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 setup in front and mini-tubs in rear make room for wide 15-
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 the Auto Meter gauges and Vintage Air controller. Steering wheel
Mike Bergantz replaced the original Road Runner seats with a custom bucket pair, along wit
Mike put a lot of quality hardware in his Road Runner's engine bay-a Ray Barton-built Hemi
The previously restored sheetmetal didn't need any remedial bodywork, but was treated to a new coat of PPG R4 bright red paint, along with a fiberglass hood.
With all the updates and chassis changes, what's it like to drive? "It actually rides pretty nice, and it rode nice with the stock suspension under it," Mike says. "It sits a lot lower than it originally sat. I've got 4 1/2 inches of clearance under the oil pan. It sits low, front and back."
As mentioned previously, Mike's got two other Mopar projects that'll be getting AlterKtions. "I've got a '69 Charger that we're doing a 6.1L Hemi conversion in," he says. "I'm not sure who I'm going to buy the engine from yet. I'm going to get one of those stroked motors." Also in the works in his San Luis Obispo shop is a '70 'Cuda that he's doing a similar new-Hemi-into-classic-Mopar conversion, with some different variations of the same stuff he's used on his other cars.
'69 Plymouth Road Runner Coupe
Mike and Diane Bergantz
San Luis Obispo, CA
- Engine: Ray Barton-built, 472-inch Hemi. Intake is Barton's version of the Mopar cross-ram manifold, with two 770-cfm Holley carburetors.
- Transmission: If four speeds are good, five are better. A Tremec five-speed replaced the original A-833. The shifter is a '70-style pistol grip.
- Rearend: B-Body, Hemi...you do the math. Narrowed Dana 60 (by Moser) replaced a stock-width one.
- Suspension: Front: Reilly Motorsports' AlterKtion includes coilovers that replaced original torsion bars. AlterKtion also includes Mustang II-style spindles and power rack-and-pinion steering.
- Rearend: Cal-Trac monoleaf springs (moved inboard for wheel/tub clearance), Cal Trac traction bars, and QA1 adjustable shocks.
- Brakes: Big Wilwood four-wheel discs and a Caddy electric brake booster stop this Bird almost as fast as the animators at Warner Brothers' "Termite Terrace" got the 'toon to stop.
- Wheels: Boyd Coddington Smoothies all around, with 15x8 inchers in front and custom-made 15x12-inchers in back.
- Tires: No rubber bands here, just BFG G-Force tires in front and BFG Drag Radials in back.
- Body: Original '69 Road Runner coupe body built at Chrysler's Los Angeles assembly plant, Bellflower, California. The car had been restored by a previous owner, so no remedial metal work/sheetmetal replacement was needed.
- Interior: Glide bucket seats and console installed by owner. Custom steel dash insert fabricated by owner, which houses Auto Meter Pro Comp gauges (including 160-mph speedometer and 10,000-rpm tach). Vintage Air controls are also in the dash, with a Sony XPLOD audio system head unit mounted below the dash. Budnik steering wheel, with a custom horn button that fits stock bird's head insert, tops an ididit tilt column.