Fun Driver: 1973 Plymouth Road Runner 440

Looks can be deceptive. The hood decals on this 1973 Plymouth Road Runner tell us one thing, but the reality is something altogether different. This is a car that manages to recapture the essence of its fire-breathing predecessors and should have enough power on tap to satisfy the most hardened of performance enthusiasts. All good things must come to an end, so the owner has decided to part with his powerful Plymouth. It is located in Spokane, Washington, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. The BIN has been set at $24,500, but there is the option to make an offer. I’m not surprised that there are already 96 people watching the listing.

The Road Runner is finished in Code B5 True Blue Metallic, and it cuts a tough-looking figure. The Plymouth did receive a repaint years ago, and while it is not perfect, it still looks very acceptable for a driver-quality car. As you will see, this owner’s primary focus with the Road Runner has been on outright performance, with its appearance playing second fiddle. That isn’t to say that it looks terrible because it should still turn heads wherever it goes. The panels appear to be straight, with no evidence of significant dings or dents. Potential buyers don’t need to fret about rust problems because this classic is rock-solid and rust-free. The trim, chrome, and glass all look good, while the Rallye wheels add to this car’s purposeful appearance. That is an impression that this classic makes with some justification.

Now we get to the crux of what makes this Road Runner so special, and I wish that we had a better photo of the engine. The Plymouth rolled off the line fitted with a 340ci V8, a 3-speed TorqueFlite transmission, power steering, and power brakes. The V8 would have been producing 240hp, which was enough to send the Road Runner through the ¼ mile in 16-seconds dead. Even if you emptied your wallet at the dealership in 1973, the best that you could hope for was a 440 that produced 280hp. Neither option was enough to satisfy this owner, so he has taken a 440 and gone slightly mad. It has been equipped with aluminum heads, roller rockers, an Edelbrock Performer-Plus intake and matching carburetor, headers, and a Flowmaster dual exhaust. I have no idea what this monster now pumps out, but I would be willing to bet that it is considerably more than 280hp. All of those horses need to find their way to the road, so it is fed through a heavy-duty TorqueFlite transmission fitted with a shift kit. From there, it falls to an 8¾” Sure Grip rear end to feed the power to the pavement. I suspect that it would blow the 16-second ET that I mentioned earlier 10-feet in the air. The owner says that the Road Runner runs and drives very well, and I can’t see any reason to doubt him.

The interior of this Plymouth makes a bad first impression, but things improve when you look more closely. It is the aftermarket seats that dominate, and these would have to go. Therefore, it is good news that the original buckets are included, although they will need covers. Finding these in the correct shade and material is easy, and a pair for the front seats will set you back around $450. The carpet has seen better days, and while I had the seats out, I’d drop in a new carpet set. This will add a further $160 to the total, but that should be all that the buyer will need to spend. The dash and pad look faultless, as does the console. The woodgrain inserts have managed to avoid looking tired, while the door trims and remaining upholstered surfaces look to be in good condition. The gauge cluster looks clean and features a factory tach, while the original radio remains in situ.

For buyers in 1973, the fire-breathing Road Runners that were available a few short years earlier must have seemed a world away. The reality is that the emission changes that occurred during this period were necessary, but it took car manufacturers a long time to claw back the performance that was lost in a few short years. The drivetrain combination in this classic should have clawed back some of those losses and would provide acceleration that will pin you in the seat when the right boot hits the floor. However, it has been sensibly engineered to be as bulletproof as possible. This isn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is more like the Big Bad Wolf in a regular wolf’s clothes. Do any of our readers feel up to the challenge of parking this one in their garage? If you do, I can hardly blame you.

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Comments

  1. Ronald Pringle Member

    Love. This! Had a Sebring Plus with a weezzzeee, 318 2 barrel. It was an RB block. Code TP , which I think meant Totally Pathetic. It got 9 mpg? My class C motor home had a 360 and got11 mpg. Go fugue.. The Richard Petty blue dash and console is different. Cool car. My turd brown Plus was a nice place to be in for the long drive to and from work.I live in Fresno and drove to Los Banos, Caterpillar Tractor. Dependable- VERY.

    Like 6
    • Gus Fring

      No, an “RB” (Raised Block) is a 413/426W/440 block. The B engines were 350, 361, 383, and 400. The 318, 340, and 360, in this era, were “Light A” blocks or, “LA” for short.

      Like 13
    • Boatman Member

      My Plus had a 400. All you needed.

      Like 2
  2. Ed Hardt

    16 second 1/4 mile? I guess it looks as good as it performs. Watch out found for those Honda Civics

    Like 2
  3. Ralph

    Hey Ronald.
    My 73 with a 400 ci and auto got over 16mpg with a 2 barrel carb. And well over 22 mpg on the interstate, (22mpg at 55 mph, 25mpg at 65) for some reason the mileage was better at 65mpp or above up to about 75mph when it would drop off.
    Drove a couple of these with the 318 also. real SLOW cars. So I also had a Challenger with a 318, it was also slow, felt power starved. I wonder if the 318 was just not enough to haul the weight of these around without drinking the gas? What are your thoughts?

    Like 4
    • Skorzeny

      Ralph, my dad had a ’70 Buick Electra that did the same thing, it got better mileage at a higher speed. I can’t remember what the two speeds were… Still, with a 455 we’re talking in LOW double digits.

      Like 2
    • Russell

      Was it final. ie rear end, gearing causing the difference. If the vehicle was initially set for 70+ speed limits and then thrust, thanks Carter, down to 55 … you (we) might have been lugging the engine at that speed … just a thought.

      Like 2
  4. Ralph

    This looks like an easy fixer. Really not a lot to do here.
    My biggest problem would be to not drive this everyday, the temptation is too great.
    Wish I could buy it.
    Best to seller and buyer.

    Like 4
  5. Chris K

    That’s not B5 blue. The car is “Petty” blue or more correctly Basin Street blue.

    Like 10
  6. Dave

    Around here, the speed shops did very well with engine rebuilding and upgrades. Headers, cams, pistons, intake manifolds, carbs. All easily obtained from the junkyard or over the counter at your friendly dealer. There were more than a few smogmobiles that could hold their own versus their older, rust-ravaged brethren.

    Like 2
  7. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    I was hoping that these wouldn’t become 25K cars until several years after I bought one.

    I guess I won’t be getting one after all…..

    Like 3
    • Steve R

      Keep looking, the best deals are rarely advertised. Many, if not most of the cars featured on this site are being flipped, they were bought at what was likely a much more reasonable price. The key to finding value is by playing in the same pool as they are, which generally means finding cars via word of mouth.

      Steve R

      Like 7
  8. Gus Fring

    Nice car, it will only go up in value. If it was a factory 440 car, it would be WAAAAAY more. They are rapidly approaching the $40-45K mark already.

    Like 3
    • Ray

      Keeping the 340 and putting the same amount of work into it would’ve made it worth more. The racing seats have gotta go.

      Like 4
  9. David

    Can’t go wrong On this one. Be the hi bidder

    Like 3
  10. JoeNYWF64

    Much more tasteful sides/roof decal here than on the Starky Torino.
    The one avail on the Pinto also looked better.
    Too bad they don’t make sport seats in blue – it seems all mainstream accessories today are black or grey – including seat covers & floor mats – yawn. Perfect for when the sun bakes the interior.

  11. Angrymike

    The color actually looks to be “basin street blue” but I don’t remember the code for it.

    Like 5
    • DON

      you’re right , its Basin Street blue

      Like 3
    • Phil D

      Basin Street Blue/Super Blue was TB3. It is also Chrysler’s Corporate Blue, as well as Plymouth’s divisional color.

      Being Corporate Blue is the reason for the “T” in the color code. Beginning in the 1970 model year, Chrysler began using a three character color designation to relieve the confusion caused by the two character designations having to be recycled so often. Colors carried over from ’68 and ’69 began with “D” and “E” respectively, colors that were new for ’70 began with “F”, colors new for ’71 began with “G”, etc. The exception to that rule were colors in their palate that were considered permanent, which began with “T”, like TX9 Black. Corporate Blue being a permanent fleet color for corporate trucks and for Dodge pickups ordered under their corporate identity program for Chrysler-Plymouth dealers, was TB3. When the color was added to the high impact paint palate for ’72, it was given more appealing names for marketing purposes, but retained it’s TB3 color code instead of being “re-coded” as HB3.

      Like 3
  12. Lynn Dockey Member

    Calling Mark Worman!!! That dude has all
    the codes memorized.

    Like 3
  13. MARK L COTE

    I bought a ’73 Road Runner in March of ’73. It had a 340 with a 4 speed, I changed the rear gear to a 3.90 for the track and it ran a best of 14.80 @ 95 M.P.H. with Polyglass F70 14 street tires! That car weighed 3980 lbs!

    Like 3
  14. Troy s

    There’s no replacement for displacement as the old saying goes, at least for maximum forward acceleration. Of course the 440 will make this go, especially with mods like it has. Ten miles per gallon…uphill downhill flat ground, idling,, but so what really. People who get all excited by getting fifty miles per gallon in their latest smart car won’t be interested in this old Road Runner anyways.
    I like this one, hopped up engine without a bunch of chrome stuff and left looking fairly stock in appearance.

    Like 2
  15. Lash

    Did they paint it with a brush?? That’s hideous.

  16. Kevin

    Nice car,I would have fun with it.i had a 73 318 2-barrel,in the 80’s and it would burn the tires,and get 14 mpg local,delivered pizza with it,loved that car,even though it was a brown 4-door.

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