Perfect Patina: 1971 Plymouth Road Runner 383

I have to tell you, I had strong disdain For Chrysler Corporation’s “fuselage” bodied intermediates introduced for the 1971 model year. After living with the beautifully balanced lines of the ’68-’70 “B” bodies including the Road Runner, GTX, Coronet/Super Bee and Charger, I was not impressed. Well this is one of those examples where time has altered my opinion and the fuselage body design has grown on me over the years. Here’s a telling example, a 1971 Plymouth Road Runner, located in Ontario, New York and available here on eBay for a current bid of $8,200. Thanks to Patrick S for the tip!

The Road Runner story is pretty well known, it was to be the cheaper, stripped-down, less powerful version of the better-appointed GTX – kind of a hot rod taxicab. While the Road Runner maintained that basic vibe, it became less utilitarian as time went on. But the marketing purpose remained, high-performance on the cheap.

This 1971 Road Runner, like the three model years that preceded it, is powered by Chrysler Corporation’s 383 CI “B” block engine. The ’68 to ’70 version was referred to as the “Magnum” and generated 335 gross HP. By 1971, the Federally mandated Clean Air Act of 1970 started to take its toll on high horsepower engines and the 383 was reduced to 300 gross HP; still enough grunt to have some fun but it’s not going to set the world on fire. As it turned out, 1971 was the final year for this storied engine, it was replaced by a 400 CI unit in 1972. As is commonly found in a Road Runner, the ever-present, A727 TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission backs up the motor. The owner tells us this Bird runs and drives “great”.

Now is probably the appropriate time to mention that this Road Runner has appeared in August of this year in Mopar Connection Magazine and you can view the article here. The connection in Mopar Connection to this Road Runner is its “perfect patina”, in other words how it has aged gracefully. This is a big trend in collectible cars these days; there are restoration shops that will either preserve the patina or even create it from scratch if so desired. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s gaining ground nevertheless.

So, what do we see inside? Patina I guess; ripped upholstery and a cracked dash pad. The seller states that it is all original but tattered, I would agree. One nice period touch appears to be what looks like an 8-track player secured under the dash.

In looking at body & platform integrity, the seller claims it to be rot free other than a small perforation in the truck floor and some bubbling under the vinyl roof covering, beyond that all original and untouched. This is an Oklahoma car and Oklahoma has a variety of weather, some of it advantageous to older cars and some not. This Mopar, like others of its generation, is subject to rust in floors, body panels, and reinforced platform members, probably more so than some other brands but this one looks solid and as the seller reminds us, it’s original. This Road Runner only has 68,000 miles on the clock so obviously it has spent a lot of time sitting in what I would imagine have been preferable conditions. The sun, however, somewhere over this car’s 48-year life span has worked the finish, hard.

There’s no getting around it, I like this car, fuselage body style or not. The originality of it really creates a certain cachet. In many respects, Road Runners were disposable cars. They were reasonably priced and sold to young guys who were going to run them hard, probably modify them and then pass them down to the next in line with a continuous succession of owners until finally abandoned in the woods someplace in Oklahoma. Congrats are in order for this Road Runner, it has made it. So tell me, leave it with patina or return it to like new, what’s your preference?

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Comments

  1. KSwheatfarmer

    We had a Mopar dealer in town in the 70-s, he sold quite a lot of cars and pickups early on. I remember well the guy who bought one of these new,carrying both the Road Runner and GTX call outs,don’t think he ever found out what happened with that,I know he tried.I say leave this one alone,we have enough “restored” ones.

    Like 4
  2. TimM

    Best front bumper of all times!! This car reminds me of Richard Petty!!! I remember the blue and orange (I think) NASCAR that he drove and that sinister front grill!!!

    Like 14
    • jerry z

      I have to agree on the front bumper. Richard Petty’s Plymouths were originally blue till STP came on board which resulted in the blue/orange combo.

      Like 2
    • JoeNYWF64

      True, but gotta be heavy as hell, like the ’67-73 firebird ones, ’68-72 gto ones, etc.

  3. David

    Thanks for the article! This beauty is mine 🙃

    Like 11
  4. Wayne

    I agree that the previous generation of this body was “cleaner”, but you can’t deny the sinister appeal of that front end. I remember my grade 3 teacher Mrs. Blanchard drove a Sebring of this vintage, blue with a white vinyl top, it looked good to the 8 year old me, and this one looks good, “as is”, as well. I would refurb the interior for comfort, and leave the exterior as is.

    Like 6
  5. Del

    Restore it to original.

    Patina makes me nauseous

    Like 30
  6. Mark

    Patina? Not a car like this. It definitely needs complete restoration including a full paint job in the original color (or at least a factory color from that year). Patina effect only looks good on all trucks, not automobiles!

    Like 10
  7. Spanky

    I would do turquoise w white buckets, black interior, no vinyl roof, painted bumpers and strobe maybe some drivetrain and suspension improvements later on.

    Like 1
    • Tom Bell

      Joking, of course??

      Like 11
  8. Big Len

    The vinyl roof would be the first to go.

    Like 4
  9. Nick

    You might have disdain because you have no taste, this generation 71-72 only, are great looking cars and a natural progression from the earlier shape. The car in this ad is a stripper, see below for the other end of the spectrum.
    http://gtcarlot.com/news/photo.php?id=69840340

    Like 10
  10. S diveley

    What a scam this ” patina ” thing is. Brought on by those too cheap to return a car to its original or better condition. The same type of people who will promote the “wonderfulness” of a cracked dashboard because ” it’s only original once”. Yuck.

    Like 7
  11. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    A good-looking car and the loop front bumper suits the overall style well. As I’ve mentioned several times before, what some call “patina” is just worn out paint and surface rust. Let’s be honest, it looks like hell on any car. With fresh paint and some interior work, this car will be a stand out. Good original paint should be preserved, it’s rare on an old car. “Patina” is the refuge of the guy too cheap to paint a car that needs it. As far as patina “gaining ground” with collectors and judging by past comments here on Barnfinds, I just don’t see it as a trend, it’s more of a fad that is on the way out.

    Like 14
  12. Doug B

    WE have a dealer here who had one of these model cars for sale last year . The dealer sells kind of classic cars . Any way he had one of these that had a road runner and gtx emblems and I was told it was all original and was asking 30000 for it . And it sold within a short period of time .

    Like 2
  13. Troy s

    Looks more sinister with the black wheels in the first picture. Somewhere in between patina and presentable…a bit worn and rough around the edges. That’s how I like these. Oh, and angry sounding.

    Like 2
  14. JC

    I hate the term patina used in reference to cars… rust everywhere and a tore up interior is garbage… not “patina”…

    Like 4
    • space GREGORY POLLACK

      Well to set the story straight on the engines that you say are Magnum.
      Dodge was the Magnum, Chrysler was the TNT, and Plymouth big block 383 was the commando the 440 was the super commando.
      Nuff said

      Like 2
  15. Pete in PA

    I’m with Jim on the subject of post-1970 Road Runners/GTXs — blech. Now the front end is good, as is the dash and interior. Side view is okay, at least up to and including the doors. It’s all down hill after that and the straight-on rear view is terrible. Big flat trunk lid face and that bumper with the built-in tail lights… Yuck. Give me a 68-70 any time.

    Like 1
  16. BG in AK

    This body style has always been my favorite.
    Just lower it a little bit, fill those wheel wells with rubber and have a healthy power train to move it.
    Can you say ‘Intimidating’ ?

    Like 3
  17. Cooter914 Cooter914 Member

    I’ll be the first to admit I’m not encyclopedic about these models (or any for that matter lol), but have the doors been replaced at some point or is the darker bronze paint on the insides a Mopar thing?

  18. John Oliveri

    Restore it, find buckets and a console, add pistol grip 4 speed, triple black or black exterior white interior, white stripes, leave the 8 track and the FM converter under the dash, classic A/C perfect car

    Like 2
    • bone

      If you restore it, it would still be gold and have the bench seat and the 727 . If you add parts that didn’t come with the car, then its not “restored”

  19. Sal E

    I love this body style . I’d eventually restore it, but I wouldn’t mind driving around in it like this for a while. Throw on a nice set of period 15 inch mags with a fat staggered set of tires-give it a little rake. A properly grumbly exhaust Then a cheap seat cover and a decent stereo. Only thing that bugs me is the hideous vinyl roof that marred most cars of this vintage. That would have to go.

    Like 1
  20. Mike Pepin

    Dodge had the Magnum engine, the Plymouth 383 was the Commando engine and the 440 was the Super Commando, said so right on the breather lid

  21. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Simply put – Love it!

    Like 2

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