Last December, we ran an article about a 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona that was left in a barn to collect dust and rust. There was no doubt in our mind that it was treasure trove of a find. It went up for auction last week – as it is – at Mecum’s Kissimmee with a price tag of US$99,000. The Daytona’s new owner, a self-acclaimed Daytona junkie and surgeon Dr. Jim Norman from Tampa, Florida, was accommodating enough to share his story on how he landed up with his prized barn find. Writing to Mopar Muscle, he shared a piece of his family history that explains his love for the NASCAR circuit and the Daytonas that raced on them. We thought of posting Dr. Norman’s letter here in its entirety, so as to remain faithful in conveying his passion for these chargers.
Dr. Jim Norman and his new 1969 Dodge Daytona Charger barn find that he snatched up AS IS at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction last week.
My name is Dr Jim Norman, and I’m a surgeon in Tampa, Florida, specializing in parathyroid surgery (www.parathyroid.com). I’m also a huge car guy and have been around cars my entire life. When I saw the article in the magazine about the barn-find Dodge Daytona going up for auction at the Mecum Auction in Kissimmee, I sent in my paperwork for a bidder’s card within the hour. I know this auction well (I bought a car there two years ago) and I hoped the Dodge could be mine. I didn’t like the estimated sales price ($150k to $180k) and I was not at all willing to pay that much, but armed with a $100k budget, I called my long-retired Dodge-dealer father and asked him to join me at the auction to see this car—and maybe, just maybe, buy it.
As a boy, my family was in the car business and had a stake in a few Dodge dealerships back in the late 1960s and through the ’70s. I was there during the huge Mopar muscle car era and we had Chargers, Super Bees, Challengers, and whatever else was cool at the time at the house every day when I was a kid. My mom had a Charger for her demo driver and every few months she would get a new one. My dad used to take me to work with him on Saturdays where I would help wash the new cars in the lots, so I became very familiar with things like Shaker hoods, bumble-bee stripes, and Plum Crazy paint. I knew how to tell the difference between every year Charger and Challenger, and knew which engine was available in every model. The 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was the car of my dreams.
During the summer of 1970, my family moved from Cleveland to Florida, where the Daytona Dodge franchise was a part of the family business. In fact, my very first NASCAR race was right down the street at the 1970 Firecracker 400 on July 4th. Preceding the race there were parade laps where a few dozen Daytonas and Superbirds circled the track and, as an 11 year old boy, I was in heaven. Then I watched as my favorite wing cars, the Daytonas of Buddy Baker, Bobby Allison, and Bobby Isaac, battled for the win (the race was eventually won by Donnie Allison in a Ford, but the winged Mopars finished 2nd through 6th).
As a side note, the night before the 400 that year, there was a sports car race called the Paul Revere 250, which started at midnight. That race left such an impression on me that I began racing sports cars as a teenager a few years later and continue to race to this day. I currently race in the IMSA WeatherTech series and am a previous class winner in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona (2013). That was not in a Mopar, but in a Porsche, and I also currently run in the Lamborghini Super Tropheo series in a new Huracan, racing with my son Josh as my teammate. However, the car number of our Lambo and many other cars I have raced in the past is 71, all because of Bobby Isaac’s red #71 K&K Insurance Dodge Daytona; that car remains my favorite car of all time.
As you can imagines, the most amazing thing about the barn find Daytona is the response of those who see it. My dad and I watched as hundreds upon hundreds of very knowledgeable car folks walked right by the beautifully restored Hemi Challengers, COPO Camaros, and split-window ’vettes to stand 3-4 people deep in front of this old, nasty, dirty, lichen-overgrown Daytona at Mecum. The car had a magical effect on people as they recounted memories of winged cars or previous barn finds. Every person had a story to tell of their childhood, or a memory that this car brought to the front of their consciousness. It was then that I realized that the real value of this car is in how it makes people feel when they see it, and the memories that it inspires. I also believed that keeping the car as a “barn find” for people to enjoy is more valuable than the totally restored beauty queen it could be. After all, I summarized that I could always restore the car to better than new condition, but making it a barn find again can’t be done. Barn finds are a part of the American automobile culture and every car guy’s dream, so I’m going to preserve it just as it is.
We are nearly finished building a new garage to house a few of my other cars. The garage was designed with the purpose of holding fundraising events for charities. Now we have a centerpiece for the garage, a conversation piece unlike any other. In fact, one corner of the garage is going to be transformed into a “barn” to give the Charger Daytona an appropriate setting. Let the memories begin!
Jim Norman, MD
We’re happy for Dr. Norman, and for his ‘new’ barn find. We’ll look forward to do a follow-up on this iconic vehicle as soon as Dr. Norman’s garage is finished, with the Daytona at the center of it all. Check out his photo below together with his prized possession in all its raw beauty.