Yes you read that correctly, Smithfield Foods specializes in pork products and they’ve commissioned the iconic Petty’s Garage to help them create this Superbird masterpiece. And what’s somewhat mind blowing is that Smithfield is having this amazing machine built to be the grand prize of their ultimate giveaway. That means some lucky fan is going to get handed the keys, likely by The King himself, just for buying some pork chops and ribs.
Just in case you may not recognize this massive winged muscle car from the early 70’s, it’s an exact replica of the Plymouth Superbird Richard Petty used to compete in the 1969 and 1970 NASCAR seasons. While it may not be his most successful car, it’s definitely one of the most memorable. So when the moto enthusiasts that run Smithfield Foods made the decision to build a giveaway car, they quickly came up with the Superbird and then it was “off to the races” as you might say.
This isn’t the first time Smithfield has paid homage to Petty and his legendary career. They built a 1967 Hemi Belvedere a while back, and that was one of Petty’s most successful cars. He used it to absolutely dominate the 1967 season picking up a total of 27 race wins, including 10 straight. They also used that car as a giveaway and had major success with it, which made it a no-brainer to do it again.
However, they wanted to do something a bit different even though the underlying subject matter is the same. The Belvedere was an absolute monster, more of a full-fledged race car than anything else. It was fitted with an immensely powerful 650hp Hemi and was stripped of all unnecessary weight such as carpets and such. It was almost too difficult to drive for the average person, so they decided to tame this Superbird down a bit. The goal was to create a car that looked like a million dollars, but would also be capable as a daily driver thanks to modern driveability. Bob Weber of Smithfield Foods had these exact words to say about this Superbird: “Our goal was to build an all-around performance car that you can throw your wife the keys to, and have her drive it to Albertsons. For this build, we wanted to send the message of how to build a car the right way, not like on reality TV. It’s turned out so nice that I want to keep it for myself!”
Now I should mention that this isn’t an original Superbird, instead it’s actually a Plymouth Road Runner that’s been given the Superbird treatment by the mad geniuses at Petty’s Garage. According to Smithfield, they did this because had it been an original the potential winner would likely not be able to afford the taxes on it. Which makes perfect sense considering real Superbirds have sold for as much as $900,000 at auction.
The reason Smithfield has such an affinity towards Richard Petty and Petty’s Garage is that their headquarters is in the same vicinity of Goodyear and Sunoco, both of which are heavily involved in the world of NASCAR. They also commissioned Petty’s Garage to build the Belvedere which turned out essentially perfect, so they knew they were in good hands for the building of the Superbird.
Building something that looks this good doesn’t come easily, or quickly. According to reports, the project started back in December of 2016 and even though they found a solid Road Runner as a foundation, there’s still a ridiculous amount of fabrication involved. Doug Murph of Petty’s Garage recalls the nightmare, saying “A Superbird conversion is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of fabrication work involved with panel-bonding all the fiberglass pieces to the steel body, then getting everything to line up. We spent 80-100 hours on the conversion process alone. It took three full days to modify the hood. If you expect to just bolt these parts on and go, you’re in for a big surprise.”
And that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall process of making this beautiful muscle car. That gorgeous baby blue paint, for example, took an estimated 250 hours when you include the prep and everything else that goes into making a perfect finish. One of the biggest headaches was getting the fiberglass parts to line up correctly with the steel parts.
Just because Smithfield said they are going to make the Superbird more street able and driver friendly, by no means does that mean it’s a slouch in the performance department. Under the hood sits a 396ci Gen III Hemi that’s estimated to put out at least 500hp. Which is more than enough to give you the warm fuzzy feeling when you put your foot to the floor, but also keeps things somewhat manageable for cruising around town running errands.
Muscle cars are notoriously known for having extremely poor handling, so the guys at Petty’s Garage decided to upgrade that too. They ended up going with a simple yet effective blend of modern and old school parts to bring the handling up where it should be. It’s not going to handle like an M5, but it’s not a big old boat like it used to be either.
Even with a significant amount of fiberglass, the Superbird still weighs quite a lot. And with all that power mixed with all that weight, it was mandatory that they upgrade the stopping power as well. They opted to use a set of Wilwood brakes on all four corners, six piston clampers up front and four pistons in the back. They also upgraded the tires to help the car maintain traction. The tires they chose are the new G-Max AS-05’s from General Tire and most reports indicate that they are more than capable.
The interior got its fair share of upgrades as well. But as with the rest of the car, a lot of thought went into those upgrades. Smithfield wanted the car to retain the overall look and feel of the old school masterpiece, but yet have all the modern creature comforts and reliability that some of us take for granted nowadays. Some of the well placed interior upgrades include a full layer of HushMat to help reduce road noise and make the cabin a lot more comfortable to ride in over long distances. Also to help keep things comfortable and enjoyable, they installed an A/C unit from Vintage Air and a complete Alpine stereo system.
The current plan is to give away the car at the season finale 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup event at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. In the meantime, Smithfield is taking the car to numerous NASCAR events where they can show it off to fans and get them all amped up about it so they participate in the contest. In case you’re wondering how you can enter in the contest, it’s actually really simple. All you need to do is go to one of the 2,500 nationwide grocery stores in the Albertson’s family. That includes stores like Safeway, Vons, and Jewel-Osco just to name a few. Once you’re at one of these stores, all you need to do is purchase three delicious Smithfield Pork products and you’ll be entered to win after you send a copy of the receipt. Before you head out to your local supermarket, I should mention that the contest won’t start till sometime in August. You can follow the status at www.wintheking.com.
If you’d like to see the entire build process, Hot Rod has followed it from the get go and they have a full list of articles explaining just how difficult it is to pull something like this off, at least with this level of quality and craftsmanship. I’ll include links to the articles in the following: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.