Rediscovering a 1969 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner: A Hidden Gem from Muscle Car History -43

It's a golden anniversary of the muscle car era, a time when legends were born, and the open road beckoned with power, speed, and raw American muscle. While many of these iconic cars have become fading memories, there's an enduring magic in discovering rare gems still concealed in barns and backyards. One such treasure is the 1969 Plymouth HEMI Road Runner, brought back into the light of day.


Rescued and safeguarded by Dale of "Old Skool Rides," this Mopar possesses a somewhat mysterious past. Although the car's extended hiatus from the road is unmistakable, the exact duration of its slumber remains a puzzle. The setting, whether it was a barn's sanctuary or a yard's shelter, remains shrouded in uncertainty. Yet, a quick look at the remarkably preserved body panels suggests a life well-protected indoors.


At this juncture, the Road Runner stands as a promising project car. Its original paint has gracefully yielded to time, and some body panels have received a touch of renewal over the years. While the rear fenders show a hint of rust at their base, the rest of the shell remains impressively straight and unblemished.

Although it lacks much of its chromed glory, and the interior appears to have been carefully stripped away, Dale reveals that a trove of missing parts resides in boxes, a glimmer of hope for this dormant legend. It's evident that this Road Runner embarked on a journey toward restoration at some point, a venture that fate did not allow to flourish. Its history also whispers that it once graced the racetrack under the ownership of a previous speed enthusiast.



However, one question lingers: does the heart of this HEMI still beat with the rare 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8? Regrettably, the engine no longer resides under the hood, but the original transmission stands as a silent sentinel. The precise nature of this transmission, whether a four-speed manual or an automatic, remains an enigma.



While it might seem a tad disheartening that this HEMI Road Runner is presently a rolling shell, one cannot overlook its exceptional rarity. In 1969, the Road Runner hit its zenith, with sales reaching a notable 81,105 units. However, only a minuscule fraction of these bore the crown jewel, the HEMI engine.


To put it into perspective, a mere 787 units were equipped with the NASCAR-spec powerplant, accounting for a mere 1% of the entire production. But this particular gem stands apart, being a post car, one of just 356 coupes to leave the showroom that year. If it sports a four-speed, that number dwindles to 194 units, and an automatic narrows it down to a mere 162.



In every respect, this is a rare muscle car, one deserving of a complete restoration with an authentic HEMI heart. Rest assured, that day will come. However, for now, Dale's aspiration is to breathe life back into this relic, installing an engine, reinvigorating the transmission, and getting the car back on the road where it belongs.


In its current state, this Road Runner holds tremendous potential, standing on the precipice of becoming a Concours-worthy Mopar, a treasure valued in the six figures. While purists may lament the absence of the original, numbers-matching HEMI, the market has shown that even replacements can command prices exceeding $100,000. This is more than a car; it's a testament to an era, and its revival is a celebration of the past, with many promising tomorrows to come.



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