Richard Petty’s Plymouth Belvedere. Photo by David Berkowitz.
Though currently enshrined in the Richard Petty Museum, the Belvedere that King Richard drove to earn that nickname and set records on his way to his second championship in 1967 will once again pound pavement – with Petty at the wheel, no less – when it makes its way over to England for a run up Goodwood Hill at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.
In reality, Richard Petty didn’t drive a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere during the season that saw him win 27 of 48 races – more than 56 percent of the Grand National races he entered. Instead, Petty campaigned his 1966 Belvedere, updated to look like the 1967 model, and in two seasons the Race Hemi-powered car produced a grand total of 36 victories with Petty behind the wheel.
When the car was loaned to the NASCAR Hall of Fame for a two-year appearance in 2008, Petty recalled that, “The Plymouth Belvedere was a special car. Back then we usually found a car that was good on short tracks or speedways or dirt tracks, but not many that were good everywhere. That Plymouth was fast no matter where we ran.” Chances are good it will prove to be fast up the narrow road that traverses Lord March’s estate, too, where the car is sure to be a hit with those unaccustomed to the glory days of NASCAR racing.
Fellow American Al Unser will also be on hand for a run up the hill in his 1978 Penske Lola-Cosworth, the car that delivered Unser’s third (of four) Indianapolis 500 wins. Joining Petty and Unser will be an all-star team of international drivers on hand for exhibition runs, including Emerson Fittipaldi, John Surtees, Sebastian Loeb, Tom Kristensen, Emanuele Pirro, Derek Bell, Henri Pescarolo and Mark Webber.