In 1972, Mike Foster walked into Joe Grogan Motors in Toledo, Ohio, to celebrate completing his apprenticeship in the tool-and-die trade. His present to himself for making that grade would be a new car, his first. He'd already decided he wanted a Plymouth, and there was a black 'Cuda 340 with a white stripe in the showroom. It was tempting, but Mike and his wife Paula decided they would get something practical. The answer was a made-to-order '72 Road Runner, powered by a 340.
"My wife talked me into getting the smaller engine," Mike says. "But 'Black'--our nickname for the car--can get out of her own way nicely." "Black" was ordered with plenty of factory options, including Airtemp A/C and a rear window defogger. "But I found out later there were a lot of other options I didn't know were available," he adds. "For instance, I should have ordered the tachometer-type dash cluster." Once delivered, Mike really liked the car; he planned on driving it every day. But he liked it so much that he decided he'd get another car for winter driving. He always kept "Black" covered in the garage. It's still never been driven in snow, and what you are seeing is a survivor car.
It wears almost all of its original acrylic enamel paint (the driver-side door was repainted many years ago after a parking lot bump), its driveline is unmodified, the interior is 1972-new, and it has only a couple of little survivor wounds: a scratch in the cowl from a punk tossing a rock from an overpass a long time ago, and another one in the rear quarter that Mike admits sheepishly was the result of a rebounding hand tool thrown onto the workbench next to the car. These small blemishes are all that give away that this Bird is showing its age. You can't tell that from the odometer--it shows less than 10,000 original miles!"Black" wears a set of Cragar wheels, which were swapped on "back in the day." Mike offered to put the OEM rims and tires back on for the photos, but we thought the only "day two" mod done by the original owner was too cool to change.
Interior: Well-optioned with...
Interior: Well-optioned with Tuff steering wheel, buckets, console with Slap Stik shifter--all of them are still there.
Engine: The 340-inch small-block...
Engine: The 340-inch small-block was an option over the new-for-'72 400, but it saved Mike and other buyers a lot on insurance back then. It might be a little dirty, but it's all factory--except for the oil.
So, the 340 was ordered under the scalloped hood, though compression had fallen to 8.5:1. 1972 was the year of the third-gen Carter ThermoQuad, four-barrel considered the best of the early models. The 340 has never been apart, and Mike admits that he only drives it about five times a year. Inside, it's just as Mike ordered it--a console-mounted Slap Stik shifter stirring the 727 Torqueflite, along with the Tuff steering wheel, inside hood release, rear speaker, and black front buckets/rear bench. He decided on the AM radio, instead of an AM/FM unit, because where Mike lived back then, the best radio stations for music were on the AM dial.
Eventually, Mike's winter driver became his daily ride, and the Road Runner was parked for several years when family and work responsibilities took over. About a decade ago, the Fosters began showing it at local shows. Since he doesn't trailer it, the farthest it has gone in recent years was to the Motor Muster at the legendary Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, an invite-only event for original cars.
"It turned 9,000 miles crossing the newly opened skyway bridge across the Maumee River and the city of Toledo," says Mike, who still lives in the area. "Many strangers take pictures of it at shows. I've got all the license plates that have ever been registered to it, and a scrapbook with all the service receipts and the old dealership paperwork." Still, spending $4,200-plus on a car that did not get driven very often seemed strange to some of Mike's family and friends. Perhaps the biblical adage, "wisdom is proven right by her children" remains true. "Many people thought I was crazy for not driving it--they stated it would rot and not be worth anything. But I'm happy I did what I did. I'm glad to have a survivor."
'72 Plymouth Road Runner
Owned by: Mike and Paula Foster, Toledo, Ohio
Mileage: 9,820 original miles
- Engine: The factory-installed 340 was down to 8.5:1 compression for 1972, but retained the big ThermoQuad four-barrel. The engine, factory-painted that year in a Corporate Blue rather than the orange of previous years, has never been apart, having never been raced hard and always well-maintained. So, other than cleaning, this is as unmodified as you'll ever see in these pages.
- Transmission: Factory 727 TorqueFlite, shifted using the floor-mounted Slap-Stik.
- Rear: Sure Grip with a 3.55 gear set in an 8-3/4 housing.
- Suspension: This one is all Detroit, all circa 1972 (Heavy duty torsion bars and rear leaf springs, tubular shocks, front and rear sway bars)
- Brakes: Power front discs and rear 'stand on 'em' drums.
- Wheels/Tires: Five-spoke forged Cragar wheels with BF Goodrich Radial TA tires on all four corners. The original Rallye wheels and tires were stored when the car was new.
- Paint/Body: Original '72 Plymouth B-Body unibody is unchanged; one touch-up job to one door; options to the outside included the Decor Group, hood "340" callouts, dual racing mirrors, wheel and door moldings, and rarely-needed dealer undercoating.
- Interior: Options like bucket seats, console, "Tuff "wheel, AM radio with rear speaker, A/C and rear window defogger helped push the Bird's sticker price when new up to $4,562.60