Plymouth Road Runner

It is hard to believe that conservative Chrysler at that time actually built a muscle car model named after a cartoon character. Many young people who returned from World War II had significant experience in dealing with motor engines.

In 1960 they started to improve them and essentially created a culture of performance street rods. After Pontiac introduced GTO model in 1964, it became clear the new market was growing rapidly.

Chrysler management wanted to repeat the success with another model that would attract the attention of younger generation. Pontiac was given a set of standards to ensure the successful launch in 1968.

The Road Runner was designed to reach 0-60 mph under seven seconds and to beat quarter mile test under 15 seconds. Standard equipment included popular mechanical accessories such as high performance brakes, modern transmission and many other gadgets for under $3,000.

Luckily, Chrysler engineers were more than able to build the Road Runner, using their vast knowledge and experience with previous models. The name actually came from a popular Saturday morning cartoon featuring Road Runner and his nemesis Wile E. Coyote. Pontiac management thought the Road Runner had all the characteristics of their newest car model – it was agile, very fast and able to stop quickly.

A short negotiation was held with Warner Brother representatives over the rights and Chrysler agreed to pay $50,000 annual fee for all the commercials and art work used in vehicle promotion.

Performance essential parts were enhanced while all nonessential items like glitz and chrome were left out in order to reduce weight. Power performance was based on 383 cu in V8 engine capable of generating 335 horsepower. A four speed manual was a part of standard equipment. Interior design was Spartan in nature with a basic cloth and vinyl bench seat, while some models didn't even have carpets.

A buyer could choose between several additional options such as power steering, front disc brakes, AM radio, air conditioning and automatic transmission. Perhaps the most desired option was a 426 CID Hemi engine with strength of 425 horsepower for extra $714.

Plymouth Road Runner was originally based on the Belvedere. Quarter mile tests showed respectable performance completing the run in 13.5 seconds at a top speed of 105 mph. People were impressed with one of the most efficient engines in the early muscle car era and Plymouth Road Runner was built to capitalize on it. The company estimated sales around 20,000 units for the first year.

Real sales proved the popularity by reaching 45,000 units for the same period, which meant third place in the muscle car category. Only the Pontiac GTO and Chevy's Chevelle managed to produce higher sales numbers than the Road Runner. Plymouth's mission to offer the largest value for money was completed fully with new Road Runner selling at $2,900. This fascinating car remains a tribute to muscle car era and a strong part of American automotive history.

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