Muscle Cars :: September 2004

Love Birds

:: His and Hers ’70 Road Runners that Pack Punch

By 1970, Plymouth’s trend-setting economy muscle ar, the Road Runner, had gone upscale. No longer the equivalent of a taxicab on steroids, as had been the case at the time of the car’s 1968 debut, the B-body was now available with a wide variety of options and trim levels. So, while you could still get a stripped-down version for less than $2,900, most Road Runners that left Plymouth dealers in 1970 ended up with some options. However, only a handful received the level of order-blank action that the pair shown here did. Tommy and Tina White of Saukville, Wisconsin, own these “birds of a feather,” both of which were restored to perfection by Aloha Automotive Services, the muscle car restoration and sales company they own in the Midwest hinterland.

Both cars feature the engine-breathing fresh-air option whose time had come by 1970 — the Air Grabber. Detroit was no stranger when it came to hood scoops or graphics by 1970, but the fertile imaginations at Chrysler Engineering put two and two together when they came up with the bared teeth that appeared when the sinister flap on the hood opened. Though more form than function, the vacuum-operated trapdoor was a big hit on the boulevard.

Tina’s is on of only 429 convertibles produced that year. Painted TX9 Black Velvet with a white interior, it may have been a lucky person’s high school graduation present back in th day. Perhaps it was picked by someone who was originally hoping for a GTX convertible and couldn’t get one, since that particular model was not offered in 1970. Regardless, they don’t come tricked out much more than this example.

Well fortified in the drive line department, the car is powered by the 440-cid engine, topped with a trio of Holley two-barrels that love nothing more than drawing air into the confines of the engine. Behind the mill is a 727 TorqueFlite and 3.55 Sure-Grip in the differential.

In 2002, Tommy White bought the car as a project in what could be nicely described as “rough” shape. The car had been subjected not just to the elements and rust, but to a botched clean-up by a prior owner who had pop-riveted a set of scarce original quarter panels right over the top of the rotting factory installed sheet metal.

So, the entire car was completely disassembled and restored in the couple’s shop. The engine machining was farmed out, but the iron lung was built in-house with minor upgrade, including an electronic ignition system and a replacement cam shaft. The car rides on a set of factory rallye wheels, which, with the other options the car has, boosted the purchase price from the Road Runner convertible base of $3,289 to somewhat above the $4,000 mark. Tommy admits this one is a keeper, and the no-expense-spared restoration is more to drive for fun than to use as a trailered-only show car. In one concession to modern life, the AM radio has been replaced by an Alpine sound unit cranking out 250 watts through six carefully masked speakers. It is Tina’s cruiser.

Tommy, on the other hand, didn’t go walking as a result of his willingness to give his bride that ride. That was because after spending 14 months getting the convertible into world-class form, a chance to buy another 1970 Road Runner came up in 2002. Only this one was not a convertible, it was not an automatic, and it was not a Six Pack; under that toothy Air Grabber grin resides 426 cubic inches of elephant power.

By 1970, the 426-cid Hemi had become a more refined player with a hydraulic cam in place of the former mechanical-tappet bumpstick, but it left no bones about who was boss when it was coming into its stride somewhere above 4,000 rpm. Just a few hearty souls chose this option every year; you could expect your gas bills, insurance bills, and likely your traffic violations to take a big hit if you wanted to play Hemi games on the street. While a bunch of the bog power plants went into the new 1970 ‘Cuda, only 59 Road Runner buys selected the Hemi with the he-man A833 four-speed that year, which included the Sure-Grip equipped Dana 60 that came on every 426H-optioned, manually shifted vehicle. This one has a 3.54 ratio in it, making it a pretty perfect march to the convertible for highway cruising.

Despite its rarity, Tommy remembers a bunch of potential buyers passed over this particular 46,000 mile car that was for sale in Chicago due to somewhat stoic paint. The color was called Ivy Green (F8), and one has to think that i was likely a final thrill for an older buyer looking for a shot at either stoplight or office water cooler fame. Truth be told, this Road Runner was ordered by someone at Chrysler Engineering back in the late summer of 1969 — it was the second car off the assembly line for the 1970 model run at the Lynch Road plant near Detroit.

The Deluxe-level interior and its vinyl bench are a very unique two-tone combination of Desert Tan and Brown. Then our buyer decided he (lets face it, how many fashionable women would have chosen a green-on-brown Hemi combination?) would dress it out with power windows, power steering, the extra light group, a rear window defroster, deleted side stripe, and get chrome exhaust tips and the special reflective rear-deck tape strip. It’s unique, so a deal was struck by Tommy, and the “green meanie” was on its way from the Windy City to Wisconsin for another full-tilt Plymouth restoration.

While the body was being massaged, the numbers-matching Hemi engine was completely gone through at Aloha and fortified with a little bit of modern technology that can easily be changed back to stock if needed. To keep fire in the hold of those big cylinders and combustion chambers, Tom opted for an MSD set-up.

Tire technology had come a long way since the Hemi debuted in 1964 as a race-only engine; Tom’s Road Runner left the factory with 15 x 7 steel wheels shod in F60-15 Good Year Polyglas rubber. Today, letter-correct replicas are on the restoration. There is a rallye-style dash in the car, but Tom wisely called on Autometer to supply the exact engine rpm to the drive via an aftermarket tach — some things are too important to leave to chance.

I caught up with the White’s at The Forge Musclecar/Day II Supercar Show, and invitational-only indoor event open to the public that was help in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, last October. The rural setting seems to be a fitting tribute to the nostalgic end of the American supercar. Though the Road Runner name would last a few more year, by 1971, there would be no convertibles offered in Plymouth’s B-body line-up, and only a handful of cars would come to new owners that year packing the punch of either a Hemi or a 440-6bbl under the bonnet; both engines would die in dignity at the end of the ’71 model run, powerful to the end.

 

Story by : Muscle Cars Magazine

Written by: Geoff Skunkard