I write this on April 13, 2023 after returning from the junkyard this afternoon, and realize that it’s a day like any other. Except it isn’t, it’s the exact 50th birthday of this particular car to the day. And it’s been sitting in this particular state of suspended animation for likely almost exactly forty years now.
Yes, it’s a 1973, birthed in the twilight of the muscle car era and the year that the Road Runner somehow was forced to become available with a 2-barrel 318. I of course didn’t know that offhand so I sent my Mopar expert (he owns a Dodge) friend Jason Shafer this engine picture and he said it’s a 318. Which I then verified later using the build tag.
Still, it put out 170hp and 270lb-ft of torque so it wasn’t terrible, or at least I’m assuming it wasn’t, even it wasn’t a 440 ready to shred the tires just by having a small itch in your right hand Chuck Taylor. Here it’s paired with the 3-speed automatic which I suppose made it a pretty attractive and livable ride around town. Road Runners got a special horn that actually went “Meep Meep” but I don’t see it in this engine bay so perhaps it’s now doing duty in someone’s Sentra or something.
Pretty much everyone in the United States that has had access to a television knows who the Road Runner was, he was the protagonist in a long running cartoon series that pitted him against Wile E. Coyote. As a result American kids aren’t scared of coyotes which is a bad mistake to make should you encounter one and think they look like a puppy.
Actually that’s not true but I can see kids believing they could easily outsmart a coyote; old Wile E. wasn’t the coldest Pepsi in the fridge if you catch my drift. Like dingoes, coyotes can probably eat’cho baby without half trying… Anyway, I digress. The point is that Chrysler paid a sum of money to be able to use the likeness of the Road Runner for its cars and it was quite a success, everyone loves the Road Runner.
While the Road Runner (the car now) was introduced back in 1968, for 1971 it entered into a second generation, and for 1973 (and 1974) it received new sheetmetal yet again. Now squarer and without the loop bumpers it looked more like the four door sedans it shared a platform with, however this one’s sheetmetal has been rearranged a bit so it’s a little more difficult to see what it resembles. Still, four big headlamps, a battering ram of a bumper (that interestingly looks to have survived whatever befell this one almost entirely), and the hood scoops make this something that many might move over for when spied in their rear-view mirror.
The paint color is called Lemon Twist which is perfect for something like this and paired with the black stripes makes for a very attractive package; looking at it I think I would have seriously considered the color had I been one to purchase an example back in the day. Some uncharitable folks may say that uttering the word Lemon around anything Mopar is tempting fate, and in this case the Twist part certainly describes that fender. Hmm. Moving on…
Unless equipped with a vinyl top, every picture I found of a 1973 Road Runner had the stripes that start on the front fender and continue past the door (as these do), but then they turn and angle over the roof in a strobe-like pattern. It’s striking but I’m not sure what’s up with this one as it doesn’t seem to have that yet it has the Road Runners in the correct places on the pillars. Normally they’d be within the striped area itself as it angles up and over. It’s a pretty iconic stripe job but perhaps it was an option or just not for those that spec’ed a 318 with an automatic, someone out there will know. For what it’s worth, the build tag shows V8X and V9X which are black sport stripes and black hood stripes, respectively.
The rear bumper too magically emerged practically unscathed from whatever befell this car. Perhaps those overriders really do a good job after all!
Mostly anyway, they can’t protect against a jab right up the backside…
Plymouth wasn’t shy about slathering on the yellow paint. At some point, someone tossed an ’80s-looking wheel in the trunk. No rust though!
So what are we thinking? Rollover? Tornado (there have been some historically around here)? A really bad night involving cheap liquor, cheap smokes, cheap “partner(s)”, and a ditch? Something else?
All I know is that the calendar affixed to the driver’s sun visor is set at March 1983, right about the ten-year-old mark for this car and almost exactly forty years ago. Someone thought they could maybe put it back together. Or it looked just fine in the back of the barn, no time to take it to the junkyard, there’s crops to harvest and pigs to raise, by gosh, we’re in the country here! .
I started by talking about writing this on April 13, 2023, the day I stumbled across the car. Here’s the build tag from the inner fender, stay with me as this is important. Ok, interesting anyway… Looking at the bottom line: E44 is the code for 318 2bbl, D34 is 3speed automatic, RM is Satellite/Sebring Medium Price Class, 21 is 2-door sedan, the first G is the engine code again for some reason, still the same 318 2bbl, then the 3 means 1973 and the next G is for St. Louis Assembly. The last six digits are the sequential build number.
So that 3 meant 1973. Alright. One line up the fourth grouping of numbers reads 413. The 4 is the fourth month, April, and the 13 is the 13th day. So it was built on April 13, 1973. Exactly 50 years ago to the day. I’ll point out that 4/13/73 was actually a Friday as well, so this car is starting to really get spooky.
And now I’m sitting here celebrating this Lemon Twist of a car on its 50th birthday by writing about it this evening. I may mix myself a drink with a twist of lemon to really celebrate! Or just to calm my nerves. It’s like I’ve got a 318 revving in my head, it just won’t stop!
Time and neglect haven’t been kind to the interior at all, still, in black it works very well with the color scheme. The 3-spoke wheel isn’t terrible to look at either, if a little thin.
High-back buckets, I approve. All the better to enjoy the sounds of Foghat’s second album, released the month before this car was built…Or maybe the owner was an early Aerosmith fan. Or maybe Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was playing when this car did its first burnout. 1973 was a good year for music it seems.
I guess the occupants had to listen to whatever was playing on the radio right below the (missing) gauge cluster, I don’t see an add-on 8-track player anywhere. These still had the somewhat of a cliff dashboard but it seems better than that of the Mustang anyway.
The back seat’s a bit of a mess too, but if you don’t tell anyone you just have a 318, you might get lucky back there since for ’73 the Road Runner with the 318 DID get the dual exhausts as standard which helped the power as well as the sound most likely.
The front fender shows evidence that this car has seen action sometime before its last stand. Good, I say, a life not lived to the fullest is a life not worth living, a few scars add character.
But really, our 50-year old Lemon Twist Road Runner saw more in the first ten years of life than most cars see in fifty. And I’ll bet it brought a lot more joy to its owner than it would have if it was just locked away in the garage. Heck, it appears it may have done that as well for the last forty… So a win-win for everyone even if it can’t roll across the block by itself anymore. It did its job for someone and became an inspiration for me to write something.
Jason found a ’73 Road Runner just sitting in a parking lot
These were decent looking cars back then and now! With bright yellow paint and stripes, this would definitely be calling out for attention on the street. But that’s what muscle cars were all about. Bold, brash and in your face–at least in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Good write up and good find on this one! Thanks for sharing it with us.
Wow, almost anything could have happened to that poor thing! I think that the Road Runner was in the top half of 1973 models in terms of appearance, and that trim tag is full, so it’s seems like a well-optioned example. Too bad it was a Mad Max stunt car. 🙂
I didn’t realize that the 318 was available in the Road Runner before it became a model of the Volare, and even some of the Volares had 360-4Vs that made them among the quickest American cars of their era. I wonder which engine Daisy had? Didn’t her car end up going off a cliff?
I was thinking that this might literally be that car, but I think 1983 calendar presence means a no to that as too new to have been in the stunt car.
My x girl friend had a 1973 yellow and black charger best car she ever had.
My x girl friend had a 1973 charger that was the best car she ever owned
It did, like season 3 I think. That’s when they replaced it with the Jeep.
The front of this car mystifies me a bit. Completely, and attractively in my mind, restyled from 1972, losing the loop bumper – presumably to comply with 1973 bumper standards.
With the exception of the rubber blocks that Chrysler was allowed to use on some low volume full-size cars for 1973, this does not appear to be energy absorbing. Unlike the full-size cars, this car continued as is for 1974.
A decent amount of effort went into this front end, yet Chrysler was given an exception on this?
There were two different bumper standards; the one for 1973 mandated that the bumpers had to prevent damage to any safety items on the car, such as headlights and fuel systems, at 5 mph for the front and 2.5 mph for the rear. This could be met with things like rubber bumper blocks as on this RR.
For 1974, the standard became more stringent, mandating the height of the bumper and protection also from angle hits, and further protection to various components, front and rear at 5 mph. This required the battering rams seen on all 1974 cars.
There was a one-year exemption from the more stringent 1974 standards for some cars that were in the last year of a design cycle. Sebring/RR, Charger, Barracuda, Challenger and Javelin are the ones that come immediately to mind.
“Until Oct. 31, 1974, there was an exemption from the pendulum test for vehicles that have less than 115 in. wheelbase, or a convertible top, or no roof support between A-pillar and rear support, or no rear seating positions.”
I like the previous front also used on the 1971 GTX.
Preferably in Purple sorry “In-Violet”, with Black Graphics, fitted with a Hemi and a 4 Speed Manual (but with a Overdrive added, and Black Leather, not Vinyl seats).
I came across a ’73 Road Runner a few months ago. Ordinarily, I’d take lots of pictures of such a car in order to later write it up, but I found this when I was dropping my own car off at a transmission shop for (obviously) a transmission repair… so I was in a grumpy mood and took only one pic of the car and a few more of the logos.
Anyway, this one (judging by the hood scoop) has the optional 340, but also doesn’t have the side stripes – it sure looked like it was in original condition too. Personally, I’d choose Lemon Twist rather than Spinnaker White, but that’s just my opinion.
The badges looked to be original and in good shape:
Nice sighting, Eric703. Thank you for taking the time to show us.
Wile E. Coyote finally won.
You win this thread!!
That would have been a better title! Why couldn’t I channel you last night?
Very strange damage on this one. Almost every panel. I wonder if it was in a barn that collapsed or spent time as a field car?
The HALF restyle on these has always bothered my soooo sensitive Industrial Designer jaded eyes! It was obviou$ that Chrysler did not have the funds at hand for a full body facelift. The completely different skin shapes of front versus rear wheel openings only serves to emphasize the disparity. It would seem that the term CONCINNITY did not exist at the MoPar design staff!
IMhO the original, loop bumper design of the car was the most attractive early 70s MoPar. 🙂 DFO
I used to really love this version until someone here pointed out the different treatments on the front and rear wheel arches – I still like it, but now I cannot unsee that kludged detail.
The color’s nice, but otherwise this car doesn’t do much for me. I was a senior in high school that Spring and the Roadrunner had fallen off my radar about three or four years earlier. Of course, in 1973 I was a Colonnade fan so what did I know. I can’t help noticing the red Durango to the right of the Plymouth. The blue Chrysler Aspen featured here a few days ago didn’t get much love, but IMO it was a well-done restyle of the awkward front end of that generation Durango.
You had a date with destiny, and you kept it.
The side stripes are there; they just fade away more and more as they turn up into the C pillar. But there’s some residual bit of it left. The sun did its thing.
I forgot about it coming with the 318 in ’73. It’s as if they knew the energy crisis was coming. 170 net hp is pretty good for a two-barrel V8 of that size.
Other than the missing scoop inserts the hood looks like it’s salvageable, center console and possible slap stik shifter too. Course the yard seems to have inventoried the car as a Plymouth Fury, so interested parties looking at the online vehicle list are oblivious unless they just so happen to be there and stumble upon it
I mostly get frustrated by old cars in junkyards because they all too often have straight even rust free bodies and seem to only be there because whoever had it couldn’t be bothered even trying to sell it before calling the wrecker, but in this case despite it being a car I have a genuine attraction to, it’s clearly lived it’s life to the fullest.
This yard doesn’t do an online inventory yet, which is what I kind of like about it, it’s always a grab bag of sorts. But I can also find more complete examples than when hordes of people descend on an in-demand vehicle within 24hrs…
I like that as well, most of the yards I still go to have online inventories and like you said cars are noticeably more picked apart than they used to be.
You want to know why American buyers ditched these cars for svelt Siroccos, Golf GTIs, Honda Accords, and Toyota Supras? Take a look. Somehow Detroit actually thought that there was a need to take a compact car and add enough overhang on the front and rear to similate “something” – paint them outrageous colors and make buckets of dough.
Americans who grew up during these years thought that these kinds of cars were sporty until they actually drove cars half this size that had manual transmissions, actual handling abilities and solid construction, crafted by computers and robots, instead of rubber mallets and luck.
I would just take an honest Plymouth Satellite wagon with a 318 and no pretentions, please.
What are you talking about? The Roadrunner was based on the B body platform when it was introduced in 1968, which has its roots dating back to the 62s which were at the time downsized full size cars – eg big intermediates. The Roadrunner nameplate only meaningfully changed in size when in 1976 it DOWNsized to the Volare body, a car most people try to forget.
The Roadrunner lost favor because like many muscle cars it had growing and prohibitively expensive insurance premiums the target demographic could no longer afford (because they had such a good time in the 100,000 68-69s), which is why the 318 was made the standard engine in these 73s, to help lower premiums. That and the Duster 340 became the better performance bargain.
As for your svelte Siroccos, Golf GTIs, Honda Accords, and Supras, one isn’t made anymore, two of them are irrelevant and Honda felt the need need to take the Accord and add enough overhang on the front and rear to similate “something” too. Meanwhile classic muscle cars are worth more than all of those examples in the collector market, and the compact car is damn near extinct in the American new car marketplace. Americans ditched compacts for tippy SUVs and never looked back , why?
Couldn’t agree more. When I was a youngster, my father wouldn’t let me buy a Chevelle SS 454. Too much motor,he said. So I convinced him to let me purchase a 72 Demon 340. That little small block was a terror. Someone had rebuilt the engine with the earlier casting heads with 2.02 intakes. I believe that little A body would have given many big blocks a run for their money down the quarter mile. What the hell was I thinking anyway wanting a Chevy?? My dads favorite car was a 57 Plymouth 9 passenger wagon!My next car was a 70 R/T SE triple black Charger 440 mag. I can honestly say I’m glad I didn’t choose a boring economy turd. Mopar muscle cars were cool, cars with many power train options,colors and styles. Remember back in the day, we weren’t interested in economy or driving around curves like some sportly looking volkswagon.I presently own a 2010 Challenger R/T Classic 5.7 6spd 3.91 suregrip, 20″ wheels similar to the old 5spoke mags of the past. It’s all engineering improvements and advancing.Its not a sports car,but an accurate progression of yesterday’s musclecars. I hear Mopar won’t be building anymore V-8s. I guess I’ll be recycling old mopars like my 66 Coronet or my rusty old 72 Beep Beep w/ 400 hp. A mopar enthusiast as myself could soil my britches to hear they’ll be making a 4cylinder turbo or a car that sounds like a washing machine ( Hope they sell really long extension cords to avoid the summertime brown outs we have now cause we can’t make enough electricity.) They can keep all the golf carts they can make!
It wasn’t styling. I can’t tell a car anymore. I couldn’t tell you if it was foreign or domestic today? At least back in the day you could tell what they were? Even at night certain Mustangs had reflective stickers.. Pontiacs had the big chrome beak bumpers. You could tell by headlights stacked or side by side. Cars had style. They were works of art! Now they are just expensive.
It takes some real skill to wreck a car in a way that does significant damage to every major body panel, but in a way that makes you think “I’ll bet someone could straighten that if he really had to”. The guy probably used something made by Acme.
Finding a car on its actual birthday – quite the accomplishment there, JK!
“For some reason” is because RM21G3G197688 is the car’s VIN, which is what’s at the end of the bottom line of this kind of Mopar build plate.
Well, better that than it just won’t start, eh!
Ah, thank you for explaining how the VIN translates to the plate (or the other way I suppose), yes that seems correct, this one’s driver door was jammed shut so no chance to see the actual vin plate in the jamb which I usually try to show…
To be pedantic about it (Hi…), the VIN plate is at the lower left corner of the windshield. That what you mean in the doorframe is the VSCL, vehicle safety certification label. “This vehicle meets all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety, bumper, and anti-theft standards in effect on the date of manufacture”, etc.
You? Nooo, never….. 🙂
Yes, that. I did try to see the VIN plate too but with the broken glass stuck in that area of the windshield it wasn’t worth losing a finger over. I should have said VI number with build date in the door jamb. Or VSCL…
Someone dropped at least one anvil and probably a boulder on that car.
It certainly looks intentional.
Great find and history. The thoroughly milquetoast grille and headlight treatment Chrysler applied to these for ’73, after the iconic and very graphic noses they had in ’71, makes it a bit less disheartening to see. After ’72, Chrysler immediately presented some of the worse domestic styling efforts of the 1970s. The Cordoba looking 100% like a GM design.
Despite this RR’s scoliosis, it is still a charming car to behold, all amplified by the yellow. Or at least I think so. I’ve always liked these despite some of the obvious styling quirks when in its original form.
Perhaps one of the shortest articles to be featured here could be a list of all the domestically built Dodge and Plymouth branded cars available from 1973 to 1977 that did not have a 318 available. If there are any (other than maybe a C-body Monaco?), they certainly aren’t coming to mind.
A magnificent find, particularly on such a milestone birthday.
A nice tribute to a tough old bird. I prefer this model over the more exotic 71/72 cars, some of which I have seen at car shows look a bit awkward from certain angles, especially if the front suspension has been lowered too much, creating a lot of rake.
The 73 models don’t have that issue.
And the front has some nice shape to it in plan view, which creates visual interest, and the mismatched wheel arches don’t concern me.
I’m sure the boys at Graveyard Cars TV show could rescue this, if it was a rare version, or if it was someone’s first car, and just had to have it back, and had the funds of course.
I graduated high school in ’73. One of my classmates had a brand new Road Runner like this one. probably with the base engine. I had a Kawasaki Mach Three, I had my exposure to hyper performance at a young age.
Looks like a flood or tornado cars to me, and yes, I have extensive experience with flood cars and I’ve seen them bent in half from being washed down gullies or flooded streams ~ once they begin to tumble everything exterior gets bent .
Sad really , I too think this could be used to rebuild a rusted out one .
I had a 83 400 4bbl thermal carb
Blueprints ingine torkflght slap stick trans
White with white bucket interior with buckets red stripe
Really miss that car
Never should have sold it
Wheres car, i need parts
Andersen’s Sales and Salvage, Greeley, Colorado, USA
Wheres the salvage yard at need rear 1/4 glass brackets?
Huh, talk about coincidences – my dad bought his ’73 Roadrunner in the spring of 1983, probably close to the time this one was wrecked, as it was a graduation present for himself. Also has the 318 automatic from the factory, though it now has a four barrel carb and dual exhaust (those were optional).
Originally a very ’70s shade of brown, it definitely looks better in an emerald green metallic. Also has the interior out of a ’75 Grand Fury.
I have a 1973 I bought new only has 51000 miles on it Dark Tahitian Gold Metalic 318 auto white stripe everything is all original except for front pads and rotors paid 3,432.00 for it
I’ve been watching Graveyard Carz, recently on YouTube (Discovery only screened the first 2 seasons on Sky Satellite TV in the UK).
Send the details to Graveyard Carz.
I’m sure Mark and his crew would take on the challenge.