Our headquarters hotel for the March spring meet was the Sleep Inn in Conway, SC. Members started arriving at the Sleep Inn on Thursday, March 13th, and began washing their cars, socializing in the parking lot and getting settled into their rooms. Those of us in the northeast and midwest who left our climates of cold and snow behind were very happy to arrive in South Carolina's warmth, and to see sunshine and flowering dogwoods. In the evening, we gathered in the hotel breakfast nook and exchanged photos and swapped stories until the wee hours of morning.
On Friday morning our huge chartered bus arrived at the front door. Reggie, our bus driver, made four rounds during the day from the Sleep Inn to Myrtle Beach that day hauling our members down in groups to enjoy the ocean and do some shopping along the boardwalk. Unfortunately it was a very blustery day only in the low 50s and cloudy so heavy clothes and coats were the dress for the day. There were a few brave souls (or were they idiots?) who were playing in the ice cold ocean water, though our members opted to stay dry. Dr. Granville Vance, who very generously arranged for the bus that day, also made sure there was a Five Star Productions Mopar video from a past winged car meet playing in the bus's VCR to entertain us! By Friday evening, the hotel was filling up with Mopars and another evening was spent swapping stories and looking at some different cars we haven't seen before.
Saturday morning dawned very cloudy and still unseasonably cool. Mother Nature couldn't put a damper on our group though, and everyone headed out to Myrtle Beach for our car show at the NASCAR Café. It seemed all the winged cars showed up in pairs of colors, as we had two Limelight SuperBirds belonging to Bill and Susan Dallas of Oregon and Emery Walton from Ohio; two red Daytonas belonging to Ken Smith of Texas and Duane and Bonnie Catlett of Virginia; two Vitamin C SuperBirds belonging to Gary and Lois Small of Massachusetts and Randy Cade of North Carolina; two Lemontwist SuperBirds including Durry and Debbie Faulk's 4-speed car from Georgia and Rick Myers 440+6 automatic car from Canada; and two Tor Red SuperBirds belonging to Ed and Sue George of Iowa and Brian and Lisa Sears of Ohio.
Breaking the trend were three B5 Blue SuperBirds including Ron Harmon's well traveled 400,000 mile car from Virginia, Dr. Vance's from South Carolina and Albert Pokrzywa's from North Carolina. Phil Handley of Maryland brought the only Alpine white SuperBird-a Hemi 4-speed at that with the rare combination of a white interior! Gary Svec of Ohio brought the only black 440 Daytona. We also had three race car clones show up including Mike Svec's pink and yellow #42 Marty Robbins Daytona from Ohio, Brian Urgonski's red and gold #22 Bobby Allison Daytona from Indiana and Joe Machado's blue and white Daytona that is really raced and was also featured in the Spice Girls video. Joe won the Long Distance award for driving his Daytona from Palm Desert, California to Conway, SC to this event! That's approximately 2,450 miles one way!
B-bodies in attendance included Cheryl Vance's beautiful red 1969 Coronet convertible from South Carolina, Dickie Wolf's red 1969 RoadRunner convertible from Virginia, Ray Williams red 1964 Dodge from South Carolina, Dr. Vance's B7 blue 1969 SuperBee from South Carolina, Ric LaFollette's Limelight 1970 GTX from Indiana, Anita LaFollette's super nice white 1974 Charger from Indiana and Dave Hein's Citron Gold 1966 Satellite from South Carolina.
Almost as soon as the members had parked their cars around the front of the NASCAR Café, there was a swarm of spectators coming to look. At 10:00 am two beauty queens braved the cold and rain to mingle with the members and pose for photos. A very big Thanks to Miss NC State-Amber Onufer (who was with us in 2001 also!) and Miss Florenc-Julia Burgoyne. These two ladies are very dedicated to their titles....Bryan Urgonski persuaded each of them to somehow climb in and out of the #22 race car for photos.
About 11:00 am it started to pour rain, so everyone headed into the restaurant for lunch and to check out the paraphernalia that is on display....old driver's uniforms, race trophies, driver photos, racing equipment, etc. The NASCAR Café even went to the trouble of printing up a batch of press releases that were left at the front door the week before we were there for customers to take with them. The press release read as follows: March 15, 2003; 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM: The Winged Warriors will be here displaying their cars on Saturday-free to the public-in our parking lot-rain or shine. The Winged Warriors are a group of Honda Goldwing Motorcycle enthusiasts." What?! Ok, so much for the nice press release. The members had a good laugh over that one! By 1:30, with no sign of the pouring rain letting up, we headed back to the hotel in Conway.
When we arrived back at the hotel, southern BBQ chef, Roy Todd had pulled his truck and smoker underneath of the hotel awning. Inside the smoker he had slow cooked a 215 pound hog for our group since the day before. Since it was still raining, we held our BBQ picnic inside the hotel in the breakfast nook....all 85 of us with a long table full of wonderful food. (Yes, we shared with the hotel personnel for letting us use the room and some extra tables!) Our compliments go out to Chef Roy for a truly exquisite meal that everyone really enjoyed and to Ray Williams who made all of the arrangements. After the meal, we held a raffle and gave away lots of Mopar collectibles and then briefed everyone on our plans for Sunday at Darlington.
Sunday morning, we awoke before 5:00 am to mist and fog. The weather report had promised an end to the rain by mid-morning and sure enough by 6:30, when we left for the 60 mile drive to Darlington Speedway, it had quit. We encountered little traffic and our convoy had no problems until Dr Vance received a cell phone call from Darlington that there had been a sudden change of plans due to our original parking area now being flooded! We all pulled into the supermarket parking lot bordering the racetrack to meet with Darlington personnel. We were escorted into a different gate and taken behind the Tyler Tower where we had a excellent display area for our cars on the asphalt. Once we had parked, we were given a free hour to shop the vendor trailers and check out the Dodge City display while the track crews ran the dryer on the race track. At 10:30 am the track van showed up in our area to escort us onto the track for our very long and slow parade lap while the announcer read the following to the fans:
"The group on the track today is the Winged Warriors/National B-Body Owners Association, which is headquartered in Boone, Iowa. They are a club devoted to the preservation, restoration and enjoyment of 1962-74 Dodge and Plymouth automobiles.
The Plymouth and Dodge B-body cars include RoadRunners, Chargers, Coronets and GTXs. In racing form, these cars were used extensively and successfully in ARCA, USAC and NASCAR racing during the 1960s and 1970s. The street versions were some of the hottest selling musclecars of the era.
After many successes with their B-body racing program, Dodge was able to aerodynamically improve the standard 1969 Charger racecar by developing a new flush mounted rear window and grille area. It was named the Charger 500 and was the first significant breakthrough for Chrysler Corporation in special-bodied stock car racecars. Testing at the proving grounds and on the race track proved it to be superior in smooth airflow and reduced drag, however, at top speed in its debut on a superspeedway, it also became uncontrollable due to an extreme amount of lift at the rear end. During his qualifying run in his new Charger 500 racecar, where he lost control and narrowly missed crashing in the corner due to lift, Buddy Baker pronounced it to be the most dangerous car he'd ever driven.
After 391 street versions of the Charger 500 had been built and sold to the public to qualify it to race the 1969 NASCAR season, Chrysler engineers went back to the drawing board to solve the Charger 500's problems.
The rear end lift was solved with a rear wing. The original wing that was developed and tested for the racecar sat only several inches above the rear of the car. This was all that was needed to make the Charger 500 stick to the track. However, because 500 street versions would have to be built and sold to the public, and the trunk would have to be accessible to those owners, the wing was raised up to two feet above the rear deck.
To make the Charger 500's front end more slippery, a pointed nosecone was designed and installed. The new racecar was named the Dodge Daytona. After making it's racing debut in July, 1969, it went on to win many races and set many speed records. In fact, it was the first car to ever go 200 mph on a closed course. Today the Daytonas are very rare and highly collectible cars. The Daytonas you see here today are powered by 440s and 426 Hemis.
In late 1969, Plymouth went to work on their standard 1970 RoadRunner model to develop their own version of the Daytona. A nosecone similar to the Daytona's was designed and the rear wing was re-shaped and tipped back at a sharper angle. The RoadRunner's rear roof area was aerodynamically improved and a new flush rear window was installed. This car was named the Plymouth SuperBird. Because NASCAR was not terribly fond of Ford's and Chrysler's special bodied race cars, and thinking that Chrysler would not go to the expense required, they mandated that at least two street versions of the new 1970 Plymouth winged car be built for each major dealership in the US. This rule resulted in a total production of 1,935 SuperBirds.
By the time the SuperBirds were built and sent to the dealerships, gas prices had risen sharply, the government was concerned with safety issues, and the insurance companies had developed a bad taste for performance cars. Needless to say, the SuperBirds did not sell well and many brand new cars were still sitting on the lots as late as 1973. Despite poor sales of the street cars, the SuperBird race cars went on to create their own racing legend. Today the street versions are also very rare and highly collectible.
By the end of the 1970 race season, NASCAR had effectively banned the Daytona and SuperBird from competitively racing. One Daytona did run in the 1971 Daytona 500 race, however, being restricted to a 305 engine made it a non-contender to win. The winged cars continued to race in USAC and ARCA for many years later. All of these Dodge and Plymouth cars have a race rich heritage.
The cars you see here today are from Canada, Oregon, California, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina. The racecar versions you see are clones, built by their owners with great detail to resemble the real thing."
There was also a bit of ad-lib from the announcer about honking our Beep-Beep horns! All of the pit crews came out to the wall to get a closer look at the cars and to cheer for us. We exited the track at turn 2 and some cars went back to our parking behind the Tyler Tower, while others hit the road for home.
A very big THANKS to Mac Josey and the staff at Darlington Raceway who always go out of their way to welcome and accommodate our members and their cars. We appreciate their professionalism and attention to detail and it is always a pleasure to go to Darlington!
|Photos by Terry Roelofs|
|Photos by Ric Lafollette|
|Photos by Sue George|
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