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.
The most aggravating part of the build came when he tried to properly align the hood. "It was extremely frustrating. I remember getting so aggravated with the hood that I could hear Gary laughing as I struggled for hours trying to get it just right." The hard work paid off as he finally made it work. Then Gary walked over and showed him how to adjust the hinges to get it just right. "I raised my voice in disgust as I wondered why he didn't show me this earlier. His response was the same: 'I had no internet or anyone to help me when I was your age. I just spent hours and days learning how it all came to be.'" The lesson was effective and absorbed, but he was still frustrated.
With the metal work done, the final design element he wanted to incorporate were the window louvers that were an option for '71. This required some fiberglass work, as at the time, no one made reproduction louvers, and to find factory louvers was not an option. Fiberglass work is another area that Rick had no previous experience in. Gary taught him the ins and outs of fiberglass work and then walked away, leaving Rick on his own to figure everything out. "I took my time and ended up forming them to perfection before I installed them."
It was finally ready for paint, and Gary let him do this on his own as well, after teaching him a few basics. "I remember standing in the paint booth shaking and Gary told me in confidence, 'I've seen you priming the car, you've got this.' And then he walked away." Before Rick knew what happened, the car was sprayed down, cleared, and ready for wet sanding.
Now, all that was left were the spoilers and decals. Again, going with the '71 theme, he installed '71-style spoilers and decals. The car was really shaping up and looking the way he wanted it to. The interior was refurbished in orange and black and features a shifter that Gary and Pam created for him as a graduation gift. The dash is now a Rallye dash, and is painted Astrotone.
Under the hood is a 360 block that his uncle Phil, builder of race engines for a local machine shop, machined for him. He brought all the parts over and they assembled the engine together so that Rick could learn. "It was a great learning experience. I learned how to dial in a cam and a timing chain and how to assemble the engine." Rick also wanted to hop-up the rear gears to 4.10 ratio, but knew it would kill his highway driving. Gary was trying to sell a Gear Vendors overdrive unit, and Rick jumped on it and installed it in the Road Runner.
The car was finally together and carried on the idea that he was going for perfectly. "I wanted to build the car as if Plymouth kept '71 styling cues on the '73 and '74 models." The marriage of these two different styles went well, and helps 25-year-old Rick's Road Runner stand out from the pack. It defies the laws of modification and traditional style and does it very well. Sometimes even law-abiding citizens break the rules.
"I wanted to build the car as if Plymouth kept '71 styling cues on the '73 and '74 models." -Rick Pellegrino
'74 Plymouth Road Runner
Owned by: Rick Pellegrino, Stoughton, MA
Long gone is the original 318. Now another small-block rests in its place. The 360 boasts a hydraulic Edelbrock cam with .488/.510-inch lift and 234/244-degrees of duration. The heads are ported and polished 340X heads with 2.02/1.60 valves, and Crane roller rockers. Fuel is delivered by a Holley 670 double pumper and the ignition is a Mopar performance system. The rest was left stock. Hooker headers and a true-dual 2 1/2-inch exhaust clear out the chambers and flow into a pair of Magnaflow mufflers out to '71 style tips in the bumper. His uncle, Phil, performed the machine work and together they assembled the engine.
Transmission: A rebuilt 727 automatic with a Gear Vendors overdrive.
Rearend: 8 3/4-inch with Sure Grip with 4.10 gears.
KYB shocks find their way on all four corners with a factory front sway bar and a Hellwig rear bar. Moog parts rebuilt the steering column.
Brakes: OEM front discs and 11-inch rear drums.
Wheels and Tires: Chrysler Rallye wheels measuring 15x8 inches. Tires are 255/60-15 front and 275/60-15 rear Goodyear Eagle GT II.
- Body: Significant modification to the bumpers, panels, and window louvers help this '74 incorporate some of the key design features of the '71 Road Runner. All bodywork was completed by Rick under the instruction of Gary Beineke.
- Paint: A modern mixture of Hemi Orange he calls EV2.
- Interior: The so-called "Halloween Interior" uses '71 panels. The dash is a '74 Ralleye dash painted astrotone and the headliner is from REM. The black carpet was sourced from Year One and the seats were recovered buckets he acquired from his uncle Phil. The steering wheel is a Grant Tuff wheel. The stereo has been upgraded to a Kenwood deck that can hook up to an iPod and uses Infinity Kappa speakers.