Long before Disney Pixar decided to use the image of Richard Petty’s 1970 Plymouth Superbird in its Cars movie, the enormous blue 200mph machine had become a true icon. Built by Plymouth specifically to lure Petty back to its NASCAR fold after he’d spent his one-and-only year driving for Ford, it transcends all motorsport tastes and allegiances. Everybody loves the number 43 Superbird.
When it was announced that the car was coming over for this year’s Festival of Speed, a fever spread through the GRR office. After all, save for some isolated occasions at special events the car hadn’t really been run – let alone driven – since its final race of the 1970. So the decision was taken immediately to fly to North Carolina for what was the car’s first drive in all that time, ahead of it being shipped over for FoS. What then happened has been documented and was – to say the very least – an historic occasion and one that GRR was hugely privileged to experience.
Predictably, the car was a hit at FoS with everyone who saw it, young or old, and Mr Petty showed remarkable energy for a gentleman approaching his eightieth year. In fact, more than most of our Goodwood Greats subjects we felt quite guilty asking for the car to be delivered to our temporary photographic studio. However, seeing the results of the car as a Goodwood Great we feel vindicated at having removed it from the public’s gaze for an hour or so while it was photographed.
We’ve shot some truly legendary cars, and this must be up there with the very best. But we’re not finished yet. Stay tuned each Friday to see if we come up with something even more iconic …
Photography by Antony Fraser