Sometimes an original vision gets twisted as time goes on. Purists will tell you that the original muscle cars were supposed be affordable to everyday people. The idea was to scrimp on the accessories in the interior so that most of the money spent on the car would be go under the hood. It was all about satisfying the need for speed without breaking the bank.
As the Sixties moved along, the industry started to take muscle cars in a pricier direction; meanwhile, the marketing minds at Plymouth decided to head back toward the roots. They wanted to design a new muscle car that was affordable to the masses. The Plymouth Road Runner was the result of their efforts.
Right off the bat, the company pulled off a coup by purchasing the rights to the Road Runner likeness from Warner Brothers. It was a symbol of quickness and speed coupled with wise-ass smugness in the face of bullying. You can mess with me, but I don’t care, because I always win.
As a popular cartoon character, it conjured images of childlike fun and unfettered imagination. It was an ad campaign waiting to happen.
The best part for the company was the price they paid for the likeness; they were able to get the rights for just $50,000. And yes, before you ask, they did offer a “beep beep” horn.
The first model year for the Plymouth Road Runner was 1968, and the base price was just $2,896.The standard engine, built especially for the Road Runner, was a 335-horsepower 383-cid V8. You could upgrade to a 425-horsepower 426 Hemi for just over $700.
The company expected a certain level of success, but the Road Runner exceeded expectations. Plymouth was thinking that they would probably sell around 20,000 during the first year; they actually sold more than twice that many. In fact, the fledgling Road Runner came in third in sales among muscle cars during its initial year of production, trailing only the SS-396 Chevelle and the Pontiac GTO.
The Road Runner stayed in production through the 1980 model year. It had a good run, and it would be cool to see a return of this model, like we have seen with some of the classics of the past in recent years.