Our previous attempts at chronicling NASCAR history and Petty racecars have been pretty shoddy — so please see the full Mecum Auctions writeup below the AMAZING photo set here. Fast facts are:
— this is believed to be the only 1973 Petty-built racecar still surviving
— entered circuit for the ’74 season, and was raced until the late 1980s
— original driver? None other than Dale Earnhardt
Another semi interesting tidbit? There seems to be a possible ‘special mode’ — or something — right above the gauge bezels. Some slight scratches in the polished alloy around a mounting hole indicate a paper-clip inserted here might unlock some kind of super beast mode? Or not. But full of rich presence and charisma regardless.
1973 Dodge Challenger Race Car – Ex-Dale Earnhardt – Saturday Night Special By PETTY
Kissimmee, January 15-24, 2016
T156_R136_ 1973 Dodge Challenger Race Car
1973 Dodge Challenger Race Car
Petty Enterprises Built Kit Car
ESTIMATE: $40,000 – $80,000
In the early-1970s, Chrysler came up with a unique program to help promote its vehicles in sportsman-level circle-track racing. These were racecars in kit form, released through their then-distributor Petty Enterprises and developed by the legendary Larry Rathgeb, who was also part of the streamlined Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird programs. The new kit allowed performance-minded buyers to buy all of the pre-fitted hardware as needed to fabricate a race-legal vehicle, and they eventually could be purchased through Mopar dealers nationwide. The car seen here is one of the prototypes built for the testing program used to develop appoximately 30 customer cars that were later sold during Chrysler’s kit car program, and has been restored to its 1973 configuration. Moreover, this is believed to be the sole surviving example to surface to date. Starting with the basic Petty Enterprises chassis, the car could be bodied as a Chrysler A- or E-model. Details are important in any race restoration, and this one features a real W2-head, roller-cam 355 CI small-block Chrysler engine, complete with proper Holley 4-barrel carburetor with LeMans-type float bowls and M/T valve covers. A 4-speed transmission and an original Petty Enterprises full-floating Chrysler 8.75 differential make up the driveline. The car retained the rare chromed slot-type race wheels with correct Petty Enterprises center caps. Exterior décor includes race lettering, period-type sponsor identification, engine callouts, scoop-type hood, two-piece deck spoiler, rear window tie-down straps, and headlamp/tail lamp block-off plates. Inside are period correct gauges to monitor engine functions, a Hurst shifter, roll cage, and single seat; the car still retains its 4-piston Hurst-Airheart front disc brakes. Upgrades for the modern era include braided lines with AN-fittings, cooling system upgrades, and an ATL fuel cell. This rare Chrysler E-body racecar was featured on “My Classic Car” with host Dennis Gage and the Hot Rod Network.
– Petty Enterprises built KitCar for Chrysler’s new race program
– KitCar program drivers were Pete Hamilton and Dale Earnhardt
– Believed to be the only prototype left
– Raced until 1989
– Initially an asphalt car converted to dirt
– Correct W2 355 CI roller engine
– 4-barrel carburetor
– Mickey Thompson valve covers
– Original Petty Enterprises 8.75 Floater rear end
– 4-speed transmission
– Hurst shifter
– Two piece rear spoiler
– Modern ATL fuel cell
– Petty Enterprises wheels with logo in center caps
– Featured on The Hot Rod Network
Photos by Phillip Pietri, Courtesy of Mecum Auctions/
Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.
He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.
Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.