We've brought you stories of preserved-like-new-since-day-one Mopars, and we've also done stories on rescued-from-oblivion-and-rust ones that are now rolling jewels.
Mike and Diane Bergantz's '69 Plymouth Road Runner coupe, on the other hand, doesn't fit either of those two categories. "It's got kind of an interesting story, which I didn't know all of until I had it at this year's Spring Fling show in Van Nuys, California," Mike says of his bright-red, L.A.-assembled coupe that he'd bought off eBay from its owner in Florida and had shipped to his San Luis Obispo, California, home. "When I had it at the Van Nuys show, some guy walked up to me and said, 'Did you buy this car out of Florida?' I replied, 'Yeah.' But I'm thinking to myself how would he know that because I've changed the whole car. He says, 'I recognized those stainless steel poles that are holding your hood up because they were custom-made for the car.' A really good friend of his in New York was a car dealer who had owned the car and had it in his showroom for 20 or 25 years. the dealer's the one that had the car restored."
Restored or not, it was an original 383/four-speed car, about as common a Road Runner as there is. Mike wanted one that was less common. "I'm a picky guy and I decided to do the whole car over," he says.
Reilly Motorsports' AlterKtion...
Reilly Motorsports' AlterKtion setup in front and mini-tubs in rear make room for wide 15-inch-diameter Boyd Coddington Smoothie rims. Rear wheels are 15x 2s on BFG Drag Radials.
That do-over included replacing the engine that was in it. By the time Mike got it, the 383 had been succeeded by a Hemi. "It was one of those 472-inch crate engines, and there were a bunch of problems with those earlier crate engines," he recalls. "Within about 1,500 miles of when I got it, the engine started blowing oil out the exhaust pipes." Mike tore the engine apart and found the problem was best cured by another engine. He sent a block and a crank to Ray Barton, who built the 472-inch elephant that's in the car now. Barton also included one of his cross-ram intake manifolds, topped with a pair of 770-cfm Holleys. the Hemi was also fronted by a Vintage Air serpentine belt and pulley system. Unlike the first 472, this one kept its oil supply inside the block and still does. How strong is it? "It dynoed out at 800 hp on pump gas," Mike says of his Hemi's performance.
The Barton-built engine wasn't the only upgrade that Mike had in mind. Before the Hemi went in, a Reilly Motorsports' AlterKtion front suspension/brake/steering/K-member went in, shaving a lot of weight off the Bird's front end. "It's a really nice setup, and the car sits good," Mike says. He was so impressed with AlterKtion that he got two more setups for two other Mopar projects he has in the works.
Further down the line, Mike replaced the transmission and rearend, though the ones that came out were fairly stout pieces. "I changed it from a four-speed to a five-speed Tremec," he says of the gearbox swap. In back, the original Dana 60 went out, replaced by a new Moser-narrowed Dana 60. That was needed because the rear wheelwells had been mini-tubbed to make room for the huge (325/50R15) BFGoodrich drag radials to come.
Other chassis upgrades include Wilwood disc brakes at all four corners, rack-and-pinion steering (included with the AlterKtion setup), and a set of Boyd Coddington Smoothie wheels. "The back ones were custom made because they don't make 15-inch-diameter wheels this wide (12 inches)," Mike says. Why 15s, instead of bigger-diameter, new-tech wheels? To Mike, it's a matter of looks and he likes the looks of 15s on his B-Body. "I don't like those wheels with "rubber band' tires."
Inside, Mike put in custom Glide bucket seats and a console, narrowed the OEM back seat to fit between the mini-tubs, and redid the dash with a steel insert that now houses a Vintage Air controller and a set of Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges. There's a Viper ignition switch, and an ididit tilt steering column that wears a Budnik steering wheel that's been customized with a horn-button, which holds a stock (Bird's head) insert. Sounds (other than from the Hemi) are from a Sony XPLOD sound system.
A steel dash insert holds...
A steel dash insert holds the Auto Meter gauges and Vintage Air controller. Steering wheel's a Budnik piece with a custom horn button on an ididit tilter.
Mike Bergantz replaced the...
Mike Bergantz replaced the original Road Runner seats with a custom bucket pair, along with a pistol grip-shifter-sprouting console.
Mike put a lot of quality...
Mike put a lot of quality hardware in his Road Runner's engine bay-a Ray Barton-built Hemi, a Be Cool radiator, and a Vintage Air serpentine belt/pulley system.