In 1968, Plymouth introduced a redesigned body style for the Belvedere featuring a smoother appearance and new models. One was the budget-based Road Runner, complete with the famous Warner Brothers Pictures Road Runner cartoon character and a special "Beep-Beep" sound from the Horn. For more upscale buyers, the potent Belvedere-based GTX was the ticket. The two performance machines featured a new hood using two narrow nonfunctional vents with engine displacement badging and an optional black-out treatment; at midyear, a functional version became available.
The GTX was available with either the 440 Super Commando or the 426 Hemi. Like all Chrysler musclecars, the rest of the driveline was also built using heavy-duty components. With the Hemi, a four-speed selection meant you also had to buy the premium Dana 60 differential for obvious reasons. Automatic versions could retain the 831/44 banjo-type rear; neither transmission had a premium price attached to it on the GTX. Although the Road Runner, with its unique marketing and low-cost image, was the star of Plymouth's '68 offerings, the GTX held its own at the drive-in diner and street light Gran Prix. Besides, if you could afford a Hemi car and weren't planning on taking it straight to the quarter-mile, the GTX was available with much better optional equipment than the Runner. Girls noticed.
One of the 410 Hemi-equipped GTX hardtops created in '68 now belongs to Tim Cope of Millville, Pennsylvania, and is a premier example of the breed. He purchased his X in December 1996 while working in Escondido, California; the car was listed in a local newspaper, and he was the first (and last) person to look at it. He purchased it right then and there from owner Tim Steele. Solid but showing its years, Tim used the car as a driver while his work continued in the Golden State, then drove it back to Pennsylvania (he jokes that he almost had to take out a small loan to pay for the gas). The GTX was driven on sunny days when Tim was not working out of town. He decided in 1999 that it was time to treat "the boss" to a face-lift.
That began by enlisting restoration specialist Lynn Wilson of Muncy, Pennsylvania. Lynn disassembled the car down to the bare essentials; thanks to the excellent shape of the California body, not a lot of sheetmetal work was required. Once the minor dings were straightened up, on went a jacket of PPG white acrylic enamel identical to the factory's EV1 original.
Meanwhile, the interior was brought up to like-new standards with Legendary Auto Interiors-supplied Aztec red skins. These cover the standard bucket seats (with the optional center seat cushion and armrest), headliner and door panels. The center cushion option is on this car because the original purchaser ordered the Plymouth with a column-shifted TorqueFlite and apparently didn't like the look of the missing console. Factory- installed power window units continue to raise and lower the glass. Posh, baby, posh.
Then, for motivational street-speaking, the elephant under the bonnet was given a not-so-routine physical. This one had been previously rebuilt by another owner and actually ran quite well, so it was redeployed for service with little more than a fresh coat of orange paint and a tune-up. The TorqueFlite was given the once-over and the 3.23:1 Sure Grip 831/44 remains out back (with gears like that and wide-open spaces between the Colorado Rockies and Mississippi River, I think we know where that gas went). The only deviation from stock are the 15x7 Magnum 500 wheels with red-line radial tires; the car came from the assembly line with steel rims and hubcaps. So, while a lot of the treasure left California during the original Gold Rush, Tim's story proves precious metal is still out there. Go west, indeed.