Blast from the past: Daytona Continental Plymouth

When NASCAR officially told manufacturers they could no longer directly support racers, a prohibition that was only lightly observed by GM and Ford, Chrysler sought a new series to test their mettle and gain publicity. They chose the new Daytona Continental road race, and built up a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere with the 426 Hemi dual-carb racing engine.  The car was a prototype—a factory version was planned for homologation, with a likely thousand or two to be made.

Daytona Plymouth Belvedere

The Daytona Continental was a 1,240 mile road race intended for GT cars and factory prototypes, giving Ferraris, Porsches, and other European (or European style) sports cars a definite edge. Plymouth’s entry was a 3,850-pound (all liquids, no driver) Belvedere, quite large compared to all the other competitors—the 1962 race had been won by a Lotus, while Ferrari took 1963 and 1964.

The covers over the lights were likely meant for protection rather than aerodynamics, especially since the stock door handles stuck out of the sides and no other aero touches were added. The car had an A-833 four-speed manual transmission with active cooling, along with a good deal of air ducting to cool the brakes. The prototype car used lessons from NASCAR and USAC racing, but this was a harsher environment.

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The Plymouth went to Daytona for three days of practice before the race, running 102 laps during practice—around 388 miles. The engineers ran out of time to replace the practice engine with a new one, and settled for replacing the exhaust rocker arms and moving on. The car qualified #11.

After 50 laps, oil pressure dropped; at 52 laps, a connecting rod bearing failed, possibly from the lack of oil pressure, and the car dropped out of the race. Chrysler left the Daytona Continental to traditional sports cars, and before long returned to a successful NASCAR run.  Full story and more photos at motales.com

David Zatz started what was to become the world’s biggest, most comprehensive Mopar site in 1994 as he pursued a career in organizational research and change. After a chemo-induced break, during which he wrote car books covering Vipers, minivans, and Jeeps, he returned with some friends to create StellPower.com, which is intended to end up as an enduring partnership. Contact him at (973) 925-6058 or check out the new junkyard/slant six book he edited.