ROADRUNNER SURVIVES THE NORTH!
Text and photos by John Manship
My getting into Mopars began when I was a young child. My dad was a Dodge guy, and worked for a period of time as a mechanic. Being a mechanic, of course he did all his own mechanical repairs out in the driveway and I was normally there asking a lot of questions and learning about the old Dodges. (Firing order 1-5-3-6-2-4 is still ingrained in my mind).
My first car was a hand-me-down 1946 Dodge which Dad had replaced with a newer unit. Of course I didn't think the old Dodge was too cool, so I went through a couple of Fords before seeing an orange two-door 1959 Plymouth Savoy with a 318 3-speed advertised in 1963 with 16,000 actual miles on it. I purchased it and that really began my affair with Mopars. It was later replaced by a new bright red 1966 Plymouth Belvedere II, which my new wife Sandy and I were very happy with.
In early 1969, my neighbor Phil, who had lived across the street, informed me that he was going to go out and buy himself a new Mopar. He had always been a Ford and Chevy guy and said this would be his first, and probably his last Mopar. Therefore, he wanted something really different. About a week later, he came home with what is now our RoadRunner.
Never had I seen a Honey Bronze colored RoadRunner, and with the redlines and full hubcaps it was butt ugly. The very next day, he came home with the RoadRunner and it was sporting 7" reversed Cragar SS's with Goodyear white-lettered Polyglas tires. It looked like a completely different car.
I knew Phil would not keep the car too long, as that was his history--trading every year or two. He always had nice cars, and took extremely good care of them, and the Runner was no exception. The first two winters he owned the car, he stored it in his mother's barn. I waited until spring of 1971 when it became available, and the Runner became ours. It was purchased for the large sum of $1,800 and had logged 10,000 miles.
In the earlier years, the Runner was used as my daily driver during the summer months, and then each fall the tradition of storage was continued. I purchased a "winter beater" for the long Minnesota winters.
In about 1974, we purchased an 18-foot travel trailer with the intentions of pulling it with our other car, a 1973 Plymouth Scamp, with the famous 225 six. I bought the trailer from Rosemount Dodge in Rosemount, Minnesota, and asked the salesman if the 225 would handle the trailer. They assured me the Scamp would handle it fine, so I hurriedly had the equalizer hitch installed.
On our first road trip, we were going about 75 miles into Wisconsin, and I think the Scamp shifted into high gear twice going down hill! What a shocking trip that was, with a lot of praying that we would even make it home! Once home, I had the hitch removed from the Scamp and a friend and I reluctantly installed it on the RoadRunner. That ended the towing problem. With the Runner, I would have to check the mirror occasionally to make sure the trailer was still back there. So from that time on, the Runner was the tow vehicle, which toured all of Minnesota, and even made it into Canada once. I estimate that about 15,000 miles on the Runner were pulling the trailer.
Today we no longer have the trailer and the Runner no longer has the equalizer hitch, but does have one or two scars on the rear frame rails where I ground to remove the welded-on hitch.
As you can see the Runner has one modification from stock. The hood pins are 1969 vintage, as that was trendy at the time, but that was the only modification the car had before I purchased it.
The body carries the factory paint with the exception of the right rear quarter panel and back fascia panel on the trunk. The quarter was painted because when putting the Runner into storage in 1986, I was trying to get it close to the side wall and peeled about four inches of paint off above the wheel. No dent, but the paint was gone. I also had them paint the rear fascia of the trunk as it was faded from exhaust curling onto the rear of the trunk while pulling the trailer. I didn't want the whole deck painted, as I wanted to retain as much original paint as possible.
The drive-train, engine, transmission and rear end are all the same as it was born with, have never been out and are numbers matching. The car has had normal maintenance, so things such as tires, hoses, belts, plug wires, valve cover gaskets, brakes and exhaust have been replaced.
The interior, carpet, dash pad, headliner--everything is original. Even the original period correct floor mats are in place.
The rest, as you can see, is original with a few marks here and there, but still shows incredibly well. The car just turned 64,206 miles when I put it into storage for the 2008 winter.
When the cars became popular, the topic always came to the "production broadcast sheet" or more commonly referred to as the build sheet, so I had to look for it. Originally I found two. One was in the springs under each seat which were both incorrect build sheets. A year or so later, a guy asked me what size gas tank the RoadRunner had and I didn't remember, so I looked in the owner's manual. Folded neatly in the back of the owner's manual was the correct broadcast sheet! I can only assume that the correct one was placed there by the selling dealer who had received it with other paperwork, as I have never heard of one being found there before. Nonetheless, I was very happy to find it!
A year ago, friends Mike and Kathy Johnson approached me and asked if I still was interested in taking the RoadRunner to the Mopar Nationals. Mike has been to the National before with his unrestored '67 GTX and has been telling me for twenty years that I should take my car there and display it in the Survivor tent. I have repeatedly told Mike that I wouldn't drive it that far, as it would add too many miles and may not even make it!
Well, Mike informed me that he now has a truck and trailer and he was going to take my car to the Mopar Nationals in 2008, and I could go along if I wanted to. What friends, and what an experience that was--displaying our RoadRunner with 13 other Surviving Mopars! Two of the other surviving cars were winged cars--Bob Malcom's orange '69 Daytona and Jim McCauley's green '69 Daytona.
The Runner's survival can be attributed to three things: (1) Lots of TLC. (2) It's winter storage. (3) Not allowing my kids to drive it.
Now that little kid (my son Dave) that used to stand on the hump in the back seat and get thrown into the back when Dad "went fast" as he wanted, has his own ride: a 1969 Dodge SuperBee with a 383 4-speed that is nicer than the RoadRunner! Now we go to car shows together and call it our "bonding time".
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