season kicks off.

That was then.

Today's so-called "stock" cars are all hand-built to a common standard using custom-formed sheetmetal that's carefully bent and shaped around a stout steel frame, intricate roll cage and other high-tech safety systems.

However, from NASCAR's earliest beginnings in the late 1940s until the mid '70s, life on the track was governed by a different set of rules. Teams
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)
couldn't build a specially prepared race car that wasn't based on a real "stock" car that the public couldn't purchase from the local dealer. The term was called homologation, and it existed for one simple reason: keep the "stock" cars "stock" and keep the Big Three playing fair.

Fair? While it would have been relatively easy to build a few specially designed ringers and make them available to a select group of buyers (as was the case for the factory-backed drag-racing racers that competed in the Super Stock class), NASCAR strictly prohibited the practice by setting minimum production numbers. If automobile manufacturers built a specialized car intended for high banks of Daytona, for example, they had to first create production versions for public consumption.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler were willing to do just about anything to win both the horsepower race and, ultimately the sales race, even if it meant bending the rules, or at least interpreting them to suit their needs.

In the quest for lap speed -- then averaging 200 m.p.h (320 km-h) on some tracks -- it became necessary look beyond mere horsepower.
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona (Photo: DaimlerChrysler)
However, NASCAR rules prohibited giant spoilers, shovel-nosed ground effects or any other wind-cheating devices to be grafted to any race car, unless they were available from the factory. And what self-respecting manufacturer would dare to create such a production model?

NASCAR obviously wasn't counting on Chrysler to pull out all the stops to gain an advantage over Ford and General Motors.
Khatir Soltani
Khatir Soltani
Automotive expert
  • Over 6 years experience as a car reviewer
  • Over 50 test drives in the last year
  • Involved in discussions with virtually every auto manufacturer in Canada