The Plymouth Road Runner was a muscle car built by Plymouth to be the crowning glory over the following cars by the same manufacturer: the Satellite, the Fury, the Belvedere and the Volare. These cars were all coupes, and it was the opinion of many, that muscle cars had been improving, but also losing the true muscle car feel and characteristics. Plymouth had already built the GTX, which was a high performance car, but they decided to go back to the basics of a muscle car, and bring the original muscle car back to life. They envisioned an affordable car that can also hit the 14 seconds mark in the quarter mile, and the Plymouth Road Runner was all they had aimed for, and its success in the market outranked the GTX.
Plymouth had to pay Warner Brothers $50,000, to enable them to use the Warner Bothers’ Road Runner name and cartoon character. The Plymouth Road Runner would have increased handling and performance abilities, and all the little luxuries that had crept in over the years, and that were not essential to the car, were left out of the design. Even the carpets were left out, which left the car with a Spartan interior. The standard engine for the Road Runner, would be a 383 CID, or 6.3 L, Roadrunner V8. This engine had 425ft-lb of torque and 335 bhp. If you were prepared to pay an additional fee, you could have a 426 CID Hemi engine fitted, which had 490ft-lb torque and 425 bhp. This engine would prove to be the best in the era of muscle cars, and could run a 13.4 second time in a quarter mile, at 105 miles per hour. Plymouth estimated their Plymouth Road Runner sales to be approximately 2,000, but to their delight, sales numbers soared to about 45,000.
In 1969, a few cosmetic changes were made, and a convertible Road Runner added, of which only 2,000 were manufactured in a year. And even more rare, is the fact that only nine convertibles were fitted with a Hemi engine. The standard engine for the Road Runner would remain the 383, but the 440 Six Barrel (440 CID engine that has three two-barrel carburetors) was released specifically for the drag racing class. Six Barrel Road Runners did not feature any hubcaps or wheel covers. Plymouth was slingshot to dragstrip icons, thanks to the 440 6-BBL and the 426 Hemi.
After “Motor Trend” magazine named the Road Runner as the Car of the Year, in 1969, the vehicle sales sky rocketed to 82,109 units. In 1970, the Road Runner underwent a facelift to the front and rear, and together with the GTX, both cars remained very popular. In the following years, the Plymouth Road Runner would go through cosmetic and engine changes, the convertible would be cancelled in 1971, and the 426 Hemi era would come to an end in 1972. The Road Runner would eventually become part of the Volare line, until it own discontinuation in 1980.