Merle Coyle and his wife Pat of Paw Paw, Michigan, have owned this Hamtramck built car ever since 1971 when he purchased it new from R.A. Imus Chrysler Plymouth in Paw Paw. When he bought the car off the lot, it didn't have many options or fluff. Luckily, that's the way he wanted it-no power robbing options. It came with the Road Runner package, featuring standard equipment (e.g., a three- speed manual transmission with a floor-mounted shifter). The 383 came complete with a four-barrel, high impact Sassy Grass Green paint, and F70x14 white letter tires. The window sticker price was $3,242.95-a hefty sum in 1971. But before Merle picked up the car, he felt it needed something more. He had the dealership install the strobe stripe, hood pins, and exhaust tips. Merle will be honest, and say he really wanted a 383 four-speed car, but couldn't find one with the requisite Sassy Grass Green paint.
So he purchased this car, and three months later, he installed a four-speed tranny "borrowed" from a '68 Road Runner. He installed aftermarket wheels and tires, a Racer Brown cam and valve springs, and topped the engine with an 800-cfm Holley Double Pumper carb. And he didn't stop there. To make sure he was not on the receiving end of a good spanking between red lights, he also added a pair of Hooker 171/48-inch headers, an Accel ignition, a Weber clutch and pressure plate, 4.56 Zoom gears, and had the heads milled to increase the compression. The car remained this way for years with only minor changes. He did add one leaf spring to the rear springs on each side for added lift and tire clearance.
In keeping with the Street Performer theme Merle began several years ago, he has now installed an MSD ignition, 4.10 gears, 906 heads with a three-angle valve job, and 2.14x1.81 stainless steel valves. Merle has also ported and polished the bowls and runners. to get the Runner going, a Centerforce clutch and pressure plate have been added. he tells us that when he has time, a 509 Mopar Performance camshaft will be installed.
Merle also decided the Runner should be given back its stock wheels and Dog Dish hubcaps. The problem of fitting appropriately sized/required rubber on the little rear wheels presented a problem, so the rear wheels on the car are now 15x8s from a Dodge Ramcharger and shod with L60x15 Mickey Thompson Indy Tires. The fronts are the original wheels with copies of the original F70x14 Goodyear tires. The car, which still has the original spare tire in the trunk, presently has 60,000 miles on it.
The first year Merle owned the car, he drove it for 32,000 of those miles, going to work and cruising. The first winter he owned the car, it saw snow, but, luckily, it was fairly mild, and the roads were only salted a few times.
By 1972, Merle could see the handwriting on the wall-musclecars were on their way out because of the price of gasoline, car insurance, and the start of air pollution standards. So he bought an old pickup to drive and parked the Road Runner for the winters. Merle figured he wouldn't be able to buy another new musclecar, so he wanted to take good care of this one. Let's just say he is really glad he did.
The paint on the car is all original factory applied, except for the engine compartment, floorboards, and behind the tires where stone chips speckled the body. The interior is original, except for the carpet and headliner that were the victims of hungry mice. But thanks to Legendary Auto Interiors, replacing them was a cinch.
In the summer of 1974, while racing at US 131 Martin Dragway, Merle missed a shift and over-revved the engine. That resulted in a spun rod and main bearing, and also bent the crankshaft and two rods. however, after the rebuild, the engine ran better than ever. After the engine rebuild and installation of the 4.56 gears, the car ran low 13s.
But don't for a minute think Merle is done "tweaking" his car. He tells us, "Hopefully with some of the upgrades I have made, and the forthcoming addition of the 509 Mopar Performance camshaft, it will run even better."
Merle tells us, "I enjoy showing my Road Runner, and I really enjoy driving the car. It is a real adrenalin rush." That's what we like to see-an owner that really enjoys his car.
Fast FactsCar: '71 Road RunnerEngine: 383Heads: Ported and polished 906sCamshaft: Racer Brown hydraulic 484/284Induction: M1 intake with Holley 800 carbHeaders: 171/48 Hooker Super CompTrans: A-833 "borrowed" from a '68 Road RunnerDifferential: 831/44 with Sure Grip and 4.10 gearsWheels/Tires: Front, stock 14x6 steel with Goodyear G70-14 tires; Rear, 15x8 from a Dodge Ramcharger with L60-15 MT's Paint: Factory original Sassy Grass GreenBest Performance: low 13s