Wings At The '96 Nationals, Part 1
The 1996 edition of the Mopar Nationals was held August 9 - 11 at Indianapolis Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Indiana. The facility is huge (especially just after you've toured it on foot) and so was the Mopar-faithful crowd. Toss in three days of great weather (at least for the mid-west) and you have the recipe for a great event!
In addition to the thousands of cars and trucks available for viewing, hundreds of vendors had all manner of Mopar items on display, most of which were for sale. Among the more notable items on display in the swap meet area (at least to a "wing-o-phyte") was a prototype Dodge Charger Daytona wing. From a distance, it looked liked "just another" SuperBird or Daytona wing which, through some unfortunate twist of fate, had been separated from the car it rightly belonged to. Upon more careful examination, however, it became clear that this wing was really something special.
Shelby Township, Michigan's Greg Kwiatkowski, Chrysler employee and winged car fanatic (he presently owns a Daytona) brought this wing to the Nationals for the Mopar throngs to see first hand. Greg was very forthcoming with what he knew about the wing, and it is reported here.
Although this is a Daytona wing, its construction is significantly different from that found on a street or racing Daytona. As it turns out, this is just one of the wings used by Chrysler during its aerodynamic testing of the Dodge Charger Daytona. And by the way, this was one of the few items in the swap meet area that was not for sale, according to Greg, AT ANY PRICE!
Greg acquired the wing in 1995 from Chrysler employee Don Hicks. Discussions with Don and Chrysler aerodynamicist Dick Lajoie revealed that the wing was used by Chrysler on the #88 Chrysler Engineering Daytona for aerodynamic drag tests at the Huntsville, Alabama airport. Chrysler would send the car up and down the runway (presumably when air traffic was a little slow), measuring how far the car would coast from a known engine "shut-off" point. The engineers would make changes to the exterior of the car and see how much farther (hopefully) the car would coast. Obviously, the longer the coast, the less the aero drag, and the "better" the change. With wind tunnel testing time being very expensive and hard to come by in 1969 (not that its easy or inexpensive today!), this arrangement probably seemed like it was well worth the trouble.
Interestingly enough, Greg reports that the wing is relatively frail, and he doubts that it could have withstood the 200 MPH speeds attained on a super speedway. Apparently the Daytona was not approaching this kind of speed during the airport testing.
The method of joining the vertical and horizontal stabilizer portions is markedly different from that seen on street or racing version. The fit here is rough, with the pivot formed by a "common" hexagonal head bolt, which is not flush with the vertical stabilizer's surface. Both street and racing versions have formed mating surfaces that align and fit relatively precisely, with a large "Allen Head" bolt forming the pivot point for the horizontal stabilizer. On the street and racing vehicles, this bolt is "hidden" in a recess within the upper portion of the vertical stabilizer. The thin wall construction of the prototype wing can also be observed in the photo.
This is a closer view of the Scat Pack decal found on either side of
the wing's vertical stabilizers. If this Bee could talk, what he would
say would certainly cause quite a buzz among winged car enthusiasts!
The Bee is in kind of rough shape - apparently the last 25 years haven't
been so kind. Life should be better from now on, however, as Greg will
certainly make sure the Bee will be resting comfortably in the years to come.
The base of the wing is made of cast aluminum, and is fairly stout. As alluded to above, the remainder of the wing is constructed from relatively thin aluminum sheet metal, formed around a foam core. The rivets just below the seam in the base section attach the strong base to the vertical stabilizers. The small tubes extending from the bottom of each vertical stabilizer slide into matching pipes (of slightly larger diameter) in the trunk of the racing Daytona.
Greg had an opportunity recently to examine the trunk area of the #88 Daytona, and it appears that the tube recievers in the trunk are the right size and at the right angle to "mate" with his wing. This certainly leads credence to the information given to him about the wing's use on the #88 car in 1969. In addition, the #71 K&K Insurance Daytona trunk wing support tubes are vertical, not at an angle as found on the #88 car. This small example of variability in winged car construction further supports the argument that Greg's wing called the #88 car home at one time.
This unusual item was tucked away in just on small corner of the 1996 Mopar Nationals. For those "wing-savvy" folks who were lucky enough to stumble upon it, this piece alone made the trip to the Nationals worthwhile!
NOTE: Greg Kwiatkowski counts this prototype wing as one small part of a much larger Mopar memorabilia collection. Among this collection is a recently acquired and very rare 1966 Charger slot car which is featured in the December, 1996 issue of Mopar Collector's Guide. In addition, Greg has gained access to original paperwork relating to the development and production of the winged cars, including a list of 385 Daytona serial numbers with shipping dates. Thanks to Greg for his cooperation in the preparation of this page.
If you just can't get enough of severed wings from the '96 Nationals, then there are a few more to be seen on the Wings At The '96 Nationals, Part 2 page. Specifically, there are two images of the prototype Daytona wing as well as that of two SuperBird wings looking for a home.