Bobby’s Car


On the road in the Bobby Isaac #71 Hemi Daytona.

By Steve Lehto Photos by TheBruntBros

Little kids ran for Mama, but we got mega
thumbs-ups on the road from Mofans who
believed we were driving a cool clone.
Who’d a thunk it was the real deal?

Tucked away in a corner of the
International Motorsports Hall of
Fame in Talladega is a car that
represents the high water mark
for NASCAR. It’s the 1969 Charger
Daytona fielded by K&K Insurance in
the 1969 and 1970 NASCAR seasons,
driven by 1970 National Champ
Bobby Isaac. This car set more than
two dozen world records, including a
flying-mile over 217 mph, and the
closed-course record for a NASCAR
track at a bit more than 201 mph. Yet, it
was also available at your local Dodge
dealer in 1969. Unlike today’s prima
donna NASCAR racers, the Daytona
you bought at the dealer—for less than
$5,000 with the Hemi—was within spitting
distance of performance to the ones raced on
the big tracks on weekends. Keep in mind
that in 2005, the pole for a race at Talladega
might be won by a run in the 189 mph range.
Isaac ran the K&K to the pole at this track in
1970 with a speed over 199 mph. (’Course,
Isaac didn’t have to run a restrictor plate.)
Don’t think the car’s restless spirit is stifled
by the museum. This car still gets out once in a while to stretch its legs, and when it does, heads turn. But more on that in a moment.

In 1968, Dodge launched a new version
of its Charger—a great-looking, hot-selling
car, that didn’t live up to NASCAR racers’
expectations. At a time when Chrysler was
running its monster Hemi motor, many
thought any Chrysler product could run fast.
Not so for the Charger. It had a recessed
grille that trapped air and a sunken backlight
that caused air to stumble over the roof.
Pushed to extremes, the car lifted from the
track and didn’t want to turn through
When the bleak reports came back to
Detroit, Chrysler racing honchos huddled to
solve the problem. Calls went out to other
divisions, including Chrysler’s missile
division, for help. Aerodynamic engineers
(Gary Romberg, etc.) shook their heads
when asked how to fix the car. It was
simple: plug the nose and cover the
backlight. Dodge did that and the result was
the Charger 500—so named because
NASCAR required 500 units of a car be built
for a car to be considered “production.”
NASCAR was fooled. Chrysler actually sold
fewer than 400 of the cars, and the
streamlined cars raced, but they were still
being beaten regularly by Ford products.

The No. 71 Daytona holds more than two
dozen world speed records.

Emotions ran high in Detroit as Chrysler
officials met again: what could be done to
make the car go even faster? The missile
guys shrugged. It depends on how far
you’re willing to go, they told the brass.
Larry Rathgeb, a man always willing to push
the envelope until it burst, said to assume
there were no limits to what we will do.
What then? An aero engineer pulled out a
napkin and drew a Charger. Then, he drew a
nose cone on the front, and a huge wing on
the back. The nose cone solved the problem
of the flat front end, and the wing would
hold the car on the track at high speeds. It
looked more like a missile than a car, but
then again, these guys weren’t car designers.
They were rocket scientists. What
would you expect?

Larry Rathgeb took the napkin to his
boss and asked if Dodge could put such a
car into production. His boss famously
asked, “Will it win races?” Rathgeb said it
would, and the NASCAR aero-war was on.
Drawings were sent to test drivers (Jerry
Wenk had a mechanical background) at
Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds, where
they mocked up nose cones and wings out of angle iron, cardboard and duct tape.
When a shape worked it was sent out to be
re-created in fiberglass and then sent to a
wind tunnel for further testing. Soon, they
had a Charger with a nose cone and wing
that—according to the scientists—should be
able to knock off laps at 200 mph on the big

Wellborn cutting some hot laps in England at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, 2003.

They rushed the car into production so
that it would be ready for the last few races
of the 1969 racing season. The car debuted
at Talladega’s first race—a race that was
marred by a driver’s strike amidst complaints
of a rough track surface and unfair
treatment by NASCAR. Even so, the
Daytonas made headlines as they knocked
off laps in the 199-mph range, and an entry
driven by Richard Brickhouse won the race.
Bobby Isaac came in 4th in his poppy-red ’71 Daytona.

At its next race, the K&K Daytona won
the day with Isaac at the wheel. The winged
cars romped at the Texas speedway and
Isaac took home his first super speedway
win. As 1969 ended, other companies
grumbled about the exotic cars and whether
it was fair for Chrysler to make a race car
and sell it as “stock” rather than the way it
used to be (take a stock car and make it
race). NASCAR upped the numbers required
for production, so that a company couldn’t
get away with only selling 500 of something
to race it.
Plymouth, largely to lure Richard Petty
back from a one-year defection to Ford,
announced it would make a winged car too.
Its would be based on the Road Runner and
they’d make the 1,400 or so required by
NASCAR’s new rules, which were a
minimum of one car produced per franchised dealer.

1970 was a fascinating year for NASCAR
fans. Racetracks were filled with winged
cars, painted brightly, and usually dominating
the events they were in. Daytona was
conquered by a winged car, as was
Talladega, Riverside, Darlington, Michigan,
Rockingham, and any other course where the cars ran full out.

Bill France, NASCAR’s benevolent
dictator, decided this creative car designing
was out of hand. He decreed that in 1971
the cars would have to go back to normal.
Exotics would be restricted, and the wings
would soon be parked. Isaac and K&K
raced that season in a 1971 Dodge Charger,
while the poppy-red #71 Charger Daytona
was parked at the K&K garage.
Nord Krauskopf, owner of K&K Insurance,
hated to see his car sit with nothing to do,
especially as the team realized the car was
probably the fastest stock-bodied car in the
world. What a waste to park it! They
decided to take it out to the Bonneville Salt
Flats and set some USAC records. They
made the trip during a lull in the NASCAR
season, in September 1971.
On the salt, they tried records as short as
the flying kilometer and as long as several
hundred miles. On those, the K&K set out a
huge circle which Isaac would orbit at nearly
200 mph—in a constant slide! Every record
they tried, they set. After a few days of this,
they packed up and went home. 28 records
were certified in a variety of classes,
including some unlimited records which had
been set by multi-engine cars before. Harry
Hyde quietly wondered if anyone would
believe that all 28 records were set with the
same engine. Chrysler durability was now
forever carved in salt!

Aluminum rear end cooler is mounted
behind driver. Note dual rear shock setup,
and special mother-in-law rear seat with
all the amenities (cupholders, TV etc).
Cable securing the wing is anchored like
so inside the trunk.
Gibson and Wellborn replaced the original fuel cell with one that’s very close. They discovered a mountain of Bonneville salt packed between the cell and the frame rails during the resto.

From there, the team returned to the
NASCAR circuit and the #71 Daytona was
sent on tour. Krauskopf aimed to capitalize
on the fame of the car and its recent
records. The car was shipped to shopping
malls and race tracks, often coinciding with
NASCAR events. Krauskopf even sent out
press releases and scripts for radio
announcements: Come see what speed
looks like—the World’s Fastest Car—on
display at your neighborhood shopping
center! Without question, the Charger
Daytona was striking in appearance; this
one was even painted with a lightning bolt
on its wing’s uprights.
After traveling the country as an
ambassador of K&K, the car was sent back
to the stable where it sat. Its trip around the
country had probably saved it from
vanishing; there had been three winged cars
in the K&K arsenal in 1970 and the other
two were most likely re-skinned as 1971
models. No one knows what became of
Krauskopf donated the #71 record-setter
to the State of Alabama when it announced
it would build a Motorsports Hall of Fame at
Talladega. The problem was that no
museum facility existed at the time. For the
time being, Sunny King Ford in Anniston,
Alabama, offered to put a roof over the car
and parked it in their showroom for several
years. Then, when the museum was built,
the car was sent there.

Wing has a small inspection hole for the
tech guys to check and make sure wing
is secured by a safety cable. This was
required after wings had been blown off

A funny thing happened with the IRS,
though, when Krauskopf wrote the Daytona
off on K&K’s taxes. Nord said the car was
worth $100,000, but the IRS disagreed. The
dispute wound up in court, in front of a
judge who appreciated NASCAR and what
the car stood for. He ruled that the car was
indeed not worth $100,000. He ruled it was
worth $175,000, giving Nord a bigger write-off
and the IRS carpetbaggers a spanking.
Some may have thought the car was
finally out to pasture, never to be heard
again, but a member of the museum’s board
saw to it that would not be the case for this
car. Tim Wellborn had sat in the Talladega
stands in 1969 when the K&K #71 made its
first appearance, and now he sat on the
museum board. He lobbied to have the car
restored to running condition. The first
problem he encountered, though, was that
the car’s engine was incomplete. When K&K
had shipped the car down, they threw in an engine that looked complete, but was missing some of its internal parts. Wellborn was at an impasse, as the museum didn’t have the funds to restore the old Hemi.
Wellborn spearheaded a fund-raising
effort to bankroll the car’s restoration.
Donations came in from all corners, in
amounts as small as $25, and soon there
was enough money to do most of the job.
They still needed an appropriate engine,
Meanwhile, Wellborn was invited to
display one of his winged cars (he now
owned a few of his own) at a car show in
New York. There, he ran into Bob Lutz, the no. 2 guy at Chrysler back then. Lutz actually spoke to Wellborn first, complimenting him
on his watch. They both wore Breitling
timepieces, and from there it wasn’t long
before Lutz heard about Wellborn’s quest to
find an economical Hemi for the K&K car.
Lutz promised to look into it.
A few weeks later, Wellborn received a
call from Chrysler; one of Lutz’s people
wanted to know if Wellborn would be
interested in a free crate Hemi for the K&K
car. Chrysler was about to start selling the
crate motors, and they just happened to
have one left over after testing. This one—a
stroked 528-cubic-inch monster—was well tested,
and bulletproof. Although the motor
was the “wrong” size, Wellborn accepted
the offer, installed the original 1x4Bbl intake,
and soon the K&K car had that distinctive
Hemi rumble under its hood. The rest of the
car was cleaned up a bit, although the
exterior was left as it was. When the fuel cell
was replaced, they found salt dust from the

No sooner had Wellborn called Lutz to
thank him, someone else called from
Chrysler and asked if the K&K car might be
available to travel to Europe. Wellborn could
chaperone the car, while it was displayed at
places like the Goodwood Festival of Speed
and the famous racetrack at Nurburgring,
Germany. He agreed and the car was
transported in the belly of a Lufthansa 747
to faraway places, while Tim and his wife
traveled first class upstairs and kept the car
company. At many of the overseas events
he was allowed to take the car for hot laps
on the tracks. At Nurburgring, Tim discovered
how easily speed can bite, as he
crunched the Daytona’s nose in one turn.
It’s the only harm that’s come to the
Daytona in all its travels.
Spectators are awed by the monument to
American horsepower, and the car is so
well-loved it was invited back to Goodwood
as one of the ten most memorable cars to
ever be displayed there. Once, Wellborn was
about to fire the car up when an old man
approached and asked if he could stand by
the car. Tim said, “Sure,” and the guy stood
in the exhaust as the unmuffled 528 cubic inch
mammoth bellowed. Tim could see the
man’s shirt fluttering in the exhaust. When
he shut the car off, he asked the man what
he thought of it. “In World War II, I was a
Spitfire pilot,” he said with reverence. “I
have not heard a big piston engine since
In Germany, a woman walking through
the pits wasn’t so enamored with the car.
Wellborn climbed in and hit the starter, not
noticing that the woman was just passing by
the exhaust. She collapsed in a heap next to
the car. Wellborn was scared he might have
killed her, but some bystanders revived her,
and she was soon on her way, albeit a bit
dazed and most likely temporarily deafened.
When the car is not jet-setting to faraway
car shows, it can be visited at the
Motorsports Hall of Fame, next to one of
Bobby Isaac’s dirt cars, or occasionally,
driving around outside the museum.

Driving the #71 K&K Car

This is our idea of a pit stop—for a 6-pack.

On a recent race week in Talladega, I
had the opportunity to drive the K&K
Daytona. It was the culmination of a
dream, as I had just recently spent a few
years researching Bobby Isaac and had
interviewed many of the people who
crewed for the car and engineers who
designed and tested it. I had even seen it
twice at car shows, and had heard it
running once.
Although the car is remarkable in
appearance, its huge nose cone and wing
seem bizarre by today’s NASCAR
standards, all visual information is dwarfed
by the sound of the car when it is started.
I stood ten feet away when Tim Wellborn
started the 528-cubic-inch Hemi indoors
before we took the car out. I’ve flown in a
B-17 bomber; I’ve flown in a helicopter.
I’ve attended unlimited hydroplane races.
Yet, I have never heard anything as loud
as this car. Now, it might be louder today
than it was in 1970, with its oversized
motor, and those short pipes under the
door do nothing but vent the loudness. It’s
music to the ears of a Mopar fan, but it is
We rolled the car outdoors for some
photographs and Tim had me sit on the
floor on the passenger side (of course the
car only has one seat) while he drove it
along the roadway next to the Talladega
facility to familiarize myself with the car.
The first thing I realized is that I am taller
and a bit wider than Bobby Isaac was.
Climbing in the window of a NASCAR
racer looks easy, but it is actually quite
tricky. After weaseling my way in, I
grabbed onto a roll bar for stability.
Tim explained how the clutch didn’t
have a lot of travel, and the shifting
pattern only threw a few inches from first to second and so on. “Gotta let the clutch out and gun it,” he yelled to me over the
thunder of the Hemi. We yelled back and
forth, and I was reminded that one of the
engineers who’d run tests on this car in
1969 said that its interior was louder than
a Huey Cobra gun ship—while firing its
guns. Now, that’s something I’ve never
heard, but I believe him.

Tim pulled the car out onto the road
and floored it. I clung to the roll bar and
watched the tachometer. The tach jumped
to 4,000 as Tim slammed it into 2nd. I
strained to keep myself from rolling into
the rear of the car. “You’ll notice she wants
to pull left,” he yelled, shifting into 3rd,
“but she steers better the faster you go.”

The Daytona had plenty of power for
passing on hills—both up and down.

Campers and RVs lined the sides of the
road waiting for the campground to open
as we blew by. Heads snapped around
and those quick enough to realize what we
were doing waved, and gave us the
thumbs up. I even saw a police car go by
the other way. Either his radar was turned
off or it didn’t read that high: he didn’t
slow down as we crossed paths.
We turned around in a gas station
parking lot and Tim asked if I was ready
for a spin. We changed positions, and I
familiarized myself with the gauges. The
steering wheel, in the best 1970 fashion, is
simply wrapped with electrical tape. There
is no speedometer, and no rear view
mirrors. This last fact was disconcerting as
I tried to look around me to make sure
traffic was clear. Now I know why they
need spotters.

I gunned the Hemi and eased out the
clutch; the ’71 nosed out into the road and
picked up speed. The steering was hard.
Not only is it manual, but the huge
Goodyear slicks on the front don’t like to
be pushed anyway but straight. I
increased speed and ran it up a few gears.
“Put your foot into it,” Tim yelled, just in
case I was being polite. How often does
such an opportunity come along? What
would Bobby Isaac have done? I stomped the accelerator to the floor and the Hemi happily complied. The tach jumped, and
thunder echoed across the Talladega
landscape. Again, we were a red blur as
the spectators for this weekend’s race
turned to see us make another high-speed
Tim was right. The car pulled left at
lower speeds, but straightened out and
was easier to steer at higher speeds. I felt
remarkably comfortable sailing along, with
528 cubic-inches of Chrysler muscle
powering the Daytona. The tach was still
far to the left. The car has a racing gear of
2.71, and she could easily have shot up
into the range Bobby ran her at back in At least that’s how it felt.
We pulled over and switched drivers
again. How fast did I drive the car? Well, it
has no speedometer, so I guess there’s no
way of knowing. I’m grinning right now as
I write this—the residual joy from having
gotten to drive the car that set 30 World
Records for speed, and having someone
tell me to “Put your foot into it.”
Keeping in mind that the Daytona was
only raced at larger tracks, it fared quite
well in the few times it ventured out
between September 14, 1969 and
November 15, 1970. One super-speedway
win at Texas was accompanied by 11 top five
finishes and six starts from the pole—
including one that Bobby won with a
record speed of 199.658 mph at Talladega in
April, 1970.—S.L.

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