Plymouth Roadrunner for sale: a legendary muscle car

In 1968, the Plymouth Roadrunner delivered much noise for the buck and remained an instantaneous success for Plymouth.

1968 Plymouth Road Runner

The famous cartoon draftsman of Warner Brothers Chuck Jones who shaped the Road Runner character, declared the ducks , pigs, bunnies, and other animals were all inspired by the bosses that Jones and his teammates elaborated for every day. We can guess that Chuck’s boss was a real great success, because the Road Runner character was a winner for Plymouth.

After made his name by building cheap taxicabs, this company may have been about the last nameplate to bring out a midsize muscle car when the 1967 Belvedere GTX was introduced by itself. However, it was the first carmaker to exploit the potential market for a low-buck performance car when it launched the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner.

The fact of installing a powerful engine in the lightest and cheapest car available wasn’t a new idea and, for years, judicious users of the option list had been ordering “Q-Ships”. Actually, with the Road Runner, Plymouth did the entire job for the client. In order that young customers could more readily buy the car, the company brought together it all in one gimmicky fashion and sold it a low price – using a famous Warner Bros. cartoon character as the car’s homonym. Taking Road Runner name and a cheap klaxon copied of the cartoon bird’s celebrate “beep-beep” had succeed to capture the public and marketplace’s attention. The basic Road Runner was the lowest-priced Belvedere two-door sedan and became “complete” with standard fleet items as rubber floor mats and plain bench seat.

At its beginning, the Road Runner had as standard engine a 335-hp version of the 383-cid Chrylser B-Block. With only 5 hp more than the regular 383, it was more powerful than due to the use of intake and exhaust manifolds, cylinder heds and a cameshaft from the Chrysler 440-cid V-8. A standard four-speed manual transmission was added to the mechanical goodies together with 11-inch drum brakes, Red Stripes tires and a heavy-duty suspension. Its low $2,870 price was the kicker for the Road Runner. If you prefered some nice interior refinements such as bright trim and carpeting, you had to pay $79.20 for get the Road Runner Decor Group. And, if you desired to kick the toy image with the 426-cid/425-hp Street Hemi, you had to add $714.30 extra.

Midyear, it was added a two-door hardtop. And to make the Road Runner a winner, the coupe’s 29,240 tally were added to its 15,359 production run. 1.019 of those were Hemi-powered.

According to Car Life, Road Runner “emulates what a young, performance-minded buyer might do on his own if properly experienced and motivated”. If you would have had a car, in the 60’s, it was this one, if old J.C. Whitney forwarded you each goodie of his catalog. The Road Runner ran a 7.3 second 0-to-60 times and a 15.37-second quarter-mile at 91.4 mph, just with its base 383-cid/335-hp V-8. And don’t forget, it was not the better engine ! Three others were most powerful. Amazing!

Plymouth Road Runner 1968 pictures

1969 Plymouth Roadrunner

The 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner models are characterized by new grilles and rear-end styling. These exist in three different body styles. The $3,313 convertible, Model RM27, was a rarity with only 2,128 of the 3,790-lb. ragtops being turned out. The hardtop Model RM23 raced to the head of the pack with 48,549 assemblies. It cost $3,083 and weighed 15 additional lbs. more than the original, but customers liked its styling. And the original coupe version Model RM21 carried at $2,945 window sticker and weighed the least at 3,435 lbs. It attracted 33,743 buyers.

The standard 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner included a deluxe steering wheel, back-up lights, a fake walnut shift knob, a four-speed manual transmission with a Hurst gear shifter, red- or white-streak tires, Hemi Orange paint treatment, an un-silenced air cleaner, chrome engine parts, top-opening hood scoops, door nameplates, a deck lid nameplate, a dash nameplate, heavy-duty shocks, heavy-duty brakes and a heavy-duty suspension.

For the Roadrunner, the 383-cid V-8 was the standard engine which had a 4.250 x 3.375-inch bore and stroke. The Roadrunner engine generated 35 hp at 4600rpm with a Carter AVS four barrel carburetor and 10.0:1 compression ration. The 440-cid V-8 or the 426-cid Street Hemi were the engine options.

A Hemi Roadrunner coupe was included in comparison test of si “econo-racers” in Car and Driver magazine in January 1969. The Street Hemi also possessed a 4.25 x 3.75-inch bore and stroke, but, with a 10.25:1 compression ration and dual four-barrel Carter carburetors, the Hemi heads helped boost its puissance to to 425 hp at 5000 rpm and 490 lbs.-ft at 4000 rpm.

Based on a 116-inch wheelbase, the Hemi Plymouth Roadrunner coupe weighed 3,938 lbs unladen and had a 3.54:1 rear axle. It runned 0-to-60 mph in 5.1 seconds (recorded by Car and Driver), the quarter-mile in 13.54 seconds reaching a speed of 105.14 mph. Its top speed was estimated at 142 mph.

The writer declared “to say that the Plymouth Roadrunner scored heavily in the performance part of the test is Anglo Saxon understatement in the best tradition. […] It was the quickest in acceleration, stopped in the shortest distance and ranked second in handling. That’s a pretty tough record.”

Plymouth Road Runner 1969 pictures

Plymouth Roadrunner 1970

Explosive Plymouth‘s “beep-beep” has been revealed in the stop light grand prix in 1970 with a great job of kicking its feathers up. “It’s no longer just a stripped down Belvedere with a big engine and heavy suspension” declared A.B. Shuman in Motor Trend. Each year, to widen its market niche, the Roadrunner was equipped with a few more creature comforts, like the GTO. In the same time, the underhood hardware always was so stunning, as did the performance figures. You could run a 0-to-60 in 6.6 second and a 14.4-second quarter at 99 mph.

Plymouth‘s Spartan muscle car did perpetuate its tradition with the use of the same basic Belvedere body. Car Fax listed standard 1970 Plymouth Road Runner equipment: front armrests, a three-speed manual transmission with floor-mounted gear shift, rear armrests, a glove box light, a cigar lighter, the famous “beep-beep” horn, front bumper guards, a high performance hood, a 150-mph speedmeter, Roadrunner emblems, F70-14 white-line tires on wide safety rim wheels, the 383-cid/335-hp Roadrunner V-8, three-speed windshield wipers, roof-drip rail and upper door-fame moldings and heavy-duty shock absorbers all around. A 440 four-barrel V-8 with 375 hp, the 440 “Six-Pack” V-8 with 390 hp and a 426-cid/425-hp Hemi were included as power train options.

Three other Roadrunner models also were built. The two-door hardtop was dealer priced at $2,316.23 and sold for $3,034. The dealer price on the coupe was only $2,210.28 and it carried a $2,896 suggested retail price. The convertible cost the dealer $2,513 and retailed for $3,298 including federal excise tax.

Somehow, Plymouth seemed gradually forget the Roadrunner‘s original idea of being a “true” cheap muscle car. Install a three-speed gearbox instead of the four-speed manual transmission was one sign of this, as the use of hydraulic valve lifters on the Hemi (which cost $841.05 extra). The engine, a $249.55 extra, was the 440-cid Six-Pack engine and impeded the driver to profit air conditionning. It also required either an automatic transmission or the four-speed manual gearbox.

Roadrunner owners had another option with drag racing in mind, the A33 Super Trak Pak package, a $142.85 extra. It included a dual breaker-point distributor, a heavy-duty 9 3/4-inch Dana Sure-Grip 3.55:1 rear axle, the heavy-duty four-speed manual gearbox with Hurst shifter and a woodgrained gear shift knob and recess warning light. They also could order an other package: the Super Trak Pak version for $235.62. It included all of the same extras with power front disc brakes and a 4.1:1 ratio Dana rear axle.

Plymouth Road Runner 1970 pictures

Plymouth Superbird 1970

“The Plymouth Superbird concept is a vehicle for the raw competition of NASCAR tracks”, suggested Road Test magazine in 1970. “But in street versions, it is also a fun car when you get used to being stared at”.

The battle of muscle car aerodynamics was finished with the 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird. With a 7.0-litter engine-displacement limit, competing automakers armed themselves with more wind-cheating body design. The “winged warriors” from Chrysler were the culmination of this battle with the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona and 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird. Designed for the NASCAR and its superspeedway oval tracks, a high airfoil on struts above the rear deck and a long, peaked nose typified these Mopars.

Although similar, the 1969 Dodge Daytona and 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird were different. They shared a little in the way of specialized parts. The basic sheet metal, the airfoil and the noses of the Charger and Road Runner Plymouth two-door hardtops differed. The nose added 19 inches of lenght.

To be made to make it “legal” for racing, in 1969, rules called for only 500 copies of each model. Then, one for each dealer had built by manufacturers for 1970. Finally, experts think that a total of 1,971 Superbirds were constructed.

The 440-cid SuperCommando V-8 with a single four-barrel carburetor was the most popular engine, with its 375 hp and priced at $4,298. 1,120 Superbirds get this engine. The 440-cid/390-hp V-8 with three two-barrel carburetors equipped 716 other cars. Finally, just 135 cars possessed the 426-cid/425-hp, twin four-barrel Street Hemi (58 with four-speed manual transmission and 77 with automatic transmission). The Hemi racing engine was used for racing cars.

About racing, the interest and influence of the Superbird was so big that Richard Petty came back to racing Plymouths after his one-year hiatus with Ford. Pete Hamilton was hired by Petty Engineering to run a second Superbird at selected events in 1970. Promptly, he won the great Daytona 500.

In 1971, Plymouth intermediates were redesigned. The Superbird was no-follow up because of the performance market had shrinked and budgets for racing was shifted to meeting Federal safety and emission standars.

Plymouth Road Runner 1970 Superbird pictures

Plymouth Roadrunner 1971

In the late 60’s, the younger generation of drivers took a fancy to the Roadrunner‘s budget muscle car concept. They had been beep-beeping at each other ever since. The Coyote clobberer, by 1971, had elevated its own cult of Road Runner owners. “When the performance-minded think Plymouth they think Roadrunner“, wrote Road Test magazine. This magazine had elected the 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner as its “U.S. Car of the Year”.

During the 1971 model year, many models of High-performance cars of all sizes always were available with a long list a factory options. Unfortunately, the buyers stayed at bay because of high insurance rates. It decreased significantly sales numbers and the endangered species list was increased by several models.

For 1971, the two-door hardtop version was the only body style returning in Plymouth‘s Roadrunner line. The front of car was equipped with a new grille looked like a big loop all around it. The revisited sheet metal of the Road Runner was shared between the Sebring and Sebring Plus coupes. Onto the newly designed Mopar mid-size body shell, the convertible and sedan did not get translated.

With the presence the more expansive GTX on market, the 71 Plymouth Roadrunner again occupied its low-priced muscle car niche with its hot graphics, “beep-beep” horn and other solid performance. A 300-hp version of the trusty 383-cid V-8 was standard in the Roadrunner model. It had a single four-barrel carburetor and a 4.25 x 3.38-inch bore and stroke. It developed 400 lbs.-ft. of torque at 2400 rpm. Early in the year, the 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner costed $3,120 to reach $3,147 around May 31.

The production was of 14,218 in all. And that was not that bad. The Hemi option was the rare variety and went into only 55 Roadrunners this year.

Plymouth Road Runner 1971 pictures