Winged Warriors/National B-Body Owners Association
Special Feature Car

Introductory Text, Wing Photos and Captions by Sue George
Main Text and Car Photos by James Keehler

This is what the Daytona looks like today with decals installed on the front fenders and the addition of a real race wing, which James purchased from a fellow in New Jersey. We wonder if this may have been the wing from Bobby Allison's race car, as red paint was found at the base of the upright where it joins the quarter panel, and gold paint was found on one of the uprights.

The #88 Daytona clone shown here is the masterpiece belonging to James and Cyndi Keehler of Kingsville, MO. I first heard about this clone project when it was just an idea in January, 1999. During the Topeka Mopar SuperWeekend in September, 1999, the Charger was sitting on the frame machine in the body shop with very little done to it. Imagine what a surprise it was to see that it was assembled, painted, numbered and driven to the Aero Warrior Reunion in Talladega, AL in October, 1999! Here is James' story:

"I've always wanted a Daytona, even as a young kid. But as most of us can relate to, when I had $5,000 saved, the cars were selling for $6,000. After several years of patience and saving, I had $10,000 but the cars had then jumped in price to $15,000. And so on, and so on. Finally I realized that I'd never own a real Daytona and I made up my mind to build one instead.

In 1990, I bought a 1968 Charger. What I basically bought was a freshly rebuilt engine that happened to be in this body. Although the Charger looked decent enough from 100 feet, the interior was gutted, the headliner hung between its bows, dash was cracked, the console had been butchered to install a B&M shifter and the seats were just bare springs. However, the body appeared to be relatively straight and mostly rust-free.

I bought the Charger from a guy who kept it in a storage lot and the car had been broken into. The vandals punched a hole in the grille and stole the front Centerline wheels and tires. He decided to get rid of the car because he was getting married. So I made him a reasonable offer plus I had to rebuild the transmission in his Lil Red Express truck. It ended up equaling about $1,500.

I drove the Charger for a year and a half. While on the way home from Springfield once, I saw 140 MPH in this car, right before the front U-joint let go and the tranny tail housing broke off! I coasted for two miles with smoke rolling off the car. Later when the rear axle started leaking, I parked the car and decided not to work on it until I could get the rest of the car in as good of condition as the engine. The car sat untouched from 1992 until May of 1999, when I started it again for the first time.

In January, 1999, with the Aero Warrior Reunion coming up, I talked about making this Charger into a phony Daytona as I had given up hope of ever owning a real Daytona. In May I was given a posi rear pumpkin to replace the leaky one in the car. Little did I know that this posi had a loose pinion nut. I found this out when the rear end locked up! I was sitting with the car in the middle of the road and couldn't push it forward or backward to get it off the road! Due to this unfortunate incident, I missed bringing the Charger to the '99 Winged Warriors/NBOA meet in Michigan. And then in June, I dislocated my shoulder and couldn't work on the car all summer.

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[1968 Blue Charger - Driver Side] [1968 Blue Charger - Front]
[Charger Without Front Sheet Metal] [Charger With Daytona Front Sheet Metal]
[Charger Without Wing - Rear] [Charger Without Wing - Front]

I always kept that plan of building the #88 clone in the back of my mind. While at the St. Louis Monster Mopar Weekend on September 11-12, 1999, I was lucky enough to be able to buy a Daytona nosecone for $400! Just two weeks before that, I had bought some sheet metal and took some measurements off of Wayne Perkins' Daytona nosecone and was planning to build one (I already had a pair of fiberglass fenders, hood and three doors which I bought in September, 1998, only because it was too good a deal to pass up). Two weeks later, at the Topeka SuperMopar Weekend, I bought a set of RamCharger 15X8 steel wheels for my project. I had actually planned to have the Charger at Topeka and be able to spend that weekend block sanding the car when I wasn't wandering through the swap meet area, but at this time, the Charger was in the body shop sitting on the frame machine.

With the Aero Warrior Reunion fast approaching, finally the Charger was ready to start assembling. On Wednesday October 6, 1999, we hung the fenders and hood on the car. The next day, we made a grille frame and hung the nose on the car using homemade angle iron nosecone brackets. On Friday, Wayne Perkins came over and we block sanded and painted the car - all in one day! We matched the body paint by using a 318 engine spray can and comparing it to the paint chip book. On Saturday, we painted wheels, installed belts and hoses, made lower front fender extensions and headlight brackets, installed the headlights (which are out of a 1980 Datsun) and got the car somewhat road worthy.

On Sunday, Wayne came over to help again, this time with a latch tray, front spoiler and a wing loaded on the back of his truck. We removed and re-hung the nose using Wayne's latch tray this time. Just before he was getting ready to leave that evening, he asked me to help him unload the wing that was on the wasn't until then that I realized he was loaning it to me. I had spent months searching for a wing and it was the ONLY part other than fender scoops that I didn't have yet, nor did I have a clue how I was going to make a wing before the trip to Talladega.

On Monday, October 11th, Wayne and I started working on the Charger at 5:30 PM. The letters and numbers were painted on the car while we installed the marker lights, grille frame and screen, front spoiler, front fender extensions and made a tail light panel. The tail light panel is made out of a piece of plexiglas and the 88's were made of perforated vinyl so the light can shine through them. We also fabricated a valance panel for under the nose out of a piece of sheet metal taken off a school bus. The valance panel and wing were spray painted with Dutchboy rattle cans since the car was already painted. We worked on the car until about 4:00 AM that morning.

On Tuesday, October 12th, Wayne and I began working on the car again at 5:30 PM after I got home from work. On this day, we drilled and installed hood and trunk pins, mounted and installed the wheels/tires (we didn't balance them at this time because there was no wheel balancer available), made wing brackets, drilled the quarters and installed the wing and tail light panel. After Wayne left that night (or should I say morning, since it was 4:00 AM again!), I adjusted and readjusted the carburetor, but it was unresponsive and I finally gave up and decided I'd have to live with it.

Wednesday morning, Cyndi and I were supposed to meet Wayne and Dick Drake at 8:00 AM for our drive to Birmingham, AL. Unfortunately at 8:00 AM, I was still at home scooping all of the trim that was removed for painting the car and didn't get installed yet. I threw it in the back seat along with suitcases, a battery, a couple of carbs, tools and two spare tires and we finally hit the road. We arrived at our meeting place at about 9:00 AM and were told that Wayne and Dick had just left. It was about noon when we finally caught up with them in St. Louis.

[James With Kurt Romberg]

It was quite a challenge driving the clone, as the carb was in bad shape and I had to keep the engine revved and power brake the car just to keep it running in traffic. It wasn't so bad on the open road, except Wayne's car was covered with fuel soot from following me! We arrived at our Birmingham hotel about noon on Thursday, October 14th. I spent the rest of that afternoon in the hotel parking lot gutting the two carbs that were in the trunk and combining parts with the one on the car to make one good one that worked.

On Friday, the car ran pretty good, but I had to spend half the afternoon at Goodyear getting the wheels balanced and the fried brakes adjusted up; they had worn quite a bit from the abuse of power braking during the drive down. After all of this, we were finally on our way to the museum and race track. Once there, we parked #88 with the huge group of winged cars for some group photos, then we toured the museum.

On Saturday, we drove back out to the track and the car ran fine. It spent the day on display at the car show. Sunday morning, we arrived back at the track at 5:30 AM and parked on the grass area. For several hours, we wandered around, ate donuts, looked at the other cars, talked to the people and finally at 9:00 AM, we were allowed on the track where we once again parked for some group photos. About 10:00 AM, we got to drive the rest of the way around and were taken off the track. We never really got to drive around the track in a parade lap, and it was very slow, but it is amazing how steep the banking is. While we were parked on the track, I talked to Harry Lee Hyde, Gary and Kurt Romberg, Dr. Don Tarr and had them autograph my SuperCars book. We then watched the race and headed for home, without any more mechanical problems.

After getting back home, I drove the Daytona clone to work for a couple weeks, before Wayne repossessed his wing, and enjoyed seeing the looks on everyone's faces. This car has provided us with so much fun. Every time we'd stop for gas on the way to Birmingham, we were encountered with the usual 'Do you race that?'. Everywhere we go, people ask questions and take pictures of the car.

For anyone who's ever been discouraged because you couldn't buy a real winged car or think it's horrendously expensive to build your own, I'd like to say that it IS possible to build a Daytona clone without spending your life's savings. My total investment in this car, including the $1,500 I have in the 1968 Charger, is only $3,500! We have had more than that much fun with it!"

As a follow-up note to James' story, he was recently lucky enough to be able to purchase an authentic Daytona race wing, which is now installed on the clone. The photos below illustrate some unusual features of the wing.

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On the passenger's side upright only, there are two small holes, one above the other, that go clear through the wing. Look carefully and you'll see the bottom one is plugged. At this time, we do not know what these were for.
The view of these same small holes from the inside of the wing upright. The extra hole to the left does not appear on the outside of the wing as it did not ever go through the wing. Note that it is drilled at an angle towards the top of the wing. We are guessing that this was someone's errant start at drilling the hole and when they realized that the hole was in the wrong place and angled wrong, the hole was relocated to the right. Why these two holes were not filled like the rest of the holes in the wing is anyone's guess.
This Photo And At Right: Here you can see where there were two large holes on the lower inside of the wing upright. There is also another one of these large holes about 2/3rd of the way towards the top of the upright. Unlike a street wing, the race wing has large metal tubes inside of the uprights that hang out of the wing base where the studs on a street wing would normally be. These tubes enter the trunk through the car's fender and slide into the race wing brackets mounted on the trunk floor. Inside of these big holes are set screws that hold the tubing inside the wing. Once the tubing is secured, the holes were very crudely filled as you can see here.
There is a small screw on the inside of the horizontal bar, both on top and bottom surfaces. It's a set screw to hold the pin that comes out of the horizontal bar and enters into the wing upright. Once the horizontal bar was adjusted, this set screw was tightened.
NASCAR required that a cable run through the entire length of the wing assembly and be attached solidly somewhere to the car. This rule was implemented early on after a crash resulted in a wing coming off of a car and becoming a dangerous missile during a race. Depending on the race crew, the cable is secured somewhere in the trunk under the wing bracket, then runs up through one wing upright via two small holes, through the horizontal bar, back down through the other wing upright and then is secured again to the car. In this case, James attached his wing cable to the wing bracket-to-floor bolt and you can see in these photos where it is threaded through the uprights into the horizontal bar, along side the adjustment bolt.
This Photo And At Right: These race wing trunk brackets were made by James. They are similar, but not exactly like the authentic race wing brackets used by NASCAR builders. For ease of installation, James made his brackets using a single flat steel plate per side. Here you can see the bracket's tubes that the wing's tubes slide into. The bolts in the bracket tubes hold the wing tubes securely. Note how he attached the wing cable to the bracket bolt.
Here is a view of the small screw from the top of the horizontal bar. Photo by Wayne Perkins.
Here is what an authentic race wing trunk bracket looks like. The wing brackets are actually divided so that there is one tube per flat steel plate. Note that you cannot see the wing cable in this photo. Upon inspection inside of the Ramo Stott SuperBird's trunk, the wing cable was visible where it entered the bottom of the wing bracket, but it did not pass through the car's floor, so it was attached to the car somehow underneath of the bracket's flat steel plate. There were probably several different configurations for the cable, as it was up to the individual crews how the cable was secured inside the trunk. Photo from Classic Stock Cars by Dr. John Craft.

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