The accepted number of 1969 Dodge Daytonas produced in total is 503. No doubt, the 1969 Daytona ranks high on the desirability scale. The sole reason for the car’s existence is due to NASCAR‘s homologation process in 1969. If it wanted to race its cars, Chrysler had to produce 500 road-going examples. In civilian trim, there were only two engines available: the 440 Magnum, rated at 375 horses, and the extra-cost 426 Hemi, which was rated at 425 horses. Both engines were available with either a 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission or an A833 four-speed manual gearbox.
Because these were extremely low-production vehicles with a single purpose, the final assembly of the Daytona was contracted to Michigan-based Creative Industries. Brand-new 1969 Dodge Charger R/Ts were loaded up and sent to Creative Industries to have the nose, rear wing, and rear window plug installed. A quick splash of paint was applied to blend the changes into the car’s pre-existing color. That’s where this Dodge Daytona was born. It wore Dark Green Poly paint, had a white interior with bucket seats, and a white rear stripe by the time it left the factory.
Its story starts at Creative Industries, but this Daytona’s life from the time it was sold new until 1974 remains a mystery. However, the person we believe to be the second owner of this car sat down with us to share his story. He asked not to be named, so we are going to honor that request and call him Owner Two. His story starts out as one of need—as in, he needed a car as a daily driver.
“I found the Daytona in a used car lot in New Jersey,” he explains. “I needed a car for work, and it looked different.” The Daytona’s interesting shape caught his eye, and it was enough to convince him to dig into his savings and buy it. At the time, the car had just over 37,000 miles on its odometer. It was also green. He really hated that green. So before it ever logged any miles in his hands, it was treated to a quick and dirty respray to metallic blue, which was inspired by a B5 Blue 1970 Dodge Charger that his brother owned. It wasn’t until he actually started using the Daytona as daily transportation that the sobering reality of its impractical nature began to set in.
He recalls, “The car was very loud, and the engine was very difficult to start. That was a problem because I didn’t want to get stuck at work.” The loud exhaust was a dealbreaker. So much so that he only put a few hundred miles on the Dodge, parked it in his garage, and bought another car to replace it. The garage door was then pulled down, and that was it.
In 2003, Owner Two migrated from New Jersey to a town in central Pennsylvania, and in the process, the car was transported to a newly built storage facility. In a carbon copy of years past, the storage facility’s garage door rolled down and the car was once again forgotten. It wasn’t until 2019 that Owner Two decided it would be prudent to sell the old Dodge. Google searches for the potential value were eye-opening and proved a real motivator to at least get the car running. His goal was to sell the Daytona at auction, so he hired a shop to go through the car.
It was at that point that Ronnie Belletieri came into the picture. His friend owned the storage facility, and Owner Two was the facility’s first customer way back in 2003. For many years, Ronnie heard about the mystery car that was tucked away in one of the storage units. He told his buddy that if it was the right car, then he would be interested in buying it. At the beginning of 2019, Ronnie learned that the car was a Charger Daytona and that it was finally being moved out of storage. At that point, he asked his friend to contact Owner Two about buying it. Numbers were tossed around, and they ended up with a dollar amount that satisfied both individuals. For Ronnie, his biggest concern was that the shop the car had been taken to would do something stupid with it.
Ronnie recalls, “I told Owner Two that you have to call that guy up, whoever has your car, and you have to tell him he cannot start it up or get it running. If it’s all original, I want it as is.”
While all this was taking place, Ronnie started looking for someone to better inform him about the value of the Daytona and how much it would cost to restore. A faithful viewer of Graveyard Carz, Ronnie often heard Instrument Specialties being mentioned on the show. But it wasn’t until he started doing some Google searches that he found Mike Mancini and his other business, American Muscle Car Restorations. The red Daytona restored by his crew was on the cover of the June 2018 issue of HOT ROD. That sealed the deal with Ronnie, and he decided to restore the car.
Ronnie’s fear that the shop would disrupt the originality of the car was unwarranted, and the car was soon taken back to the storage facility. At that point, Ronnie was already the owner of the Daytona, and he ended up meeting Mike for the first time at the 2019 Chrysler Carlisle Nationals show to discuss the restoration of the car, as well as its transportation back to Rhode Island. After the Daytona was parked at Mike’s shop, an assessment was made. He notes: “It’s a legit car. It is amazingly clean. It doesn’t seem like there is any rust on it anywhere. We put it on the lift, and it is bone dry. It’s as clean as it could be. It’s unmolested, except for that dismal repaint.”
The first unveiling of the car—after decades in storage—was at the 2019 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) show in its unrestored state. We’re pretty certain that Mike will take the wraps off of the restored Daytona at an upcoming MCACN show once the car’s ready for its big debut.