History of the Dodge Super Bee – Part 2, Six Packs and High Impact Hues

This week the 2012 Charger Super Bee was “officially” shown during the LA Auto Show, so we wanted to look back at the history of the nameplate. Last month, we covered how the Super Bee came to be (pun purely intentional) in the History of the Dodge Super Bee – Part One and want to continue to share with you the story of this fabled musclecar.

 

Before the 1968 Super Bee run concluded, Chrysler designers and engineers were already making improvements for the 1969 model year. When the automotive press came to the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan for the long-lead press event in the late summer of 1968, they picked up on the Bee’s improvements immediately. Most notable was the new “Ramcharger” hood (option code N96 for all you numbers freaks out there!) that fed cool fresh air direct to the engine via twin mounted hood scoops. The product planners also upgraded the interior from its spartan taxi cab appointments. The 383 Magnum still remained the standard engine with the 426 HEMI® optional for those brave souls who wanted to live with solid lifters, dual quads and had an extra $800 lying around.

 

However, the really big news came mid-year as the powertrain guys in white lab coats huddled in the Dyno Cell 13 at Chrysler’s engineering facility in Highland Park, Michigan to put the final touches on the new big-block engine combination that would shock and awe the cross-town competition. Apparently someone in product planning had been paying attention to the street scene and felt an engine option between the King Kong HEMI and the durable but somewhat mild 383 was needed to fill the engine bay of the Super Bee. After all, image is everything and having street creds carries a lot more than traditional marketing. The HEMI option put the Super Bee out of reach for many young buyers who wanted to clean house on Woodward Avenue or Van Nuys Boulevard.

Therefore, the engine gurus at Chrysler HQ grabbed the 440 Magnum out of the Coronet R/T. But they went one step farther and reached out to the west coast performance icon Vic Edelbrock Jr. In a joint collaboration between Chrysler and Edelbrock, a unique aluminum high-rise intake manifold was developed that utilized three Holley two-barrel carburetors that could swallow 1350 cubic feet of air per minute (CFM).  The already venerable 440 Magnum was also treated some internal upgrades such as stiffer valve springs and a low-taper camshaft. When it came time to name this new package, the marketing folks simply called it “Six Pack,” which was a play on the description of packaging beverages. In reality, the gearheads on the street knew the name referred to the new induction system (three X  two barrel carbs) mounted on the already potent 440 wedge. Known among the “code breakers” in the Mopar® community as the A12 Super Bee (A12 referring to the option code), these unique Bees stood out from their brethren due to the matt black painted lift-off fiberglass hood with SIX PACK decals in blood red applied to both side of the massive hood scoop and the new high impact exterior colors such as HEMI Orange, Butter Scotch, Bright Green Metallic and many more. Chrysler’s engineers even hung the massive, indestructible Dana 60 rear axle on the car for increased durability.

 

Word on the avenues and the drag strips spread quickly about the Six Pack Bees (and their 440 6BBL Road Runner cousins) about how fast these cars were, right off the showroom. They occasionally even caught unsuspecting Street HEMI owners off guard and soon established a “don’t mess with ‘em” reputation among the numerous drive-in restaurants and hangouts where legions of street racers and cruisers gravitated. The major car publications also picked up on the hot new Six Pack Super Bee and the editors came away impressed with its outstanding performance.  In the hands of virtually anyone, a bone stock automatic equipped Six Pack Bee could hustle down the quarter mile in roughly 13.5 seconds. If conditions were right, a 12.9 run or quicker was within reach.  These were stout numbers for any production car on skinny 70 series bias ply tire back then.

Sales for the Super Bee did very well for the Dodge brand in 1969. The product planners had done their homework, while at the same time developing the Charger 500 and Daytona for NASCAR competition. The “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” theme justified the huge investment in motorsports, but the street had its own rules and the reality was “Shut ‘em down Saturday night, they’ll convert Sunday night.” This did correlate into ROI for the Dodge Scat Pack as market share in the intermediate performance segment grew significantly.

 

In part three, we’ll look at the controversial styling of the 1970 model and examine how the Super Bee became a member of the “Charger Brigade” in 1971.

 


  • ROADNTRACK

    DAMN, I wish I still had my A12 ROADRUNNER

    Anyone have a “tribute car” for sale???

  • moparman

    No way, you mean the superbee wasn’t just some stickers and limtied edition paint……like what Dodge is selling now?

    Since I’m on the subject of engines, I jsut gotta say two things:

    1) Really getting tired of hearing “Hemi this” and “Hemi that”, especially considering these new engines, while wodnerful machines, are not truly Hemi engiens at all

    2) I’d sure like to see a modern 440.  Please Dodge, if you can’t fix the sedan (less doors or a new name), at least offer a 440 in the Challenger (heck I’d even take a 383…)

  • ROADNTRACK

    I agree with moparman’s first point. The new BEE is no better than a 75 ROADRUNNER from a marketing aspect. Nothing really special,just decals and hype and we are expected to pay more for it?

    Disagree on point 2 though. A 426 would be perfect (with a FACTORY blower).

    (GT500 now has 650 hp from a boosted 5.8)

  • Jerome

    It is a shame a guy can’t get a real Charger these days. Dodge screwed up making it a 4 door car.
    Just like when Pontiac did the same to the Grand Prix.
    What they need to do now since they ruined the Charger is come out with a real Roadrunner.
    A real 2 door low budget taxi cab trim tire ripping V8.

    • ROADNTRACK

      I would like to see a modern DART!  Something sized and PRICED close to Must@ng and the same weight with a 6.1 would ROCK!