Go straight to the parts store and purchase a pair of Cherry Bombs before picking up your girl for a night on the town? Perhaps you’d make that long-anticipated trip to the local drag strip for a few rounds so that you could figure out what you needed to do on day two–you know, to wring a few more horses out of the V-8 in front of you? Everyone else did, right? Upon being handed the keys to a brand-new performance car back in the late ’60s, what’s the first thing you’d have done? Lay a long strip of rubber all the way to your buddy’s house?
A few hundred thousand variants of these scenarios no doubt played out by the time the 1970 models rolled onto showroom floors, and it seems as though everyone who lived through that time can attest to the fact that very few muscle cars were ever treated like the family sedan–at least in front of friends. But we also know that there were those owners who babied their high-powered steeds, at least to an extent that prolonged their showroom-fresh curb appeal while helping to ward off repair bills. Yet even in many of these instances, well-kept cars were often repainted or even restored once the first muscle car revival kicked in during the ’80s, when any evidence of age was considered unacceptable and genuine originality was not yet fully appreciated.
But today, as collectors finally come to recognize the value of completely unmolested specimens, more examples of unrestored and unaltered muscle cars are being shown to illustrate what these cars actually looked like on the day they left the assembly line–cars such as this Plum Crazy 1970 Dodge Super Bee, currently under the care of John Scalfani of Queens, New York.
Introduced to the unit-body Coronet Deluxe line for 1968, the Super Bee was an excellent–and, at just $2,555, more affordable–alternative to the $3,353 Coronet R/T; it was also an internal answer to Plymouth’s Road Runner. Only available as a two-door coupe, its list of standard equipment alone made the Super Bee worthy of muscle car status: a floor-shifted four-speed manual gearbox, Rallye instrument panel, heavy-duty Torsion-Aire suspension and heavy-duty brakes. Visual appeal included a power bulge hood, F70-14 red-line tires, blacked-out grille and the all-important “Bumble Bee” stripe around the back end of the intermediate’s then-new “Coke-bottle” body. Additionally, much like Plymouth’s Road Runner, the B-body Super Bee included a racy cartoon character as its emblem. Making it even more tempting, included with the base price was a juiced-up 383-cu.in. V-8.
A member of the B-series of engines that had been around since 1958, the 383 engine received a number of upgrades to raise its output, yielding the 383 Magnum just in time for the new Super Bee for 1968 (this configuration also appeared as Plymouth’s “Road Runner Engine” that year). These included a high-rise-type intake manifold mounting a Carter AVS four-barrel carburetor, plus a high-performance hydraulic camshaft and cylinder heads that made use of larger 2.08/1.74-inch intake/exhaust valves, both borrowed from the 440. All together, the engine was rated for 335hp and 425-lbs.ft. of torque.
In an effort to clarify the Bee’s intended purpose, Dodge listed a quarter-mile time of 14.4 seconds at 98 MPH in some of its sales literature. There were, of course, the guys who longed for more, and for them, Chrysler offered–at a significant additional cost–the 426-cu.in. Street Hemi. Also on the option chart was the TorqueFlite automatic, as well as additional faux quarter panel scoops and a litany of power equipment options, suspension and rear axle upgrades.
Visually, the Super Bee received standard facelifts to its grille and tail panel the following year, but otherwise remained relatively unaltered. There were a few exceptions, such as the availability of a two-door hardtop and a hood featuring a functional air induction system (also known as the code N96 Ramcharger). The other notable addition to the Super Bee’s option sheet for 1969 was the famed A12 package, which provided the matte-black lift-off fiberglass hood, as well as the drag strip-inspired 440 Six Pack engine. There were other associated goodies with the A12 option, but in base form, there were few noteworthy mechanical advancements on the ’69 Super Bee.
Which brings us back to John’s 1970 edition. In spite of the fact that corporate officials had every intention of treating the B-body lineup to a complete restyling for ’71, Dodge gave the Coronet line a somewhat radical, if not controversial, facelift in the interim: two massive loop bumpers that encapsulated deeply recessed grilles and twin headlamps. Separating the two bumpers/grilles was a small downturned section of the redesigned hood, which met with a trim panel that bridged between the bumpers; this was chrome on most models, but covered with a body-colored filler on the Super Bee. The hood also came with a new power bulge featuring twin faux scoops and chrome “Super Bee” badges. Additional exterior refinements included the installation of restyled quarter panels–with one faux recessed scoop, rather than two–and a new tail panel configuration. Among the available exterior upgrades were the Ramcharger hood, complete with functional scoops, bolder quarter-panel C-stripes and new-for-1970 Rallye wheels.
As for the mechanicals hidden below, the 383 Magnum was yet again retained as the base offering, unaltered on paper with regards to output, though now using a Holley carburetor; the 440 Six Pack became a regular engine option rather than a package and, of course, the 426 Hemi remained available. Scratched from the standard equipment list, however, was the four-speed manual, which was supplanted by a floor-shifted three-speed manual. The four-speed then joined the TorqueFlite automatic as optional equipment. As had been the case ever since the Super Bee’s introduction, the power was put to the pavement via Chrysler’s durable 8¾-inch differential, which contained ratios ranging from 3.23 to 3.91:1, depending upon how the car was optioned; the Dana 60 axle was optional with certain drivetrain combinations, with either 3.54 or 4.10 gears.
Keeping everything glued to the pavement was the Torsion-Aire suspension. The heavy-duty system used 0.92-inch diameter front torsion bars in conjunction with 1-inch diameter tubular hydraulic shocks and a 0.94-inch anti-roll bar. At the opposite end, a pair of semi-elliptic leaf springs worked with another pair of 1-inch tube shocks. The rear leafs were different than those found in a standard Coronet: the left assembly was comprised of six leafs, while the right side had five and a half.
Inside, creature comforts were rather pedestrian in nature: vinyl bench seat and standard lap and shoulder belts, but at least a buyer still received the 150 MPH Rallye gauge cluster (less clock and tachometer)–perfect if all you needed to do was get from point A to point B in a hurry, in moderate comfort. Vinyl buckets, choice of radio and a center console all had to be selected off the option chart, as did power steering, power brakes and tachometer, which would have added to the “wow” factor while out on the town.
Despite its restyling, the ’70 Super Bee limped in with a total production figure of just 15,506 examples; a staggering number of them, 11,540 to be exact, were hardtops. Some of the drop in high-performance Coronet sales could probably be attributed to the debut of the Challenger that year, but whatever the cause, Dodge seemed to feel it no longer needed a two-door Coronet. So when the new ’71 models debuted, the Coronet was offered only as a four-door, leaving the Charger to serve as the only two-door Dodge B-body, and thus, the basis of the Super Bee for that year.
John’s Bee, a hardtop, contains the base 335hp 383 backed by the TorqueFlite. It’s also nicely optioned with such amenities as bucket seats, center console, solid-state AM radio and rear speaker. Further comfort enhancements include power steering and power disc brakes. Aside from the Plum Crazy paint option, the Bee also sports 14-inch Rallye wheels and the quarter panel C-stripes, and perhaps strangely, a black vinyl roof. So who would have ordered such a muscle car?
“The original owner was an 18-year-old girl. She and her father, Thomas Pakos, ordered the car through Pyramid Motors in Poland, Ohio, on the east side of Youngstown,” said John. “The car’s history is essentially completely documented. She owned the car for a few years, and eventually got married. The story I heard was that the couple didn’t feel like carrying on with the payments. So Thomas ended up with the car, effectively making him the second owner; although technically he wasn’t, because he was the co-signer. There may have been a pass or two with it on the drag strip, or after hours, during her ownership, but that’s unconfirmed.”
According to reports, Thomas got tired of driving around in a purple car. Basically viewed as a used late-model, he sold it to a gentleman by the name of David Jones, when the Bee’s odometer showed just 10,592 miles. Prior to 1984, owner number three–Robert Taylor–purchased the car with less than 17,000 miles showing. “For some reason, nobody really drove the car to any great lengths,” said John. “For instance, the car’s fourth owner was Steven Minor. He spotted the car in 1984 when it had just 16,900 miles on the odometer, and when he finally purchased it in May the following year, only 100 more miles had been rolled on.”
Maintaining that pattern, the fourth owner used the Super Bee sparingly. “I believe there was a period of time in the Eighties or early Nineties when the car sat in a museum. Steve didn’t use the car that much, either. When I first saw the Super Bee, it was under cover and up on blocks showing 19,600 miles,” recounts John. “I had travelled out to his place in Indianapolis, Indiana, to check out a restored 1970 Dodge Challenger that he was selling. It was a great car, but in passing, I told him that I was really into unrestored cars. That’s when Steve showed me this car, though he wasn’t interested in selling it at the time.”
A salesman by trade, John had his work cut out when it came to convincing Steve to pass along the keys and title. “A few people had tried to purchase it unsuccessfully, but we managed to reach an agreement by November 2002,” recalled John. “The car is truly original. Factory wires, plugs, tires, interior–the works, even the paint. It’s not perfect; everyone knows what quality control was like in 1970, and this car represents that time. For instance, there’s undercoating under the hood and blended into the paint. The only major thing we’ve had to do to it was replace the mufflers–the originals rotted out.”
By the time HMM Editor Terry McGean photographed the Super Bee, there were a scant 20,751 miles showing; however, in a follow-up interview, John stated that he has, on occasion, driven the car.
“I’ve actually taken it to the Mopar show in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and to an event at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey,” John confessed, going on to explain his confidence in the Bee. “The car starts right away; it’s got a little rumble to it, but not too loud. It’s a B-body, which means there’s plenty of leg and headroom, and it’s easy to drive. The Bee stops and corners just like any other comparably equipped muscle car of the day and it cruises down the highway nicely.”
Of course, as with any older performance car, it has its quirks. “The only concern is that with the 22-inch radiator, it’ll run a little warm in traffic,” John mentioned after having the guts to brave New York City’s highways on the way to our Brooklyn photo location. Still, he knows the risks and how to manage them.
“For the most part, it does get trailered to the big shows, such as Bloomington Gold in 2010, where it received the Zenith award at the Survivor’s show. In all honesty, it’s now a car that you’re almost afraid to drive. It’s still essentially a new 1970 Super Bee.”
I own soup-to-nuts restored muscle cars, but I really love the survivors. Usually, there are no issues with them–nothing missing. So the paint may not be perfect and there are the period quality-control issues. But those are traits that, no matter how hard you try, cannot be replicated. You can’t replace it. Anybody can own a restored car, but not everyone can own an unrestored example. Right now, I’m just its fifth caretaker–I’ll happily enjoy it until it’s time for someone else to maintain its originality.–John Scalfani
National B-Body Owners Association
Boone, Iowa 50036-2019
Dues: $30/year • Membership: 500
P.O. Box 3504
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49003-3504
Dues: $35/year • Membership: 4,000
+ Nothing like owning a new 1970 muscle car
+ Special-order Plum Crazy paint
+ History is fairly well documented
– Constantly hearing, “When was that painted?”
– Adding miles subtracts value
– Irreplaceable originality
Base price — $3,074
Price as profiled — $3,926.55, with $48 destination charge
Options on car profiled — B41 Disc brakes, $27.90; B51 Power brakes, $42.95; C16 Console, $54.45; D34 TorqueFlite automatic transmission, $227.05; J55 Undercoating & hood insulator pad, $16.60; R11 Solid State AM radio, $61.55; R31 Rear-seat speaker, $15.15; S77 Power steering, $105.20; W21 Rallye wheels, $43.10; M6X9 Bucket seats, $100.85; FC7 High-Impact paint, $14.05; V1X Black vinyl top, $95.70
Type — Chrysler B-Series OHV V-8, cast-iron block and cylinder heads
Displacement — 383 cubic inches
Bore x Stroke — 4.25 x 3.38 inches
Compression ratio — 10.0:1
Horsepower @ RPM — 335 @ 5,200
Torque @ RPM — 425-lbs.ft. @ 3,400
Valvetrain — Hydraulic valve lifters
Main bearings — 5
Fuel system — Holley 4160 600-CFM four-barrel carburetor, mechanical pump
Lubrication system — Pressure, gear-type pump
Electrical system — 12-volt
Exhaust system — High-flow exhaust manifolds and dual rear-exit exhaust
Type — Chrysler TorqueFlite 727 three-speed automatic
1st — 2.45:1
2nd — 1.45:1
3rd — 1.00:1
Reverse — 2.20:1
Type — Chrysler 8¾ housing with hypoid gears
Ratio — 3.23:1
Type — Chrysler recirculating ball, power assist
Ratio — 15.7:1
Turns, lock-to-lock — 3.40
Turning circle radius — 44 feet
Type — Hydraulic, power assist
Front — 11-inch vented disc
Rear — 10 x 2.50-inch cast-iron drum
Chassis & Body
Construction — Steel unit-body with subframes
Body style — Two-door hardtop
Layout — Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Front — Independent; control arms; heavy-duty torsion bars; telescoping shock absorbers; 0.94-inch anti-roll bar
Rear — Live axle; semi-elliptic leaf springs; telescoping shock absorbers
Wheels & Tires
Wheels — Chrysler Rallye stamped steel
Front — 14 x 6 inches
Rear — 14 x 6 inches
Tires — Goodyear Polyglas GT bias-ply
Front — F70-14
Rear — F70-14
Weights & Measures
Wheelbase — 117 inches
Overall length — 212.7 inches
Overall width — 76.7 inches
Overall height — 53 inches
Front track — 59.7 inches
Rear track — 59.2 inches
Curb weight — 3,425 pounds
Crankcase — 5 quarts
Cooling system — 16 quarts
Fuel tank — 19 gallons
Transmission — 15.5 pints
Bhp per cu.in. — 0.88
Weight per bhp — 10.22 pounds
Weight per cu.in. — 8.94
Total 1970 Super Bee production was 15,506 (11,540 hardtops and 3,966 coupes). Of that number, some published reports indicate that 1,072 hardtops and 196 coupes featured the 440 Six Pack, while 32 hardtops and 4 coupes were assembled with the 426 Hemi.
0-60 MPH — 5.6 seconds *
¼ mile ET — 14.04 seconds @ 99.55 MPH *
Top speed — 129 MPH (est.) *
80-0 MPH — 250 feet
*January 1969 issue of Car & Driver testing a 1969 Dodge Super Bee with a 335hp 383-cu.in. V-8, TorqueFlite automatic, 3.55:1 final drive ratio and power accessories.
This article originally appeared in the February, 2011 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.