Mopar Collectors Guide :: June 2006

Lord of the Stings  –  ’70 Hemi 4-Speed Super Bee

Despite what the factory may have said publicly to the contrary, from day one, the Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge Super Bee were built to be street racers. The evolution of the muscle car has several distinct epochs in its history, and in those periods, there is a clear evolution of the beast. With due respect to GTO aficionados who contend the ’64 GTO was the first true “muscle car,” the argument can be just as easily made that the Stutz Bearcat was the world’s first muscle car. Still, the first legit modern era muscle car was hands-down the 1955 Chrysler 300. For a decade, Chrysler fought a closed-minded war with the consumer, convinced that an extremely high horsepower new car either had to be an all-out race car unfit for street use, or it had to be a hyperactive luxury machine weighed down with creative comforts. With the success of the GTX and Coronet R/T in 1967, the factory was emboldened to take the progression one step further down toward a basic no-nonsense cheap car with a potent motor, and the Road Runner was born. Hot on the heels of the beeping Plymouth came Dodge’s version, the Super Bee, and street racers were in love with the economy performance machines from the word go.

When you talk about street racer Road Runners and Super Bees, one tens to think of the ’69 lift -reet off hood 440+6 cars as being the most flagrant examples of factory offered budget race cars. Arguable, they were. The street presence that the Mopar B-Bodies established in 1968 and 1969 led to a reputation second-to-none going into 1970. As collectors, many of us today look back at 1970 as the peak of the muscle car war – that one magic year when every manufacturer pulled out all the stops and there was no such thing as “too much.” Over at dodge, however, the handwriting was on the wall – the Super Bee was a dead duck. The 1971 Coronet would be an entirely new creation and, since the Super Bee had always been eclipsed somewhat by the Dodge Charger, the company saw no need for three performance saw no need for three performance vehicles in the same basic price range and configuration  (the Coronet R/T, the Super Bee, and the Charger R/T). For 1971, the Super Bee would be nothing more than an option package on the Dodge Charger. Obviously, that didn’t stop everyone from counting the Super Bee out before its time was done.

Fred Taylor of Antioch, Illinois was, apparently, a die-hard street racer kinda’ guy back in 1970. So, it would stand to reason that in the wandering days of the Super Bee’s reign of terror, Fred Taylor marched into a dealership in Antioch to order up a killer street machine. The original owner of our featured 1970 Super Bee bought his new Dodge with one mission in mind – win races. The Bee left the factory with the 425 horse Hemi mated to a no-nonsense Pistol Grip four speed which is made even more aggressive looking thanks to the bench seat interior. Backing everything up is the 3.54 geared Track Pack Dana 60 rear. Burnt Orange Metallic paint made the bruiser a bit more subdued than many  of its brethren which left the factory wearing high impact colors, but the big white C-stripe on its flanks removed all pretense of this car being a “sleeper.” Still, for reasons best known only to himself, the original owner attempted to disguise his new Hemi car.

In the high profile world of street racing circa 1970, everybody knew what a Super Bee was, so there was no sense in trying to hide the car’s identity. That being the case, the owner decided to disguise the car as a lesser Super Bee. Then, as now, there’s a big gap in how people treat a 383 powered Super Brr as compared to a Hemi powered Super Bee.

These days, that difference is largely monetary, but in 1970, racers looked for emblems and earmarks for an entirely different reason – nobody wanted to pick a fight with a Hemi car. Since Hemi Bees came standard with the dual scoop Ramcharger hood, people knew any Super Bee with that hood was likely a Hemi or 440 Six Pack car. When new, the original owner replaced the dual scoop hood with the standard Super Bee bulge hood and removed the car’s Hemi emblems. He also added mags and fat tires right off the bar, then removed much of the original exhaust in favor of shorter pipes and low restriction mufflers. It was a rumbling Bee with fatso tires, but it didn’t look like anything other than a typical 383 stick car. Needless to say, a number of victims are believed to have fallen prey to the Dodge’s downplayed appearance.

Fred tired of the Burnt Orange Hemi car after a couple of years, selling it to Bert Johnson in 1973. Bert kept the Bee a few years, then sold it to Edward Crier in May, 1976. Edward kept the Bee under wraps most of the time but continued to street race it on occasion, finally parking it and then selling it to Kris Tadey in Michigan in 1986. As muscle cars were already rapidly progressing in value at that time, Kris did nothing with the car – it remained parked in his garage.

As the 1970’s progressed, the Super Bee’s true colors became common knowledge among the locals, so there was little point in continuing the subterfuge as the decade progressed. The first set of mags gave way to state-of-the-art spun aluminum Centerline wheels with non-DOT approved slicks mounted out back for assisting in traction. Driving a car on the street with drag slicks is just asking for trouble, legally and practically, but this was a Dodge built for trouble. Aside from serving duty on Saturday nights and the occasional weeknight battle, the Bee was never used as a daily driver and never served as a main source of transportation. Thus, the mileage remained low and the car was never subjected to harsh Illinois or Michigan winters or bad weather. So, at the time of its being placed in hibernation, the Super Bee was a remarkably well preserved example of the breed.

Through contact with Galen Govier, Bill Wiemann foudn out about the dormant Hemi Super Bee in the summer of 2005. Bill worked out a deal with Kris Tadey, and the title changed hands for the first time in almost two decades. Bill had the sleeping beast hauled over to Aloha Automotive Services, in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Tommy and the boys at Aloha initially laid plans to perform a simple mechanical and cosmetic make over on what appeared to be an outstanding original car, but with Bill’s enthusiasm ramping up quickly, as well as their own, the whole thing rapidly became a full-on rotisserie restoration. And, as the car came apart, sure enough, there were some surprises lying under the skin.

At some point early in the Bee’s life, it took a hard hit in the nose which apparently required the replacement of a fender, the bumper/grille, and other objects up front. The driver’s frame rail had been rather poorly straightened many years ago, so Tommy and his crew set everything straight (literally) and soon had all the sheet metal back in the right place. The body was stripped to the bare metal, a new deck lid was installed to remedy rust problems on the original, the correct Ramcharger hood was reinstalled, and the whole works was treated to a superb new coat of glossy Burnt Orange Metallic. The original matching numbers Hemi and drivetrain were kept in place after just a basic rebuild and cosmetic make over. One of Aloha’s really cool tricks with their Hemi restorations is the installation of electronic ignition guts inside a stock-looking point-type distributor. Not even the most ardent car show judges can spot that this is an electronic conversion.

Six months after entering Aloha’s shop, the 38,000 original mile Super Bee went west to Scottsdale and Bill Wiemann’s stable. Being primarily an E-Body guy, Bill’s been blow away with how solid and dependable the copper Super Bee is. The one starts right away, idles smooth, runs like a spotted ape, and is sexier than a Norwegian super model. The Bee now occupies a place of honor in Bill’s collection and is one of his favorite mounts. A bit more practical than his Hemi convertibles, this one is raising cane on the streets of Phoenix today probably just as mush as it did the streets of Illinois back in 1970! Isn’t it refreshing to see that after almost four decades, this Bee is still going out and picking fights with Camaros and Mustangs?

Story by :  Mopar Collectors Guide

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