Curbside Classic: 1969 Plymouth Road Runner Hardtop – Spring is Here!

This weekend in Curbsidelandia (better known as Portland, Oregon) the sun came out and temperatures topped 60 degrees, so lots of fine CCs came out like spring flowers. The brightest one I saw was this brilliant 1969 Plymouth Road Runner hardtop. Plymouth created a novel sub-class of the muscle car when it brought out the Road Runner in 1968, the low-priced minimal muscle car.

The formula was simple, take a base mid-size Belvedere with no extras, and drop in a muscle car drive train. Maximum speed per dollar. For fun, spice it up with a bright color and the cartoon Road Runner, who was forever outrunning the desperately hungry and inventive Wile E. Coyote.

It was a hit, selling over 40,000 cars its first year and 81,000 in this car’s 1969, when it was Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.

Here’s where the action is, a special version of the big block 383, with heads, intake manifold, camshaft, and exhaust manifold from the 440 Super Commando, and a .25 raise in compression to 10.5:1. (Photo of another car.) The Road Runner 383 was rated at a conservative (insurance-happy) 335 bhp (250 kW) and 425 lb⋅ft (576 N⋅m). This car drove out right after I took these photos, and I heard a loud, throaty and menacing V8 exhaust note.

A four speed stick shift was standard, and the legendary 426 Hemi was optional.

This car was fitted with period-correct Cragar S/S wheels. I love the clean lines of this car, and its airy hardtop greenhouse. The tapering C-pillar really works for me.

Bare bones inside, but nicely done. The steering wheel has a picture of the cartoon Road Runner in the center. The only options I see here are the 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic and an AM radio. Between the missing antenna and the wiring from under the dash it appears the radio is getting some work done.

Clean attractive front end too. The owner said it’s got the original “meep-meep” horn. This hood lacks the blackout paint seen on other Road Runners. Was that an option or was it left out after a repaint? I like it this way myself. You could optionally get functional hood air intakes called an “Air Grabber”, which have red grilles, but if I’m not mistaken these black grilles are standard and non-functional.

Nothing like a bright sunny weekend after a winter of overcast rainy and snowy skies. Makes you feel like getting out for a run. “Beep-Beep”!