Mopar owners can be a pretty rowdy bunch. Only Plymouth could get away with naming a car after a cartoon character, the Road Runner. This little bird continually outsmarted a stubborn Coyote that apparently supported ACME's stock singlehandedly, and tested its latest developments on a regular basis. The Road Runner always got away and was far too fast for even the most intricate of the Coyote's tools. Not to be outdone, the car itself had to live up to this reputation of speed. This came in the form of the factory race cars, the A12. For 49-year-old Mike Eads, this was the pinnacle of "cool" for Plymouth, and having owned his share of Road Runners, it was time to own his first '69.
Beginning halfway through the 1969 model year, these B-Body speed demons could be equipped with the outrageous A12 package and were treated to only the best go-fast parts and style. They came with flat-black H wheels with no wheel covers an Organisol black-covered, functional lift-off hood. These gave the Road Runner a completely different attitude. Taunting the Coyote to come at it with all the rockets and gizmos available, a 390-horse 490lb-ft of torque 440 sat under the hood. These cars could keep up with the Hemi and were at the top of the food chain at any dragstrip.
By 2004 Mike had owned eight or nine Road Runners from various years. "I figured it was about time I owned a '69, and my buddy Jerry Thoennes had three of them," says Mike. One of those three was a repeated Mopar NATS trophy winner and, admittedly, Mike's inspiration for wanting to build a '69 Six Barrel car in the first place. The least attractive of Jerry's fleet was a rough '69 two-door coupe, which had been used for parts since the late '70s. "Needless to say, it was mostly just a shell by 2004." It was, however, an excellent candidate to modify and restore because all its original parts were missing, meaning he could modify things as he saw fit.
"I decided to do a Six Barrel A12 tribute car with a twist." To kick things off, Mike released the car to Hot Rod Bodyshop in Normal, Illinois, where Tracey Bains had the responsibility of turning a basket case into a potential show car winner. Tracey began by stripping the car down to bare metal and then installed two new quarter-panels. With the car apart, Mike enlisted his good friend, Herb Beer, to help him mini-tub the car and relocate the springs. "Herb had recently done this with his '67 big-block Dart so the chore was fresh on his mind." Mike commends Herb's excellent welding skills that allowed the job to be completed with a clean, factory look.
"I wanted to keep it as close to original as I could, so I intended to have it sprayed in A4 silver, since that's what the fender tag says it was from the factory," recalls Mike. "Tracey insisted that I look into other silver colors before he went ahead and sprayed it down. And after seeing Viper Silver Metallic, it won the spot."
When it came time to do the interior, his shell-of-a-car decided to bite back. "I literally had no interior, so I had to rely on my good friends to help me hunt everything I needed," he says. There were a few odds-and-ends that Mike had sitting at home, but he was missing pieces left and right. He took the car to another one of his good friends, Randy Van Hook of Van Hooks Upholstery, where they laid out a strategy to get everything together. Around this time, the two hatched the idea to stitch in silver inserts into the seats and door panels, because Mike didn't like the idea of having an "ocean of black" inside the car, had they gone with the factory look. With the parts provided by Mike, Randy, and various other sources, they were able to get everything they needed.
Interior To get rid of the "ocean of black" inside the Road Runner,....
Meanwhile, with the car at paint, Chenoweth Speed and Machine was busy piecing together Chenoweth's Monster, a 505-inch stroker 440. "I couldn't have asked for better engine builders than Mike and Dale," he states. "We became good friends over the course of the build and I'm using them on my current project, a '64 Fury." Mike and Dale buttoned the big-block up and made some tuning pulls on the engine dyno where it produced a crushing 627 hp and 684 lb-ft of torque. "Dale presumes the engine could make up to 75 horses more if they went with a different intake setup, but the Six Pack was necessary for the theme of the car."
"I had already made plans to bring the car to the 2008 Mopar NATS, but time was running out," he recalls. "Without even asking, my friends were there to offer their assistance." Herb worked with Mike to install the engine and work all of the bugs out, and Dale was there to help provide any last-minute parts to get the car going. Everything was buttoned up a week before the NATS, and Mike took it out to a local cruise night, where it performed flawlessly. Mike, Herb, Dale, and friend Jay Moran loaded the Road Runner onto the trailer along with Mike and Dale's engine that they entered into the Amsoil/Mopar Muscle Engine Challenge, and off they went.
.... Mike and Randy Van Hook decided to add some silver garnish.
"The event was a blast and we all had a lot of fun." Mike didn't enter the car into the car show but just came up to enjoy the weekend, which is where we ran into him.
The car has been done for about two years now and Mike hasn't left it in the garage. "I built it to drive and I'm out in the car all the time," he claims. He's driven it to many local events and shows where he's taken several first place trophies. He would like to take the Road Runner down the strip and get a good number out of it, though. Mike predicts it will run a mid 11-second pass, but he's optimistic to its potential. If there's one thing that's for sure, Mike built his Road Runner to live up to the character of the original A12 cars, and it would certainly be the car of choice for that sly, speeding cartoon bird.
'69 Plymouth Road Runner A12 Clone
Owned by: Mike Eads
- Engine: Mike and Dale Chenoweth at Chenoweth Speed and Machine in Morton, Illinois, started with their "Block-in-a-Bag" 440 big-block that they performed the machine work on to bring the engine up to 505 cubic inches. It features forged Diamond pistons, eagle rods, and a forged steel crankshaft. The cam is a custom Chenoweth cam with .525-inch lift and they also ported the Edelbrock RPM cylinder heads which feature Harland Sharp roller rockers. An Edelbrock Six Barrel intake and Holley carburetors provide the air and fuel for the 11:1 compression big-block. It breathes through a 3-inch Flowmaster exhaust led by 2-inch primary tube tti headers with 3-inch collectors.
- Transmission: Gene's Transmissions rebuilt the manual transmission to hold the power and installed a Mopar 18-spline input shaft.
- Rearend: A Dana 44 with a Sure-Grip differential and 4.10 Richmond gears.
- Suspension: A PST rebuilt kit was installed along with six-cylinder torsion bars and Rancho adjustable shocks and SS springs.
- Brakes: 11-inch drums on all four corners
- Wheels and Tires: Stock steel Mopar three-nub H wheels from Stockton Wheels were powdercoated black. The fronts are 15x7 inch and the rears are 15x12 and wear f7015 Redline radials and 315/60R15 Mickey Thompson drag radials, respectively.
- Body: New quarters were hung by Tracey Baines at the Hot Rod Body shop in Normal, Illinois. Mike and Herb Beer modified and mini-tubbed the back of the Road Runner.
- Paint: PPG Viper Silver Extra Pearl
- Interior: Van Hooks Upholstery in Bloomington, Illinois, did all interior work. Mike added a 1970 long-handle factory pistol grip from a bench seat car. The interior parts were sourced from Legendary and the seats and door cars were accented with silver.