Have you ever gazed in awe at a fully restored winged warrior, bewildered by its beak of a nose cone, gaping fender scoops and striking wing? As your eyes consume the detailed distinctions of Dodge’s Daytona Charger and Plymouth’s Superbird, remember the very car you’re looking at may have never been possible without Ted Janak.
Ted wasn’t just a parts guy or a businessman; like most of us, he was a true Mopar® fanatic through and through. His fascination with wing cars began watching NASCAR races on television as a kid. With his eyes glued to the funny-looking wing-things that zoomed down the track, he became enamored with Chrysler’s wild styling and record-setting pace. Before he was even old enough to drive, Ted had already made up his mind: someday he would have a car just like the ones he saw on the NASCAR circuit. When the time came to get his first car, Ted begged and pleaded with his dad for one of Chrysler’s winged warriors, but his father would not budge. Those were racecars and his son wouldn’t be one of those hooligans running around town in some kind of ridiculous-looking racecar. Despite the setback, Ted was determined; he bragged to all his friends and siblings that one day he would have a wing car of his own. By 1973, he had found just the right deal on a 1969 Daytona Charger, but the problem was cash flow. Young Ted Janak didn’t quite have the capital for said car, but he did find a way to, umm, “transfer” some of his college savings to subsidize his new ride. With money in his pocket, Ted went to his older brother asking him to drive him out to buy the Daytona. “You have the money?” his brother questioned. Ted responded yes without explaining exactly how he acquired it. “Okay,” his brother told him, “but dad is going to kill you.”
That wouldn’t phase Ted; any sensible man knows life isn’t worth living without following your true passion. Ted and his brother retrieved the car just in time to dodge his dad before returning home from work that day. Of course, hiding a 4,000-lb., 18-ft.-long, bright red Daytona is about as difficult as hiding a giant pink elephant. Despite Ted’s best efforts – tarping the car and leaving it parked outside the neighbor’s house – it didn’t take long for his father to figure out exactly what was going on. After the ordeal was over, Ted’s dad saw how sincerely devoted his son was to obtaining the car and agreed to let him keep the Charger, but on the condition it was to be driven only on special occasions. From high school graduation to the first date with his future wife, all the milestones of Ted’s life seemed to have been paved by his passion for wing cars.
Ted’s business, Winged Warrior Body Parts, was the pioneer of reproduction wing car parts, allowing people to restore their rare originals and build clone cars they could otherwise never afford. While his company was a long time in the making, it really started with a simple mistake: one day in the mid-’70s, Ted was trying to squeeze his hulking Daytona Charger into a tight parking space, careful to keep the nose cone from sticking too far out of its spot when – BAM – the tall wing crashed into a light pole! Ted was devastated, finding a new wing would be nearly impossible and this one was tweaked far beyond repair, but being an engineering student and having an affinity for finding solutions, his gears began to turn and he decided he would just build a new wing himself!
Ted did his research and decided fiberglass would be the best material of choice, a perfect coincidence as his brother was building surfboards at the time and had plenty of experience with fiberglass fabrication. Together, the two teamed up to create an exact replica of the Daytona’s wing, one that took several attempts and many scrapped prototypes. Finally, they had created a replica Ted was proud of and ready to put back on his car. Some time later, a friend of Ted’s wrecked the front-clip of his Superbird in a similar fashion and would need a new nose cone. Ted took to the same methods he used in replicating the wing and produced a perfect Plymouth nose cone for his friend’s car. It wasn’t long after that word began to spread and before he knew it, Ted had tons of requests rolling in for his homemade wing car parts. As they say, the rest is history. Ted took to his business full time by 1978 and became the leading manufacturer of Daytona and Superbird reproduction parts, always striving for the highest quality and best possible service.
Becoming a fundamental player in the wing car world, Ted was always renowned as the go-to guy for replacement parts. His strive for excellence, thorough approach and Texas charm built him a great reputation; one that earned him the privilege of building some of the most legendary wing cars in history, from land speed racers to movie cars. Friends and family of Ted will testify that through his success, he remained humble and eager to help everyone.
Tragically, the community lost Ted on July 5, 2019, at only 62 years old. The world will miss his infectious smile and genuine character, but his positive perspective and fun-loving attitude will live on forever in those who knew him best, and the skills developed and business he built will continue forth with his son, Grant Janak, who learned everything he could from his loving father.
With his innovative methods and an engineer’s mind, Ted Janak’s contribution to the community is insurmountable. There are countless rarities that would have never been restored without the quality parts produced by Ted Janak at Winged Warrior Body Parts, but my mind always tends to go to the little guy. The guy that, like Ted, grew up watching the wing-things fly down the track on TV and always dreamed of owning one themselves. As you all probably know, these Daytonas and Superbirds are now often valued at over $100,000, so owning a real deal one is a privilege left mostly to the elite. Despite this, with Ted’s reproduction parts, anyone can take a crusty old Charger or Plymouth Satellite and clone it into a wing car, giving people this opportunity to build their dreams is what Ted truly loved about his business. On behalf of the entire Mopar community, I’d like to thank Ted Janak for sharing his passion, his talents and his time with others. With Ted’s son, Grant, at the helm of Winged Warrior Body Parts, you can continue to receive the same quality parts, genuine service and the chance to chase your dream, even if that dream is a ridiculous-looking racecar.