Tempting Tribute: 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Convertible – SOLD!

by | Aug 2021 | Classifinds, Topless Thursday

It might be hard for people today to either remember or envision that when Chrysler offered the famed 426 cubic inch Hemi V8, the consumer take rate was very low.  High fuel cost combined with even higher car insurance surcharges for most muscle cars meant that of the 834 Hemi Road Runner convertibles made for 1970, only a total of four came factory equipped with the “R” code Hemi.

Consequently, this In-Violet over white, rotisseries-restored, 1970 Plymouth Road Runner convertible originally listed in August 2021 on Craigslist in Chetek, Wisconsin (between Chicago and Minneapolis) for $95,000 should not surprise anyone that it is Hemi tribute car that also comes with its matching numbers 383 cubic inch V8. Comparing that price against the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms the private seller has their Hemi Road Runner tribute priced over thirteen thousand dollars higher than this guide’s #1 “Concours” appraisal of $82,800.  Similarly, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool confirms the seller has their Plymouth priced twenty thousand dollars higher than this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $75,000. Smartly, the seller’s premium ask is for the 426 Hemi engine.

Hard to believe, but already by 1968, some famous muscle cars were already moving away from their original bare-bones performance roots to more luxurious and higher trim models with bigger profit margins. The primary example was Pontiac’s GTO. Plymouth’s market research indicated muscle car buyers still wanted a no-frills, back-to-basics option, and so they developed the Roadrunner based on the division’s two-door post coupe Belvedere.  For that first year, Plymouth expected to sell 20,000 units. However, the car proved so popular that the division ended up producing over 45,000 Road Runners. While a 383 cubic inch V8 came standard, Plymouth offered several performance engine options that even included the 426 cubic inch Hemi.

With perhaps the best sounding car horn sound ever, Plymouth paid a reported $10,000 to have a special “Beep, Beep!” horn developed for its back-to-basics Road Runner muscle car the Chrysler division launched for 1968. On top of that, Plymouth paid Warner Bros.-Seven Arts for the rights to use the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote likenesses from the cartoon.

The 1970 model year brought new front, and rear end looks to the basic 1968 body, and it would prove to be another success. Updates included a new grille, cloth & vinyl bench seat, hood, front fenders, quarter panels, single-piston Kelsey-Hayes disc brakes (improved from the rather small-rotor Bendix 4 piston calipers of ’68 – ’69 ), and even non-functional scoops in the rear quarters. The design and functionality of the Air Grabber option was changed. A switch below the dash actuated a vacuum servo to slowly raise the forward-facing scoop, exposing shark-like teeth on either side. “High Impact” colors, with names like In-Violet, Moulin Rouge, and Vitamin C, were available for that year. Although a heavy-duty three-speed manual became the standard transmission, the engine lineup was left unchanged, relegating the four-speed to the options list along with the TorqueFlite automatic. This was the second and last year of the Road Runner convertible, with only 834 made. The new high-back bucket seats were shared with other Chrysler products, which featured built-in headrests.

Sales of the 1970 Road Runner dropped by more than 50 percent over the previous year to around 41,000 units (about 1,000 ahead of Pontiac’s GTO but still about 13,000 units behind Chevy’s Chevelle SS-396/454). This would also be the last year of the Road Runner convertible with 834 total productions. Only 3 Hemi “R” code Road Runner convertibles were built for the U.S. consumer. The declining sales of Road Runner and other muscle cars were the results of a move by insurance companies to add surcharges for muscle car policies – making insurance premiums for high-performance vehicles a costly proposition.

The Ron Peters YouTube Channel provides this 1970 Road Runner commercial featuring both the company’s “Plymouth Makes It” tag line of the day as well the famous Looney Tunes cartoon characters:

This tribute car provides an interesting dilemma. Candidly, we would buy the car, drive it the balance of the summer simply for the bragging rights and the experience, and then in the fall auction just the motor to recoup much of our investment.  With the car’s original matching number 383 back in place, we’ll have a much more enjoyable car to cruise in. Comment below if you agree or not.

This is a great-looking sports car that will likely get you compliments and more awards every time you enter it in a classic British car show.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“70 Road Runner Convertible. 426 Hemi, 18-spline 4 speed, Dana 3:54 rear end. In-Violet ext, white top, and interior.
Complete restoration. Excellent condition. Comes with matching number 383 Even

Keep or sell: what would you do with the Hemi Motor currently installed in this Road Runner?  Comment below and let us know!

1 Comment
  1. Robert Currie

    I ,too, would put the matching numbers engine back. More valuable with it than the big motor anyway.

    Reply

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