At the height of the Golden Age, that particular target group comprised young buyers with a chronic itch in the right sole of their feet, a slightly underweight budget, and drag strip aspirations. Instead of pushing luxury or creature comfort spoils at customers' feet, Plymouth took the no-nonsense approach.
"If it's the straight-line performance they're after, then serve them while it's hot," – this about sums it up. Chrysler didn't flinch when proposing the basic Road Runner to America in 1968. And it worked – how would it have not? For less than $3,000, a piston faithful could slay right about anyone over the quarter mile. Then drive home and tell his parents all about it over the family dinner.
The HEMI was a tempting offer, but it nearly canceled the cost-effectiveness of the fast-and-crude Warner Bros bird. A nicer return on investment was to stick with a base motor and remove the sheet metal roof instead. The Road Runner offered a ragtop in 1969 and kept it until the end of the following model year.
When it first hit the streets, the convertible was represented by a small 2,182-unit batch (other sources cite a 1,890 production). Chrysler didn't get much buyer interest in this leisurely Plymouth, as in 1970, only some 800 convertibles were assembled. Then again, the sale plummeted for the entire Road Runner range that year, not only for the drop-top.
While an original survivor is a Holy Grail, restored examples with factory-installed parts are also a sight for sore eyes. But the wonder of the internet can make such affections disappear with one click of a YouTube.
Lou Costabile, the notable classic car finder, is at it again and presents a splendid iteration of a 1969 convertible Road Runner. The car sports the 383 four-barrel V8 and the three-speed automatic transmission, the bullet-proof choice for long-term carefree use.
A deserved homage to an automobile deemed worthy of the "Car of the Year" honor by Motor Trend in 1969. The three-speed version with the smallest available engine is a good balance between comfort behind the wheel and V8 throttle symphonies.
The engine was rated at 335 hp (338 PS) and 425 lb-ft (576 Nm), enough to slingshot the 3,680 lbs (just under 1.7 tons ) Road Runner to sixty miles per hour (97 kph) in 7.3 seconds (as tested at the time of its launch). The quarter-mile sprint needed almost twice that time: 14.35 seconds, trapping a speed of 101.6 mph (163 kph).
The current market value for one good-condition example sits around a $55k average (keep in mind this is the bottom-end engine) for a car in good condition; it can double that mark for an exceptional example.
Not that this particular classic is for sale – look at the smile on the owner's face when he puts his foot down – but its rarity commands a high value. And, if one of the less-common automobiles is expensive, just imagine how much a 1-in-3 HEMI convertible would be worth. Out of the original ten built in 1969, just three Road Runners with the famous four-letter magic spell on the hood side vents have survived to this day (that are known and documented).