A Sting in the Tale


By Karl Eriksen

Edition 60

At the peak of muscle car mania, Chrysler decided to gather their Dodge muscle cars into one group. Despite Chrysler’s success with its potent engines and their accomplishments on the track, they were still behind in the muscle car sales stakes. The aim of the campaign was to unite their customer enthusiasts, and to this end customers were offered brochures, decals, apparel and access to a national club. With the initial Scat Pack the cars weren’t changed apart from the twin bumblebee stripe that buyers could remove if they wanted to, a decal insert and an emblem. This was extended to a Scat Pack Club in 1970 where members were sent free catalogues of available parts and Scat Packages of Mopar parts were set up, including electronic ignition, carburettors, dress-up kits, amongst others. Dodge and Mopar revived the Scat Package last year to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Scat Club. 

The name Super Bee was a play on the Dodge B-body. While the name Super Bee in this country might sound like an attempt by our government to add a super-charged version of its economic empowerment programme, this isn’t the case, at least, not yet. But we do have an example here in Cape Town of what the politically connected might’ve desired were it not for the proliferation of modern German SUVs. Tristan van Zyl bought this Super Bee 500 from a friend of his who trades in cars, adding a sting to his enviable car collection.

The matt black two-door coupe is one long car, measuring a whopping 5248mm. Its sleek and subtle lines however, mollify the visual impact of its sheer size. The scallops on the sides tuck it in even further. It is art – as if sculpted into form by the deft hands of a Thai masseuse – unlike most of the stuff churned out today which simply blend into one another with their lack of character. It’s powered by the Chrysler B-series 383 cubic inch V8, delivering an advertised 335 hp and capable of 0-100 km/ph in a respectable – even now – 6.4 seconds (and a top speed of 216 km for the factory original). It has a 4-speed manual gearbox and an 8 ¾ inch diff. As one can imagine, it’s a bit on the thirsty side with a combined average range of 388 km, which is where the 72 litre capacity tank comes in handy. Tristan’s Super Bee has an Edelbrock carburettor and the ignition was upgraded to an electronic ignition.

The bright orange air filter housing (with its Bee decal), and tappet covers contrast the matt black of the engine bay, making the engine seem smaller and more compact than it really is. The same shade of orange is found in the stripes wrapped around the rear of the car. There were two options available on release, one as in this example and the other which ran down the side, ending at the scallops. Harvey Winn, a Dodge studio designer, created the Super Bee logo in 1968 when he cut the design by hand on his dinner table. It may be hard to believe in this day and age, but it was used unchanged by Dodge and at the time even went on to win a studio design review. The original wheels have been replaced with American Racing mags shod with BF Goodrich 245/60/15s in the rear, and 235/60/15s in the front, and are brought to a halt by drum brakes on all four corners.

Tristan, to put it quite simply, just loves cars and he buys them to enjoy them. His passion is contagious; you could walk into his garage with an immutable interest in the mating call of the lesser-spotted woodpecker and walk out a muscle car convert. There’s a little ding on the rear of the Bee and a scratch here and there, but it doesn’t bother him in the least. On the contrary he likes it this way – the originality of it. His car is an investment, but at the same time, it’s an investment that he can use and have fun in. He doesn’t see the point in having a vehicle so immaculate that you would keep it in a garage, hidden away and unused for fear of spoiling it in some way.

Last year, just before his trip to Speedweek, the car he was going to drive developed a gearbox problem and he took his Super Bee instead. It made it there and back without any issues, with just a slight leak from the radiator after his return. While he describes himself as a hoarder and adrenalin addict, one would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable way to combine the two. That he’s chosen larger items to hoard, well, the only problem I can foresee in that respect is space.