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1968 Plymouth Road Runner - Junkyard Builder

Ravaged Runners

By Steve Magnante, Photography by Steve Magnante

Whether you dig Mopars or not, we must all respect the Plymouth Road Runner. No, it wasn't the first muscle car, but it was the first to be marketed to kids. While other midsize muscle cars of the day-Chevelle SS396s, Fairlane GT390s, Cutlass 442s, Pontiac GTOs, and so on-were geared toward more mature audiences and bank accounts, Plymouth appealed directly to the kiddie set. This was done in two steps. The first was by working a deal with Warner Bros. to license the Road Runner image and "Beep Beep" voice, a popular Saturday morning TV and theatrical cartoon character since 1949. The second was to price the car at $2,870, well within the range of any hard-working high school punk with a valid driver's license.

Best of all, while Plymouth could have gone soft and slapped the Road Runner stickers and horn on the base 318 Belvedere (maybe adding a four-barrel and dual pipes to spice things up), each and every '68 Road Runner came standard with a 335hp 383 wedge, a heavy-duty A833 four-speed transmission, a bulletproof 8 3/4 rear axle, 11-inch manual drum brakes, F70-14 tires, and a police/taxi suspension. And while few were built, the 426 Street Hemi was the lone engine option.

Rolled together in the aforementioned base Belvedere sedan body with a bench seat and rubber floor mat, the 383 Road Runner was a very serious performance machine that could run mid-14s at the strip, top out at 130 mph, do 0-60 in less than 7 seconds, and most of all, it could stop (the 9.5-inch standard drums installed under GM muscle cars were a joke by comparison). Total first-year sales hit 44,599 units, and surveys showed that nearly 20 percent were purchased by high school kids.

Over the next 12 years (Road Runners were offered until the end of the '80 model year), the formula matured and the legend grew. Today, Road Runners are revered by collectors, and prices are too high for most of us. That's why it was such a shock to discover this horde of ravaged Road Runners in the spring of 2010. Don't worry, they're not going to the crusher anytime soon. They're all tucked away safely at Gary Laplante's Milford, New Hampshire, salvage yard. Let's take a tour.

Groovy Factoids
•The first Road Runner cartoon was titled Fast and Furry-ous and debuted on September 16, 1949. Eat that, Vin Diesel.
•The Road Runner's unique "Beep Beep" sound was part of every episode, from the very first to present day. Veteran voice actor Paul Julian played the Road Runner from 1949 to 1995.
•Road Runner's nemesis, Wile E. Coyote, was silent until 1952 when creator Mel Blanc finally gave him a voice.

SOURCES
Winkel Auto
Milford
NH
603-673-4616
By Steve Magnante
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