Aside from some vital fluids, a set of reproduction polyglass Redline tires, 15,000 miles on the odometer, and a couple of replacement engine bearings, Mike Pehanich's '69 Road Runner is exactly how it left the dealership floor when new. But before you wonder how much he blew on the restoration, you should know Mike has owned this pristine B-Body since the summer of 1970.
Traded in, the R6 Red Plymouth sat in a Taylor, Pennsylvania, dealership lot for only a short time before 17-year-old Mike came across it in 1970. Loaded to the hilt with enough factory ingredients to bring it close to the luxury level of the higher-tiered GTX, the B-Body featured plush bucket seats with headrests, a center console with a woodgrain insert, interior light package, power steering, power disc brakes, an in-dash tachometer, a manually controlled Air Grabber hood, Magnum 500 wheels with matching knock-offs, a Sure Grip-equipped Dana with a hearty 4.10 gear ratio, and, of course, the 426. Scrounging together what money he could, Mike quickly signed his name on the dotted line and drove his prize home.
With only 188 Road Runners built with a Hemi backed by a TorqueFlite, Mike's Runner is in an even narrower catagory. its fender-mounted turn-signal indicators, matte-black hood stripes, dual rearview mirrors, and the eight-track stereo make this Lynch Road creation something to be appreciated. The driver-side six-way adjustable bucket seat, rear window defogger, and tinted windows were normally found in the highest trim echelon, not on a vehicle that was initially intended for high school and college students with a few extra dollars to spend on their first authentic musclecar. which leaves one to wonder who the original purchaser was to order such an opulently outfitted machine.
The loaded Plymouth outweighed Mike's musclecar enthusiast friends' rides, but the Hemi more than made up for the weight difference. He put the advertised 425 horses to work street racing around his Pennsylvania hometown and blowing down the local dragstrip.
In 1977, Mike would meet Cathy, the woman who would become his wife. When they were on their first date in the red '69, a naive or overly confident 427-equipped Super Sport Chevelle muscled up against the Hemi bird. Wanting to put the Bow Tie in its place and show off his racing prowess, Mike planted the accelerator to the floor and watched the Chevelle's lights disappear in his rearview mirrors. He says, "Well, she didn't dump me right there, so I guess she liked it."
As time went on, Mike began to hear the telling sounds of a worn bearing. He purchased the appropriate parts from the local dealership, dropped them in the trunk, and parked the Runner in his father's garage, where it would remain for a decade when a new marriage and raising a young son would take priority over rebuilding the wounded elephant.
If the chalk marks on the...
If the chalk marks on the valve cover and factory overspray on the battery cable don't give it away as an original 425-horse Hemi, then the patina and weathered age visible on the radiator hoses and plug wires will. It was only after hearing sounds of worn bearings that Mike felt the need to open up the engine. Except for that singular repair, the engine is all but factory original.
The matte-black hood stripes,...
The matte-black hood stripes, Air Grabber inlets, and fender-mounted turn-signal indicators hint at the Road Runner's unusual and lengthy list of factory-installed equipment and creature comforts.
Bucket seats with adjustable...
Bucket seats with adjustable headrests and six ways of adjustment for the driver are just the tip of the iceberg. The center console features a faux wood insert and exclusive interior light package, while the dash sports a tachometer and eight-track stereo.
Tired of seeing the "broken-down bird" taking up garage space, Mike's dad demanded he either junk the B-Body or find some place else to stash it. Mike retreated to his Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, home and built a garage specifically for the Plymouth. There he pulled the Hemi, replaced the crankshaft bearings, and swapped out the original battery and Redline tires. But this time, he had help putting the Road Runner back together from his teenage son, Michael, who had grown up around the Road Runner and his dad's other stout Mopars: a '65 Satellite, a '68 Coronet R/T, another Road Runner (a '69 1/2 440 Six Barrel), and two Super Bees ('69 and '70), and was quite an apt Mopar pupil.
Once completed, Mike and his son took it out for a spin. many of his old street racing friends were amazed he still had the same red '69 Hemi Road Runner after all these years.
It was the burnt bearings that helped preserve the Plymouth's gorgeous condition. Unable to run under its own power, the bird was forced into hibernation, where the interior and factory R6 Red paint would be protected from the sun's damaging rays, careless shoppers in parking lots, and other dings, dents, and scratches. its unwilling abandonment would save the original condition, thus making it a prime example of a surviving Hemi-powered Road Runner.
Current rising auction prices would ensure the Runner's preservation as Mike watched his liability transform into an asset. He realized the immaculate-condition B-Body was now worth more as a "survivor" than something to be raced and toyed with, so he reserved the dated-coded, all-original '69 bird as a show and occasional cruiser.
As of press time, the clock shows a meager 14,930 miles.
Getting the most air to the...
Getting the most air to the hard-breathing elephant as quickly as possible was the inspiration behind Plymouth's Air Grabber system.
Often duplicated, Hemi Orange...
Often duplicated, Hemi Orange paint on the battery cable is a sign of either factory originality or a detailed restoration. Bolted on before each Hemi was sprayed with its famous hue, the battery cable and retaining bolt were typically partially painted when the engine was coated. (That's a free tip to all you would-be restorers out there.)
Fast Facts: '69 Plymouth Road Runner
Mike Pehanich - Mountain Top, PA
Engine: The stock 426 Hemi was made with an eight-bolt steel crank, Hemi connecting rods, 10.5:1 compression pistons, and a solid lifter Chrysler camshaft, factory iron heads with original valves, rocker arms, and dual-carburetor intake manifold topped with a pair of AFB Carters. Only a couple of main bearings needed to be replaced nearly 14 years after Mike purchased the Runner in 1970.
Transmission: Never requiring a rebuild, the factory 727 TorqueFlite is exactly how it came from the factory with the original torque converter.
An added perk on top of the...
An added perk on top of the purchase of Magnum 500s were these caps. Marked with an official-looking cross-flagged badge, the spinners were usually taken off, lost, or overlooked when the famous wheels were special ordered.
Rearend: Part of the allure of the B-Body was its Dana 60, filled with a Sure Grip differential and 4.10 gears.
Horsepower & Performance: The books say 425 horsepower, but we know better than that, don't we?
Suspension: Nothing has changed, even the ball joints. Power steering helps heave the wheels left to right underneath the bulk of the weighty elephant. Even the shocks are the same as if it was still the fall of 1968.
Brakes: Power brakes came standard with nearly every Hemi-equipped Mopar. The power discs and drums in back struggle to bring the Road Runner to a screaming halt when decelerating from a hard pull.
Wheels: 15x7-inch Magnum 500 wheels with the factory spinner caps.
Rubber: Replacement Redline Goodyears, G-70s at all four corners.
Body: No replacement panels, no bodywork, nada-it's 100-percent original.
Paint: Never repainted, the factory E6 Red paint still looks amazing.
Interior: never replaced or touched up, the interior boasts a Christmas list of goodies that would make a fully-loaded GTX or Charger blush-six-way adjustable bucket seats with adjustable headrests, a woodgrain-topped center console with interior light package, an eight-track stereo and three factory speakers, factory tinted windows with a rear-window defogger, manual Air Grabber underdash lever, and an in-dash tachometer. The only thing missing we could think of would be power windows and air conditioning, though Hemi cars couldn't come with A/C.