The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona
The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona evolved from Dodge’s Charger fastback, introduced in 1966. The Charger fastback was conceived for the racetrack, but actually performed quite poorly in competition. In 1968 Dodge attempted to spruce it up with rear spoilers for competition models, but even with this improvement it was still considerably slower than its competitors. The aptly named Charger Daytona of 1969 was an attempt to bridge the gap and give Dodge a solid NASCAR contender to compete with superior Ford racing cars.
The Charger Daytona was fitted with an extremely large rear stabilizer to reduce the problem rear-end lift of the earlier fastback. It also featured a more aerodynamic front-end design, and between these two changes was considerably faster than its predecessor. Dodge built approximately 500 Daytonas, as this was the minimum requirement for a production car to compete in NASCAR.
Charger Daytonas were equipped with the famed 426 Hemi engine, and performed exceptionally in speed trials. The Daytona set a new world record for speed at Talladega, clocking in at nearly 200 mph. To Dodge’s chagrin, the car did not perform nearly as well in its first race. Ford still had the upper hand, drastically outperforming Dodge in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charger was simply too fast for its own good; due to excessive tire wear drivers could not maintain max speed for the duration of races without blowing out the tires.
Dodge engineers implored tire manufacturers to make a more durable tire for the Charger, but it simply could not be done. Despite this issue, with expert driving to conserve tire tread, the car proved it could still contend with Ford and other manufacturers. By the end of 1969, the Daytona won 22 Grand National races, with NASCAR racing leader Ford winning 26. The Charger Daytona was a definite success.
Dodge ceased its production of racing cars in 1970, so the original Charger Daytona only enjoyed one year of production. The Charger Daytona name was revived in 1976 as an upgrade package for the Chrysler Cordoba. In 2006 Dodge brought back a new version of the Charger, offering a sporty Charger Daytona upgrade package. The new Charger is still in production today.