Friday, April 20, 2012

Myth and Legend... the 1972 440-6 Plymouth Road Runner... 1 of 1

There are some cars that are wrapped in myth and legend right out of the factory. And I don't mean Daytona Chargers or Ford Talladegas. I mean really rare cars, the ones that were suppose to not exist, yet pop up from time to time. This is story of one of those cars.

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I've read all about the 1972 Dodge and Plymouth vehicles that slipped through the factories fingers with the legendary 440 cubic inch V8 and triple two barrel setup. A setup that was canceled just a few days after production on 1972 cars started. Only 2 Dodge Chargers and 1 Plymouth Road Runner are known to have gotten through before the cancellation order. The Chargers are well documented, one was once owned by Ron Slobes of R&R Salvage, the other tucked safely away in a garage in the Midwest and last seen in Mopar Collectors Guide magazine. The Road Runner though has been out of the public’s eye for almost 20 years.

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There was a large discussion going on over at www.Moparts.com with the owner of the Road Runner, about how he was thinking about selling the car. He had some small, old pictures of the car, but nothing recent. Inquiring about the car, I was shocked to discovered that the car was only a half hour from my home! I made arrangements to see the car with the owner.

Meeting up with the owner at his shop, we walked over to where the car was stored at. He opened the door and the first thing you saw was not the 72, but his 71 Road Runner drag car and Sons 71 GTX tribute car. The son's car has a warmed over 440 and the drag car has something a bit more potent waiting for it! But there against the wall was the reason I had traveled all that way, the 1972 440 Six Barrel Plymouth Road Runner. Only documented one in the world!

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I walk over to the car, and it is not what I was expecting. It was a storage shelf in the garage. It was in decent shape, but covered in general garage stuff. Some rust here and there, but not too bad. There was a large hole in the roof... for the factory power sunroof! The interior was out, the engine was long gone. But the body is plenty solid, and being such a rare car, the restoration should not be that difficult. There is a reason this car is special though.

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Back in 1972 the gas crunch was in full swing, insurance rates were going through the roof for muscle cars, and there was now emission regulations for cars across the whole country. The muscle car was dying. Ford and GM had already started de-tuning their engines in 71. Mopar held off one extra year. But by 1972, there was no more Hemi, and the 440 Six Barrel option was dead a few days into production. This was the last of the true muscle cars.

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The full story of this car is not known, all that is known before the current owner had it is the car ended up with a guy who lived on the East Coast. The way the current owner got is pretty interesting. After talking to Galen Govier at a show, he mentioned he was looking for a 72 Six Barrel Road Runner. Galen told him there was only 1 known car, and it wasn't for sale. But he gave Galen his information just in case.

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A few years past and one day on the answering machine, there was a message from some guy about a Road Runner for sale, he didn't think anything of it until the guy mentioned it was the Six Barrel car! He couldn't get out to see it, a friend who is a pilot flew out, took a ton of pictures and then flew back, all in a day. Talk about being a good friend! This was back when it would still take a day to process pictures. So the guy waited for the photo place to open and get the pictures And once he got them, took one look and his friend said to him, “You gotta get this car!”.

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So he sent the owner a money order, and drove out there with his friend as soon as he could to pick the old girl up. By the time they got there, the guy had been getting offers of more money from all over the country, but he was true to the guy and sold it to him. They loaded it up and brought it home, safely tucking it away. So one day it could get the restoration it deserves.

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For the past 20 years the new owner has collected parts from everywhere to put the car together correctly. In the basement of his building which he owns and runs his business out of, he has an original 1972 440 engine, a correct 72 style Six Barrel setup, interior, rims, tires and almost anything else you can think of. When the time comes for this car to be put back together, it will have everything it needs, all original NOS items. Sitting on the floor, being used as a door stop, was the Six Barrel intake for the car.

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The car will be coming out of storage for a short while though, it will be seen at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (www.mcacn.com) this coming fall. See it there at the best Muscle Car show in the country. I will be there as well, helping put on the “Found as is” category! November 17th and 18th, 2012.




Friday, April 6, 2012

Sad Bees and rusty Es.


A few months ago there was an ad on Craigslist for a bunch of Muscle Cars sitting out in a barn. They were not just standard cars either, there was a 1970 Chrysler 300H (Hurst), 340 Dart, 71 Road Runner and a bunch of other cars. I emailed the owner about the stash and he allowed me to come out and see the hoard for myself. So a blustery Saturday morning, I headed west!

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The drive west can be a quick one down I-88 or a more leisurely, scenic drive down Hwy 64. Also there is a good pancake place on 64 just east of St. Charles, IL I highly recommend. But there was no hurry, I planned it perfectly to grab breakfast and meet up with the owner, who was still another hour away.

I met up with the owner, Brent at a neutral location. As he pulled in, I informed him people know where I was at if I go missing. He laughed and told me to follow him. Which I did across the river and through some woods to where the cars were stored at. We drove through some fields and mud til we reached the two barns. The first one was the nicest.

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You walk in and are greeted right by the door by the 300H. One of the only vehicles with an engine, also the most complete out of the bunch. It is a rare model, only produced for one year. Has a fiberglass hood and trunk with built in spoiler. 440 Cubic Inch V8 powered with an automatic transmission on the column. It had obviously had a hard life, needed a lot, but was still a good project car.

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On the other side of the door was the row of other project cars for sale, including a 69 Dart Swinger right by the door. The poor old girl was in really rough shape, it had been beat up pretty bad. It had been hit across the driver side quarter panel pretty well. Inside the car it looks like it might have been a 4-speed car, but the floor had been cut up. There was a carburetor in a box in the car, and it appears to have been one that came off a 340.

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Next to the 69 Dart was a odd 1970 Barracuda. The Barracuda looked awfully familiar. Had fiberglass front fenders, it was originally a sublime green car. I checked the tail panel and it was badly painted blue at one time, but then it clicked... THIS WAS MY OLD BARRACUDA! I had sold it 5 years prior and here it was, in the middle of nowhere. What were the odds? That really threw me for a loop. I could not believe my luck. The only change since I sold it was someone quickly primered the car, and let it sit.

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On the other side of the Bakaruda was a 1970 Dodge Dart 340. It was an orange car, automatic on the column with a black interior. At one time this was a pretty sweet car. Even now, it isn't really that bad, there was no engine or transmission but it was not a bad project.

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Beyond the orange Dart was the last car for sale in the barn, a 1971 Plymouth Road Runner. A basic 383 car, non-power drum brakes all the way around. Blue interior with blue exterior. Still, I almost had a 71 Road Runner as my first car. I could definitely see myself in this old girl. She wasn't in that bad of shape, definitely something that could be restored.

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We moved onto the next barn that was a style I was more accustom too, covered in Raccoon poo and dirt. You open the doors though and you can't help but smile. There front and center is a 69 Super Bee. A 383 big block was once between the inner fenders, and a 4-speed manual transmission behind that. Now both long gone, but it still had the dual scoop hood and 4-speed hump and pedals. But she was very rough, not a straight panel on her. I could see maybe one or two pieces of metal being savable.

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In the back left corner was a pretty cool car. A 1969 Dodge Charger, 383 car that had a 4-speed manual transmission but it wasn't a R/T. I guess it was built to go under the radar of the insurance company. But I doubt it would have worked with a big old 4-speed manual transmission in there. This poor car was in really rough shape. Almost everything looked like it needed to be replaced, it had holes in the roof, floors, trunk, etc... The car was raced at one time, from the rather large rear tires on it.

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Next to the Charger and behind the Bee was a 1971 Charger R/T. Looked to have been a gunmetal gray color originally. It looked like a good project, the interior was trashed, but all there, the outer body was not terrible. But once I popped the hood the rust was evident. The upper control arm mounts on the inner fenders were completely rotted out. If not fixed the front suspension could collapse. Even though it had a few issues, it was still a desirable car and worth restoring.

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The last car of them all was in the other corner, a 1970 Challenger. Originally a 318 small block car, it had lead a rough life. It had no interior, engine or transmission. The car had a dual scoop hood on it, even though it probably did not come with it stock. It needed a complete restoration, or it would be a very good candidate for a new or old Hemi swap. So sad to see it sitting forlorn in the corner of a barn like it is.
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With the last car, I talked to the owner for a little bit. The cars had been sitting out there for a few years. The owner who put them there disappeared and stopped paying the storage fee's. After sending certified letters, emails, calling the guy. He never responded. So they got rebuilding titles for them all and were trying to recoup the lost storage fees and much more. I told them I would pass the info on to some people I knew. But unfortunately with a rebuilding title here in Illinois, you can only buy them if you are a licensed re-builder.

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I thanked the owner for letting me see the cars, and I headed out. Running through some cool old towns and seeing some crazy stuff. It was a really interesting to find my old Barracuda though, you don't expect something like that to happen. I wonder where it is off to now.

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