There are different laws that govern the way we live. Everyone generally follows these dictations, but there are also many that decide to break them. Rick Pellegrino intends to put these abusers behind bars after he completes law school, but he wanted to bend the rules a little bit with his '74 Road Runner. With the help of friends and family, he built a car that incorporates multiple generations of Plymouth styling.
Rick grew up under the influence of his father, Howie, and his uncle, Phil Naas. They were extremely influential to him and taught him the creed of Mopar performance. So, as soon as he was old enough to drive, he wanted to get a Mopar of his own. It took a few years to satisfy this need, but it was worth the wait after he found this '74 Road Runner powered by a 904-backed 318.
The paint was in terrible shape, but the car was in good overall condition. He did a quick rebuild of the 318-just in time for him to drive it to college for the next 5 years while he earned his degree in criminal justice. Halfway through his career as a student, he made an attempt to spray the car down with single-stage orange paint. With the assistance of his other uncle, Wayne, he had the car looking good. Well, better anyway. "There was orange peel all over the place, but it looked good from 20 feet away." Most importantly, it looked better than it did before, and he did the work himself.
Rick was looking to enjoy the Road Runner a little more and decided to take the B-Body to New England Dragway. That was all she wrote for the remaining weak link in the drivetrain, the 8 1/4-inch rearend. Luckily for Rick, his family was good friends with Gary and Pam Beineke, founders of 71wingcars.com. They just happened to have an 8 3/4-inch rearend sitting around that they gave Rick. He drove over and picked it up so that he could install it back at home.
"I came back a few days later to show him the car and he asked me if I was married to the paint job. The rest is a two-year story of sanding and restoring."
In the spring of 2007, while Rick was back at home, Gary took the time to teach him how to block sand and align body panels. Both Gary and Pam were busy building their now famous XCON '71 GTX convertible, so Gary told Rick that he would be doing most of the work on his own. Gary still made time to teach him everything he knew so that his project could get off the ground in the right way. "He would come over and teach me something and then walk away for hours, only to return and correct my technique. He said that making mistakes is how he learned and how I would never forget-which I didn't."
It started off as a simple repaint of the car, but the more time he spent around Gary and Pam's creations, the more Rick wanted his Road Runner to be different than anything else out there. "I wanted a '71 Road Runner badly, but I also wanted to keep all the great styling cues on the '73-'74." Rick traded his ideas with Pam and Gary during the evenings and the project started to take life.
He wanted to tuck the bumpers back against the body, like the '71 version, so Gary taught him how to cut and weld, and then left him alone. He ended up cutting the front and rear bumpers more than two inches while eliminating the bolt holes for a cleaner look. Next, Rick got rid of the side marker lights so that he could make way for '71-style lights. He then pressed the panels for the recessing of the '71-style marker lights.
Rick was really beginning to learn how to work with metal. He was fearless in what tasks he would try and conquer. He took off his rear valance pan and manipulated the metal to have double cutouts for the exhaust, much like the '71. With this custom flare added, Rick then set out to install a '71 header panel with the recessed Plymouth logo. It took him hours of blending, but he finally got it right.