1970 Plymouth Road Runner: Really That Great?

1970 Road Runner

I’ve never even driven one, but I’ve dreamed about getting a Road Runner for a while now. I’m starting to wonder if I’m actually missing out on that much though. Surely, that statement will anger a few Mopar guys here, but honestly, after the big-block thrill is over, what’s left? Perhaps, I’m being a little harsh though. The only Plymouth I’ve ever owned was a Duster and besides the cool snake skin roof and candy bar interior, there wasn’t much to get excited about there. The build quality was mediocre and the driving experience was blah. Certainly, a Road Runner is different! Please tell me these are different guys because the prices of rusty old projects like this one here on eBay are starting to discourage me.

The “barn find” photo may looked a little staged, but the seller does claim that the car has been in storage for about 10 years. The engine doesn’t run and there’s some rust. That all equates to lots of money and time before anyone is going to be doing burnouts with this muscle machine. I do like the optional 4-speed and “High Impact” color, but this is going to be a huge project so it would be a shame if the first trip around the block was a bit of a letdown. These were a bare bones muscle cars and most were driven hard before being put away. They were quick in their day, but the handling and braking abilities were nothing to brag about. So, what do you guys think though – were they really that great?

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Comments

  1. Joe

    4 speed a plus. Like the numbers matching. Plates, build sheet, stamp, docs, look correct. Price will go up. Right now at 9500.

    • Joe

      Yes, BTW older brother had 70 GTX with 440 around 1977. Would sneak it out every so often as an underage driver. Nothing more fun than a big block muscle car to a 15 year old flying below the radar. Still remember the exhaust note and smell.

      Like 1
      • Robert White

        My older brother had a 1967 Beaumont SS 396 with .020 overbore racing pistons, a trubo 400, and a 12 bolt pozi. When I was 16 I used to take it out for runs over 100mph just for FUN, and I could smoke the tires up to 60mph on dry pavement. Police had trouble catching up to me in broad daylight with their smog catchers.

        The price of gas was criminal.

        Bob

  2. Bob's your uncle

    If you expect it to match up to a modern car, then you’re going to be disappointed. If you expect it to match up to a same-period Chevelle or Torino then you should be OK.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Well, since I drive an old car everyday I probably wouldn’t know what to compare it to anyway…

      • Nova Scotian

        …and there’s your answer of weather you should buy it or not….should buy new or old…While o-k,..it is a cool old car, you’d be spending lots of time and cash to bring it up to your “standard” before you go cruising….just buy a modern used charger and enjoy instant coolness with instant reliability. Seriously, unless your really hooked into rebuilding an old car, (I’ve done a complete overhaul on a 68 Impala fastback)…nothing beats buying a modern car, with all its advanced safety features, fuel efficiency, and cruising without wrenching on it in a parking lot after it overheats idling in traffic on cruise night….been there…but I’m an older guy, and I guess I wrenched on one too many old cars.

  3. Henry Parker

    Borrowed my friends to go out looking for jobs in 1970. Got hired and it cost me 500. Per month cause I had such a nice car. I had just sold my GTO (65) and didn’t own a car at the time cause my last job was Hertz at LAX.

  4. welder ed

    brakes suck seat sucks steering sucks plus all that 1970 Chrysler build quality…it’s ironic that the reason so few were made ( not a lot of people liked them) is now the reason why they’re worth so much now

    • Larry

      Build quality pretty bad in my Dad’s 70 Newport Customer in 71 kept having engine issues. Dealer did a block teardown after multiple visits. Found an empty coca cola bottle in the sump while replacing the crankshaft and bottom end. Had the crankshaft around for years. Was a great door stop. Lunch over, throw the bottle away. Lot’s of UAW strikes in the 70’s. Wouldn’t want to do today behind a 70’s Mopar Steering Wheel what I used to do behind them in the 70’s. Newports, Furys, Dodge Aspen, Valiant, Sprites. Great cars regardless. Bulletproof at 16.

      • Dave Wright

        Gota love Unions……..they nearly killed the British auto industry as well.

  5. Vince Habel

    have driven a 67 GTX and a 69 Satellite with a 383 4 speed. The 69 was strong but not as strong as a GTO. The GTX was on par with the GTO.

  6. Frankie Paige

    Mopars are more expensive, mustangs are overpriced too, I drive and work on them because I like them, never compared them to newer cars though because they are from different eras.

  7. Howard A Member

    This is a pretty cool find. It’s the last of the “original” style Road Runners. I remember a friend had a ’69 Road Runner just like this. It was a bare bones car, and this car is no exception ( doesn’t even have a heater) And affordable. For under $3 grand, you could have a new muscle car. The doors were thin and tinny, and the fenders shook, but it was a fun car.It would take full throttle shifts time and time again. This car is totally worth saving.

  8. Ed P

    The handling of muscle cars was better than the mundane sedans that Detroit produced. American muscle was known for straight line acceleration. Handling was less important.

    I suspect there is more rust on the floors and the forward structure than we are seeing. I am not saying this car should go to the crusher, but there is a good bit of work to be done for a full restoration.

  9. Rex Kahrs Member

    I guess it’s a matter of what you’re looking for in a classic car experience. This car is a straight-line rocket with old school brakes and suspension. Probably pretty fun and scary all at the same time. Give it a wild paint color and a cartoon mascot, and that’s 70s marketing for ya.

    This is why I buy nice drivers to fix up and drive for a couple of years, then find the next different classic and do it all over again. I recently sold my MGB to an English guy who recently sold his XKE. I asked him “Why would you sell an XKE?”.
    His response was “I owned it 20 years.” Even an XKE couldn’t keep his eye from wandering.

  10. sparkster

    In the mid 70’s I came across a 1970 Plymouth GTX with a four speed with the Air Grabber hood. The car dealer told me take it home and come back tomorrow to see how I liked it. I returned the next day and explained to the salesman the clutch was slipping. He offered the GTX to me for $1200 because of the clutch slipping. I turned him down.

    • JW

      OH Sparkster do I remember the days when a dealer wanted to sell a car so bad they would tell you on a Friday to take it for the weekend and bring it back Monday to see if you still wanted to buy it. My old man had a Pontiac dealer who would get a special order car in that the buyer backed out and would call him to have him drive it for a day or two see if he would buy it. God I miss those days.

  11. Steve

    N code= 383 hi po motor, not as desireable as the big boys but will still set you back in your seat nicely. Nice to see one not boy-racer modified. Afgordable authentic mid-range muscle. In terms of driveability, yeah it’s a big, fast 45 year old car meant mainly to go in a straight line. Here’s a test to determine if this car is a good fit: if someone asks you how many push-ups you can do, and you answer “all of them”; and even your beard grows a beard, then this is a car for you.

  12. Rick

    in the mid 70s, nice stock Roadrunner 4spd cars went begging around $1,000, even w/ Air Grabber hoods

  13. Gary I

    I grew up down the street from an orange 1970 Superbird. I could never afford a real Superbird, but I would love to have a 1970 Roadrunner to fill its shoes. I’ve looked for awhile and $30,000 plus seems to be where they are priced these days. I would pay ten plus gladly for this one if I had the room.

  14. jsilves1@tampabay.rr.com

    These cars are out of site lately.. I especially love the MEEP__MEEP horn sound..
    That Thrush sticker on the window was a useless picture because when we put Cherry Bomb or Thrush glass packs on our cars, the box always had those stickers.. just nostalgia here I guess. I never liked torsion bar suspension..

    Nice find though.. It will sell…

    • Bob O

      The same “meep-meep” horn, by Sparton, was used in military Jeeps… and King Midgets! So my King Midget has “the Voice of the Roadrunner!” too :)

  15. sparkster

    In 1970 my uncle came out to California from Detroit , and brought his recent purchase of a Purple Road Runner with him. White interior , bench seat , pistol grip , with the air grabber hood sitting atop the 383 engine. he gave me a few quick and fast rides in that car. What a joy for a young man trying to figure life out in the late 60’s early 70’s. Anybody out there remember the TV show ” The Mod Squad ” and all the Mopar vehicles they drove. With Peggy Lipton riding shotgun.

  16. JW454

    Here’s my ’69 RR. Sold it in 2008. I wish I still had it.

    • John

      I drove a 1968 Road Runner in 1969, it was my drivers training car in high school. It was Orange with Black vinyl Roof, 383/automatic. We drove from La Quinta High School in Westminster down to Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and then Long Beach and Signal Hill. We felt privileged to drive such a cool car. It was fast, and the brakes were good, very good. In fact when I was driving we were stopped at PCH and Balboa Blvd turning left back to PCH. At that time the traffic coming down the mountain from Costa Mesa did not stop, so I pressed the gas a bit when the light turned green and the instructor had a few seconds to react and slam on the brakes when traffic was coming at us. Luckily the car stopped on a dime. Granted I was only 16 and not an expert, I can always look back and remember what a great time we had. You might think I would have looked for another Road Runner for my own, but I joined the Navy at 19 and ended up with a Triumph GT6, and then a 67 Econoline van when the hydraulic clutch cylinder began leaking in the Triumph. Go figure… I would love to find one today but cannot afford one even at this point in time.

  17. JW454

    Engine

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Very Nice!
      Wish I’d never let my ’69 SS396 Chevelle go either, and that car was only 5 years old then.

      • Joe

        Alan, can only imagine how much fun that car was. Also JW 454–nice car!

    • Danger Dan

      very clean, nice wiring. high level of craftsmanship.

  18. Danger Dan

    When you slam it on down to 2nd and the gas pedal is mashed into the floorboards, both tires are incinerating & the rear is starting to head over to the right, so you turn the wheel left, and then the ass end starts to come around the other way and all 4 barrels are wide open, the mighty beast is still winding up and you are crapping your pants with a maniacal look on your face… then you will know why …

    • Ed P

      That is the point Dan

    • starsailing

      Got me laughing with the OL jerk the wheel left or rt as you shift into 2nd….4speed or automatic. With non posi cars…I would jerk wheel to rt…thus making rt rear lift a little bit to chirp the tire…..also pump another 7-10 lbs air in the tire so it could break loose easier! When racing though wouldn’t do the jerk. My oldest brother taught me that, when he got his first car-56 Ford with Fordomatic! I taught my son same and how to come off the line with my 58 Impala 348 tri, TH350…while he had his permit. Taught him the burnouts for show…and one for go.
      The 383 Road Runner stock was OK, not that fast, but would burn the tires ok…99% of guys just drove the GTO, SS396, RT, RR, etc just as they got it from dealer. just change points, plugs, cap, rotor, and oil and maybe adding big tires…which usually made them slower. So all the big block stuff and so called fast cars…428 mustangs, Z28, hemis, etc were just low 14 sec machines, until you got them super tuned, etc. My brother had 68 Charger with Super Bee 383 package and friend had 383 70 Road Runner. So doing the steps below improved performance greatly…Just walked away from non supertuned Road Runners etc..Popular Hot Rod Magazine had super tuning articles for all the muscle cars in the 60’s. early 70’s. The key to making your car run quicker than the rest was to set up the distrib/curve/timing, add headers or at least remove heat exhaust from manifold, use 160 Deg thermostat, block heat exhaust from entry in to intake manifold from exhaust on heads with copper square patch, and jet the carb/carbs primary and secondary. Heat spacer gaskets under carb/carbs, remove heat tube for carb choke and use electric choke. Add paper filter air cleaner for better air flow. Could take 350 hp GTO 442 SS396 done this way…and run circles around stock hemi, 440, 428 Mustangs etc. If you have not done this to your early 70’s 60’s, 50.s car…..you are missing out!
      Handling?…..Pffft…Nobody cared about handling…..it was all straight line…The theme of handling was in mags that were selling family cars….You bought a fast car and didn’t give a dang how it handled…..In the mid 70’s articles went big on handling…because the cars had nothing going straight….they needed something to write abou to go with Rich Corinthian Leather interiors…and coffin like velvet interiors….ugh!….
      The Runner above was cleaned up quite a bit, look at all the scum on air cleaner and under hood areas…it looked like scum everywhere till cleaned up some. Should be rock bottom price.

      • Alan (Michigan )

        Love it.

  19. jsilves1@tampabay.rr.com

    Sweet…

  20. jsilves1@tampabay.rr.com

    Danger Dan.. I can do that with a “Q” code Mustang and never look back at the smoke screen..

  21. Bobsmyuncle

    You are fooling yourself if you think these or any other domestic was worse than anything else. Take a deep breath and consider what was REALLY going on in the world of automobiles. ESPECIALLY among the same price range.

    Were these corner carvers? No but how many hillsides with switchbacks do you have in YOUR area.

    Fit and finnish on EVERTHING was appalling. Gas mileage didn’t matter to anyone in North America, and engineering was basic, logical, and enduring.

    Even today, why would one bother with a complicated, expensive short life span German V8 that will blow up when the timing belt slips when you can have a simple single cam push rod American V8 with the same horsepower (or more) and 300 (or more) thousand trouble free miles? Because of the redline? Pure silliness.

    No vintage car makes sense. They are all junk and most of them over priced compared to modern cars. You buy them for emotional reasons not pragmatic ones.

    No one can tell you whether a car moves you emotionally that is for YOU to decide.

  22. Peregrine Lance

    Under the rubric: “The only Plymouth I ever had…”

    In 1956, my dad traded in the 1950 Olds wagon for two cars: A big yellow sta-wag with that push-button gearbox; and what he forewarned us would be “a small ‘executive car.'” The latter was supposed to be just a daily “ride…”

    I shuddered to think of the “executive car.” No doubt it would be a fuddy-duddy black sedan, carrying an umbrella and wearing bifocals. Well…..what did it turn out to be? A 1956 two-tone coupe, standard shift, and a V-8 that HAULED ASS!!!!! I couldn’t wait to be 16; one night, I sneaked the car out, and found Coltrane Road, a couple miles of straight Oklahoma back-stretch. Got it up to 105. No matter what I’ve owned since, that Plymouth “Executive” car stands out! (No doubt it would show up on a DNA test of any Duster!)

  23. Art M.

    True. These old muscle cars take us back to our youth. Especially those of us who couldn’t afford them then. My first car was a 70 Malibu with a 307/powerglide. I loved it, but it wouldn’t fall out of a tree if you pushed it. Now go to my garage and look at my 70 SS454(LS5) and wish I enjoyed it half as much as I did my first car.

    Nostalgia is what drives the price of these cars now. So, yes someone will also be there to purchase these cars and they will spend astronomical amounts of cash on them. In the end only the one buying the car can tell you if its worth it. From my standpoint it is.

  24. HeadMaster1

    I drove a 70GTX in High School, NO I wasn’t spoiled or that cool. I grew up next to a military base, and half the junior and senior girls dated marines…..These same marines would always get stationed over in Okinawa and leave their HS girl friends their cool cars………Guess what the two-timing girls did with those cars??? I never knew who’s rubber I was burning, but I was 17yo driving a kick-as muscle car and enjoying other benefits ;-) The GTX would burn them until you let off, but the dam drum brakes would nearly kill you……..Now as a 47yo, I feel bad about my behavior, but if I had to do it over again……I wouldn’t change a thing !!!!!!

  25. John H.

    Jesse, if you are looking for handling and performance in this vintage, you need to look at the TransAm cars. That would be Mustang Boss 302, AAR Cuda, T/A Challenger, Z28 Camaro and AMC Javelin ( forgot model, it’s the Mark Donahue developed car). These were designed for road racing, not straight lines. Sometimes these versions are referred to as “Pony” cars. They were all limited volume cars because each manufacturer just sold enough of them to reach the minimum volumes necessary to qualify them to race. While the AMCs as fully race prepped won the most races and championships, ironically in the version sold by dealerships it was the AAR Cuda that was the fastest road racing car that a civilian could buy. There were side by side independent road tests done about 10 years ago on fully restored cars to verify this (I have copy of the test results). I saved my pennies and sold my children and now own an AAR Cuda, and I can tell you that the only thing that is not up to snuff by today’s standards in the brake technology. If you want a “muscle” car with performance and handling, these cars are the way to go.

  26. Jim Ward

    Had a 65 SS Impala 4 speed / a 70 AMC Rebel Machine 4 speed and a 74 Javelin this on a 401 4 speed and many others from the same era. The javelin was the nastiest of of all of them. Everyone complains about the stopping and handling of the older cars ,think about it back then most people did not know it could get better now of course we can compare and most old cars what does it matter they don’t get driven enough to complain about them. Poor gas milage big deal you only drive it how far a year. Drum brakes poor handling if you want something that does these things resto-mod one or get something that fits your wants. Think about why you want it and get something to fill that need. Sorry about the rant but hey if you don’t like the handling or whatever don’t buy it. Love the site love reading the responses.

  27. Ed P

    Another thing Jim: After you have spent many dollars and hours restoring a car, who would drive it like a maniac anyway? I would not risk wrecking all that work.

    • Gary I

      Nothing about muscle cars is cheap, parts brake when your having a good time sometimes and that’s part of the commitment to keeping them on the road! They were not only built to abuse (part of the appeal), but have had Americas youth torture them for decades. They may very well need complete restorations to bring them back from the grave, but those that care to do so reap the benefits of being able to abuse them for another go around. You can not wipe the grin off my face sometimes! Literally! Love them or leave them, you either get it or you don’t, and if they are not your style that is okay too, they don’t need to be any more popular, as they cost plenty already. Wouldn’t brake my heart a bit if they fell out of favor and my greedy hands could hold the steering wheel of every year and make of muscle car made (while I enjoy driving with a grin from ear to ear). Don’t buy for the investment, buy for the enjoyment of ownership.

      Like 1
      • Alan (Michigan )

        An enthusiastic +1

        Like 1
    • Alan (Michigan )

      “Maniac” is perhaps over the top to describe those who like to use the performance, instead making a trailer queen out of a muscle car.
      Risks can be minimized, all things being equal. As with all cars, zero dui sessions is mandatory.

  28. Jim Ward

    Alan I think no one has a problem with using your car. The problem I have is when you do use it to the max and know the brakes and handling are what they are them complain that it does not stop or handle like a new car with better technology and parts.

  29. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    guess I’ve owned most – 390 Cougar – still love my 390’s have 3 in trucks I use / SS427 and SS396 Impalas, and my mopars….and my mopars really would put you the seat and not break….the brakes ? try on those big 12″ factory on the big motor cars….hell my 1956 Fury and Dodge D500 has 12″ er’s….did have a 350 Nova with factory 3 speed in floor that was fun….

  30. Steve

    In 77 I was a police officer and bought one of our retired cars with a 440. Found a flawless 69 Road Runner convertible sitting in a yard so figured it was an easy swap. Owner said he was racing when it backfired and quit running. I bought it for $500, towed it home and when I pulled the timing cover sure enough the gear and chain were broken. Replaced it and drove the car back to pick up the registration. Needless to say the former owner almost stroked out. Was the fastest Mopar I ever owned, except the 67 Satellite I own now with 440. Love those Mopars!

  31. john visconti

    I have a 70 RR and paid big money for it worth every penny

    Like 1

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