By Patrick Smith
The car that started low buck muscle, Plymouth's Roadrunner beep beeped its way into America's heart in 1968 and stormed across drag strips and into owner's garages. The runaway sales hit sparked a slew of imitators. It was one of the last models to appear before the market was totally saturated. It is a revered icon today and collectors still pursue the Roadrunner with the same passion as Wile E Coyote. Over priced during the speculator driven market of 2007-2009, Roadrunners have settled to reasonable, even tempting prices. Read on to learn how to capture a fast bird of your own.
Year by Year Styling: Roadrunners debuted in 1968 as a special variant of the Plymouth Satellite. A coupe and hardtop body was offered. The 1968 body was Plymouth's version of the new Coke bottle styling that appeared on 1968 GM A- bodies. The 1968 grille is a simple square cut out pattern with twin headlamps and blacked out trim. The tail lamps were simple square units with radiused corners. They used round side markers lamps. All Roadrunners got a special twin scooped hood with narrow toaster slotted grilles and engine call outs on the sides. The 1969 Roadrunner was very similar in appearance except the grille had four long rectangular bars between the headlamps. The side marker lamps were rectangular this year. For 1970, the grille, fenders and rear deck were completely different. The grille was a simple loop with vertical finned inserts which were blacked out. A vent rests between the grill and bumper. The tail lamps are larger, separate cast metal housings with horizontal lenses. The deck lid is concave and has Plymouth lettering on it. The Roadrunner hood for 1970 was completely new with a slightly raised dome in the center with '383', '426'or '440' callouts on a metal plate attached to the end of the dome facing the windshield. The optional air induction system was also completely different to the 1968-69 versions which will be covered in the options section.
1968 Roadrunner has round sidemarker lens and plain square stamped grille.
1969 Roadrunner used plastic grille divided into four rectangles and square sidemarker lenses.
1970 model had looped barbell style grille with vertical fins.
Drivetrains: Roadrunners came two ways, fast and faster. In 1968, the standard engine was a 383 four barrel 'Roadrunner' engine which was the same as the 383 Magnum and Commando in other Mopar car lines. You got a four speed manual floor shift transmission as standard equipment that year. The heavy duty 727 Torqueflite automatic was optional and available in either column or optional console shift. The only engine option was a 426 hemi with dual quad Carter AFB carbs and solid camshaft. Transmission could be either four speed or 727 automatic. In 1969, a mid range engine option filled the space between 383 and hemi halfway through the calendar year called 440-six pack. It was essentially the Dodge Superbee engine package with three Holley two barrels on an Edelbrock aluminum intake. The 1969 440 Six Pack Roadrunners are very scarce and many clones have been made. It was a package car and not a simple big engine hop up. For 1970, Plymouth reissued the 440 Six Pack Roadrunner. The 426 hemi returned with a hydraulic camshaft and a greatly improved manual shift linkage to compliment the excellent 883 New Departure four speed transmission. The 383 engine held the fort as the standard engine. New for 1970 was a change in transmission specs, Plymouth offered the three speed manual transmission as standard equipment in order to lower the price of the car. Four speeds were optional for 1970.
383 Commando four barrel was Roadrunner's standard engine.
The 440 Six Pack is rare but not as expensive as the hemi.