The 1960s was one of the most exciting periods for cars, including the muscle car scene. American carmakers spawned one muscle car after another; some are now iconic, such as the Dodge Charger and the Ford Mustang. But others are slowly forgotten, only remembered by muscle car enthusiasts. The Dodge Super Bee seems to fall into the latter category.
Although now mostly forgotten, the Dodge Super Bee has an interesting story to tell. We’ll delve deeper into what inspired it, what it’s like to drive, and why the Super Bee had such a short lifespan.
History Of The Dodge Super Bee
During the heyday of the American automotive industry, everyone was putting their elbows out trying to get as many pieces of the market as possible. The big four of Detroit (Ford, GM, Chrysler, and AMC) were making one car after another to cater to every corner of the auto market.
Pontiac – who was then owned by GM – saw an opportunity to sell affordable muscle cars to the youth. And if they want to cater to the younger market, they’re going to have to make an affordable car with loads of power. Their answer was the Pontiac GTO, which in 1964 was sold as an option package for the Pontiac LeMans. It became an instant hit with a base price of just around $2,500 ($22,300 in today’s money).
Chrysler not wanting to be outdone, commissioned Plymouth (which was owned by Chrysler) to make a similar affordable muscle car to compete with the Pontiac GTO. Thus came the Plymouth Road Runner in 1967. It was a basic muscle car with a vinyl bench seat and few amenities.
But it got what mattered: a massive V8 engine up in the front. Three engines were available, with the base model having the 383 (6.3L) engine. If you want more power, Plymouth offered a 440 (7.2L) V8 and a 426 (7.0L) Hemi V8. After seeing the success of the Road Runner, Dodge came up with their own budget muscle car: the Super Bee, albeit slightly late to the party.
But nevertheless, it was spot on. It was cheaper than the Charger and the Mustang and had a striking look. And of course, there were several choices of V8s available to fit the different desires and pockets of the younger customer they were targeting.
Dodge Super Bee: Models & Engines
Dodge chose the Super Bee name because they saw how successful the Road Runner was with its cartoon persona. Fun fact, Plymouth had to pay Warner Bros $50,000 to use the Road Runner name and likeness from the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon.
So, they came up with the Super Bee name. While not based on a cartoon character, it had a cartoonish logo. They designed the Super Bee logo as part of the car’s persona, which was a redesign of their Scat Pack logo.
The Super Bee was based on the Dodge Coronet. Since Dodge was also owned by Chrysler, the Super Bee and Road Runner share parts and similarities, such as the Chrylser B-Platform which they both use. Additionally, the Super Bee uses similar engines to the Road Runner, which we will discuss further below:
1968 Model Year
The Super Bee remained largely the same from 1968 to 1969 with some updates. As mentioned, they share similar engines to the Road Runner. The base model Super Bee uses the Chrysler 383ci (6.3L) Magnum V8 engine making a healthy 335 horsepower and 425lb-ft of torque. While this is exactly the same as the base model Road Runner, the Super Bee was slightly heavier and longer than the Road Runner.
Additionally, it was more expensive than the Road Runner at around $3,000 ($23,000 adjusted for inflation). This puts the Super Bee awfully close to the price tag of the higher-end Charger and Ford Mustang. In other words, it was nearly $1,000 more than its sibling the Road Runner, but about the same price as the 1968 Pontiac GTO.
Despite its price tag, it was still a very basic muscle car. Sure, it had vinyl bucket seats and a Hurst shifter as standard, but the rest of the car was still pretty basic just like the Road Runner. For example, even though it had a Rallye gauge package from the Charger, a tachometer doesn’t come as standard.
But still, the Super Bee had bumble bee racing stripes around the tail, decorative power bulge, wheel lips, and red-line wide oval tires as standard. All this meant it was still striking to look at, and younger customers love that. Additionally, there were larger more powerful engines available. Specifically the 426ci HEMI V8 and a 440ci Dodge V8.
1969 Model Year
1969 saw the introduction of a hardtop version of the Super Bee. This meant the removal of the door pillars, making it look much cooler when you open the door compared to the coupe version. It’s also the year that Dodge introduced their “Six-Pack” engine, which was a revision of the 440ci (7.2L) engine done by MOPAR engineers.
The Six-Pack V8 features three two-barrel Holley carburetors, hence why it was called a “Six-Pack”. In addition, there was also an Edelbrock Hi-Riser manifold, Hemi valve springs, adjusted camshafts, and magnafluxed connecting rods. As a result, this engine now makes 390 horsepower and 490lb-ft of torque.
But if you want more power, the HEMI version is still the one to go. The 426ci (7.0L) Hemi V8 may be smaller in size, but it produces a whopping 425 horsepower. However, the Six-Pack version was around $500 cheaper. The other engine available was the base 383 Magnum V8, with the 440 Magnum being reserved for the Coronet R/T.
1970 Model Year
The 1970 model year still had the same engine options as before. But this was the year that the Super Bee received a major redesign, most notably at the front-end. Dodge gave it a twin-loop front bumper that they referred to as “bumble bee wings”. This front-end looked like a split grille design, with the headlights housed inside the loop.
Facelifts were nothing new, but this gave the Super Bee a much-needed fresher look. This redesign made the Super Bee look much more striking, and more importantly, distinct from its rivals and its sibling the Coronet.
However, while we like the look of this model of the Super Bee, it seems not many customers back then agree. Dodge sold well over 27,000 Super Bees in 1969. In 1970? They sold only around 15,000 units, nearly half of what they sold the year before. It seems the striking looks of the twin-loop design were simply not for the muscle car buyers back then.
1971 Model Year
Dodge moved the Super Bee away from the Coronet platform and used the Charger platform as the base for the 1971 Super Bee. Since the Charger already has a high-performance R/T version, the Super Bee was once again marketed as the budget option. However, it was slightly more expensive this time at around $3,200.
There were more engine options available this time for the Super Bee. The smallest engine available was a 340ci small-block V8, with a 383ci and a couple of 440ci big-block V8 as options. And of course, the 426ci HEMI V8 was also available as the most powerful option.
The 1971 Super Bee still had the twin-loop front bumper, albeit slightly redesigned and actually resembles the Charger quite a lot. Meanwhile, the rear-end is largely the same, but it has a slightly lifted back giving it somewhat a “fastback” look. Despite the redesign, the engines, the relatively affordable price, the Super Bee died in 1971. This brings us to our next topic…
Why The Dodge Super Bee Died
As with most discontinued cars, the Super Bee died simply because of poor sales. Why keep making a car that nobody is buying, right? But why didn’t it sell? It had striking looks, a relatively affordable price tag, and plenty of engine options. Not to mention, some of the standard equipment such as the Hurst shifter was much loved by enthusiasts.
It seems to be mostly down to two things, the first being the price. While it’s still cheaper than its higher-end counterparts, it was still more expensive than the Plymouth Road Runner. Pair this with the fact that the Road Runner has about the same level of equipment as standard, not to mention the same engine options (apart from the Six-Pack engine), the Super Bee suddenly doesn’t look like a compelling option.
The second reason for the poor sales seems to be rising insurance rates. Insurance companies started raising the insurance rates for performance cars in 1971, including these budget muscle cars. The Plymouth Road Runner and the Plymouth Duster also felt the effect of this. However, the Super Bee seems to have it the worst.
Sales went from around 15,500 units in 1970, down to just 5,054 units. And when you consider sales were already dropping since 1969, it’s understandable why Dodge discontinued the Super Bee. Meanwhile, its sibling the Road Runner lived on. Spawning two more generations up until 1975, and even becoming a NASCAR legend in the form of the Superbird.
The video above isn’t about the Dodge Super Bee, but it’s fascinating to see how the legendary Plymouth Superbird came about. While Dodge no longer makes the Super Bee, the name did return in 2007 worn by the Dodge Charger:
Modern Iterations: Dodge Charger Super Bee
Dodge has actually brought back the Super Bee name a couple of times in recent years. The first was in 2007 where they introduced the Dodge Charge Super Bee model. It was based on the LX Charger SRT-8 platform, with a special “Detonator Yellow” paint available for customers.
Meanwhile, the inside was fully black similar to the all-black vinyl interior of the original Super Bee, but with yellow accent stitching on the seats and shift knob. Aside from the cosmetic upgrades, it was still essentially the same Charger SRT-8 with a 6.1L HEMI V8 engine making 425 horsepower.
Dodge only made 1,000 units of the Charger Super Bee in 2007, but they continued making it in 2008 and 2009. It was largely the same, but it was only made in Blue Pearl Coat color in 2008 with a production run of 1,000 units. While the 2009 model only came in “Hemi Orange Pearl Coat” and was limited to just 425 units.
After a brief hiatus, the Super Bee name returned to adorn the new LD platform Charger in 2012. It was a variation of the Charger SRT-8, meaning it had the 392ci (6.4L) HEMI V8. Initially, it was only offered in “Stinger Yellow” and “Pitch Black”, but Dodge added more color options for the 2013 and 2014 model year.
Unlike previous Charger Super Bees, this time it stayed true to its original roots of being a “budget” muscle car. Dodge removed most of the luxury equipment amenities, making it cheaper than the SRT model but was still as potent as one.
We imagine it wasn’t a big hit since the Super Bee name disappeared again after just three years. But it came back again in 2019, and it was angry…
2019 Dodge Challenger Angry Bee
The “Bee” moniker came back after five years, this time on the 2019 Dodge Challenger but with a twist: it was angry. The official name is Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 1320 Angry Bee – a mouthful, yes. While it drifted away from the budget roots of the Super Bee, it was an impressive car nonetheless.
A 392 HEMI V8 powers this particular Challenger, with 485 horsepower and 475lb-ft of torque on tap. Dodge claims it’ll cover a quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds which is mighty impressive considering this is both street legal and is approved by the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA).
This means you can leave this particular Challenger as it is without any modification and you’re eligible for heads-up and bracket racing with the National Muscle Car Association (NMCA).
Features on this Angry Bee include a TorqueFlite 8-speed automatic transmission, Nexen street-legal drag radials, performance-tuned limited-slip differential, and four-piston calipers brakes from Brembo. Additionally, there were other features useful for drag races such as TransBrake which can lock the output shaft to hold the car stationary before a standing start.
The Angry Bee also has retuned suspension and rear axle half shafts adopted from the Challenger SRT Demon. To further help performance on the strip, it had a Torque Reserve system that can manage fuel flow and control ignition timing to maximize power delivery and launch performance. And of course, it has Line Lock to help you do burnouts to warm up the tires before launch.
It wasn’t quite like the original Super Bee, but its pure focus on speed and performance meant it was worthy of the Angry Bee name. We rather like it.
A Different Species: The Mexican Valiant Super Bee
Not quite the same as the original Super Bee, but we feel like we can’t talk about the Super Bee without mentioning its Mexican cousin: the Valiant Super Bee. This was made by Chrysler of Mexico and intended as a replacement for the Plymouth Barracuda. It was essentially a sports car, or also known as the pony car, for the Mexican market.
The reasoning behind its creation was that the Barracuda was getting too expensive to manufacture and sell in Mexico. So Chrysler of Mexico needed something that was cheaper – and therefore more profitable – for them to sell in Mexico.
The Valiant Super Bee is related to the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Duster as they all share the same Chrysler A-Platform. This means the Valiant has a semi-fastback body, with a 318ci (5.2L) LA V8 engine as the only option from 1970 – 1973. Then the 360ci LA V8 was introduced in 1974 with an extra 30 horsepower on tap.
A second-generation Valiant Super Bee was introduced in 1977, it still had the same 360ci LA V8 engine. With the same horsepower output, and same transmission options paired with it. It received several minor cosmetic updates throughout its lifespan, such as headlight redesigns, up until it died in 1980.
Truth be told, the Valiant Super Bee is nowhere near as exciting as the original Super Bee. Engines were subpar, and they looked boring. Certainly not as exciting as the twin-loop look on the 1970 Super Bee.
Additionally, the Valiant Super Bee was in no way related to the original Super Bee. But Chrysler often brought model names discontinued in the U.S. to Mexico. It’s not quite a Super Bee, but we just had to mention this one to give you a comprehensive history of the Dodge Super Bee.
Is It A Collectible Today?
The Valiant Super Bee? Dear God, no. But the original one? While not quite as desirable as something like the Dodge Charger or Challenger, it’s certainly still sought after by many muscle car enthusiasts. And the Super Bee is now worth more than the Road Runner since they are rarer.
We found that a Super Bee in an as-is condition will set you back around $20,000. Such as this particular Super Bee we found. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider that this is the price for a Super Bee that will still need some repairs, it’s quite a lot. Especially when you realize that this is very nearly the same price as when it was new ($23,000) when adjusted for inflation.
If you’re looking for one in showroom condition, then it’ll set you back anywhere between $50,000 – $70,000. Super Bees with a Six-Pack engine is going to be on the higher end of that spectrum.
But of course, the HEMI ones are the most expensive. If you’re looking for one with a HEMI engine or one that’s been restored to HEMI specifications, then you’re going to flirt with a $100,000 price tag. That’s awfully close to the price tag of a showroom-condition Dodge Charger R/T.
For comparison, most Plymouth Road Runners cost around $40,000 – $60,000 in showroom condition. Of course, the convertible and some other versions are worth more. HEMI versions are especially expensive and can demand a price tag of around $100,000 as well.
Prime Specimen: David Freiburger’s 1970 Super Bee
Thinking of getting your own Super Bee after reading this? Owning a classic car is basically like a never-ending project. When it comes to owning a classic car, we find that it helps to have inspiration.
Knowing other owners and seeing how they treat and modify their cars will help you understand your car better. It’ll also give you inspiration on what to do next in the project, and maybe help set a goal so you know what you want your car to be like.
One of our favorite Super Bee projects has to be David Freiburger’s 1970 Super Bee. David is the editor for HOT ROD magazine and his Super Bee has been with him since he was 15. Unfortunately, it sat untouched for around 11 years until 2010 where he decided to restore the car to its former glory.
The video above shows him and the HOT ROD team restoring his Super Bee. They restored it as a streetcar, as opposed to the original drag race trim back in 1995. They prep the car for seven days, and then took it to Mopars at the Strip in Las Vegas.
It’s a fascinating story, and it’s amazing to see an old muscle car like the Super Bee in its natural environment: the drag strip. David told the story about how he came by his Super Bee more in-depth, and you can read about it here.
Dodge Super Bee: Wrap Up
The Super Bee was Dodge’s effort in making a budget muscle car for the youth back in the 1960s. Despite its relatively affordable price tag, excellent engine choices, and striking looks, it just wasn’t enough to compete with the Road Runner.
Its higher-end counterparts such as the Charger and Challenger lived on, becoming living legends even to this day with modern iterations. Even its arch-rival the Road Runner became a NASCAR legend in the form of the Superbird.
Meanwhile, the Super Bee had to die early after just four years. Only to live on as a sports car for the Mexican market, and make a brief return in the form of special editions for the modern Dodge Charger and Challenger.
That said, its lower sales number means it’s rarer now, making it more valuable than the Super Bird. While not quite as legendary as other muscle cars, the Super Bee is still highly sought after by enthusiasts. And honestly, after writing this, we can’t help but want one as well. Would be a fun weekend project.