The Dodge Super Bee Added High Impact Muscle To Mopar's Hemi-Powered Drag Machines
The Plymouth Road Runner is a name familiar to most muscle car fans as the low-buck, high displacement option from Mopar that appeared on the scene at the end of the 1960s to lure in bargain-seeking speed demons. A little more obscure is the car that Dodge offered on the same platform, at roughly the same time, to exactly the same breed of gearhead: the Super Bee, a spin-off of the Coronet that would eventually evolve into a more aggressive styling take on the cheap muscle format.
Announced as part of the Scat Pack marketing program in 1968, the Dodge Super Bee matched the Road Runner almost note-for-note when it came to power and performance. And yet, it never seemed to latch on to the same pop culture wave that lifted the Plymouth on the sales charts during its original run. Despite the lack of a Hanna-Barbera badge on the trunk, however, the Super Bee would ultimately have its Wile E. Coyote moment after an unexpected modern resurrection put it on the radar of an entirely new generation of Dodge fans.
Cheap Bones, Big Muscle
At its core, the Super Bee formula was a simple one. The Coronet and the Satellite were the entry-level versions of Dodge and Plymouth's B-body mid-sizers, which by 1968 were entering their second generation. Offered in a full range of body styles, including wagons and sedans, Mopar elevated the coupe and convertible versions of the Coronet and Satellite by offering semi-luxe R/T (Dodge) and GTX (Plymouth) editions.
Although sales of these upscale badges were modest, sandwiched in the middle were the was the Plymouth Road Runner, which kept comfort features to a bare minimum but promised a heaping helping of high performance equipment for savvy shoppers. It was a homerun for the brand, which quickly discovered legions of buyers lining up to take home a bargain speed machine.
Dodge took notice of the Road Runner's success and quickly rushed its own discount boulevard dragster into production. The Dodge Super Bee was just a bit longer and heavier than its Plymouth counterpart, but otherwise it featured nearly identical squared-off styling, along with a range of intriguing air intake hood designs that could be specified at ordering time.
Strangely, rather than give the Super Bee full access to the Mopar big block catalog, in its first year of production was only available with either a 335 hp, 383 cubic inch motor, or the brand's famed 426 cubic inch Hemi V8, which was good for 425 hp. The popular 440 cubic inch motor was reserved exclusively for the Coronet R/T, which may in part have explained why so many customers left Dodge showrooms and crossed the lot to plunk down their cash on a Plymouth Road Runner which faced no such restrictions, especially given that the Hemi was a fairly expensive upgrade.
By 1969 the more affordable 440 had been added to the mix (in 390 hp Six-Pack trim), and for 1970 the Super Bee's styling took a dramatic zig with the installation of its 'bumble bee wing' grille that looked more like the arched frames of a spinster's spectacles than anything from the insect world. Sales plummeted by 50 percent as the Road Runner and Dodge's own B-body Charger coupe did a brisk business with muscle car shoppers.
In 1971 Dodge consolidated the Charger and the Super Bee, leaving the Coronet behind for four-door family fare. The new fuselage body style wasn't the only big change for the Super Bee, as it could now be ordered with anything from a 340 cubic inch engine all the way up to the Hemi.
The orgy of horsepower lasted just a single year, and although a neutered version of the Road Runner continued for a handful of years, the Super Bee was at the end of the road.
Back From The Dead
At least that was true for the original iteration of the car, because nearly 40 years later the revitalized muscle marketing machine at Chrysler elected to resurrect the name and apply it to one of its newest products.
In 2007 the four-door Dodge Charger sedan gained a Super Bee trim of its own, marrying the first-generation car's in-house rival with a four-door body style it had never before been associated with.
Early Super Bee packages were offered exclusively with the SRT-8 edition of the Charger, which featured a 6.1L V8 engine good for 425 hp. Bright yellow paint, black striping, Super Bee badges, and unique interior touches were the primary highlights, with later cars getting special wheels, Nitto tires, and B5 Blue (2008) and Hemi Orange (2009) paint colors. When the Charger was refreshed for the 2012 model year, the Super Bee package was broadened to be included on cars equipped with its 470 hp, 6.4L V8 for a three year stretch.
Surprisingly, Dodge would riff on the 'Super Bee' concept with the Ram Rumble Bee that appeared as a 2004 model. The truck featured the same searing yellow paint job that would eventually appear on the Charger Super Bee, along with a prominent rear flank stripe broken up by a drag racing bee graphic (with a black paint / yellow stripe reverse color scheme also available).
Each pickup was equipped with a 345 hp, 5.7L V8 outfitted with aluminum heads in place of the standard iron units found on regular production Rams.
The Rumble Bee package was offered exclusively on short bed, single-cab models, which were on the verge of extinction in terms of popularity in the early 2000s. A body-color aero kit came with the trucks, and fewer than 9,000 were ever manufactured.
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- Was the 440 big block V8 just a muscle car motor? Check out its second life once the 1970s hit full swing.