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Bread & Butter Beeper

Keeping the Gen X interest Alive

Story Geoff Stunkard / Images Geoff and Joel Stunkard - February 14, 2013 10:00 AM

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The year 1969 was an important one for Plymouth’s Road Runner, perhaps the one that best defined this particular muscle car.

After all, it was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, having spearheaded the budget muscle car revolution with its debut the previous year. Chrysler had done its homework on what was a quick model release based on a novel idea, offering a low-priced mid-size car that featured good suspension and driveline parts, few engine options, and a popular cartoon character for promotion.

For 1969, the car’s very popularity resulted in many new options, including a convertible, more interior and paint upgrades, and the first appearance of the 440 six-barrel engine (only the Hemi had been optional). That moved the car away from the budget origins to some extent, though it would be the best-selling year for this model, with over 82,000 going to new homes. For most buyers, the standard 383 wedge was the package they purchased.

“This is a real muscle car,” says 32-year-old Nate Homick, who spends his days as a mechanic in the NASCAR-rich town of Mooresville, North Carolina. “It’s a bench seat, four-speed post coupe, and it’s a real Bahama Yellow Road Runner. This is the exact reason why Plymouth built these things!”

Back in ’69, the nation’s average yearly wage was just $6,887 (we were still on the gold standard as well), so putting down money on a muscle car that cost even half that amount was a real investment. This car was one that Nate had known about for many years since his dad Dave’s best friend, Jerry Abraham, had purchased it back in the 1990s. This was a 34,000-mile car, decoded by Galen Govier and restored by Jerry, Dave, and Nate over many years to basically as-built specs. When Jerry had a chance to buy a 1971 Butterscotch Challenger (same paint code EL5), he sold the Plymouth to Dave. Nate ended up with it as various things were being changed and has been the car’s caretaker for several years now.

From the factory, the Road Runner was fairly standard beyond the new High Impact Paint. Under the new Air Grabber hood (with flat “glare-blackout” stripes that extend to the fender edges) is the 335 horsepower 383 Magnum, a special engine then available only in Road Runner and Dodge’s Super Bee with a hot cam, better exhaust manifolds, and minor engine tricks that Chrysler had pulled off the shelf. In keeping with the past, this one still has a single-point distributor, though Nate has a fat 770 Holley on the intake in place of the old Carter AVS. This package, which was originally rebuilt by Nick Wilson of Medina, Ohio, with some minor internal upgrades, is backed by the factory A833 four-speed and a 3.91 SureGrip differential section housed in the 8¾ rearend.

Inside, things are great if you want close contact, as there is a long black vinyl bench seat with a Hurst wood-ball stick coming up from the floor. Serious racers recognized that this was a lighter set-up than the twin buckets. In the dash, there is a 120 mph speedo whose needle could be wound to the far right when needed. An AM radio caught the latest tunes back in that non-stereo broadcast era.

As mentioned, getting an HIP color like Bahama Yellow was a new option in 1969. The color-coded steel wheels get a splash of that color, thanks to pie-pan hubcaps. They hit the pavement through a set of bias-ply Firestone Wide Oval Redline F70-14 tires. The only dress-ups beyond the hood were a set of front wheel spinners that promoted the Road Runner model on the dealership lot that year. The result overall is a head-turning combination of OEM appearances with a few minor upgrades for the modern era.

Today, Nate and Jessica show the car (we caught up with them at an event in Farmington, North Carolina) and tell the story. We get to enjoy seeing what one of Motor Trend’s editors said, “It wasn’t just a car anymore. I’d found love.

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