In the old days, before muscle cars were taken seriously, we referred to Detroit's finest by their street names, like Camaro, or 4-4-2, or Super Bee. These days, when you start talking, it's no longer just asking about displacement.
Chrysler, back in the day, used the letter "A" to designate specific option groups each year. In 1969, A11 designated Chargers modified for NASCAR, the 500 and Daytona packages; A12 was used for Dodges and Plymouths that got the mid-year three two-barrel treatment, and A13 was used to designate A-Bodies (Darts and Barracudas) that got 440 engines under the hood. In each case, this was far more than an engine swap. Each A-code car received special body trim, driveline and suspension changes, and more often than not, pieces that were not on any other vehicle Ma Mopar was flipping off the line that year. Chrysler referred to these as package cars. The Road Runner you see here is referred to by Mopar guys as an A12 package (from the fender tag), or an M-code car (from the fifth digit in the VIN referring to a special engine install).
This is a '69 special built in June of that year. When Tony D'Agostino, who today is one of the largest vintage and resto Mopar parts sellers on the planet, picked it up in 1981, it was just another 12-year-old muscle car, though the $3,500 he dropped was sizeable money at that time. "This car was all original back then; there were no real restored muscle cars yet," he recalls. "You would have called it a great driver instead. It was still all there." And so Tony kept it that way, even as his business began to grow. Finally, in the early '90s, he decided it was time to make the car look like new. At this point, the big, real high-dollar restorations had not started happening. Tony had all the parts to put the car back at that point, but the body guys he dealt with were out of touch.
"I sometimes think these guys all went to the same school," he says with a laugh. "The first guy was a friend; he had it for about three years and worked on it about two weeks. Then we moved, and I stored it here for a couple of years, and finally Mike Hall of New Lexington, Ohio, got it and he had it for four more years. But it came out great and all worked out, because by now, I had all the right stuff."
Finding NOS pieces has gotten harder in the 21st Century, but Tony is admittedly in a great place vocationally to get what he wanted. The NOS pieces he found during the 10-year project, even though the car was not missing anything important, allowed him to build perhaps the final "original" correct A12 Road Runner. While many reproduction pieces abound for the cars, he wanted it to all be era-correct, right down to the wiring and tires. Some of this stuff is really rare (see sidebar).
The A12 cars got the Six Pack, which consisted of three Holley two-holers on an aluminum Edelbrock intake. Rather than a steel hood, the factory opted for a lift-off fiberglass version with a huge scoop on it-the only regular-production Mopar to have such a hood. The engine featured hand-selected, shot-peened rods and a special cam with tapered lobes. Behind this was the only driveline option on the buildsheet (either a 727 Torqueflite or an A833 New Process four-speed), and every A12 got a Dana 60 with 4.10 gearing and 11-inch brakes. The steel 15-inch wheels with redline rubber and no hubcaps finished it; these A12 cars were the only regular production model ever offered this way. This thing had street racer written all over it, though problems with production parts supply kept the company from building more than 1,432 of the Road Runners before the 1970 model run began.