The Road Runner Rides Again

January 13th, 2012

Text by Harley Camilleri

Photos Courtesy of Surf City Garage

Finished in Bronze Fire Poly, this Plymouth carries its heft and length pretty well. Built as a muscle car for the masses, the Road Runner sold many more units than others in its family did. With plenty of horsepower and a low cost of ownership, Plymouth nailed it with these cars.

A ’69 Survivor Stashed in the Surf City Garage

Opening up any book about the history of the automobile will inevitably reveal interesting stories about America’s most famous technological innovation. How cars became branded and named is history lesson in itself. One of the stories that has is fairly well known is how the Plymouth Road Runner came to see the light of day. Its namesake cartoon character emblazoned in many places on the car’s body and interior made Plymouth’s Road Runner easily identifiable. The Road Runner was introduced in 1968 as a mid-priced, intermediate-bodied muscle car and even had a horn that went “beep, beep,” just as the feathery cartoon character.

Surf City Garage may be a manufacturer of well-known cleaning products for automobiles, but many people don’t know that the back warehouse is a veritable time capsule of cars, trucks and motorcycles. Located behind the 10-foot-high gates and walls in Huntington Beach, California, is a treasure trove of muscle cars that would make any collector envious and any enthusiast weak in the knees. This ’69 Road Runner is one of many rebuilt cars resting comfortably in the confines of the Surf City castle. A trip through the company’s website allows viewers to click on parking spots in the garage and get info on nearly every vehicle in the collection.

This ’69 Plymouth Road Runner is finished in beautiful Bronze Poly Fire and really fits into the increasing reemergence of the earthly hues in popular rodding. Having received a full rotisserie restoration, stripped to its bare metal, the Road Runner was found to be in surprisingly good condition and required nothing more than a thorough massage to get its sheet metal back in order. The Road Runner was built for serious street work and is no fragile car, which might be why this example survived mostly unscathed all these years. Having paid Warner Brothers a reported $50,000 to use the namesake and likeness of one of its cartoon characters, the ’69 model year was the second year of production, but the first year with full color decals and emblems. The Surf City car didn’t require any touch up of the emblems. That’s a clean example.

Inside, the Plymouth was equipped with a bench seat and deluxe interior. Covered in the era’s known mutli-color blends, we’ll just call it tan to keep things simple.

This muscle car has never been cut for any known maladies. Most survivors have at least seen an aftermarket head unit or 6 x 9-inch door speakers, but The Surf City example sports the original head unit, and this prime example works just as well as the day it rolled off the assembly line. About the only thing that might tip off the casual observer to the car’s potential might be the four-speed shifter lurking on the floor. The bench seat provides the shifter with a bit of stealth, perhaps to goad an unsuspecting driver into a street race with this “granny” car with a bench seat.

Opening the hood reveals a completely original 383 Magnum fit with a four-barrel and air grabber. Having spent $50,000 on licensing the Road Runner name and likeness, Plymouth placed the characters everywhere it could, including putting poor Wile E. Coyote on the air cleaner lid.

A pair of matte stripes run up the fiberglass pin-on hood and wear a pair of 383 badges, so it comes as no surprise that popping the hood reveals the strategic placement of Wile E. Coyote covered in Road Runner dust painted on the oversized air cleaner lid. The 383 Magnum carries a four-barrel and a dual-snorkel air cleaner. Running 9.5:1 compression, it was rated at 325 hp at 5,200 rpm with torque at 425 lb-ft at 3,400 rpm. Being fully rebuilt back to 100-percent original specifications, we’re sure this Magnum makes that and probably a little more. A handy driver running moonshine in the South could probably get the big Plymouth to 60 mph in less than seven seconds while barking the red line Polyglass tires and running from Johnny Law.

A total of 84,420 Plymouth Road Runners were sold in 1969, proving that horsepower with a solid price point is what people wanted. The more nicely appointed GTX was less than a stellar seller that year, as were the Road Runner’s Dodge cousins. With a sticker price of $2,945, the Road Runner was horsepower for cheap in a solid package that could run with the best of them. Heck, for $175 more, this thing could have had a Hemi.

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One Response to “The Road Runner Rides Again”

  1. realz69 (http://www NULL.motortopia says:

    Who wrote this article an actually put their name on it. Why write something and not look at this car were are the pins for the so called fiberglass hood. The writer did not see this car are the pictures are not of the car in the article, come on “HARLEY CAMILLERI” if you don’t know what you are writing about find something you can write about.

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