The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was born in controversy. In 1957, the Automobile Manufacturers Association responded to strident calls from the insurance industry and safety lobby to abandon its participation in racing. While there was much disappointment in this wholesale pullout at first, a few years later the AMA's decision didn't look like such a bad idea after all.
The Volkswagen revolution and Eisenhower recession had occurred, and everybody was building economy cars -- so who needed racing? That attitude lasted until about 1962, by which time the industry had staged a full recovery, and auto companies once again lent their support to racing efforts.
The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona's evolution dates to 1963, when Chrysler decided to overlook the AMA agreement and engage Ford in NASCAR. Chrysler Engineering was asked to design a new 426-cid Hemi V-8, reviving the potent concept that Chrysler had developed in the 1950s.
In 1966, Dodge introduced the Charger fastback, which looked like an aerodynamic NASCAR contender but proved much slower than its shape suggested. Two years later it was redesigned as a handsome coupe, and Dodge fitted competition models with spoilers to glue them to the track.
While the 1968 was indeed more slippery than its predecessors, it still proved four mph slower than the Ford opposition -- and in stock-car racing, one mph is equal to the length of a football field per lap. That sent Dodge back to the drawing board. The Charger Daytona was the result.
While the 1968 Charger did have good aerodynamic properties, it also exhibited a fair degree of rear-end lift. The solution was a tall, adjustable rear-deck stabilizer made up of twin fins and a horizontal wing.
A pointed snout was added for good measure, and the combination proved to increase lap speeds by five mph, giving Dodge a car that could truly challenge the Fords and Mercurys.
Dodge planned to build 500 of the "winged warriors," the minimum number necessary to qualify them as "production" vehicles for NASCAR.
Continue reading to learn more about the production and success of the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona.
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The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was built by Creative Industries, the Detroit firm responsible for numerous "specials" over the years. Actual production estimates range between 501 and 507; the official factory source states 505.
They could have built more: Dealers took about 1,200 orders, and Dodge sent hurried telegrams imploring them to persuade their customers to settle for something else.
The Charger Daytona sold for about $300 more than the Charger R/T hardtop and lost between $1,000 and $1,500 per unit, which was unimportant: Its purpose was to win races.
Racing cars all received the 426 Hemi with close-ratio four-speed gearbox and Hurst shifter. At Talladega, the Daytona set a new official world's closed-lap speed record at close to 200 mph, but unfortunately the Fords didn't show up to compete and it was a muted victory.
Disappointment turned to embarrassment the following month at Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Daytonas finally did meet the Fords -- and were badly beaten. Tire wear was the culprit.
Chargers were forced to make brief challenge spurts, then drop back to conserve rubber. According to engineer Larry Rathgeb, the tire problem was never really solved. "Firestone could not, and Goodyear would not, built a tire that could stand up at 200 mph. After five laps you were out of rubber, and that's not good at all."
Salvation finally arrived at the Texas 500 in December, when Bobby Isaac's Daytona firmly beat the Ford entries with a 144.277 mph average. The Daytona went on to win 80 percent of its races in 1969, finishing with 22 Grand National victories, only four fewer than Ford.
But Dodge's fling with stock-car racing ended after that year, and Plymouth took up the corporate torch with the similar (and quite successful) Road Runner Superbird.
Continue reading to find out more about the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona specifications.
For more information on cars, see:
1969 Dodge Charger Daytona Specifications
The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona represented Dodge's brief commitment to NASCAR racing and resulted in almost equaling the success of Ford.
Engines: all ohv V-8; 426 cid (4.25 × 3.75), 425 bhp; 440 cid (4.32 × 3.75), 375 bhp
Transmissions: 4-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower control arms, longitudinal torsion bars
Suspension rear: live axle, leaf springs
Brakes: front disc/rear drum
Wheelbase (in.): 117.0
Weight (lbs): approx. 3,900
Top speed (mph): NA
0-60 mph (sec): NA