Yep, it's restored to almost...
Yep, it's restored to almost factory specs. Yep, it's only driven on nice days. Yep, it will smoke the hides at will-how cool is that?
It could be said that our first car, in a lot of ways, was like our first girlfriend. There was passion, and dreams, and a sense of completion that we had never felt before. Even if it wasn't perfect, the car that is, it was very important to us at the time. And, like most first girlfriends, those cars usually disappeared, gone but never truly forgotten.
Many vintage Mopar fans have met or at least know of Tony D'Agostino. He is a well-versed new and recycled Chrysler parts vendor from Delaware. His company-Tony's Parts-has served the hobby for three decades. the 383 Road Runner convertible you see here was the first car he ever bought, back when he was 13 years old.
The car was actually not the first car he had a chance to buy. His father Bob ran a body shop in Chester, New York, and in 1977, the pair had gone to look at a '69 Dodge Daytona with an asking price of $500. It was the height of the second big gas crunch, and musclecars were coming out of the woodwork. They left a deposit on the wing car, planning to pick it up later. "That night," Tony tells us, "I showed my mom a picture of the car. Well, she really felt it was not good for me to have something that looked like a race car at my age, so we had to let that deal go."
Tony kept looking, and the next car that caught his attention was this Plymouth drop-top, which was also available for $500. One week before he turned 14, the Road Runner was sitting at his dad's shop. Tony was taking auto shop classes, so the car became a hands-on project.
The next car Tony bought was a '70 Six Pack GTX hardtop. Damaged and missing the engine and transmission, that one took $250 to bring home (plus another $75 for an Edelbrock intake). Tony wanted the GTX's 4.10 Dana rear for his Road Runner, so out that came, and the GTX went into the lot behind the body shop. As people found out about the rest of the hulk, Tony began selling parts and pieces and had soon recouped the whole $250. Before long, he was buying other worn-out Plymouth B-Bodies, parting them out, and on his way to becoming a young businessman.
This Road Runner, however, was a labor of love, and its parts weren't for sale. Once the rust was patched up, it received a repaint. In 1981, Tony ordered N.O.S. sheetmetal through his local dealership (those were the days), replacing the fenders and quarter-panels before painting it again. This was before concours restorations were a big deal, but the car was never modified by anything but factory-style parts.
After spending a number of years in other pursuits (but always maintaining some effort in his parts business), Tony's Parts became a full-time vocation and Mr. D'Agostino, now the professional man, moved to Delaware.
The Road Runner was finally sold in 1988, but Tony soon regretted losing the Plymouth even as other, more significant, ones came into his possession. It was via his business that he came upon his first love again in 2001. "I knew where the car was since 1992," he recalls. "That owner-the fourth since I had sold it-and I talked, and we both knew it was my old car. He did not want to sell it, but after I sent him some photos of what it had looked like when I had owned it, copies of all the original paperwork I still had, and told him how much it meant to me, I was able to buy it back."
The car had been driven only 5,000 miles since he first let it go. Tony's business has allowed him some success, and he already had a handful of "keeper" cars in either surviving or stock restored trim. Not in bad shape, the Road Runner would get restored, but it kept those extra OEM factory options that Tony thought the convertible deserved back when he first put it together so many years ago.
The engine in Tony's Runner...
The engine in Tony's Runner is basically a bone stock 383, outfitted with a few Mopar factory options that weren't available on the car. One is the Air-Grabber system with the '69 vintage air cleaner.
"The car is very correct in most ways," he says. "The things I had added back then were because I liked them, and they made the car better. It wasn't a highly-optioned car when it was bought new, so these are like upgrades. While this was not a restoration by the exact numbers, it is almost all original parts."
The car was delivered new with bucket seats, a console, and a four-speed transmission. Of course, the most impressive option offered on '70 383 Road Runners was the Air Grabber setup. Tony added a '70 Air Grabber hood outfit to the car, using the big air cleaner from 1969, which looks more impressive than the small, round version found on '70-'71 four-barrel cars. The motor itself is basically all stock; Tony used cool date-coded items he had in the engine bay, including an N.O.S. Holley four-barrel.
Behind the engine is the factory four-speed with its trademark Pistol Grip shifter coming through the floor. The Dana did come out after all those years, and a proper 3.55 highway-geared 831/44 differential is now under the backend. On all four corners, 15x7 Rallye wheels have replaced the pie-pan-covered steel rims the car left the dealership on, with F60-15 Polyglas tires. Tony added N.O.S. bumpers, parking lights, trim, electronics, and more as the project continued.
One word tells how cool this...
One word tells how cool this car is-Driven!
Tony did most of the restoration himself. He credits Eric Manuel of Ohio for all the terrific replating on the hardware and bolts (everything was redone to exact factory specs, including the hood-latch hardware). He also gives his friend and noted collector Steve Juliano credit for influencing how the car should be restored. Paint and body panel work was handled by Richand McKenzie in Harrington, Delaware. a factory AM/FM stereo is in the dash in place of the factory AM unit.
Today, the Road Runner is in a place of honor in Tony's storage garage, surrounded by the likes of survivor Superbirds and convertible E-Bodies. It does get an occasional trip out, with wife Cindi and son Robby enjoying the ride. And just like the old days, Tony can still turn the tires into vapor with a grin.
The Road Runner is a treasured first love, and we have a strong feeling that this fine babe will not leave Tony's sight again.