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Dodge Super Bee: 1968-71 Muscle Cars

by David Zatz

Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, Dodge was still a premium car, between Plymouth and Chrysler. The 1968 Coronet R/T made sense in that context — it was a well trimmed but high-performing car, with its base 440 four-barrel, and optional Hemi and 440 Six-Pack engines.

1968 Super Bee

The Coronet R/T had a price to match the power and amenities, and likely sold in small numbers. The 1968 Plymouth Road Runner, on the other hand, showed that a low price could bring quite respectable sales — at least, for value-based Plymouth.

super bee logo from scat pack

The Dodge Coronet Super Bee was, in essence, a theft of the Plymouth Road Runner, rushed out during the 1968 model year; it even had the same 335-horse 383 V8. (That engine, with heads, intake, cam, and exhaust manifolds from the 440 Super Commando, had been put together by Plymouth, and was meant to be exclusively used in the Road Runner.) A four-speed manual was standard, along with heavier duty suspension components, bigger brakes, and a different hood. The Super Bee name was a clever play on the B-body chassis (“Super B.”)

dodge super bee

To put it into a Dodge context, the Super Bee used the Dodge Coronet body, which was one inch longer than the Belvedere-based Road Runner. It also used die-cast chrome emblems, where Road Runner had black and white decals (color came to Plymouth a year later). The dashboard was taken from the Dodge Charger; four-speed manual cars used a Hurst shifter and linkage, which were generally seen as better than the Plymouth’s Inland setup. All these changes kept it higher than the Plymouth with regard to market placement, and added 65 pounds to the weight.

bumblebee stripes

The Super Bee name and logo were created by Dodge studio designer Harvey Winn; the logo was used unchanged after he hand-cut the design on his dining room table. It won a studio design review and went on to be the centerpiece of what industrial designer Mack King called “a more graphically stated muscle car than the Plymouth Road Runner.”

Harvey and Mack applied the original decals and bumble bee stripes to a yellow and white 1968 Coronet convertible, with a customized interior (by the Alexander Brothers), for the Detroit Auto Show. The production car ended up being fairly similar.

Buyers had two engine options: the base 335-hp 383, and the 425-hp 426 Hemi.

1970 Coronet Super Bee
Max track, width 59.7, 76.7   Hip room, f/r 60.6 / 60.6
Height 53   Gas tank 19 gallons
Wheelbase, length 117, 209.7   Front brakes 11 x 3 drums
Headroom, f/r 37.3 / 36.7   Rear brakes 11 x 2.5 drums
Legroom, f/r 41.8 / 31.1   Wheels/tires 14.0 x 6 F70
Shoulder room, f/r 58.1 / 58.1      

Sales data for the Super Bee was apparently not broken out, so we can’t tell how successful it was, but most likely it sold better than the R/T and not as well as the hot Plymouth. We do know that Dodge made fewer than 28,000 of the 1969 Super Bees, compared with over 84,000 Road Runners and 196,242 Coronets overall.

1970 super bee

The 1969 and 1970 Super Bee had the usual annual styling changes, confined mainly to the grille and rear. 1969 Super Bee buyers could also get the 440 cubic inch, triple-carburetor (two barrels each), 390 horsepower engine; it also added the Ramcharger air scoop on the hood (which was functional, and standard with the deep-gulping Hemi).

The Plymouth “Coyote Duster” air induction hood was matched by a less graphically adept Dodge version; and the Super Bee gained a hardtop model to join the original.

 383 Magnum440 SixPack426 Hemi
Carburetor4-barrelthree 2-barrel

two 4-barrel

Compression 9.5:110.5:110.25:1
Air Cleanerdual snorkelunsilencedunsilenced
Gross horsepower335 @ 5200390 @ 4700425 @ 5000
Torque (lbs-ft.) 425 @ 3400490 @ 3200490 @ 4000
Intake/exhaust duration 268° / 284°  284° / 284°
Base transmission3-spd manual 3-speed auto
Gears2.55, 1.49, 1:1 2.45, 1.45, 1:1

The 1970 Dodge Super Bee, with a completely new grille, was promoted with an ad featuring Dick Landy purportedly saying (in words that sound remarkably like the rest of the ad copy):

dick landyThe ’70 Dodge Super Bee was designed to provide a full-sized car with a lot of performance and a minimum of gingerbread. ... that’s why Super Bee’s standard engine is the husky 383-cubic-inch V8 with the heads right off the big 440 Magnum, which has got to be the hot setup! Super Bee is truly the budget supercar for the man who wants a big-car performance without spending a bundle for it.

The Super Bee I tested had the swingin’ optional Six Pack setup... three mind-blowing two-barrel Holley carbs on a new high-rise manifold, all bolted on the 440 Magnum engine. Biggest problem was getting off the line without smoking it. Feather foot definitely required. The hood has hinges this year, nice when you check the oil, and the scoops feed directly into the Holleys.”

dodge super bee

For the 1971 model year, Dodge decided to split the two door Coronets from the four door sedans; going forward, what had been the two-door Coronet was now a lower-cost-and-content version of the Dodge Charger. The Super Bee, as a muscle-coupe, moved to the Charger line, keeping its standard 383 engine; it was visually differentiated by decorations, such as the Super Bee hood logo.

1971 dodge super bee

Dodge made just 5,054 of these Charger Super Bees, roughly one quarter the number of Road Runners. 99 of these came with the 440 Six-Pack, and 22 with Hemis.

1971 dodge super bee

The Super Bee had come in with a bang, and just as quickly, a mere three years later, disappeared again. It could have been worse; it could have hung on as a stripe package á la Road Runner.

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