As time moves on, developments in car technology have enjoyed a steady pace. Because of this, a '69 Plymouth Road Runner, once the top of the food chain, has become nothing more than an iconic classic muscle car powered by an obsolete-by-today's-standards engine. This doesn't bother us, though. We're willing to make the sacrifices in modern comforts because we find pleasure in the rudimentary and simple mechanics, and the style with the likes we will never see again.
Meet Pro Touring. This segment of the automotive world has gained popularity over the years and is still growing. While many purists may feel that it's blasphemy to alter what Ma Mopar bestowed upon us in the '60s and '70s, advocates feel that Pro Touring is only an appreciation of the styling and engineering of the classics. Modernizing your Mopar can make them safer and perform better. So, it's easy to see why these cars get so much attention when they're at shows when they're surrounded by controversial thinking and by people who want to check them out.
Jason Bair got the car bug when he was about 14 years old when he worked on them with his Uncle Bob. "He taught me everything, and I remember him having a '68 Plymouth Satellite that eventually became one of the first cars I ever drove." Well, the enchantment he had with cars never ended and he eventually decided to make some money on the side restoring cars. He is now co-owner and operator of Big Hemi Customs out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He works alongside his good friend, co-owner Todd Lowden, whom he met through the hobby.
They set out to build a car that could exemplify their abilities, and they felt Pro Touring was the way to go. The two put their heads together and came up with a concept. "We wanted to transform the car into the baddest '69 Pro Touring Road Runner on the planet," says Jason. In order to accomplish this, some big improvements to the sleek Road Runner needed to be made. The car itself was a personally-owned car of Jason's that had been put on the back burner, as new projects rolled through at Big Hemi Customs. In December of 2009, the two got back to work on the '69 and set out to achieve their new goal.
"Before we placed the car in storage, it had been stripped, media blasted, and primed," recalls Jason. "Once we took it out, we decided to put the car on a rotisserie and do a full restoration to the car. We really wanted to go all-out on this one." The color that was chosen was Sherwin-Williams' Barrett Jackson "Back in Black." "Black shows everything, so we knew we would have to work extra hard on the body and paint," he says. They met with Dave Safran from Sherwin-Williams to help them get the results they were looking for with the paint finish. Dave even offered to help on the bodywork and paint. Together, the men blocked the car for a week straight-in spite of the car receiving all new sheetmetal-before it was finally time to paint. Dave and Todd both sprayed the car together, working on the underside of the B-Body and working their way to the top. All of the panels were painted off the car to get perfect coverage, and then installed on the car.
To power the 'Runner, only a Hemi could fill the role. They dropped in a fuel injected 472 stroker built by Muscle Motors Racing, making a claimed 560 hp at the crank. Sitting behind the elephant is a Keisler Engineering five-speed manual transmission controlled by a Pistol Grip shifter. Out back, a new Dana 60 transfers the power to American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels covering large Wilwood binders front and rear. Underneath you'll find a modernized suspension featuring parts from Reilly Motorsports and Hotchkis.
Everything came together just in time for the MATS show in Vegas, where Jason, Todd, and the crew at Big Hemi Customs made their debut as a vendor for the event. "We really wanted people to know that we could build a car like this for them," says Jason. "The amount of positive feedback that the car generated was overwhelming." The MATS solicited their company in a positive light and had several leads for future business while they took home best-in-show B-Body modified, and were even featured on the television show Chop, Cut, Rebuild.
"My Uncle Bob got to see the car recently and everything came full circle." Says Jason. "I told him it was because of him that I loved the '69 Road Runner, and I thanked him for taking me under his wing when I was young and teaching me about working on cars. He smiled and nodded. After looking over the car and catching up with me, he said 'The entire car is unbelievable, but the big rims have to go.' I laughed and thought, even my Uncle doesn't get the Pro Touring thing." Pro Touring may not be for everyone, but if it's something you enjoy, this '69 BigHemi Runner certainly is a delight!
'69 Plymouth Road Runner
Owned by: Jason Bair, Fort Wayne, IN
- Engine: The Muscle Motors Racing-built 472 Hemi starts off with a Mopar Mega Block and is filled with a Muscle Motors forged-crankshaft, forged rods, and forged Diamond pistons. For the camshaft, Muscle Motors chose a Comp hydraulic roller with .560-inch lift and 240/248-degrees duration. A Mopar Performance Dual Plane intake manifold with a FAST EZ EFI kit sends air and fuel into the aluminum Mopar performance heads. With the 2 1/8-inch tti headers and 3-inch exhaust using Flowmaster Super 44 mufflers, the Hemi made 568hp at 6,000rpm and 535ft/lbs at 4,800rpm.
- Transmission: Keisler five-speed manual transmission with a carbon fiber pistol grip shifter.
- Rearend: A Moser Dana 60 with True-Trac sure-grip and 3.73 gears.
- Suspension: A Reilly Motorsports AlterKtion kit with power steering and sway bar control the front of the Roadrunner with Hotchkis leaf springs out back. Front QA1 coilovers and KYB rear shocks replace the tired original '69 Road Runner parts.
- Brakes: The front and rear are brought to a halt with four-piston Wilwood calipers and drilled and slotted rotors. A Red Bore master cylinder with stainless steel brake lines disperses brake fluid properly throughout the car.
- Wheels: American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels were chosen to deliver the Pro Touring look with a taste of classic style. They measure 20x8.5 front and 22x9.5 rear.
- Rubber: The Torque Thrusts are wrapped in Nitto NT555 245/35ZR20 and 295/25ZR22.
- Body: Todd and Dave Safran from Sherwin-Williams block sanded the car for a week straight before moving onto the paintwork. In order to get the best results from the show-all black paint, extensive bodywork was necessary on the new sheet metal from Auto Metal Direct. New glass was also used, in addition to stainless bolts and skull inserts in the headlights.
- Paint: Sherwin Williams "Back in Black" two-stage basecoat/clearcoat paint from their Barrett-Jackson collection.
- Interior: The team at Big Hemi Customs fully restored the interior and added a few custom pieces to the black and silver color scheme. An extensive amount of Hush Mat was used inside the cabin to ensure that the car is very quiet when Jason takes the 'Runner on the Road. A Flaming River steering wheel and full Kenwood stereo featuring a 1000-watt amp, 12-inch sup, and 6-speakers add a custom touch. The stereo was carefully hidden throughout the car.