Triple-Black 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Is a Mean Mopar With a Rare Engine Setup

Originally introduced as a full-size car, the Plymouth Belvedere was redesigned into an intermediate in 1962. And like most midsize vehicles launched in the early 1960s, it became part of the muscle car market.
1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner 13 photos
Photo: Mecum Auctions
1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner1970 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner
The nameplate joined the high-performance realm as soon as it arrived in dealerships, thanks to the Max Wedge V8 option. It was also the first Chrysler rig to get the race-spec 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) HEMI in 1964. Richard Petty won the NASCAR Grand National series in a Belvedere that year.

But the midsize was more of a brand-and-butter vehicle for Plymouth. It was available in a variety of body styles and came with a wide selection of lower-performance engines. So, to get more recognition in the then-emerging muscle car market, Plymouth introduced new vehicles based on the Belvedere platform.

The Satellite was the first to arrive in 1964 as a V8-exclusive model restricted to two-door body styles. However, Plymouth expanded the nameplate to include sedans and wagons in 1967. That's because it had introduced the GTX in 1966.

The latter took over the Satellite's position at the top of the midsize range with premium appointments, hardtop, and convertible models only, and an engine lineup that included only the range-topping 426 HEMI and 440-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) RB.

This revised lineup left muscle car enthusiasts with two options: a Belvedere or Satellite specified with a big-block V8 and a two-door layout or a more expensive GTX. Lacking a dedicated and affordable muscle car, the company launched the Road Runner in 1968.

Essentially a stripped-off GTX, the Road Runner was also restricted to two-door body styles. It also came with the 426 and 440 V8 engines, but Plymouth added an entry-level 383-cubic-inch (6.3-liter) big-block to the lineup. And it struck gold with this new model.

The Road Runner moved 44,303 units in its first year on the market, notably more than the GTX's combined sales for 1967 and 1968. In 1969, Road Runner sales jumped to a whopping 81,105 examples, while GTX deliveries dropped to 14,902 cars. Road Runner sales also began to fall as muscle cars went out of fashion in the early 1970s.

Come 2023, the Mopar that goes "beep-beep" is among the most iconic vehicles from the golden era. And even though examples from specific model years are relatively common, some drivetrain combos are rare and sought after nowadays. The HEMI Road Runner is arguably the most desirable and expensive.

The triple-black example you see here is a first-year Road Runner that left the factory with the mighty 426. And while 1968 sales included more than 40,000 cars, only 1,009 were specified with double-four-barrel powerplant. Plymouth sold 169 hardtops and 840 coupes. This one's a coupe, but the automatic gearbox narrows it down to one of 391 cars with this combo.

Is it one of those all-original Mopars with a numbers-matching engine? It's not because the 426 HEMI is just a period-correct unit. But this Road Runner is a true-blue HEMI based on the VIN, so it's the next best thing. It's also a finely restored example that looks like it could eat Ford Mustangs for breakfast.

Part of the Kevin Sergent Mopar and & Wing Car Collection, this HEMI Road Runner will cross the auction block at Kissimmee 2024 in January. And it will probably change hands for more than $100,000.
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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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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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