Targeting and attempting to cater to a wide variety of consumers is a risky proposition in any business-automotive or otherwise. Often, a lack of identity and a watered-down product are the result of serving a customer demographic that is too broad. Nevertheless, that is the exact strategy Plymouth undertook in 1970.
Plymouth chose five models representing all of its body styles and placed them together in the Rapid Transit System (RTS). "Everybody offers a car," Plymouth ads boasted. "Only Plymouth offers a system." Part of the system was to create identification between the consumers and the top names in racing of the day, such as Don Prudhomme, Don Grotheer, Sox and Martin, and Tom McEwen.
Not only were these men featured in many of the ads, but participation in the RTS also brought owners the inside scoop to tuning tricks the top drivers were using. The RTS Caravan was another key ingredient, traveling cross-country with custom-painted street cars and entertaining audiences. Also, merchandise like pins, jackets, and ties helped create a club-like atmosphere. Ultimately, the goal of the RTS was the same as every other automotive advertising concept before and after it: to convince the consumer he or she was doing something far more significant than just buying a car. The measure of its success is still evident with the high regard in which Mopar fans hold the Rapid Transit System endeavor.
Plymouth sought to reach out to the performance-minded, budget-conscious car buyer with not just one model, but an entire line of economy performance cars. Each member of the Rapid Transit System team featured unique characteristics, but they all flew under the flag of budget performance.
From the bare-bones Duster 340 to the family-sized Sport Fury GT, the RTS lineup provided enough power for serious performance enthusiasts at prices almost anyone could afford. The peak years of the Rapid Transit System were 1970 and 1971, just before the decline of the musclecar era. Only three of the cars-Road Runner, 'Cuda, and Duster 340-survived the extinction of the Hemi to make it to 1972. Here, meet the players in the Rapid Transit System lineup.
Meep, Meep!The Road RunnerPlymouth made no bones about the fact it was marketing the Road Runner to the nation's youth. Naturally, the car's association with the beloved cartoon bird (the Road Runner and his trail of dust span the side panels) captured the eye and imagination of children. But with a no-fills, performance-minded attitude, the Road Runner also appealed to those of young driving age. It afforded them the chance to buy a cool, high-performance car right off the showroom floor on a high-schooler's budget.
Plymouth accomplished this by focusing solely on drivability and limiting the bells and whistles on the base model. The Belvedere-based Road Runner had exceeded 100,000 cars sold over the two years prior to 1970, and, coming off its '69 Motor Trend Car of the Year award, it wasn't about to change its philosophy.
The '70 Road Runner came with power straight out of the box, with a 335hp 383 engine as standard equipment. The only difference from the previous year was the floor-mounted three-speed, replacing the four-speed, which was still an option. But, as with 'Cuda, you could upgrade to a 440 Six-barrel or 426 Hemi (with standard hydraulic lifters). Heavy-duty brakes and suspension were also standard.
Additional cost-cutting features included a cast-iron manifold to replace the Edelbrock on the 440 Six-barrel, and heavy-duty drum brakes (discs were optional). The 383 came with an 831/44 rear, while the Six-barrel and Hemi four-speed engines included a Dana 931/44. On the exterior, the stripe treatment included the triple hood stripe and cartoon detailing on the sides, although the dust trail could be deleted. While the Road Runner could be ordered with buckets, the base setup was a bench seat. Optional Rallye wheels were also available.