By 1968, the muscle car phenomenon was in high gear as Detroits automakers tried to one-up their cross-town rivals with new models and more cubic inches. The horsepower wars for street and strip domination was on par with the cold war arms race. GM had solid footing with the GTO introduced four years earlier, but it was Plymouth that got the formula right for an entry level performance vehicle that the average young enthusiast could afford.
“Meep Meep” Introducing Road Runner
Apparently this manager just happened to be watching TV with his kids when the idea popped in his head. Because of the overwhelming response from consumers and the automotive press when the Road Runner was introduced, the bar was now raised on how the car companies come to market with new performance vehicles. When the Road Runner hit the showrooms in late 67, Chrysler/Plymouth dealers could not keep them in stock as sales went through the roof throughout the country. Soon the neighboring Dodge dealers took notice and began firing off telegrams back to sales and marketing offices within the at Dodge Main plant in Hamtramck Michigan asking everyone from midlevel managers to the top of the house, Bob McCurry (Dodges General Manger) that they wanted the same.
The Buzz on the Super Bee
Therefore, the Dodge product planners sat down and copied the same ingredients from Plymouth. They used their intermediate Coronet two-door as the foundation and added the tear drop domed hood from the Coronet R/T. The engineers also used the same 383 high-performance big-block and A833 four-speed transmission from the Road Runner. When it came to creating an identity and name for this performance vehicle, McCurry assigned the Dodge styling office this task. Since the Dodge Scat Pack had been launched (a marketing umbrella for the Charger R/T, Coronet R/T and Dart GTS) earlier in the year, the designers simply looked at the Bee mascot for inspiration, made some minor tweaks to its look and shape and then crafted the name Super Bee.
The creative team even came up with a unique font for the decals that would adorn the quarter panel. Even though Dodge had launched the revised Charger in 1968, they also knew that market trends were shifting to entry level performance vehicles. Even though one could argue that the Dart GTS with its stout high-winding 340 small-block would have fit the bill, it didnt have the same image as the Road Runner or the same available engine options (like a 426 Street HEMI®). Thus, the business case for the Super Bee seemed to make perfect sense.
Besides, the Dodge marketing managers and engineers viewed the Plymouth guys as competitors despite the fact their paychecks were signed by the same person. Also, each brand wanted a piece of the growing youth markets thirst for high-octane performance cars that they could show off while cruising the avenues and main streets in their towns.
Next Up: History of the Dodge Super Bee Part 2: Six Packs and High Impact Hues
In part two, well take a closer look the impact of the Super Bee and how it left an indelible mark in the young car culture of the late 1960s. Well uncap the history behind the infamous440 SIX PACK option and how it came together in just a matter of months to paralyze the competion and lead the Dodge Scat Pack for street supremacy.