|'69 Road RunnerFinal Assembly Point: Chrysler's Lynch Road Assembly Plant, Detroit, MI|
Go to any Mopar show, and you're bound to see a lot of '69 Road Runner hardtops. Little wonder-per The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-75, there were 48,549 built that year, making it the best-selling two-door Plymouth and Plymouth's top-selling B-Body. But you'll be hard pressed to find one that looks as good as Keith and Deb Shue's '69 from East Berlin, Pennsylvania.
In fact, this car was in such bad shape at one time that it almost got pressed-for good.
As Keith remembers, "It was-how did my wife put it?-'a piece.' It needed floorboards, quarters, and a lot more than just TLC. I tell everybody what's original on the car are the framerails, the roof, the left door, and the firewall." he adds, "plus the engine wasn't much to write home about either"-so he didn't. "I couldn't deal with the engine. It had a rod out of the side of the block."
Even though the body was severely rusted, there was still enough car to start with in Keith's eyes, though this project didn't get underway until 2001 (eight years after he bought the car). "We'd more or less left it sit because we had another car," Keith says. That other car was a '68 Charger that he'd built and enjoyed before selling it and starting on this one. Instead of building a Pro Street or Pro Touring car, he decided to go all the way back to how it rolled off the line at Lynch Road-an original four-speed, console-shifted, bucket seat car.
Sourcing his restoration sheetmetal from Harden's and Auto Body Specialties, plus plenty of electrical and underhood parts from YearOne, Keith put some 1,400 hours into this car to turn it into the eye-catcher that you see here. he did have some outside help. "I farmed the sheetmetal work out to Terry's Rod Shop in Hummelstown. When it came back, we did all the plastic work and the paint too."
Of the color, Keith says a lot of work went into getting it as close as possible to original before he sprayed it on. "I spent countless hours on the phone with the PPG library to be sure that I got the right formula for the right color."
Quick-name two original body...
Quick-name two original body parts used in the restoration. If you said roof panel and left door, you're right. Harden's and Auto Body Specialties supplied the bulk of the new steel.
While Keith put the rejuvenated body back together, he had help in nearby York to handle the mechanicals. "I had a friend, Dave Leaonard, do it. He did the driveline for me while I was putting the rest of the car back together."
One big detail that's period-correct for the '69, but wasn't on the car when it was new, are the cast-aluminum "recall" wheels. Instead of running the risks associated with one of the remaining sets of Kelsey Hayes wheels, Keith got a reproduction set from Specialty Wheels.
When all was said and done, the Bird was finished just before the '06 Chryslers At Carlisle weekend. Someone said that if you are old enough to remember the '60s, you weren't really there. Keith was there, but back then he wasn't old enough to take a new Mopar down the road. He says, "I'm 43, and I can vaguely remember these cars [when they were new]." If you were there then, you'd remember that Motor Trend picked the Road runner as their Car of the Year for 1969.
Does he have any advice for anyone planning a similar restoration project? "Do it right the first time; it'll cost you a lot less in the long run." Keith also says that walking around at shows like Chryslers At Carlisle and the Mopar Nationals, and asking about parts sources and restoration shops can prove valuable later on.
The original (trashed) 383...
The original (trashed) 383 was replaced by this one, graced by a "Coyote Duster" cold air intake/air cleaner. Engine build was by Dave Leonard, and repop decals and other underhood pieces came from YearOne.
The tachometer in the '69...
The tachometer in the '69 may have been functional, but its small size and location made it tough to use during those late-night street sessions.
'69 Plymouth Road Runner Hardtop
Keith & Deb Shue
East Berlin, PA
Engine: A 383ci Chrysler "B" engine, originally built at Chrysler's Mound Road Engine Plant, Detroit, Michigan. Completely rebuilt by Dave Leonard, York, Pennsylvania. Underhood accessories and decals by YearOne.
Transmissioin: Chrysler A-833 four-speed with OEM Hurst shifter. Rebuilt by Dave Leonard, York, Pennsylvania.
Rearend: Chrysler 8 3/4 rearend. Rebuilt by Dave Leonard, York, Pennsylvania. (Dave was a busy guy. -Ed.)
Suspension: Factory stock.
Brakes: Factory stock drums.
Wheels: Reproduction W23 "recall" cast-aluminum road wheels sourced from Specialty Wheels Ltd.
High ImpactBody: Intact pieces of original Unitbody (firewall, roof panel, left door, side and rear framerails) combined with restoration floorpan, trunk floor, quarter-panels, front fenders, hood, right- side door, and so on sourced from Harden's and Auto Body Specialties. (Other pieces of original Unitbody were beyond saving and scrapped after removal.) Sheetmetal work by Terry's Rod Shop, Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.
Paint: preparation by owner. Paint (in original red) sourced from PPG and sprayed on by owner.
Interior: Original black bucket seats-with-console interior replicated by Legendary Auto Interiors and installed by owner.