Car Show Classic: 1975 Plymouth Road Runner – Big Bird

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(first posted 5/10/2014)    The car show I attended a week ago had only two cars from the ’70s on display and I already showed you one of them, so here’s the other: a 1975 Plymouth Road Runner.  Painted in neon green, with long, bulging flanks, it was the first car I looked at upon my arrival.  As somewhat of a turkey, it definitely had the most charm and in fact, currently serves as its owner’s daily, making it definite CC material.

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Based, as it was, on the formal-looking “small Fury,” the 1975 Road Runner was somewhat lost on consumers and was a one-year-only deal.  The Road Runner package was moved over to the F-body Volare the following year before finally being killed off after 1980.  As odd as the overall package may have seemed to contemporary buyers, though, I feel that the angry taillights really work well for a muscle car, in addition to suiting the “Fury” nameplate quite well.

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The rest of the body doesn’t convey the aggressive theme as fully, but the tires, wheels, and graphics do a good job of stating the Road Runner’s intentions.  If I saw one of these things on two-lane blacktop, I’d be inclined to move over.  Especially out here in Indiana, where there are no emissions inspections.

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The owner told me there are no cats on the car.  And while I can’t tell much too much from looking at the carburetor–other than that the air cleaner doesn’t look stock–I know those headers look the business.  That engine–at a large 360 CID–still looks rather lost in the engine bay.  It’s still crazy to me that 5.9 liters was considered small back in the day; the top engine in 1975 was the 400 (unless you were a cop).  Note the full array of accessories still present, including A/C.

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I was told that tooling around town nets about fifteen miles per gallon.  I’m sure all those uncatalyzed, incompletely burned hydrocarbons make cruising around a wonderfully aromatic experience, although I didn’t get a chance to hear this particular car run.  In the voting, I came close to giving this the nod as my favorite, but it was edged out by a very clean, unmodified ’65 Chevelle Malibu.  Sorry Road Runner.

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Not that I feel especially terrible.  I always wanted that damn roadrunner to get eaten in those famous cartoons and in final B-body form, apparently Chrysler was afraid this was increasingly likely.


Just to refresh everyone’s memory, this is what the car and its graphics package looked like stock.  The “Road Runner” decals on the back do look very cool, and make me want to take a time machine back to the mid ’70s and race through the New Mexico desert.  The owner of the green car told me he didn’t care for the theme, which seems misguided (though I do like the look of his car as well).  Maybe for those who lived through the era, the factory package doesn’t seem as trippy.

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I can more confidently say that the changes made to the interior–with a ton of non-stock black vinyl–are unflattering.  These weren’t especially nice to sit inside of, versus their GM Colonnade competitors, but the striped cloth the owner says the car came with stock seems much less depressing.  Oh well, he didn’t build the car for me.

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My favorite details are the aggressive rake and the “Plymouth” emblazoned on the side of the car.  “Pretty” wasn’t a consideration; it makes a very macho statement, which makes the references to that cheeky cartoon bird all the more amusing.

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It’s said that, properly equipped, these late Road Runners were actually a rare bright spot in the darkness of ’70s performance cars.  If that’s true, then all the factors leading to the end of the muscle car era must’ve been oppressive in their presence by 1975.  That’s a real shame, but it also makes this B-body somewhat of a rebel and fun sight for those in the know.  The owner, for his part, wasn’t especially concerned with how others saw his car.  He was proud of owning a rather rare, well-kept secret among American performance cars, and why not?  Let the others go after the crowd pleasers.  At CC, we’re all about obscure novelties like this Plymouth and I have immense respect for this car.

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