Road Runners. Umm, you don't see them everyday. Especially like this one. This is like finding flesh-ripping teeth in an Easter chickie. Johnny, look, it's a freakin' ragtop. And wow, it's got a clutch pedal, too. Yup, we're gonna have some fun!
"The car is an original big-block 383 four-speed convertible, Regular Production Order RM27," says Year One's Brad Ocock. But it was a boo-coo mess. "It had been sitting outside for years. Every panel on the car was rusted through, with large sections of metal gone altogether. The cowl area was rusted. The floors were gone. The seam where the wheel tubs meet the floor of the trunk were rusted away an inch from the original joint on each side."
It gets worse. The gutter around the deck lid was wasted or just missing in many places and the car had body damage on all four corners. One door shell had been hit and was twisted. Even the headliner bows for the convertible top were eaten through by rust.
"It was basically the sheetmetal that was wasted," says Ocock. "The framerails, frame boxes and body mounts were in great shape. It was a complete car, but the damage was so extensive, it was questionable whether or not it could be salvaged."
Why bother? Mojo price tags materialize on select model Mopar iron (especially drop tops) and they continue to disappear into those low-lying clouds. Year One felt that the opportunity was way too valuable to broom (2,218 Road Runner convertibles were built in the 1969 model year), and could there be a better place to exhibit its trove of NOS sheetmetal, patch panels, fasteners, and ancillary glitter and bits?
The junk that was a car-a novice project it ain't-reanimated by the hands of experience.
The whole thing happened at the Year One shop in Braselton, Georgia. Year One's veterans put on a hinged fiberglass Six-Pack hood, built a custom front bumper and paired 'Cuda road lamps with a custom-built air dam. And when the sheetmetal guys had had enough, Steve Jones applied the Southern Polyurethane '02 Viper Red and painted the gloss strobes and the "505" engine callouts on the billboards.
For more Year One volunteers, the car had become a six-month-long obsession. It rolled in from the body shop as a shell. They put it completely back to form in three weeks, finishing it... umm, let me see... yes! Was it the day before Power Tour departed from Florida last June? Suffice it to say, the Road Runner's introductory cruise from Braselton to Kissimmee proved safe and sane.
Since Year One is elbow deep in projects, the motor build for the Red Scythe was overseen by Hi-Tech Engines (www.hitechengines.com). Hi-Tech applied its own forged 4.250-inch stroker crank rotating assembly to a 440 block and got a displacement of 505 ci. A 10.2:1 compression ratio, 110 degree overlap, and Edelbrock aluminum heads let the engine run strong on 91 octane without a murmur.
This usual big cubic-inch engine has an unusual and very practical induction system: electronic fuel injection as enabled by an Edelbrock Six-Pack intake manifold modified for EFI by F&B Performance Engineered Products, Solana Beach, California (www.fbthrottlebodies.com), manned by three F&B 2-bbl throttle bodies. The repro air cleaner has been modified to fit.
A F.A.S.T. XFI engine management system calls about a million shots a minute, and is tuner friendly even for electronically chal-lenged dolts like me. A meaner, more business-like compact accessory dress option would be difficult to find: Billet Specialties Front Runner tucks everything in close, grouping all modules within the silhouette of the engine and makes an efficient though subdued statement completely without brightwork. Yeah, and she runs good, too. Dat Red Scythe fat-mout' RB wedge pours 486 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 and 510 hp at 5,400 rpm off the back tires.
The inside of the car is just as raucous as its exterior. Henderson Upholstery (Sugar Hill, Georgia) took command of the rags, applying those classic medieval colors in equal measures of leather and vinyl. The dashboard is total custom and wired with a loom produced in-house. Ask real nice, and Year One can whip one up for you too. The dashboard/gauge cluster treatment portrays perfect form. At once, the Classic Instruments meters hark the past, yet come off as clearly contemporary in the Red Scythe. The obligatory Colorado Custom steering wheel and Hurst dog-leg shifter set off the cockpit.
In the rear seat area, Year One fabbed custom speaker panels. The door panels and rear fabric panels are repro, but the console and kick panels were custom-built. Pro Touring to the end, the Red Scythe maintains a Vintage Air HVAC system and when the occupants are tired of having their wigs blown clean off, they can flip up the top and blow it out with an Alpine IVA-D310 monitor, DVD, and CD player. Front and rear horns are Boston Acoustic, pumped by Boston Acoustic 10-inch sub-woofers, a GT28 amp, and a GT12 amp. It all went in with Monster Cable wiring.
There are some very impulsive things about this car. At first, I couldn't grasp the intent. The graphics didn't thrill me. The whole thing seemed like a collage rather than a car with special paint on it. When I looked closer and stepped beyond prejudice, it made sense in several ways.
The Roadie Ragtop looks obtuse, corn-pone high-tech even, but is provocative nonetheless. Underneath that exterior there's an instrument of termination, one that will stand up to the worst and final punishment. In fact, this ragtop is a Mopar that even some Mopar heads won't abide. Wheel treatment and graphics are certainly a long way from the altar of aesthetics (or metal flake paint), but we're of the belief that credence expands from departures like the Year One Road Runner. It's a ballsy, persistent assault. It slaps you across the face, boxes your ears, and leaves you eager for more.
It's A Real Runner, Too
We know how a lot of you feel about show-only cars, and thankfully this isn't one of them, in spite of its show-winning looks. This is the real deal, a beat-on-it-'til-old-ladies-puke street bruiser. Not only did it crank on the Hot Rod Power Tour, we found it cutting corners at the Putnam Park Road Course at the Air Ride Street Challenge this September. One thing you can count on from Year One is that its project cars are the utmost in both drivability and fire-breathing street performance. They have to be, because they serve as calling cards to the general public. Yet Year One treads a thin line. Make your projects too highbrow and you turn people off. Build 'em too basic, and people think they're ho-hum. The Year One Road Runner is a slice down the middle, showing what's legitimately possible by the serious DIY enthusiast. And now, Mopar enthusiasts have yet another reason to get inspired by Year One's extensive line of pentastar parts.-Johnny Hunkins
By The Numbers
Year One * Braselton, GA * 1-800-Year-One
'69 Plymouth Road Runner
Vehicle weight w/driver: 4,133 lbs
|Type: ||Mopar 440 big-block displacing |
|505 ci (4.350 bore x 4.250 stroke) |
|Block: ||1969 vintage |
|Compression ratio: ||10.2:1 |
|Oiling: ||stock |
|Rotating assembly: ||4.250-inch stroke Hi-Tech forged crankshaft, |
|rods, and pistons |
|Cylinder heads: ||Edelbrock Performer RPM, ported |
|Camshaft: ||Hi-Tech hydraulic flat tappet (241 deg. @ .050, .544-inch lift) |
|Valvetrain: ||2.14/1.81-inch valves, 1.5:1 roller rockers |
|Induction: ||Edelbrock Six-Pack intake, 3x2-bbl EFI throttle bodies |
|Power adder: ||none |
|Ignition: ||Direct Connection distributor with MSD 6AL box |
|Exhaust: ||repro cast-iron manifolds, media honed |
|and port matched; repro stock exhaust system |
|Built by: ||Hi-Tech Engines |
|Transmission: ||Tremec TKO 600 five-speed, Ram clutch, |
|Lakewood bellhousing, Hurst Pistol Grip shifter |
|Driveshaft: ||custom 3-inch, by Ron's Drivelines (Gainesville, GA) |
|Rear Axle: ||Mopar 8-3/4 rear, |
|Direct Connection aluminum center section, |
|3.90:1 gears w/Auburn Gear diff. |
|Front suspension: ||Mopar Performance torsion bars, |
|Air Ride Shock Wave airbags, Hotchkis sway bar |
|Rear suspension: ||Air Ride Shock Wave airbags |
|and cage to mount the bags, struts, |
|and brackets, Hotchkis sway bar |
|Brakes: ||Baer six-piston calipers, 14-inch rotors, |
|front; Baer single-piston calipers, 13-inch rotors, rear |
|WHEELS & TIRES |
|Wheels: ||Colorado Custom Littleton 18x9, |
|front; Colorado Custom Littleton 19x10, rear |
|Tires: ||BFG KDW 255/40ZR18, front; |
|BFG KDW 295/35ZR19, rear |