Joining the Plymouth lineup for 1968, the Road Runner was typical of the muscle car era - big V8 power in a relatively lightweight (Belvedere sedan) chassis. The muscle car power-to-weight formula was solidly established by that time, but buyers also responded to the name, the bargain price (from $2,896), and the Road Runner graphics, commemorating the Warner Brothers cartoon character. The response was far beyond all expectations. Chrysler Corporation product planners anticipated a very modest 2,500 sales, and were agreeably astonished when 44,599 rolled out of showrooms in1 968, and 84,420 in 1969.
The validity of the idea wasn't lost on the Dodge division, which launched its own version, called the Super Bee. By 1971 the Road Runner had been restyled, with a widened (by 3.0 inches) rear track; flush door handles and ventless side glass (for improved aerodynamics); and a functional hood scoop that popped up at the touch of a button. Chrysler's formidable 426 cubic-inch Hemi and 440 cubic-inch V8s still topped the engine options, but the insurance industry had cracked down on muscle cars with hefty premiums, putting a serious crimp in sales. For the Road Runner, the total was a dismal 14,128, and 1971 marked the last year for the 426 and 440 engine options.
This Curious Yellow 1971 is propelled by the 440 V8. Fed by six two-throat carburetors (Dodge called the combo the 440 Six Pack) it was rated for 385 horsepower at 4700 RPM and 490 pound-feet of torque at 3200.
The Plymouth RoadRunner was developed as a mid-priced car and was placed between the Satellie and Belvedere model line up. It was built on the B-body platform. The RoadRunner was light and featured few amenities. This not only drove the price of the vehicle into territory that most could afford, but it gave an advantage over heavier vehicles. The front and back seats were both bench. There was no radio, no air conditioning, no cruise control, no trim, and very few color options. Most of the options available favored speed and acceleration.
It was a solid car and a favorite among moonshiners. It was faster than most police vehicles and due to its sturdy construction, was very reliable.
The RoadRunner came equipped with a 383 cubic-inch V8 engine capable of producing 335 horsepower. A four-speed manual transmission was standard equipment. For about $715 dollars, a 426 Hemi could be added making it the fastest vehicle on the road.
Plymouth paid Warner Brothers $50,000 to use the Road Runner cartoon image. Due to short production time, the decals were grey. Along with the image, the horn went 'beep-beep'.
In 1968, Plymouth sold 45,000 examples.
In 1969, bucket seats became available. The decals were now in color. A convertible option joined the line-up. An inexpensive engine, when compared to the Hemi, became available. This was a three-two barrel carbureted, 440 cubic-inch V8, dubbed the 440 Six Pack. Nearly 90,000 RoadRunners were sold during 1969.
In 1970, an Air Grabber hood was added. Operated by remote control from the passenger compartment, this would open and close a vent in the hood, creating a hood scope. The three-speed manual gearbox became standard while the 4-speed was now offered as optional equipment.
Due to increasing government safety regulations and emission controls, the engines began to decrease in size during the 1971 model year. Fuel prices and insurance costs also contributed to the demise of the horsepower. The four-barrel 440 cubic-inch engine was no longer offered. The horsepower ratings for all engines decreased. The wheelbase of the vehicle decreased from 116 inches to 115. The convertible was no longer offered. A little over 14,000 examples were sold in 1971.
In 1972, 340 cubic-inch V8 engine was now available. This engine was powerful and light. Less than 7,630 Road Runners were sold during the 1972 model year.
In 1973, a 318 cubic-inch engine was standard, producing 170 horsepower. The 440 and 400 cubic-inch engines were still offered as optional equipment. The vehicle received styling updates.
In 1974, the 360 cubic-inch engine replaced the 340 V8. The 318, two-barrel engine now produced a miserable 150 horsepower.
In 1975, the RoadRunner was changed to the Fury body.
In 1976, the RoadRunner was changed to the Volare body. The standard engine was the 318 cubic-inch engine offering 150 horsepower. The 360 cubic-inch engine produced 170 horsepower. The RoadRunner package included a three-speed floor shifter, interior trim, and an improved suspension.
In 1977, an on-board engine computer, called the Lean Burn system, adorned the interior of the RoadRunner. Spoilers, stripes, and Ralley wheels, and window louvers became part of the RoadRunner package.
In 1979, production was just over 1000 units.
The 1980 model year was the last one for the Volare and Road Runner.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2010