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1969 Plymouth Road Runner - Fourth Time's A Charm - Feature

This Road Runner Ragtop Has Seen Some Changes

Photography by Bob McClurg

It's tough to trust your instincts. Especially when no one else shares your point of view. Some people are good at heeding that inner voice, while others succumb to the rantings of the masses. Fortunately, Rodney Carter is a man who recognizes that inner voice. Way back in 1977, while just a lad of 18, Rodney had the good sense to rescue this '69 Road Runner convertible from a junkyard. He was so convinced that this car needed to be saved that he almost hocked his trumpet to raise the cash. Fortunately, mom stepped in to help save both car and instrument.

But Rodney's friends openly laughed at his purchase, which by Rod's own admission was in pretty rough shape. "It didn't run, and some parts were missing, the driver's rear quarter was pushed in about a foot, and the driver's door was wrecked. Most people thought it was junk." Undeterred, Carter and friend John Miller went to the junkyard, installed an oil pump, oil pan, and a starter, and drove the car home. Later, after correcting the bent and broken pushrods, the car actually ran pretty well. As a Texas car, it had been spared from the ravages of rust, but it was still battered and bruised. Rodney and John gave it a quick patch job and started enjoying it.

After marrying his girlfriend in 1978, Rodney painted the Road Runner, replaced the interior, and began showing it at local outdoor car shows. Then in 1982, Carter and another friend, James Baker, stripped it to metal and corrected many of the previous repair evils. It was sprayed with 28 coats of lacquer in preparation for ISCA car show competition, though it was still a street-driven car. That's when a lot of the body smoothing and shaving took place in the quest for points, though Rodney has always kept a stash of stock parts to return things to factory spec if need be (along with the numbers-matching drivetrain).

Later, in 1989, Rodney once again decided that the Runner needed attention. This refurbishment would take the longest, but it's the effort that yielded the result you see today. Even back then, Rodney-thinking beyond the norm of the day-knew that he wanted to create a Road Runner as a "touring car" using upgraded mechanicals and mild street rod-style touches, a practice that has now become commonplace.

So even though that effort wasn't completed until the mid '90s, the final product looks right up to date, even in the midst of the current Pro Touring trend. But the vibe is more than skin deep. Between the Hemi and the Dana is a Tremec five-speed, there are disc brakes behind all four16-inch wheels, and the steering gear had been blueprinted for a contemporary road feel. Plus, it's got modern A/C and sound, and it manages nearly 20 mpg during its annual 2,000-mile jaunts on the Power Tour. When asked when the next phase of the Runner will begin, Rodney claims the car is finally just the way he wants it ... but give him time.

Car Craft Q&A
Car Craft: So what was it that compelled you to procure this car?
Rodney Carter: I've always liked Mopars, and Road Runners in particular, and I've always liked convertibles, so it was a natural.

CC: Is this your only Mopar?
RC: No, I've had at least 30 of them, and this wasn't the first. I started with a '63 Sport Fury and used to buy and sell to fund my musclecar habit back in the early '80s. I let some stuff go years ago that I wish I had now, like the '69 factory Hemi Road Runner I bought in '79, but this car has always been special. I took it from being a $125 piece of junk to something worth having.

CC: Think there's another redo in the Runner's future?
RC: It's pretty much done, and even though I keep upgrading stuff, like the Vintage Air system, the Keisler five-speed, and the Firm Feel steering, it's going to stay looking this way. The paint is about 10 years old now, so I'll probably give it a re-spray just to clean it up.

The Details
Car: '69 Plymouth Road Runner convertible
Owner: Rodney Carter

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