Young Gun and previously featured Rodney Knight Jr.'s super-clean '74 Plymouth Road Runner is neither a prissy, untouched collector's item nor a lumbering hulk of detuned, oil-burning American iron. In fact, if Rodney's Runner isn't traversing from one side of his New Middletown, Ohio, hometown to another, it's racking up a healthy 22 mpg on the open highways thanks to a mild rebuild, freeway-friendly gearing, and a stringent upkeep regiment.
As mentioned previously, 21-year-old Rodney has appeared in Mopar Muscle before, displaying his '73 Plymouth Duster in our February '03 issue. This time around, Rodney was caught on film outside the '06 Mopar Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, only a three-hour drive from his home. There, he would take home the coveted first place trophies in two separate classes: Young Guns Stock Plymouth class and Best in Show for the Young Guns class. Not bad for a day's work. But this once-factory JA5 Winchester Gray coupe didn't land on young Rodney's doorstep in the condition it's in today.
The 360 is totally stock,...
The 360 is totally stock, except for new main and rod bearings and having the crank polished. A new set of gaskets keep all the vital fluids inside while tallying up more than 17,850 miles on the clock.
While Rodney was busy building his Duster, a family member was waist deep in disassembling this '74 Plymouth, prepping the body for paint, straightening the sheetmetal, and aligning the panels. With everything boxed and bagged, the stripped, rolling Road Runner was painted in rich PPG black. It was at that point (February 2003), the car-painted but still disassembled-was purchased by Rodney and rolled into his parents' garage. it would be another two years before the serious work would commence. In the meantime, he would turn a few bolts and piece together some bits and pieces before returning to the Duster.
In the spring of 2006, Rodney rolled the Road Runner out of its hibernation and began the thrash. With a goal of making it to the Mopar Nationals, he was under the gun to make this date. When searches through the bags and boxes of original parts came up empty, he had to scrounge through junkyards and online auctions to find the replacement components his Plymouth required. From the factory in JA5 Winchester gray metallic with a black stripe, Rodney's relation had swapped it to black. Troy Willoughby at Brad's Towing added the red accent to the roof and sides.
If the solid state AM radio,...
If the solid state AM radio, single in-dash speaker, and weathered rear bench seat doesn't convince you of the Road Runner's preservation, not much else will. Rodney replaced the bucket seat covers and carpet with new YearOne pieces.
Luckily, the interior was all but totally original-and easily restored. The front buckets were rewrapped in YearOne skins, and new carpet was used to cover the floor. The original bucket seat car came with a Pistol Grip shifter protruding from the console. As a plus, the rear bench still retained its original vinyl coverings. Still toting its factory solid state AM radio with a single speaker fixed in the dash, Rodney's audio enjoyment hails from the rumble beneath his seat.
The rumble spoken of comes from a nearly untouched LA small-block 360 brandishing a mere 17,000 original miles on the odometer. Rodney would only drop the pan, pull the crank to have polished at a machine shop, and replace the main and rod bearings. A new set of gaskets would conclude his bare minimum overhaul. the pistons have never left their cylinders since the engine's first assembly.
It took a summer's worth of late nights, long hours, and aches and pains to bring this Young Gun project to fruition. But Rodney's labors, with the help of friends and family, paid off in spades when he took home dual trophies at Columbus.