The first generation Super Bee was made from 1968 to 1970 and introduce to the public at the Detroit auto show in 1968. Plymouth Road Runner was selling so well that Chrysler Corporation decided the model needed some competition within the company. The Dodge division saw this as a chance to break into the muscle car market. The “super Bee” became the lowest priced vehicle offered by Chrysler Dodge Division - it was styled along the same lines as the Road Runner.
Outwardly the two cars are very similar; the Super Bee is slightly heavier - about 29 kg (65lbs) with a wheel base slightly longer at 300 c m (117”) as compared to the Road Runners 290 cm (116”).On the outside the Dodge has large wheel openings, fancy grill, and in the rear the Bee stripe with ornate tail lights. One other feature distinguishes the Dodge “Bee” and the Plymouth “Road Runner” the “Super Bee’ has three die cast chrome plated logo medallions; one on the rear of the car and two in front.
The dashboard instrument cluster and sophisticated gauges are similar to the Chargers. The car has heavy duty suspension on the high performance tires while on the body the tail section sports the distinctive Bee logo and racing stripe. The 1968 model came in a coupe body style only and was basically equipped with an automatic or you could have chosen the Mopar A-833 four speed or a floor mounted four speed with a Hurst Competition-plus shift stick and Hurst linkage. The basic engine available was a bi block 335 hp (250kW) 383 magnum developing 335 hp (250 kW) or you could kick it up a few notches and install a 426 Hemi with a 425 hp (317 kW) rating. There were only 125 of the hemi engine sold. For the big buck a big block 440 cu in (7.3 L) was also available with 390 hp (291 kW).
In 1969 a hardtop was offered besides the coupe along with an optional functional twin-scope air induction system mounted on the hood. The base engine remained a 383 high performance or you could choose from two optional engines; a 440 with three two barrel carbs or “Six-pack” and the high end 426 Hemi. This year saw a tax applied to all the muscle cars as well as any other vehicles with large fuel consuming engines. The sales went down in 1969 and continued a downward spiral into 1970 models.
With the 1970 model Super Bee came some cosmetic changes such as a twin loop front bumper Dodge christened “bumble bee wings” as well an optional - “c-stripe” variation of the bumble bee stripe on the trunk lid. Interior changes included high back bucket seats, a column mounted ignition switch, and a pistol grip style shifter handle on the optional four speed.
The second generation “Bee” saw a slight increase in sales over the first generation for the budget priced muscle car although only 22 units were sold with the hemi option; this option was shelved until it became available again in the 2007 Super Bee. This was the only year to offer a small block 340 cu in (5.6 L) which had 275 hp (205 kW) with only 26 units built.
The 1970 GTO was not available with hidden head lights they were replaced by four round head lamps outside of the grill although the car still retained the protruding hood ridge as well as the Endura (low impact speed - no damage) cover around the bumper, head lights, and grill. The GTO was made more stable with the addition of a rear sway bar which complemented the heavier front sway bar to reduce the lean and the under steer. A handling option made available in 1970 was “variable ratio steering” which reduced the turning radius by about 8% from lock-to-lock.
In 1970 the GTO economy engine was deleted, while the basic engine remained the same, while the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV power option were both sold but the latter was a special order. The new power option available was Pontiac's 455 HO long stroke slightly different from the one offered in 1971-72 model years. This new engine was about the same power as the Ram series but it was less difficult to keep running smoothly at low speeds and it did not have the ropy idle associated with the Rams. A rare option made available in 1970, for a short time only, was “Vacuum Operated Exhaust” (VOE) activated with an under dash lever marked “exhaust” which reduced back pressure when accelerating; the result was the engine had a little more power but a lot more noise. The only engine with this option is the “YS” 400 CID 350 hp equipped with a four speed manual or the turbo-hydra-matic transmission; very rare with 233 units leaving the assembly room so equipped. Skyrocketing insurance rates applied to muscle cars in 1970 contributed to the downward spiral of sales but GTO was still the third bestselling car in its class.
In 1971 the GTO had a few changes in front; the head lamps were closer together, horizontal bumper bars added, with the duel hood scoops moved further forward towards the restyled wire mesh grill. This year the Ram engine series was not available. The basic option was the 400 CID V8 but with lower compression and lower horse power than previous years. The 400 engine is rated at a modest 300 hp (220 kW) at 4,800 rpm. All the engines had a more conservative compression ratio as G.M. was gearing up for the non-leaded fuels soon to come on line. The second engine available is the 455 CID V 8 with a four barrel carburetor which developed 325 hp (242 kW) at 4,400 rpm and was only available with the Turbo-Hydra-matic TH-400 transmission. The power engine option is the new 455 HO V 8 with a four barrel rated at 335 hp (250 kW) at 4,800 rpm. The standard rear end is an open ten bolt with posi-trac available as an option on the 400 engine but the 455 engine could have been ordered with a 12 bolt rear end with posi-trac as a second option. The 455 with a four speed could do 0-60 in 6.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.4 seconds reaching 102 mph (164 km/h). “The Judge” GTO was retired in February 1971.