Presented by Mecum Auctions – The short but memorable legacy of Dodge’s NASCAR Charger Daytona’s racing effort encompasses many famous names, but Marty Robbins may be one of the most unique. The car here, originally built by racer James Hylton using a Nichels chassis, was driven by the significant country-western recording artist as car No. 42 at the late-season National 500 in Charlotte in 1970. This event at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the only event in which this race car was ever campaigned as a Charger Daytona, and it was also the first NASCAR race Robbins was able to participate in after returning from a two-year sabbatical. This is the first time the No. 42 has been made publicly available since its extensive reconditioning.
Known for musical hits like “El Paso” and “Big Iron,” the singer drove hard but only occasionally on the NASCAR Grand National Series between 1966-1982. The car was first built and raced by James Hylton as a regular Charger from late 1967, until Hylton switched to Ford for 1970. Robbins bought the Nichels-based car from Hylton and then enlisted driver Bobby and mechanic Eddie Allison to convert it from a Charger 500 to a Daytona body for the race event at Charlotte. After this appearance, the Allisons rebodied and drove it first as a ’68 Charger to avoid the aero rules coming for 1971, then sold it to a car owner named Butch Nelson, who let young Neil Bonnett drive it. It was bodied as a 1974 Charger when Bonnett crashed it and a fire started inside in late 1973, causing the car to disappear for many years after.
When discovered in 2005, the GM-based front suspension the Allisons had installed and Hylton’s unique cage structure were among the key components noted in authenticating it as the Robbins car. Now confirmed, a full rotisserie restoration was undertaken by Ray Evernham’s Big Iron Garage in Mooresville, North Carolina, to the October 1970 configuration Robbins drove it in, with assistance from aero-car experts Doug Dempsey, Doug Schellinger and Greg Kwiatkowski to determine and authenticate the car’s history.
A stunning debut came in 2019 at the 50th Anniversary of the Daytona’s first race, when this car joined Bobby Allison’s No. 22 car, Richard Petty’s No. 43 Superbird and Bobby Isaac’s No. 71 car for Sunday appearance laps right on the Talladega Superspeedway during the Aero Warriors reunion hosted by Tim Wellborn. Since then, it has been statically exhibited at the 2019 MCACN show, Ray Evernham’s Americarna show and most recently honored by invitation to the Hershey AACA Museum’s recent “Yeah, It’s Got a Hemi!” display earlier this year.
This car’s excellent reconditioning begins under the hood, where an iron 426 Hemi V-8 built by Ray Barton Racing Engines resides. This features the correct bathtub intake, factory single 4-barrel intake with LeMans float bowls, a “he-man” brake outfit and circle track crankcase ventilation tubes. In addition to the rare early Holley Dominator carburetor, this car features a Transistorized Prestolite coil layout located in the passenger side footbox. The engine is mated to a correct A833 4-speed Chrysler manual transmission and backed by a reinforced Chrysler 8.75 differential housing. Vintage and very difficult to find Nichels NASCAR wheels finished in proper yellow are mounted on the car, while the fuel cell has been updated for safety to allow exhibition racing use.
The No. 42 will be sold with its extensive race history including period photos, magazine articles and newspaper clippings. Its discovery, restoration and unveiling was chronicled in several magazines including Muscle Car Review, Mopar Action, Chrysler Power and Hemmings, but there is nothing like owning the real “Big Iron.” All you might need is a guitar.
This 1969 Dodge Daytona NASCAR will be auctioned off during Mecum Auctions’ Orlando 2021 event, which runs July 28-31.