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, except for new main and rod bearings and having the crank polish
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, single in-dash speaker, and weathered rear bench seat doesn't
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.
FAST FACTS: '74 Plymouth Road Runner
Rodney Knight Jr.• New Middletown, Oh
Engine: With 17,800-plus miles on the odometer, Rodney dropped the oil pan, pulled the crankshaft to have it polished, and replaced the rod and main bearings without needing to extract the factory slugs from their cylinders. He also tossed in a new gasket set for safe measure.
Transmission: With a stock Pistol Grip shifter, the rpm's are spun through a stock clutch and 833 manual four-speed gearbox.
The previous owner didn't care for the factory JA5 Winchester Gray Metallic with a black s
It would be the last year of the second-generation B-Body Road Runner. Strangled by insura
Rearend: A Chrysler 9-1/4 rear sports a Sure Grip wrapped in 3.55 gears.
Horsepower & Performance: Though Rodney didn't provide any quarter-mile timeslips or dyno printoffs, he did boast an impressive 22 mpg on his way to the '06 Mopar Nationals
Suspension: Using all original equipment available from the factory, Rodney reused the heavy-duty torsion bars and police-grade front and rear sway bars, along with HD police rear leafsprings.
Brakes: Power disc brakes up front with 11-inch drums.
Wheels: Chrysler Rallye rims; 15x6 up front and 15x8 out back.
Rubber: Firestone Firehawk treads; 215/65/15 fore and 275/60/15 aft.
Body: long before Rodney purchased the Road Runner, a relative had disassembled the B-Body down to a rolling shell and stripped the body of its factory JA5 Winchester Gray paint. The panels were all straight and painted by the time Rodney picked up the Plymouth in February 2003. He took the time to strip off all the aluminum trim to polish the brightwork to its original luster.
With a LA 360 small-block and a four-speed turning the 3.55 Sure Grip out back, this B-Bod
Paint: PPG Black. The red accent stripes on the hood, roof, and C-pillar were added later by Troy Willoughby at Brad's Towing in Petersburg, Ohio, who also did a little touch-up work where needed on the three-year-old paint job.
Interior: In addtion to new seat covers for the buckets, a headliner, and new black carpet, the interior is all original, including the factory vinyl on the rear bench and door panels. The dash is untouched, still showing its solid state AM radio and single speaker mounted deep in the dashboard.