Photos by Jerry Heasley.
If any car epitomizes the daring design work of Chrysler Corporation stylists, it’s the 1969 Dodge Daytona. This space age rocket on wheels seems more like a far-fetched concept car than an actual production vehicle you could see on America’s highways in 1969. To call the 1969 Daytona’s styling jaw-dropping is an understatement.
The neatest thing about the Daytona’s unique shape is that it wasn’t done as a styling exercise or for shock value – it was done for practicality. The primary purpose of the Daytona’s design was to dominate high bank NASCAR racetracks. That goal was quickly realized, much to the dismay of Mopar’s competitors.
The 1969 Daytona is the third version of a very daring design that thrilled critics and buyers alike when it debuted as the production 1968 Dodge Charger. That beautiful design has been hailed by many as one of the most handsome muscle cars of all time. As slick as the new 1968 Charger appeared, it didn’t perform especially well on high-speed NASCAR tracks. The recessed backlight and grille were problem areas, so flush versions were added to produce the 1969 Charger 500.
The Charger 500 was good, but not as good as its Ford competitors. So the Chrysler designers came back with version #3 – the 1969 Daytona. The not-very-subtle Daytona name was a clear indication of the car’s intended purpose. The radical 18-inch nosecone was designed to slice through the air at speeds approaching 200 mph (not a common problem for daily commuters). The enormous rear wing was designed to provide sufficient downforce to keep the Daytona stable at high speeds.
The design changes were very successful in helping the Dodge Daytonas dominate their namesake race, finishing first, second, third and fourth.
Regular 1969 Dodge Chargers had hidden headlights, and so did the Daytona. Two reverse facing scoops on top of the front fenders exhausted engine heat on NASCAR Daytonas, but they weren’t functional on street versions. Daytonas were available with either the 375hp 440 Magnum or the 425hp Hemi. A mere 503 Daytonas were built – enough to satisfy homologation rules, but not enough to quench current collector demand.
Owner: Jim McCauley, Nixa, Missouri
9 Daring Designs
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Published Dec 31st, 1969