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.
After Mike was done with the paint and bodywork, the Y2 Sunfire Yellow body returned to Tony's shop in Delaware, where Tony and his wife Cindy had already put the engine back together. With the help of his brother-in-law, Jeff Spishock, all that shiny NOS gear went back on the car as it was reassembled-grille, taillights and bezels, engine parts, mirrors, shocks, and tires. A set of special dealership Road Runner wheel discs finish the car off.
"It's funny how things changed while I was working on this car," he says as he looks at the Plymouth, which doesn't show an inch of its actual 36,000 miles any longer. "It's like when you look at a girl who's a 5, and you've never seen a 10, so a 5 is great. Then, when you finally see a couple of 10s, wow, that's what you really want. That's what this car was like for me. When I started out, a 5 would have worked; as it turned out, because my knowledge of these cars increased, it's closer to a 10 now."
Tony knows he probably can't redo this car again; too much of the NOS A12 stuff is literally gone now, but he doesn't mind letting this one get warmed up a little. "I had a set of wheels that weren't date-coded to 1969, so I mounted some older tires on them. They look right, so when I want to drive the car, I won't chance tearing up the correct ones."
Moments later, after the swap to the "non-correct" wheels and tires, he showed us just how powerful the '69 A12 package was, laying down long swaths of Goodyear Crayola on a country road near his house. A one-year wonder (actually only about six months), the legend with the fiberglass hood and big scoop would die once the '70 models debuted; the Six Pack became an option across the board, as did the new trap-door Air Grabber hood package, but it wasn't as gnarly as this thing. Oh, and code A12? Yeah, they reused it again for 1970, on the big Chrysler 300-H Hurst model.
|The Tuff Stuff—’69 A12 Rarities|
|Tires: G70-15 Goodyear Polyglas Redstripes||"These tires only came on these cars and supposedly on one big GM Impala. A lot of guys swapped them out for when they put aftermarket wheels on. I never could find a set of NOS tires for sale; I got these by trading stuff to a friend who had paid $5,000 for the set-10 years ago. They may be the only group of four NOS ones existent." |
|Rims: 15x6 H-Series||"The rims were a normal code H, which stood for heavy-duty. You can find them on station wagons and any Hemi car built in 1969. However, there were no wheel covers on the A12 cars; it was like they were made to be swapped out for mags and thrown away. A lot of them ended up in the trash." |
|Hood/Air Cleaner Assembly||"There are reproductions out there, and the repro air cleaner is about $1,500, which is the only reason the real ones haven't gone to $4,000 or so. The real ones use a diamond-shaped hole for the carb-mounting studs; the repros are round. The old hoods are rougher underneath than the repro hoods are." |
|Six Pack Carbs/Accessories||"I luckily found a set of NOS ones for this car. Holley has never redone them with the old list numbers, so that's an easy thing to look for. The idle solenoid was a GM Delco Remy part; the repros don't have a DR marking on them, likely because of the trademark. Lots of guys didn't like the way it worked and threw them out." |
|Engine Wiring/Distributor||"Finding OE wiring for an A12 car is very tough, as this harness was only done for this car. That's because of two supplemental wiring harnesses; one went to the idle solenoid, a wire that a lot of people clipped off if they were not using the solenoid, and the other to the relocated coil, which was toward the rear instead in the normal front location due to the manifold; it was shorter than any other version. Both of these supplemental harnesses were added to the existing 383/440 wiring. The Prestolite dual-point distributor got tossed when people went with aftermarket or electronic versions, but it is not as hard to find as some of the single-point 440 versions from the same era." |
|Differential||"The A12 Dana is the only one that had both a 4.10 gear and 11-inch drum brakes in 1969. Hemi cars and 440s could get a 4.10 Dana rear, but it had 10-inch brakes because of the front disc brakes on the A32 automatic and A34 manual transmission option; it was sort of a rip-off by the company. By the way, the '69 A12 axle code was 999, the same one for Dana drag rears in the '67 RO/WO and '68 Hurst A-bodies (with 4.88 gearing) Super Stock cars." |
|Intake||"Not too many threw out aluminum intakes. The one used on the '69 cars is pretty close to the other examples Edelbrock made except the type font is different and the lettering is a little taller. Later ones also have more casting numbers on them." |
This NOS beauty features the numbers-matching 440/390-horse blaster, and the Mopar Holley
'69 M-code A12 Road Runner
- Engine: Numbers-matching 440/390-horse blaster. On this OEM package, they are standard 440 high-performance units with special chromed valves.
- Fuel, Air, Spark: Taking a page from the Corvette guys, this was a brutal, big displacement engine featuring three Holley deuces with vacuum-secondary operation. Hand-selected parts went into the bottom end, though these were not the heavier parts used in the '70-'71 engines. Under full throttle, you'd believe the scoop was going to suck up mailboxes, stray cats, and anything else in the vicinity. Ignition of the fire comes from a factory Prestolite dual-point distributor.
- Transmission: "Mr. Bulletproof" A833 New Process Hemi-style crash box
- Rearend: A12 Dana 60 with standard 4.10 and 11-inch drum brakes.
- Paint: Y2 Sunfire Yellow. Hey, but everything else about it says "arrest me."
- Interior: These things were built to go fast, not joy ride. It's got a front bench, no console, floor shift Hurst, AM radio, and enough room in the back seat to get in a lot of trouble at the local drive-in movies.
- Suspension: Tony acquired all NOS stuff, including a set of original '69 shocks.
- Rims and Rubber: NOS OE Goodyear Polyglas redlines on factory steel rims with the correct dimpled lugs nuts.
- Shout Out: Steve Juliano for "trick stuff," painter/bodyman Mike Hall, wife Cindy (co-engine assembler and moral support), and my dad and son (both named Robert) for keeping Mopar in the family.