If you’re cruising in your crossover and hear an oddly familiar “Beep-Beep” from behind, but all you’ll can see in the mirror of the car tucked under your tailgate is a black vinyl roof framed by what looks like flattened orange road cones bridged by a thin fibreglass blade, hold onto your steering wheel, that ain’t no cartoon Road Runner looking for a way to blow by.
What’s back there is a “Superbird” of an entirely different feather packing an outrageously aggressive beak to balance that flamboyant empennage and a 440-cubic-inch V-8 topped by triple carbs. Along with that unique horn note, which still has coyotes looking over their shoulders, and decals depicting the cartoon Road Runner holding a helmet.
And chances are at its wheel will be Alan Boughton, who as a Toronto teen in the early ’70s hung out at drive-ins – Harvey's, A&W and Apache Burger – and indulged in a little street racing. “It was what you did; if you were working and you had money you bought yourself a hot car. And the guy with the fastest car was always held in the highest esteem. And was more attractive to the ladies,” he says.
Actually there’s likely no need to tuck in your elbows these days if Boughton’s Tor-Red 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird pulls up astern.
No longer the transport company dock-walloper he started out as after high school, he now runs Trailcon Leasing in Mississauga and is more likely idling along on his way to a cruise event. He doesn’t need to get his go-fast thrills on the street any more now that he owns his own race track.
Well, a share of one anyway. Boughton and partners Carlo Fidani, who heads industrial real estate development firm Orlando Corp., and Canadian racing legend Ron Fellows handed over the cash to purchase Mosport International Raceway from the Panoz Motor Sports Group earlier this year.
Boughton obtained his licence as a 16-year-old in 1969, the peak of the 1960s muscle-car era – “the absolutely best time in the history of the automobile in North America” – which has flavoured his enthusiasm since.
His first jobs helped pay for a pair of Dodge Chargers, but a heavy metal hiatus due to marriage and kids and the need to trade “hot cars for furniture” followed. Then in the mid-1980s he swapped one indulgence, cigarettes, for another, a 1979 Corvette. “I couldn’t have both, so every time I was tempted to have a cigarette I’d run out to the garage and look at the Corvette.”
After founding Trailcon in 1992, Broughton could indulge his passion for cars with a bit more brio. His fleet currently includes a 1934 Ford Tudor, 1965 Corvette 396, 1966 Corvette Coupe, a Panther Pink 1969 Dodge Charger R/T, 1970 Challenger R/T, 1970 big-block 454 Corvette, a 1979 Dodge Little Red Express pickup and, as daily drivers, two modern Mustangs (one a GT500 KR) and a Corvette ZR1. The Superbird was added five years ago.
The Plymouth Superbird of 1970 followed the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona created as an aero-packaged-equipped ringer to run circles around the less slippery-shaped opposition on NASCAR ovals.
The Plymouth version, based on the Road Runner, extended the wedge nose even further and the story goes that the “mathematical formula” that dictated that tall rear wing height was a closely held secret for decades. It was actually that high to allow the trunk to open.
Superbirds could be ordered with a 426 Hemi, 440 Super Commando or 440 Super Commando with three two-barrel carb V-8s and with four-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Broughton’s is one of 716 built with the 440 and three Holley carbs. It makes a seriously understated 390 hp and 490 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph takes 5.9 seconds.
To meet NASCAR requirements Plymouth built one of these one-year-wonders in late 1969 for every dealer, or about 1,920 and maybe 47 came to Canada. Richard Petty won eight races with them in 1970 but Bobby Issacs won the championship in a Daytona. Top speed was well over 200 mph.
Street versions listed for $4,804 (U.S.) but few were interested. “They were so ugly they couldn’t give them away,” says Broughton. They don’t give them away today though. Some have sold for better than $300,000 at auction in recent years.
The latest and biggest addition to Boughton’s automotive hobby collection, Mosport, came about due to a chance aerial encounter involving “funny shoes.”
On a flight to attend a Barrett-Jackson auction he noticed a passenger wearing driving shoes like a friend had a penchant for and joked to his wife, “Look, there’s another guy wearing those funny shoes.” That guy turned out to be Ron Fellows, whom he’d met briefly once before, who was on his way to his racing school and the pair struck up a friendship.
Boughton later suggested to another friend, Carlo Fidani, that he and his sons participate in Fellows’ school and while bench racing after a session Fidano joked “we should have our own race track.” And asked Fellows, “which one should we buy,” to which he responded Mosport.
Then, surprisingly, things got serious. A phone call by Fellows to Mosport owner Don Panoz revealed it wasn’t for sale but as he was involved he’d be willing to talk. Subsequent discussions led to Panoz tossing a number on the table that was fielded by the Canadian trio who kicked it around, and still questioning whether buying a race track made good business sense, at the last minute almost decided to back away. Until, relates Boughton, one of Fidani’s sons said: “You know Dad, it doesn’t always have to be about the money.” Boughton and Fellows agreed and the three became the new owners of Canadian racing’s “crown jewel” in June.
Back in 1970
Paul McCartney announces the demise of the Beatles at a press conference and the launch of his first solo album. The Who: Live at Leeds is released and Black Sabbath record Black Sabbath.
Diana Ross and The Supremes perform their final live concert in Las Vegas at which they announce that Jean Terrell, sister of boxing champ Ernie, will replace Ross.
American Motors Corp. cuts the tail end off a Hornet and creates a Gremlin, while Chevrolet introduces the long-lived, second-generation Camaro.
Apollo 13 takes off for the moon, an oxygen tank explodes and forces the crew to nurse the crippled spaceship back to earth.
Harold “Frog” Fagan from Toronto – he made his racing bones at Pinecrest Speedway – is the only foreigner running in NASCAR’s Winston Cup series, in which he finishes 96th.