Since there was a little surface wear on the car, Jim repainted it, being careful not to alter the Wayne State decals on the doors. Other than removing the remains of the test equipment still on the car, he basically left it as he'd found it. During the two decades it was in his possession, Jim put less than 3,000 miles on the Runner.
Then he made the mistake of showing it to Dave Hakim, a Detroit native. Dave thought it was about as cool as cars get, especially with its local history and low mileage. In August 1996, after Jim got tired of Dave's constant phone calls and offers, he sold the car to him, making Dave the car's third owner.
Of course, being a Stock Eliminator racer as well as the recently appointed marketing manager for Mopar Performance, Dave fortified a few things on the machine. Bob Karakashian redid the Six Pack carbs, which are now incredibly responsive. Racer Don Little did an NHRA-legal valve job on the heads (though Dave swears the ports are untouched), and some minor restoration work was done, but the car is still 90-percent original. Through the exhaust manifolds and with Dave behind the wheel, the car has gone down the quarter to the tune of 13.20s, which is pretty stout for any restoration, let alone an engine still using the factory-built bottom end. In the past five years, the car's odometer has rolled up to 21,000 miles, since Dave has no problem taking the Road Runner out for an occasional jaunt.
In fact, when we talked about coming up after the Mopar Nats to deliver the Dodge Stratus-Fear project car (DaimlerChrysler executive James Julow had bought it) and return our borrowed Dodge Motorsports Dakota, Dave had a brainstorm.
"You know, that's the week of the Woodward Dream Cruise. We should take the Road Runner out there for an evening....
Panic In Detroit
Cruisin' Woodward in a pair of '70 classics
In the annals of musclecar history, some locations are legendary. The Connecting Highway in New York is one, as is Front Street in Philadelphia and Van Nuys Boulevard in Southern California. For the hottest iron of that day, however, the wide expanses of Michigan's route M1 running north from Detroit up to Pontiac got the nod. Between 11 Mile and 15 Mile Roads, this street named Woodward Avenue became the place of legends.
After all, every major American manufacturer had corporate offices in the area. As America's need for speed heated up, the three, then four lanes of asphalt in each direction became the testing grounds for new styling exercises and performance improvements, the latter often proven in the wee hours of the morning via duels. The auto builders never sanctioned this sort of experimentation directly; it was something to talk about over the water cooler in Highland Park or after work with buddies. Tom Hoover and the Chrysler engineering team had a rented garage on Woodward where race car and covert operations were executed (albeit with the unspoken blessing of management). Everybody knew what it was all about. In fact, Pontiac once used a Woodward Avenue sign for a GTO advertisement in the late '60s. For anyone outside of easy driving distance, Woodward Avenue was the ultimate destination for street action.
However, the local police departments of upscale townships like Royal Oak and Bloomfield Hills had little patience for the street set that looped from Ted's Drive-in on the north side down to the small businesses on the south end by the Detroit Zoo. With the real heavies of the street set lurking in the shadows for 10 miles or so, it was late at night before any serious action happened. Ticketing was, and remains, a common occurrence for those who decide to strut their stuff in open view, and the only thing that precluded wholesale enforcement was the length of Woodward itself and the multiple escape routes that made risks worth taking.