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1968 Plymouth Road Runner Is the Perfect Sleeper, Hides Rare V8 Under the Hood

Introduced for the 1968 model year as a more affordable alternative to the GTX, the Plymouth Road Runner was the company's cheapest entry into muscle car ownership. And while it was stripped off the fancy interior trim of the GTX, the Road Runner retained the beefed-up big-block V8 engines.
1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner 9 photos
Photo: Matt Gause/YouTube
1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1968 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner
Granted, the entry-level version came with the smaller 383-cubic-inch (6.3-liter) V8, but the options list included both the 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) RB and the 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI. An instant hit, the Road Runner moved 43,294 units in 1968 and a whopping 78,906 examples in 1969. Sales remained strong, with 34,894 units sold in 1970 before dropping to fewer than 15,000 per year toward the end of the golden muscle car era.

All told, the Road Runner is not a rare nameplate. However, specific models are hard to find nowadays. The HEMI-powered cars are particularly rare, as are convertibles, regardless of the drivetrain configuration. Specifically, Plymouth sold only 2,003 HEMI cars from 1968 to 1971 and just 2,548 drop-tops in 1969 and 1970. And needless to say, the HEMI convertibles are the rarest of the bunch, with only 13 delivered in two years.

But the HEMI Road Runner is more than just a rare and expensive collectible. It's also a cool sleeper, especially if it's not finished in an attention-grabbing color of the High-Impact palette variety. The 1968 example you see here is the perfect proof. Produced one year before Chrysler introduced the iconic "High-Impact" hues, this pillared coupe left the assembly line in PP1 Matador Red.

Sure, red is not the most inconspicuous color out there, but it's nowhere near as eye-catching as the Electric Blue, Surf Turquoise, or Turbine Bronze colors that Plymouth offered in 1968. Moreover, the matching "dog dish" wheels and the all-black interior give out mundane Belvedere vibes. The same goes for the bench seat and the column shifter, two features you're more likely to see in a boring sedan.

And you might just miss that this Road Runner is a HEMI car unless you take a closer look at the badges on the trunk lid and the hood. It's an unassuming sleeper, alright.

Spotted at the Auburn Auction 2023, where it arrived to find a new home, this 1968 Road Runner is also one of the finest examples around, thanks to a frame-off restoration. The muscle car looks spotless inside and out, and the engine bay is so clean you could eat off it. And, of course, the 426 HEMI V8 is a numbers-matching mill, as is the automatic gearbox sending 425 horsepower to the rear wheels.

So how rare is this 1968 Road Runner? Well, it's one of only 1,009 HEMI-equipped examples sold during the 1968 model year. The coupe layout narrows it down to one 840 made, while the automatic transmission makes one of only 391 built with this specific drivetrain layout. I'd venture to say it's one of fewer than 30 cars finished in Matador Red, but I don't have any official figures to back it up. But in short, this unassuming sleeper is one rare Mopar. Check it out in the video below.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea profile photo

Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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