If there's one thing most of us Mopar folks have in common, it's that we're all pack rats. Some of us collect parts, some of us collect literature, and some of us collect cars. For Dale Mathews of Lenoir, North Carolina, car collecting is where his addiction is deepest. This isn't a deep-pockets deal, mind you; Dale's just able to find stuff at a price we would all be happy to pay, and thanks to his understanding wife, Linda, he has a bunch of projects waiting to be completed. This includes, among others, the pilot '70 Hemi Road Runner seen in the factory ad campaign (which turned up in his hometown), a Superbird, and this '71 383 Road Runner. Dale says he hates to see a Mopar sitting around rotting, so he bugs the owners until they give in and sell him the car.
Truth be told, the Road Runner was purchased as a daily driver off somebody's front lawn near Rockingham in 1991. The price for the worn but solid beast was $2,000. For the next five years, it was a common sight around town as Dale took it back and forth to work. In 1996 a friend, Ken Blewis, had just sold a Charger restoration he'd finished up; he and Dale agreed the Road Runner would be a great learning tool when they tackled future restorations. For the next 2 1/2 years the Road Runner was in the garage and Dale and Ken did virtually everything themselves.
By July 1999 the bodywork had been carefully executed, including minor sheetmetal work, and Ken painted the car in Dale's garage, using GW3-code Alpine White DuPont paint. A month later the car was ready to be driven to the Mopar Nationals. Black graphics were purchased and applied, giving the car quite a distinctive, stark look that denotes classy and nasty at the same time. The deck wing and fender tips are part of the factory-applied A45 group. Today, the car rides on 15x7 rims shod with 255/60R15 tires, with KYB gas shocks keeping the handling in check.
While many may have opted for a white or black interior, the original purchaser, Terry's Chrysler/Plymouth in Charlotte, selected blue vinyl seats and carpeting when the car was built in 1971; coupled with the bright white paint, it really stands out. This part was refurbished as needed, leaving the bench seat and column shifter in place since it was a stock restoration. The driveline, consisting of the lower-compression 383 Magnum, the 727 TorqueFlite, and an 8 3/4 3.23 open-end rear, were also rebuilt to stock specs to look as they did the day they came from the factory.
In the end, Dale had a machine that could run on pump gas, still be driven to work, and turn heads wherever it went. In fact, when we met him at Farmington Dragway for the Piedmont Mopar Club's show, he was surprised at the attention the car received. It's one of the last '71s built, coming off the line on July 9 that year; it sat on the dealer lot until January 1972 when the dealership finally obtained a buyer for it. It hasn't been in a trailer since its completion because Dale doesn't own one.
At the time of this show, we were getting ready for the upcoming Carlisle Dyno Challenge. We planned to take a bone-stock car and give it a makeover using some of the best aftermarket parts on the market today. We'd received several entries through the mail, but none fit the bill like this one. Body complete, stock driveline, street-driven regularly, average musclecar project.
So as we finished up the photos seen here, I said to Dale, "Hey, pal, what's the chance of you bringing this thing up to Carlisle in July? I have an idea...."