In the Fast & Furious movies, Dominic Toretto (played by Vin Diesel) has had a tempestuous and ongoing relationship with the 1970 Dodge Charger. But in this sixth film, cleverly titled Fast & Furious 6, he doesn't have a '70 Charger at all. Instead he drives a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona.
It's the right car for the evolution of the Toretto character from a street racing punk in Los Angeles ripping off semis full of electronics in the first Fast & Furious movie, to the natural leader of a multiethnic family of highly competent international heist-meisters. It's a more sophisticated and sleeker machine for a character who has grown more sophisticated and sleek (in a Diesel-like way) over the 12 years since the series started.
For those of you cloistered off so that you don't know NASCAR, the Daytona was an aerodynamically enhanced version of the Charger built to compete on such high-speed superspeedways as Talladega and, yes, Daytona. Those enhancements consisted of a longer, sharklike nose, blisters on the top of the front fenders to allow the car to settle down over its tires, a flush-mounted rear window in place of the regular Charger's tunneled backlight and, of course, the tall rear wing to generate downforce in the clean air up there.
Built in response to Ford's long-nose Torino Talladega fastback, the Daytona was immediately successful on the track. And with Buddy Baker behind the wheel of Chrysler Engineering's number 88 car, on March 24, 1970 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, the Charger Daytona became the first NASCAR racecar to run a lap beyond 200 mph.
So there's already plenty of legend behind the Daytona even before it shows up in this movie. And, well, it's no surprise, but Dom's Daytona isn't really a Daytona at all.
Keep in mind that a production as large as Fast & Furious 6 needs multiple examples of every onscreen car to keep filming no matter what the contingency. And particular cars need to be built in particular ways to deal with particular stunts or appearances. So this isn't about just one Daytona, but seven built to portray Toretto's fictional machine. Three survived filming.
The Non-Daytona Daytona
With its extremely long nose and ridiculously high rear wing, an original 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona would be ill suited to cinematic stunt work, and at more than six figures for a good example, way too expensive. So picture car coordinator Dennis McCarthy built a variation on the Daytona with a slightly shorter nose, a slightly less elevated rear wing and slammed it over a set of custom-made 18-inch wheels wearing 275/40R18 and 315/40R18 Nitto tires.
In fact, the entire front clip of Toretto's Daytona is one piece of fiberglass fabricated at McCarthy's 20,000-square-foot shop in Sun Valley, California. Compared to a production '69 Daytona, the Toretto Daytona's nose is almost 12 inches shorter overall and somewhat taller in profile. And the movie car's nose has fixed headlights under Plexiglas covers instead of the original's pop-up units.
"It would have been too much hassle with hidden headlights," explained McCarthy. "One would be up and the other down, so they wouldn't match shot-to-shot. Or they wouldn't work at all. Plus we didn't want to have to fix them every time the nose was damaged during filming. So we got rid of them."
The tail wing has been brought down by about 12 inches for a sleeker appearance. But because the wing is lower, the trunk lid now hits the bottom of the cross-piece when it's fully open. Fortunately, there's no scene in the movie where Dom needs to ferry luggage to the airport or bring home enough mulch to plant a garden.
The most impressive features on Toretto's Daytona, however, are its perfect stance, glorious maroon paint and slick details like the shaved rain gutters. For movie cars, these Daytonas are particularly well finished. Not showcar detailed, but dang nice.
Built To Go
To simplify construction of all the film cars, Dennis McCarthy's shop standardized several mechanical pieces across several cars to facilitate servicing and the availability of spares. So Toretto's Daytona, like several other vehicles in the film, is powered by GM's 6.2-liter LS3 V8 rated at 430 horsepower. Behind that on most of the Daytonas is a GM Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission. The power finally leads to a Ford 9-inch solid-axle rear end. Different gear ratios were installed in different Daytonas depending upon what each was going to do during filming.
And at least one Daytona was built with a four-speed manual transmission. Because, well, because.
Suspensionwise, the front end uses Reilly Motorsports' "AlterKtion" coil-over system in place of the stock torsion bars, and the tail is held up by Reilly's "triangulated four-bar" system, which mixes coil springs and five links together. The braking systems use Brembo calipers at all four corners, with a second set of calipers for the rear wheels hooked up to a separate braking circuit so stunt drivers could induce some sideways attitude when it was needed.
For a Mopar addict, everything is super-cool and awesome. If it weren't for that dang GM engine and transmission. And Ford rear end.
The Vin Chamber
Inside, Toretto's Daytona is pure minimalism. Forget everything Dodge did originally except the door handles; the car is finished in custom-made aluminum panels, a roll cage, AutoMeter gauges, simple switches and a pair of Premier Racing Products low-back seats. And forget the rear seat altogether, as that space has been taken over by a pair of Magnaflow mufflers exiting out each side through holes cut into the quarter panels.
Get into a Toretto Daytona, turn on the electric system, hit the start switch and the thing roars to life as if you were sitting in a small-block-powered drum with an aftermarket exhaust system — which is essentially what you're doing. And when the exhaust system heats up, so does the cockpit, even when the side windows are down.
Those demerits aside, this beast actually feels like a real car from behind the wheel. Thanks to rack-and-pinion steering, there's even some road feel that was completely absent back when Dodge built the original. Toretto, we'd guess, wouldn't care.