The Value of Gold
Wayne Schmeeckle, of Fort Morgan, Colorado, owner of the 1971 Road Runner shown here, is one of those people with an eye out for the Next Big Thing. Like a lot of experienced collectors, he keeps tabs on what’s appreciating and what has potential. “I’m always looking at something that’s holding its value real well or appreciating, just for an investment, versus messing with the stock market,” he said.
There’s a good case to be made that the 1971 B-Body Mopars are serious up-and-comers, from a collectible standpoint. As with all musclecars, of course, there are plusses and minuses to that calculation. On the negative side, the ’71s traditionally haven’t been as popular as the 1968-1970 models because, frankly, a lot of people just don’t think they are as good-looking. But the parts situation is the bigger negative. “The ’71s are a really tough bird to do because of parts,” said Tommy White, whose Aloha Automotive Services in Port Washington, Wisconsin, handled the Toad Runner’s refurbishment. The 1971 Road Runners have a large number of items specific to that model year – particularly things like side markers, tail lights, and trim pieces. Plus, nobody reproduces sheet metal for these cars.
But on the positive side – and it’s a big positive – they were the last Road Runners to offer the 426 Hemi, and the 440 Six Barrel was also still on the option listed, rated at 385hp. Plus, the cars definitely came with the bright colors and loud image that have made Mopars the stars when auction time rolls around.
Mopars also have the advantage of being harder to fake than some other popular musclecars. For Schmeeckle, who is also a noted Yenko collector, that was another important consideration. “That’s what I like about the Mopars,” he said. “The Mopars, with the build sheet, and the fender tags, and Galen Govier, and that type of people, you can figure out if a car is legitimate or if it’s a phony. Some of the other Camaros, and some other really good car, it was too easy to get burned on them, so that’s the reason I stuck with the Yenkos, even though you had to invent considerably more money into a Yenko than a regular Camaro. At least I know I can keep my money together as long as it was a real car, and the right car.”
Schmeeckle’s Road Runner was definitely one of those “right cars.” He bought it at Mecum’s auction at Rockford, Illinois, a couple of years ago, one of those rare musclecars that had sailed through the years without being trashed. “It was original sheet metal, no rust,” said Aloha’s White. It was a correct car in all the important numbers-matching ways. “It’s a really special piece for not being molested, beat-up,” White said.
The car also has the rarity factor in its corner. For the 1971 model year, Plymouth only built 246 Road Runners with the 440 Six Barrel engine, and of those, only 137 came with the 4-speed, like Schmeeckle’s car. The number of Six Barrel Road Runners painted Gold Leaf Metallic is so small as to be barely measurable.
“The first thing that attracted our attention to it was the color was off. It wasn’t the right shade.” White recalled. Schmeeckle wasn’t deterred. “Wayne like the muted tones, from golds, to browns, to bronzes, that kind of stuff,” White said. “He buys the off-color stuff.” In fact, Schmeeckle also owns a matching cousin the Road Runner – a 1971 Gold Leaf Metallic 440 Six Barrel ‘Cuda. “I was strong on the Mopar side,” he said. “That was my first love, the ‘Cudas, the ’70-71 Cudas.”
The Road Runner, being in good shape, didn’t really need major surgery to get it into show condition. The crew at Aloha took the car apart, handled the necessary detailing and clean-up, and repainted it the correct color.
Besides the unusual Gold Leaf Metallic hue, the Road Runner features a strange combination of equipment – stripped down in some ways, optioned up in others. It has the 440 Six Barrel and four-speed transmission, but no Air Grabber system. It has the bench seat, manual brakes, and manual steering of a stripper, but also has the dual chrome mirrors, J41 pedal dress-up, 15-inch Rallye wheels, front chin spoiler and rear wing that are typically found on more heavily optioned cars.
“The 1971s are coming around now, as well as some Chargers, if they’re Six Packs or Hemis, because people are tired of the high-priced ‘Cuda stuff,” White said. “They’re paying attention to the other tier cars, and that’s what got Wayne interested in buying it before the ‘curve’.”
We;ll just have to wait and see whether the 1971 B-Bodies achieve the collectible high ground attained by their E-Body and older B-Body cousins, but it’s already clear these cars won’t be ignored any longer.
Story by: Musclecar Enthusiast Magazine[button_icon icon=”arrow-left” url=”http://www.apexautosports.com/dt_portfolio/1971-roadrunner-4406/”]See 1971 Road Runner Gallery[/button_icon]
Side: The Incredible Shrinking Road Runner
The Plymouth Road Runner was one of the best-selling musclecars of its time, but that time was brief. Introduced for 1968 surrounded by plenty of marketing muscle and hype, the Road Runner immediately cemented its reputation as a bare-bones street fighter, even if, in reality, a lot of those cars went out the door loaded with just as many options as your typical GTO or SS396.
The Road Runner peaked in its second year of production, at 84,420 units sold, and after that it was a swift slide to the basement. In 1971 Plymouth built only 14,218 Road Runners. The following year, production dropped to only about half that. The car recovered a bit in 1973, but is time as a serious object of desire had clearly passed. The Road Runner name survived as an option package on the Volare model through 1980, after which the name was mercifully retired.
Probably as much as any car, the Road Runner illustrated the dramatic shift in fortunes of the American musclecar as the early 1970s arrived. Insurance rates, federal emission standards and, yes, styling all played a part in the car’s demise, but in this, at least, the Road Runner was not alone.
[/one-fourth]Source: Galen Govier’s White Books