With its distinctive beep-beep horn, take-no-prisoners acceleration, and excellent braking and handling, the Plymouth Road Runner is one of the greatest Mopars of all time. So why would anybody want to abuse one? The harsh fact is they were built for abuse. Power shifting, burnouts, donuts, neutral drops, and bootleg turns are all on the menu if you own a Road Runner. Though Chrysler engineering was the most thorough in the industry, no car lasts forever, especially when enjoyed at ten-tenths.
Though Road Runners were once a very common sight on the road, today they've rightfully been elevated into the realm of collector cars. Sure, we still pound on 'em, but smoke shows in the high school parking lot, burying the speedometer out on the pike, and midnight banzai runs on dirt roads after the keg party are (mostly) things of the past.
So it's always a shock when you spot a once proud Beeper languishing in the salvage yard. But it happens. Here's a roundup of several notable Road Runners we've stumbled onto in the boneyard. Take note-all of these cars were photographed within the last three years, some as recently as a few months ago. Feast your eyes as we give these relics one last look.
'69 383 Automatic Pillar Coupe
The '69 RM21 pillar coupe's $2,945 base price was $138 less than the RM23 hardtop, attracting lots of budget conscious buyers seeking rock bottom pricing. It may seem surprising to find this sad coupe was built with factory A/C, an expensive $357.66 option that adds more than 10 percent to the window sticker. But remember the coupe's rear side glass doesn't roll down like a hardtop-it swings out and isn't nearly as effective on hot days. To compensate, many Plymouth dealers in warm climates specified A/C for coupes to increase salability. Besides the A/C, this one's a total stripper with manual 11-inch drums, manual steering, and two-speed windshield wipers. The column shifted TorqueFlite, a $39.30 option, appears to be the only extra cost item.
'69 383 Four-Speed Hardtop
The lone passenger-side hood insert on this crispy Beeper is about the only thing left worth saving. A no-frills stripper with manual drum brakes, no A/C, and the highly desirable (standard equipment) four-speed stick; model year 1969 was a record breaker for Road Runner production. In 1968, the start-up year, there were 45,599 built (15,359 hardtops and 29,240 coupes). In 1969 sales nearly doubled to 84,420 (48,549 hardtops, 33,743 coupes, and 2128 one-year-only convertibles). A raging fire took this one out a long time ago, then rust finished the job. At least the one-piece sealed hood insert tells us this isn't an N96 Coyote Duster car, which would have made its fiery fate all the more tragic.
'69 Belvedere Pillar Coupe
It isn't a Road Runner, but we had to include this austere RL21 Belvedere pillar coupe since it gets us thinking. Back in 1966, you could get a 426 Street Hemi in a base Belvedere. In 1967, a shift in marketing strategy created image cars like the GTX and Coronet R/T as a means to emulate the success of the Pontiac GTO. Sure, some '67 Street Hemis were installed in the RO23/WO23 Super Stockers and a handful of oddball Satellites, but the classic Mopar stripper-sleeper was dead. By 1968 if you wanted a Plymouth B-Body with Hemi power, you were forced into a flashy Road Runner or GTX image car. But wouldn't it have been cool if you could order a basic '69 Belvedere like this with the Street Hemi? We can see it now: a flat hood, no external markings, a Dana 60 with 4.10 gears, and 490 lb-ft worth of tire smoke-all wrapped up in granny's bingo mobile. Alas, this rusty example is a Slant Six unit. With a base price of $2,731, it was the least expensive Plymouth B-Body offered in 1969. For contrast, the GTX started at a heady $3,548 and went up from there. We love 'em both, but sometimes less can be more.
'69 Satellite Convertible
The green trunk lid is a real Road Runner item (we checked it out) but it's bolted to an RS27 Satellite convertible. It packs the base B code Slant Six mill and had a super affordable $2,878 base price. For sake of comparison, if you added the optional 383 four-barrel ($137.55) and four-speed ($197.25) you'd be at $3,212.80, $101 less than the base price for a comparably equipped Road Runner convertible. Then again, you'd be lacking the Road Runner's standard heavy-duty suspension, distinctive hood, and crazy purple horn. All '69 Plymouth B-Body convertibles are rare and this Satellite is one of only 1,137 built. Other Plymouth B-Body convertible production figures are; 2,128 Road Runners, 818 Sport Satellites, and 700 GTXs.
'70 383 Four-Speed Air Grabber Pillar Coupe
Even though it's no Street Hemi or Six Pack super star, this '70 Road Runner 383 coupe packs the double whammy of a D21 factory four-speed and N96 Air Grabber hood. The horizontal molding at the base of the C-pillar tells us this was a vinyl roof car. 1970 was a down year for Road Runner production, dropping by almost half to 40,660 (24,944 hardtops and 15,716 coupes). Could the arrival of the new Plymouth Duster 340-with its $2,684 base price-have been a factor? With only a hint of rust showing on the rear quarters, this N-code E63 383 car still has the four-speed shift hump and pedals though the engine and transmission are long gone.
'70 440 Superbird
It's not sitting in a junkyard, but this rotting Superbird is still at risk since its owner refuses to sell-or adequately protect it from New England's harsh weather. Photographed recently, the lack of torque boxes tells us it's a 440 car, not a Hemi. We frown on messing with other people's stuff, so we didn't lift the plastic tarp to see if the VIN shows a U-code (four-barrel) or a V-code (Six-barrel). The rear axle is an 83/4, so there's likely a Torqueflite behind that big wedge. Notice how the steel nose cone is rotting from the inside out. Those car batteries below the nose emit trace acidic gasses and are not helping things at all.