Page 1 of 1 While the competitors dominated the newly created affordable muscle car market, Plymouth was left out. In 1967 the company decided to jump on the band wagon and turn the two-door Belvedere in a serious street racer. Serious might not be the correct word for the cartoon inspired Road Runner that was the result of this work. Equipped with stickers depicting the popular Warner Brothers cartoon figure and a 'beep-beep' horn to complete the package, some people at Chrysler believed the development team had taken the theme step too far and did not expect the Road Runner to be much of a success. What really mattered for muscle car fans was performance and the new Plymouth packed enough punch to convince even the company's biggest sceptics.
At the car's introduction two engines and a wide variety of other options were available. The base engine was the familiar 383 ci V8 that had powered many Chrysler cars before the Road Runner. For its new purpose it was fitted with a hot cam and heads derived from the much bigger 440 ci 'Super Commando' V8, boosting power to 335 bhp. Of course the Hemi engine could not be omitted from the muscle car's line-up and for $714,30 extra the 425 bhp engine was fitted. Fixed pillar and pillarless coupe bodystyles were available in 1968, complemented by a convertible the following two years. Late 1969 the 440 ci Magnum engine was added to the line-up to bridge the gap between the stock and Hemi engines. In three carb 'Six Pack' form this big block V8 was very close to the Hemi for half the cost. Production of this engine was limited because Edelbrock was not able to produce enough intake manifolds.
Still not fully convinced, Chrysler's executives expected to sell just a few thousand Road Runners. At the end of 1968 the Beep-Beeps were heard throughout North America from the nearly 45,000 examples sold. Only around 1,000 were equipped with the Hemi engine. In 1969 the success continued with sales almost doubling, 2,128 examples were convertibles. Competition from other companies and new Chrysler products meant that the sales dropped considerably in 1970 to just over 40,000. A special edition aerodynamic version was added to the line-up. Similar to the Charger Daytona, this 'Superbird' was available with the six-pack or Hemi engine. Although it had an unmatched top speed, its sharp nose and huge rear wing were not very well received. With only 1920 examples produced these Superbirds are very much sought after today. For 1971 major modifications were carried out, and Road Runners were built for some years to come, but never matched the performance or popularity of the 1968 - 1970 models.
Featured is 1970 Superbird equipped with the stock Super Commando V8 engine. After the car's first owner damaged the unique nose-cone, he had difficulty locating a replacement. Fortunately NASCAR racing legend Richard Petty had a large number of them in his workshop and repaired the damage. His involvement with the car can still be seen on the driver side front fender scoop, which bears his signature. Painstakingly restored, it is a regular prize winner at concours d'elegance throughout the United States. It is seen here at the 2006 Palm Beach International, a Concours d'Elegance where it was named 'Best Muscle Car'. Page 1 of 1