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Plymouth Superbird

GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

wine_superbird.jpg

SPECS

Year: 1970
Country of Origin: U.S.A.

Class: Muscle Car
Type: 2-door hardtop
Hosts: GT2, GT4, & GT5

Price: $41,850 (GT2),
``````````$36,073 (GT4, memory card trade)
``````````$22,336 (GT5, used car lot)

GT5 mileage as tested: 59,214.3

Construction: steel & fiberglass body on frame, aluminum wing

Length: 217.5" (GT2) 220.0" (GT4 & 5) // Width: 76.4" // Height: 59.4 (GT2) 61.4" (GT4 & 5)
Wheelbase: 115.8"
Overhang: 8 feet 6 inches (GT2), 8 feet 8 inches (GT4 & 5)
Track: 59.7" [F], 58.7" [R]
Ground Clearance: 6.3"
Weight: 3,840 (GT2) 3,868 (GT4 & 5)
Wgt Dist: 54/46

Steering: pwr-assisted recirculating ball
Turns lock to lock: 3.500
Layout: Front Engine / Rear-Drive
Tires: F70 x 14 or F60 x 15
F. suspension: lateral control arms, torsion bars, shox, anti-roll bar
R. suspension: semi-elliptical leaf springs, live axle, shox
Brakes: vented discs / drums

Engine: 426 cubic-inch OHV V8
Construction: cast iron block & heads
Aspiration: normal
Fuel system: 2 4-brl carbs
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x Stroke: 4.25 x 3.75"
Compression: 10.2:1

*GT4 car was not given oil change for specs & testing below

*GT5 car was given an oil change + engine rebuild


GT2 Tested HP: 430 @ 5,000 rpm
GT2 Tsd Torque: 491 @ 4,000 rpm

GT4 Tested BHP: 425 @ 5,000 rpm
GT4 Tsd. Torque: 400 @ 4,000 rpm

GT5 Tested HP: 437 @ 5,000 rpm
GT5 Tsd Torqe: 504 @ 4,000 rpm

GT2 credits per HP: $97.32
GT2 pounds per HP: 8.90
GT2 HP per Liter: 61.6

GT4 credits per HP: $84.87
GT4 pounds per HP: 8.24
GT4 HP per liter: 64.0

GT5 credits per HP: $51.11
GT5 pounds per HP: 8.85
GT5 pounds per trq: 7.67
GT5 HP per liter:

Idle speed: 1,000 (GT4), 750 (GT5)
Redline: 6,500 (GT2), 5,500 (GT4 & 5)
RPM Limit: 7,000 (GT2), 6,000 (GT4 & 5)

Transmission: 4-speed manual
Differential: limited-slip

```````````````````GT2``````````````GT4```````````````GT5``````
0-60 mph:   5.078            6.633           6.133 seconds
0-100 mph: 11.474          13.166         12.567 seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.579 @ 110     14.824 @ 107    no test 
1 Kilom: 24.740 @ 134     25.716 @ 130    no test

100-zero mph: 4.42 seconds (GT4) 5.450 (GT5)


GT2 Top Speed at Redline:
1st: 54 mph
2nd: 73 mph
3rd: 97 mph
4th: 137.71 mph @ 7,000 rpm (RPM limited)

GT4 Top Speed at Redline:
1st: 42 mph
2nd: 61 mph
3rd: 86 mph
4th: 130.82 mph @ 6,000 rpm (RPM limited) 
 
GT5 Top Speed at Redline:
1st: 44 mph
2nd: 58 mph
3rd: 82 mph
4th: 128 mph @ 6,000 rpm (RPM limited)

superbird_museum.jpg

--------------EXTERIOR / HISTORY---------------

Looking at the caption provided for the Plymouth Superbird in GT2's Superbird info page, we get this dose of humor from the Japanese writer who typed it:

"And you thought high wings were a 1990's performance-look innovation."

Aptly put, don't you think? Wings and "ricing" therefore did NOT start with this newer generation of racer boys. Truthfully, the Superbird is no ricer. It has the power, the speed, and the gumption to back up its wild looks.  

...Seen from a distance, the Superbird really does look kinda like a bird, especially if it's viewed face first. Not a dainty catbird, not an annoying blue jay. No, the Superbird resembles something more fierce, a bird of prey, perhaps. It looks like a cross between an eagle, a pterodactyl, and a vampire bat. Yes I know pterodactyls and vampire bats are not actually birds, but work with me here, okay? I'm writing a car review, not a biological text on various flying species.

Approach the Superbird more closely, and now it looks more like a small jet plane, especially as we gaze its profile from the side. Or perhaps it could be one of those super-sonic cars from the 1960s which did world speed records at the Bonneville salt flats. The Superbird is not just a car. Not just another muscle car. It really defines itself, and has its own unidentifyable demeanor. There was, is, and will never be anything like it.     

Anyways, let's shift gears now and talk a bit about the Superbird's era, which I like to call "the Golden Age of American Muscle". Opinions vary, but I've come to the conclusion that there have actually been three distinct eras of American muscle cars.  

The first era would have been from 1964 to 1973...the Golden Era before gasoline prices drastically rose, before the U.S. government started to crack down on the mayhem which was occuring on our streets and highways, et cetera. By "mayhem" I am talking of our gigantic engines which could suck fuel so fast, one could actually watch the gas gauge move while such cars were at full speed. I am talking of our automobiles of the times, with their titanic and grotesque body shapes, and this does not just include muscle cars. Plenty of station wagons and ordinary sedans were just as massively guilty so far as the "fuel crisis" was concerned. 

Although the decline of the Golden Age of Muscle really started before 1973, it took several years for GM, Ford, Chrysler, and American Motors to get a hint and start detuning. In many cases, they did not bother to de-size. From 1964 to 1970, these Big Four car companies were producing a huge number of models which no longer exist, and if they do still exist, their namesakes usually can be found on weaker models, usually front-drives. Nothing like the originals from the '60s and early '70s.     

The second era of American muscle is the longest, as it stretched from 1975 to 2004. It was not necessarily the best era, though. During this long era, only a handful of true muscle was left, most of it would be nothing like those cars of America's past. Many models were dropped or detuned. There were no 426 cubic-inch Hemis or 428 Cobra Jets anymore, and the larger engines which did live on would be starved of power. No more big blocks factory-rated at 400+ horsepower, or even 300+. By the 1980s, even the big blocks were gone. Ford's Mustang, Chevy's Camaro, and other models from this time all sported smaller engines, and though these engines would regain some of their prowess over time, they were nothing like the real muscle from the Golden Age. 

Comparing era one to era two is like comparing the Jurassic period of evolution to whatever period followed the Jurassic which featured no dinosaurs. The tyrannosaruus rex? No more. Dipolodocus? Brachiosaurus? Stegosaurus? Dead, extinct, and gone forever. Same goes with our cars, famous and infamous. 

Basically, many car models died off like dinosaurs from 1971 to 1974. Those that survived or emerged during the period after the Golden Era ended (the Mustang II, the Camaro, the Firebird, the Trans Am, Grand National, and a few others) did so under the pretense that they would never be as great as cars from the first era. "Great" meaning "powerful", "menacing", and "fast as Hell".

Right now as I write this (on June 23rd, 2011) we are firmly in the third period of American muscle. This new period was sparked off by Ford in 2004 when they brought back their New Mustang. The New Mustang made strong sales, so now Chevy, Dodge, and Chrysler are back in the game with their Camaro, Challenger, Charger, 300C Hemi, and Magnum, although some don't consider those last three cars to be true "muscle" since they are two sedans and a wagon respectively. I say they're muscle.   

These new muscle cars happen to be the smartest, most refined, and in some cases the most socially-conscious muscle cars ever. They handle curves and can actually brake with confidence. But these newer autos are presently having a bit of an identity crisis. 

For instance, Chevrolet refuses to call their new Camaro a "muscle car"; instead, they've been trying to pass it off as a sports coupe to be compared with the likes of BMW. I'm hearing rumors that Ford's next rehash of Mustang for the 2012 model year is going to have some sort of an "eco" mode. This eco mode (or whatever it's going to be called) will save gas by computerizing the engine to use less of it. Somehow. This is clearly an effort to help Ford meet future CAFE standards.

All of this is great, all of this is wonderful. But... wouldn't it be nice? Nice to go back to a simpler time? A time when all that mattered was how fast and how bad-ass the latest muscle cars would be? And check this out: the main concern at the time would have been: "How can we make this muscle car go faster?" Not "how can we make it sip gas or appease to the average driver or meet worldwide economy standards"? How do we go faster? 

When we think of the vast army of muscle from the Golden Era (the Grand Ams, the GTOs, the Javelins, the Chargers, the Roadrunners...and so on), which model out of all of these would have been the most obvious (and ridiculous) over-the-top representation from back in the day? Which one essentially was at the top for awhile? Which car from this era would essentially turn the most heads if it appeared in a massive line-up of muscle? :drool: Those of you who first see the Plymouth Superbird in our videogames, those of you who have no idea that such a car was actually real, sold at actual dealerships, may have no idea what to make of this one. The Superbird (and its missing twin, the Dodge Charger Daytona) is about as over-the-top as it got. We are lucky to have a shot at driving one. 

The 'bird appears in three Gran Turismos to date. Amazingly it got into GT2, and has re-appeared in GT4 and GT5. GT2 is the only game in which we can actually buy one of these straight from the dealer. In GT4 we can only win this car from the Classic Muscle Car series, and in GT5 it shows up (rarely) in this game's used car lot.

Taking a gander back to GT2, we conveniently get seven choices of color to choose from: Corporation Blue, Alpine White, Tor Red, Vitamin C Orange (my fave), Lemon Twist, Lime Light, and Blue Fire Metallic. Yes!!! Seven colors does seem a little low, though. Although we can't just buy a Superbird at any time in GT4, the dealer shows there are (were) actually 28 colors to choose from, which seems more like it. 

Those who first see the Superbird in any GT game, those who don't know anything about this car may think to themselves "now that looks like a car I should avoid driving! That looks like a car I should definitely avoid racing! Who would even dare drive or race such a monster?" they think as they find a safer one to pick. Or perhaps they do go ahead and try the Superbird--God rest their souls, for they have no idea what they're in for. The bottom line is: the average gamer nowadays probably assumes this was one of the fantasy machines of the '70s, but not really a race car. It's just too ridiculous.  

So it may come as a surprise to those unknowlegable that the Superbird was actually created FOR racing! In fact, it was so good at racing, it was banned from it, just like Nissan's Skyline was banned much later from Japanese touring car racing. Granted, the Superbird only raced in NASCAR events amongst other crappy-handling American muscle cars, but the fact that it was banned after one season does give the Superbird a bit of cred. In this way, the Superbird is therefore like that kid we all knew in high school, the kid who got expelled...the kid who was mean and loud and liked to pick fights (which he usually won), yet somehow he got other kids trying to follow and look up to him. He got expelled, and instead of being ridiculed and forgotten, he became a hero and was glorified. Such is the Superbird.

The Superbird began its only year of life selling for a paltry $4,298, less than $20,000 of today's money. Despite this lowish price, it is documented that Superbirds did not sell all too quickly. From what I've been reading, some sat unsold at various dealerships as late as 1972. Amazing. 

In real-life this car is so rare (estimates vary, but just 1,920 were officially built) which makes me wonder how the heck PD is charging so few credits for it. In GT2, it cost $41,850, which in 1999 could have been about what a real-life version was priced at if it wasn't restored, but somehow I doubt it. But in GT4, the Superbird drops to just $36,073. Superbirds must be won in this game; that price is what a gamer pays as the car is traded from one memory card to the next. Anyways, this of course is an unrealistic steal. Real-life Superbirds have only gone UP in price, not down. The Dodge Charger (which in real-life is far more popular) sells for more than the Superbird in GT4 or GT5.        

The Superbird reappears in GT5 as a used car. It is not the rarest of the rare, but its price hovers even lower. It can be had in this game for just over $22,000 at the cheapest, or sometimes for a few thousand more than this. A real-life Superbird would go for more like $125,000 at the cheapest. At Barrett-Jackson auctions they have been sold at $300,000 or more. So yes, I am complaining. ;-/ Why?

The Superbird was nicknamed the 'Aero Warrior' during its heyday. It was based on Plymouth's Roadrunner, but had a nose cone which was fabricated from sheet metal, and a huge aluminum wing on its trunk. All of this was wind-tunnel tested via computers of the day, computers which must have been the size of a tool shed. This high technology was a far cry from the beginnings of NASCAR: a bunch of moonshiners running races on a dirt track. Just a little bit of technology put this car ahead of its competition on the tracks. 

Make fun of the Superbird and Charger Daytona if you like as you try to race them in Gran Turismo. The reality is Plymouth and Dodge were desperate for wins over Ford's dominant Torino Talladega and Mercury's Cyclone Spoiler II, and the Hemi engine was being pushed as far as it could go. During this era (the late '60s) Ford had recently conquered Ferrari in various FIA events with their GT40, so the fact that they were also dominant in NASCAR certainly irked Mopar teams and execs.

Richard Petty was one of the top (if not the top) NASCAR driver during this time. He had been a Mopar devotee until 1968, when he suddenly switched to Ford. It's been said Mopar lured him back; the Superbird their ultimate weapon. The average NASCAR automobile could make over 200 mph while drafting other cars, but the Daytona and Superbird could do so even without a draft, so it's no wonder that these cars were so dominant. Its aerodynamics definitely did make a difference; they were not for show, but for them to work their magic, the car had to be moving at least 90 mph, which means most of the time, street Superbirds were not making any aerodynamic benefits.  

 The Charger Daytona showed up before the Plymouth Superbird. The former car won 17 races in 1969, but did not take the championship only because Dodge started racing halfway thru the 1969 season and missed out on points which Ford already collected. In comparison, Plymouth (who was still racing boxier models) won just two races.

This quickly changed in 1970. At the very first (or one of the very first) races of the year, the Daytona 500, the Superbird 'flew' to victory. There were 38 overall Mopar wins in this year, 21 of them were caused by Superbirds. The #71 Superbird driven by Bobby Isaacs clinched the overall championship, with a total of 11 wins and 9 second placings. Perhaps this is why PD chose to model the Superbird instead of the Charger Daytona. It is unfortunate that we never get a racing version of the Superbird in GT2.       

Earlier I made the comment that the Daytona Charger and Superbird were both banned. Well, this is not entirely true, but it might as well have been so. Winged cars were still allowed after 1970, the catch was NASCAR regulations forbade them to use engines larger than 5 liters (305 cubic inches). With today's technology, perhaps a small-block car could win under such conditions, but back then such a car would have been doomed.  

With all this hoopla, the average gamer might be surprised that the Superbird is quite a heavy machine, nowhere near to being race-ready (except perhaps on its home territory of NASCAR-type ovals). This car tops the scales at 3,840 pounds in GT2, but rates even higher (3,868) in GT4 and 5. I'm not completely sure about this, but this may be the very heaviest of muscle cars in our game.

Despite this, I have managed quite a few wins of my own in Superbirds, including plenty of wins at road courses. I didn't really get serious about racing this car until GT5, but for your reading pleasure have taken a few steps back to those earlier games to see what's doing. Here's where it all starts...
  

flying_superbird.jpg

smokey_daytona.jpg

----------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN------------

Every muscle car is mainly defined as a "muscle car" because of its engine. Back in the day, this would have always been a carbureted V8. Some of the "purists" out there define this further as those cars only equipped with big block V8s (348 cubic inches or larger). This is why 2nd and 3rd-era muscle cars (many of which aren't carbureted, very few with big blocks, and some which don't even have V8s) belong to a different era than those from the Superbird's days. 

No muscle car from the first era was sold without engine options, and the Superbird makes no exception. There were three powerplants one could buy: the 440 cubic-inch Super Commando which had a single 4-barrel carb, the 440 c.i.d. Six-pack (three dual barrel carbs), and the 426 c.i.d. Hemi. The Hemi, which was a racing engine stuffed into a street car, was the rarest of the three, as it was an expensive option. Just 93 Superbirds were Hemi-powered. 93.  

Below is a quick rundown from www.MusclecarPlanet.com as to how much power some of them made, and what sort of performance they offered in a straight line...   

426 V8 Hemi
425 bhp @ 5000 rpm, 490 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm.

440 V8 Super Commando 
375 bhp @ 4600 rpm, 480 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm.

Performance:
440 Six-Pack/390 bhp: 0-60 in 5.9 seconds, 1/4 mile in 14.26 seconds @ 103.7 mph.

426 Hemi/425 bhp: 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, 1/4 mile in 13.50 seconds @ 105.0 mph.
 


GT2
Hmmm. Right off the bat, we can see PD is in the ballpark, so far as acceleration goes. That muscle car website above quotes the Hemi at 4.8 seconds from zero to 60 mph, and I got there in just over 5. But there's a chance the real-life driver started his acceleration run from a higher RPM number than I did. The quarter-mile is spot on. The real-life car made it in 13.5 seconds, almost exactly what I managed. Nice!     

The actual engine itself doesn't sound so spectacular, though. At first, I was fearing PD didn't actually sample a Hemi (or even a V8) for this car as it appears in this game. Rev that engine up, and it sounds almost like a V6 or something smaller and weaker. But it's probably the redline. In GT2, the Superbird is modeled with a 6,500 rpm redline, and can rev up to 1,000 rpms higher than it does in later games. At these higher revs, the engine does sound a little wimpier than we'd expect.

But rev it low and slow, and we get the sense that maybe it is a Hemi.  "Low and slow" is actually where you want to be with this car; peak revs can be found starting at 5,000 rpms from a stock engine. Whatever. The car stomps, just as it should, and doesn't take much effort to do so. Not surprising, so let's move on.  

GT4
I love improvements, and during my first Superbird drive aroud High Speed ring in GT4, it's obvious there's a huge one from the start. Listen to that Hemi idle! It sounds deeper and more soulful than the "426" in GT2, its exhausts going taptaptap tap tap tap taptaptap. It sounds more convincing thru its entire range of revs, right up to redline. One can get addicted! I think I'm in love with a car. 

Speaking of the redline, notice how much lower it is in this game. In GT2, the driver would need to shift the 4-speed early to get the best performance, but in GT4 one can usually use the actual redline as a guide for gear-shifting. Never does it get old dropping the hammer and listening to the Hemi respond.

Unfortunately, the Superbird isn't so 'super' with acceleration in this game. Muscle cars of the '60s and '70s are all about low-end acceleration...it's really the only thing (performance-wise) they're good at. But check out my acceleration figures in the SPECS section up above. Yikes. From idle, the car gets to 60 mph in just over 6.6 seconds, with a 14.8 quarter. That's not just bad, it's depressingly bad. The sort of acceleration which makes a driver want to start taking Welbutrin or Xanax to cure those blues!

I did give this car a second chance though. I had to! Letting in the clutch very carefully at about 3 grand, the Hemi now manages 60 mph in just over 5.5 seconds with a 13.95 quarter. This was the best I could do after several runs. I felt I could maybe get a little better than this, but remember that in GT2, I did get better than this, a lot better, and probably with just one try. Why is the Superbird so much slower in GT4 then?

Obviously, PD is now configuring a lack of low-end torque. There isn't a huge area of dead revs like there is from a '60s-era small block engine, but the Hemi's down area (below 2,000 rpms) in this game does a huge amount of damage.       

GT5 
Things only improve more and more, don't they? The engine still sounds like a Hemi, and now it performs more like a Hemi, although (again) there's still a dead area of RPMs that the big block must overcome before it really gets moving. Still, I managed to get to 60 mph a half-second quicker than I did in GT4, without any extra effort. To be fair, I did give the GT5 car an oil change and an engine rebuild, since an oil change alone did not put its horsepower up to 425. Both services gave me 437 horses, meaning if the car actually had 425, it might be a little slower. I doubt it would be a half-second slower, though.  

But we're still not up to those real-life figures the GT2 car was able to make, not when accelerating from idle that is. Again, I did do a second run (several of them actually), carefully letting in the clutch now at 2,000 rpms, and got better results as found below...

0-60 mph: 5.634 seconds

0-100 mph: 12.100 seconds

...which still doesn't match real-life or GT2, nor are these results significantly better than GT4. The GT4 car was on medium-grade sport tires, though, while the GT5 one was on its stock hard-grade sports. So we can figure better tires might improve this maybe a quarter-second or so, but I'm done with acceleration runs for the day. We get the idea, right?

In all games, the Superbird (like so many others from the Golden Era) is equipped with a gearbox which might have pleased the insurance people, but annoys the rest of us, since we can't go too fast without maxing revs. From GT2 to GT4 to GT5, top speed only gets lower and lower. Embarassingly, a Superbird can therefore be blown away by an economy-level Audi or a Honda or some other such auto which can simply go faster with less power. One only has to buy a fully-geared transmission to cure this, but in GT4 or GT5, this also means putting up with a lot of annoying gear whine which drowns out some of the engine's fantastic song.

It's a sad day, then, and shall only get sadder...           

mission14.jpg
The Superbird fights for cornering space during GT4's Mission 14

----------CHASSIS / HANDLING------------

Have you ever been religious? If you're like me, the answer is "no". But there have been a few times I've found myself "praying to God", anyways. The time I wrecked my second real-life car is an example. I'm not religious, but I cried out for any sort of help out there, anyways.   

Driving a Superbird around, some drivers might also find themselves taking up religious beliefs on-the-spot, assuming such drivers weren't religious in the first place. You don't so much steer this car into turns as you steer it, and then hope and pray you just made the right decision. Too much steering input can cause some major catastrophes, no surprises here! Too little can mean needing to suddenly employ massive amounts of damage control. HELP ME GOD! I KNOW I'VE BEEN A SINNER, I KNOW I DON'T GO TO CHURCH, BUT GIMME A BREAK OKAY? JUST THIS ONE TIME!!! 

Even some total newbie virtual drivers who know nothing about muscle cars might take a gander at the Superbird, and then instinctively steer clear of it! Not because it's scary-looking, but because it doesn't look like it'll be a safe car to race! They may or may not be religious, but sometimes it's better to not sin in the first place, eh?    

Trying to drive this car around a typical Gran Turismo circuit is like trying to tackle a nation's trillion-dollar deficit. It just doesn't seem possible, does it? People actually raced this thing back in the day? It doesn't seem worth trying, but I tried anyways. And though I'm not religious, I did have some "religious" moments while taking this around.

GT2
Take for example my first drive in a "Corporation Blue" colored car at Tahiti, which I'm doing now even though GT5 has been out for 7 months. If I ever drove the Superbird back in 2004-2007 (when I was more active with GT2) I don't have any record or memory of it.

Right off the bat, I'm hoping and praying everything goes as planned, as it's been awhile since I drove anything in GT2. Surprisingly, the Superbird in this game feels very manageable at first, even on its stock tires, although I admit I'm giving more than a wee bit of caution as I tackle Tahiti's curves. "Tackle" is actually a bad word...at first it was more like "tip-toe". I tip-toed through Tahiti's curves at first.  

Anyways, it's amazing how PD actually did take into account a variety of behaviors for this car in this early PS1-era game. The Superbird understeers, but it doesn't "just" understeer all the time. The front-end has plenty of grip before those slip-angles kick in. Those who give this car plenty of brake-time (and man, look how the 'bird dives under braking!) will be okay.

The car also leans a lot in turns, but again, if the driver respects it, the Superbird offers a surprising amount of mid-corner grip. Steering is a half-second too slow, yet there are moments mid-turn when the front-end starts to get a clue, and offers a small amount of extra turning force while we keep the steering wheel cranked. While this is not true lift-off oversteer like we'd find in a real sports car, this Plymouth is obviously doing its best. It just hasn't got the 100% right tires or equipment for the fuller job.  

Bumps buck and sway the huge Superbird to and fro, this way and that. PD did an awesome job here. I've forgotten about the variety of bumps and track irregularities in this game. Kick in the accelerator out of the slowest area of Tahiti (what I call the "Chapel Corner") and the fun really starts, the rear kicks out predictably but fiercely, giving me an odd tingly feeling as I master this car, and confirming my suspicions that there is a God. Or something up there. The Superbird (in real-life) had a limited-slip differential in place, too. That helps with traction.   

Overall, my Superbird drive in this game (as short as it was in comparison to GT5) went well. I didn't exactly wind up praying to God, but I did wind up thanking him. Or her. Or it. Or whatever's running the show behind the scenes. :-) The Superbird as it appears in the GT series is actually at its easiest to drive in this early game. Not as bad as I thought it would be. Now, let's move on to GT4.     

GT4
Oh dear. What's happened to our sloppy but predictable 'bird in this game? Not anything good.

My initial drive was done on the car's stock Medium Sport tires. I didn't even bother with anything from the "N" range. And that's actually both a warning and a bit of advice. Back in 1970 when the Superbird and Charger Daytona were setting speed records at various NASCAR tracks, it quickly became obvious that these cars were often beyond the tire technology of the times, which is partially why NASCAR started to enforce some rules by banning big-block winged vehicles. That's how it is in GT4; not that this car should be banned, but that it is beyond its "tire technology".

You really don't want to use anything less than what the Superbird is actually equipped with in this game, S2-rated tires, that is. Mission 14 is an excellent example.  During Mission 14 when we're struggling with this car on medium-grade radials (N2), we may start praying to God instead of praising. In GT2, I was praising more often than I was praying, now it's the opposite. As we're struggling to make the 'bird turn, struggling to figure out where braking zones start, it's obvious this car is nothing like it was in that earlier game. The car still dips, sways, and leans like it did in GT2, but it's generally way less confident while doing so. It feels like an aquarium full of water strapped to a worn-out skateboard rolling on a linoleum floor in this game. Unconfident, and dangerous at all times. 

Unlike GT2, the Superbird as it appears in GT4 actually has quicker steering responses; a bit of a surprise. There isn't a "half-second-too-slow" feeling in GT4, usually the front-end responds immediately to steering input. Unfortunately, the slip angles of those front Goodyears quickly exceeds the grip angles. The understeer that shows up from this moment is both familiar and all-consuming. It does not go away, despite the fact that we are driving this 'bird under better conditions (no driving aids, better tires) than we had during Mission 14.

Mid-turn, the Superbird sometimes does grip-in a little more forcefully (just the way it did as I drove this car at Tahiti earlier) but this assumes the turn is a much larger one, a turn like those at High Speed Ring, for instance. Driving the Superbird at a tighter course with excessive understeer? You WILL kiss (slam) plenty of walls during this car's career. Ugh.

The rear-end has so much weight on it, rarely does it misbehave. This is a good thing. Only when turning excessively while giving a little too much gas will there be a rooster-tail of smoke in response, as the inside wheel loses it. In this respect, the Superbird as it appears in GT4 is much like it was in GT2. Those rear tires have plenty of traction, assuming the driver doesn't just lay down "the law" before considering what the consequences might be. During Mission 14, all of this was killed via the ridiculous traction control system the 'bird was burdened with. Once we get to drive this car without TCS, we see there are some pros, but also plenty of cons.  

But still, this is a plus, this window of rear-drive options in a game famous for typically giving us  no rear-drive options. We have some options with this car, options to use all 425 of those horses with plenty of traction if we take some consequences into consideration.      

G
T5
And so we come to this game. Although personally I'm still not a religious man, I'm having second thoughts now all the time. The Superbird doesn't become any easier to drive, which I'm okay with. I'm okay with this, because by now I expect it. This is a monster car, and in most cases, it is being driven out of its element (which would have been NASCAR ovals and quarter-mile drag strips back in its day). But since I'm wanting to take my 'bird away from this into other arenas, I'm...needing a little bit of guidance. And what better guidance than the actual Bible, eh?  

I did lots more driving & racing in this game than I did in the previous two...driving at High Speed Ring, Deep Forest, and a couple other tracks, and racing various Seasonal events at several tracks, including one I've never tried before (Toscana / weather change). Before each drive, I pondered my options. I'm a 44 year-old man who has only gone to church when I had to (for weddings, funerals and such) and again and again as I approached the Superbird for another chance at victory, I pondered whether or not it's too late to take up religion officially.

Hmm....where do I start. Genesis? Sure...let's start with Genesis. That's where the Bible begins, right? At least I know that much about it.

...First God made heaven & earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness....

Well I guess that's enough for today. Hey, when they get to the part where they start talking about middle-aged men trying to race 40 year-old super cars around a fabricated track, wake me up okay? :lol:  I'm goin' to Hell... :-/

Anyways, I'm being silly. But truthfully, the Superbird as it appears in GT5 isn't as bad as it was in that previous game, I'm noticing as I put that Bible down for a bottle of Yuengling. Mmmm...beer.

Driving the 'bird around High Speed Ring just now, I'm realizing there is maybe 20% less understeer in GT5. The understeer that does show up can be tamed more easily...it's not so relentless in these larger banked curves. The car also offers more options for sure. The front-end grips in more forcefully (again, just as it did in GT2 and 4) if the driver lets off that gas. But in GT5, we can now use the Superbird's back-end as well as its front as a tool to help get through those turns more successfully.

A punch of throttle is usually all that's needed to cause the entire car (all 18+ feet of it) to steer-inwards with a slightly tighter angle. This isn't possible in tighter corners, of course, but during longer, larger turns it's okay. The Superbird offers helpful behavior? you might ask. Yes it does. It still requires plenty of tiptoeing, of course.

Braking is at its worst (but also its funnest) in GT5 since we can turn ABS off. During GT4 it was recommended to get as much braking done in a straight line as possible (especially during Mission 14). Now with ABS off, now it's even more pertinent that we brake carefully, mostly in a straight line, and that we also feather those brakes if we're needing to brake while turning. Otherwise, the Superbird doesn't start to seem so super.

But that's my review and I'm sticking to it. Is this car impossible to race and drive? Only if you're a n00b with zero muscle car experience. Does it have its place for typical Gran Turismo circuit racing? In theory, no...but in practice? You be the judge. Personally, I'm done with judgements, praying, and Genesis. Bring me more Yuengling, racing, and Richard Petty videos!  

       

superbird_burnout.jpg

PROS----------------------------------

1). The Superbird was the product of what happens when there initially were no rules against it. And we get to drive and possibly race what is probably the sickest muscle car of all...in three GT games.

2). It doesn't cost much money to start us off, either. PD apparently didn't do their homework, so that Superbirds cost hundreds of thousands less than they should.

3). Yep, it's got a Hemi...listen to it roar.

4). Lots of power options. GT4 and 5 include superchargers along with the typical three NA kits.

5). Acceleration varies per game (GT4 is the worst), but in some cases PD got it close enough to acceptable.

6). One of those cars that'll have you addicted to photomode all over again in GT4 & 5.

7). GT2: a Superbird can be had in several colors at any time from the South City Plymouth dealership.

8). GT2 again: one of the better-looking cars in this PS-era game.  

9). Despite all its flaws, the Superbird can be a whole lot of fun!
  

CONS---------------------------------

1). And let's talk about some of those flaws. Like: all the horrid handling of your nightmares. Slow steering, understeer, excessive leaning, dipping, and rolling. An ATV has more cornering confidence.  

2). Snappy fishtailing & spins with a lack of funner drifty moments (GT4 mostly, but this can happen in GT2 or GT5 as well).

3). GT2: doesn't always sound like a Hemi should. 

4). GT2 again: a highish redline keeps automatics and unknowing manual drivers from getting the best performance from that Hemi.

5). PD got the price of this car all wrong. Of course, only us who care will ever complain.

6). Not a car for new drivers, or many intermediates.

7). Short gearbox is stock. Never will this car get over 140 in any GT game (sometimes less than this) with this 4-speed.  

8). Acceleration seems off (compared to real-life) in both GT4 and GT5.

9). GT4: Superbirds can only be won. Don't like the color you've been awarded? Tough.

10). GT5: Superbirds show up rarely in this game's used car lot. You can change their color, though. :D

11). This thing is heavy, even compared against other American muscle.

12). Made during the days of 60 cent/gallon gasoline, and it shows.

    
Published: June 25, 2011

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