1969 Plymouth Roadrunner A12 "Project Six Pack"
One of the finest Muscle and High Performance car showrooms in the world!
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Listed under categories:
1950-69 Post-War, Muscle/Performance, Race/Track/Rally
On the Plymouth side of the ledger, 615 A12 coded Plymouth Road Runners were produced, 227 with automatics and 388 with 4 speeds. Named Car of the Year by Motor Trend Magazine for 1969, Road Runners were a hit everywhere, but these A12 cars were purpose built by Chrysler to do one thing: rule the street! And rule the street and the dragstrips they did: Out of the box, these were the fastest cars every produced by Chrysler...faster than any stock factory hemi car! With features like a Dana 60, three Holley 2 barrels on top of a built 440 engine, a lightweight Edelbrock manifold, removable fiberglass hood and a host of other goodies, these cars were Chrysler's definitive statement of the muscle car era. And, as the history books show, these cars were used and used hard! Very few of the A12 cars exist today with their original drive trains, as most of them were blown up early on in their lives, as they pounded dragstrips all over the United States.
Now let's switch gears. Over the last 3-4 years, some of the hottest cars in the collector car market have been the vintage drag racers. I've watched these restored cars that made history during the muscle car era bring huge money...upwards of one million dollars. In response, people sitting on these vintage pieces all over the country have rushed to pretty them up and cash in on the frenzy. One common theme with these cars is they have very little, if any, of the original parts and pieces that were with the cars when they made history. In fact, the vast majority of them were built 7 times over and then stuffed away in a garage when they were too broken and tired to compete any longer. Restore the cars with a trailer load or non-original parts, put on a shiny new paint job, have the guy that raced the original car back in 1970 show up and PRESTO , half a million bucks!
Now, what if one of these cars existed that was absolutely, 100% authentic? And what if this car only had one owner its entire life? And what if that owner was a writer for a national drag racing publication and the car was featured in print, over 50 times, over the span of four decades? And what if that car was a multiple National NHRA champion, setting National Class Records on three separate occasions? And what if that car was an extremely low production, historically significant car with all of its original documents, including the original title? How rare would this car be? I would submit that this would be one of the rarest and most historically significant muscle cars in the history of the hobby.
If you are a serious muscle car collector or Mopar fan, this 1969 1/2 Plymouth Road Runner A12 is the very definition of the muscle car era, and a crown jewel for any serious collection. On July 30, 1969, Edward G. “Ted” Struse, Jr. of Philadelphia, PA purchased this car from Knopf Motors, Inc., of Ambler, PA. Present is the ORIGINAL dealer Bill of Sale, the ORIGINAL Retail Installment Contract with Chrysler Credit Corporation; the ORIGINAL title issued August 25, 1969, the ORIGINAL Chrysler Corporation Car Production Broadcast Sheet; the ORIGINAL Operator's Manual, and; the ORIGINAL Warranty Booklet (with the correct tag on the front cover for 440 6 pack cars). The 1969 1/2 Road Runner that Ted Struse purchased was configured as follows: (01133) Lynch Road base/gate number; (275276 (Lynch Road sequence number0 (925) 440+6, 4 speed-spec engine; (999) special axle 4.10 ratio Dana 60; (603) 18 spline A-833 4 speed; (26) 26" radiator; (A12) 440+6 package group; (97 97) body/roof paint colors, Rallye Green; (M2X) Road Runner (base) bench seat interior, black; (X9) Black upper door frame paint; (RM21) Road Runner 2 door post coupe; (E63) 383 4 barrel (cars were converted, this is correct for A12 cars); (D21) 4 speed transmission; (426) April 26 1969 build date, and; (948818) vehicle order number. The rest, as they say, is history. See, Ted Struse wasn't your typical Mopar fan, nor was he a teenager looking for a hot car to thrash at the local dragstrip. Ted Struse was a real gear head and also just happened to be a writer for Super Stock & Drag Illustrated. He purchased the A12 Road Runner because he knew what a special car it was. From the day he purchased the car, it was garaged and never spent a night outdoors. Moreover, the car was only driven in good weather, as it was practically useless on a wet road! Originally, he purchased the Road Runner for everyday driving, but quickly realized that due to the extremely poor fuel economy and massive power generated by the 440 6 Pack engine, this was not a car that could not, as a practical matter, be driven daily. Ted drove the car regularly through early 1970, and then only took it out on special occasions.
In late 1971, the Road Runner was driven on the road for the very last time in its life. At that point, Ted started to race the Road Runner at Atco Dragway in New Jersey on weekends, and started piling up a lot of class winner trophies with the car. In 1972, when the NHRA dropped a bomb on the sport of drag racing, Ted decided to take the gloves off. To quote Ted Struse from the July, 1972 issue of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated, "Until 1972, anything affordable enough for the average guy to drive on the street wouldn't have a snowball's chance of picking up a major eliminator win, let alone set a national record. Fully realizing that street racing was becoming a real problem, the folks at NHRA set about to try and remedy the situation. The result is a set of rules that go a long way toward bridging the gap between competitive strip and sensible street." Ted was referring to the newly created Stock Eliminator class. Think about it...the early muscle cars spawned the factory drag racing wars of the early 1960's, which spawned ever wilder muscle cars in the late 1960's. Throughout this era, cars continued to go faster and faster, both on the street and at the strip, but at a certain point, a separation occurred. To be competitive at the strip, you had to spend a fortune, and you had to build a car that was not a functional street machine. This helped spawn an ever-growing and ever more dangerous street racing culture (which Chrysler paid homage to with the A12 cars), so the NHRA decided to set everything right by creating the Stock Eliminator class. The rules were straightforward: headers were out, slicks were out and nothing but stock cams were allowed. Distributors had to retain their stock body and lightweight racing pistons were not allowed. There were many other changes as well. The cutoff for Stock Eliminator was 9.0 pounds per advertised horsepower. This rule was put into effect due to NHRA's desire to eliminate the super high risk machines from the category, thus freeing the budget racer from the necessity of having a scatter shield to compete. Simply put, this new class, with its associated rules, provided the opportunity for a sharp guy with a decent car to win the nationals, and then drive the car home afterwards. With this new class in mind, Project Six Pack was born, and officially debuted in the July 1972 issue of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated.
The purpose of Project Six Pack was simple: to go after the record and national competition in A/SA class, and, while doing so, document the entire project in the pages of Super Stock, and pass along the performance gains & knowledge to their readership base. In the October and November 1972 issues, multiple pages and pictures document how the car was set up in preparation for a run at the national title. Run only 11 times in 1972, Project Six Pack tied the national record for the class on its second run, running a 13.12 at 109.09. The car was tweaked for 1973, where it immediately set its sight on the national record of 12.47, set by another A12 Road Runner. While it did not achieve this mark in 1973, the team of Struse, Smith, Welsh, Shaws, Risslers and S/S Magazine continued to tweak and campaign it for years. Project Six Pack went on to break and hold both ends of the C/S National Record, won class at the Sports Nationals two years in a row, and won a trailer full of local Stock Eliminator titles. The car ran a best of 11.61 at 118.26, all in NHRA legal trim.
Present with this car are the ORIGINAL NHRA National Class Record certificates and every issue of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated which featured Project Six Pack, all the way through August 1985. The August 1985 issue is an especially significant piece, written by Ted Struse, and outlines the history of the car, right back to the day it was purchased by him in 1969. In that final issue, Ted Struse hinted at the future for his baby which was resting quietly in his garage in Colorado. In the summer 1990 issue of Mopar Muscle, Project Six Pack awoke from its long slumber and started a new life, stretching through Mopar Muscle and High Performance Mopar through March 2002.
The final public iteration of Project Six Pack was produced by a team of guys that’s a virtual who's who of the Mopar high performance hobby: Herb McCandless, Ken Lazzeri and Russ Flagle produced an Indy Cylinder Head engine so close to perfect that it needed to be heard and felt to be believed. With 15:1 compression and a 7500 RPM shift point, this is not the early 1970's 440 6 Pack! Frank Lupo of Dynamic Converters and driver/mechanic Lou Carbone also played a big hand in achieving a best run of 9.98 seconds with the car. For most of these guys, the ability to work with Ted Struse and Project Six Pack was a labor of love. For example, Frank Lupo's parents sponsored the green Beeper when he was a child. The transmission was a seriously built 727 with a reverse pattern manual valve body, rollerized and lightened planetary assembly, rollerized rear support and a heavy-duty bolt in the sprag—the works. Also playing a huge part in the rebirth of Project Six Pack was Carl Solko, a talented mechanic and fabricator who built his own “Project Six Pack” many years earlier based on one of the original Super Stock Magazine articles. Other individuals who helped were Jim Zellner, Gary Gokey, Bob Stavik and Mike Motgard. They ran the car more than 100 times with this new drivetrain configuration and were featured prominently at national Mopar events through 2006.
Now…fast forward to July 9, 2009. At a special, private event held in conjunction with the Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals, attended by the automotive press, a strong contingent from the Lift-Off Hood Playground/Forum, and a virtual who’s who list of Mopar and Super Stock legends, including: Jim McCraw, Terry Welsh, Bob Karakashian, John Wehrley, Herb McCandless, Al Adams, Tom Hoover & Tom Coddington, Best of Show Automotive unveils the “restored to NHRA Class Record Holder Form” Project Six Pack, painstakingly redone down to every minute detail. Working closely with Ted Struse, we restored this pristine, 12,000 actual mile car back to its 1973-1975 state, using original parts tucked away by Ted since 1969. Project Six Pack then goes on display as part of the A12 40th year reunion at Carlisle to be seen and admired by more than 100,000 show attendees. Present at the event (and signing autographs) is Ted Struse, the original and only owner of this important car.
The restoration of Project Six Pack began with a complete disassembly of the car, with the body and panels being sent out for dipping and e-coating. Upon their return, the body was placed on a rotisserie and the rebuild begun. The tubs and cage which were added in 1990 were removed, with a new trunk floor, rear floor pan and wheel houses TIG or spot welded into place. Special care was taken to replicate all factory welds. In fact, if we didn’t tell you, you’d never know that this car was ever cut!
After the body was massaged to perfection, PPG base coat (DBC)/clear coat (2002) Rallye Green was laid down in a manner that Chrysler never dreamed of in 1969! The original gold lace paint was replicated by hand, using pictures that were taken before the disassembly of the car, using extra lace that Ted had kept! We even duplicated the “stretched” look at the back of the hood scoop!
The original decals, emblems and stickers were replicated by Ted and sent out for reproduction. Using stencils and photographs kept by Ted, all of the painted details were recreated EXACTLY on the car. All of Project Six Pack’s original brightwork, stainless steel and chrome was sent out for expert refinishing and was installed back on the car, along with all of the mint original glass. The trunk was properly refinished and painted and there’s a new trunk mat in place. No jack or spare is present in the trunk, but the ORIGINAL windshield wipers are in the trunk, taped together, as Ted had them in 1973. That’s how Ted said he did it; so did we! Needless to say, every gasket, bumper, seal and weather strip is new. The end result is, to say the least, jaw-dropping!
The undercarriage is done the way this car rolled off of the assembly line, with correct grey-dip primer and blown overspray. The front suspension and braking systems were rebuilt using the original parts that Ted removed from the car in 1990. To make the car authentic to “as raced” condition, small block torsion bars were installed up front along with Monroe shocks. In the rear, we installed 1967 Chrysler C body shocks, which, according to Ted, were the best solution for launching Project Six Pack! The restored rear leaf springs are original to the car, again provided by Ted.
The best part is yet to come! Ted Struse located the engine that was in the car in 1973-1975, when Project Six Pack set class records in the NHRA C/Stock stick shift class. This engine was originally built by Mike Smith and Terry Welsh, with the machine work done by Don Owens and Lou Terra of Shaw’s Speed Shop. The engine was last rebuilt by world-class engine builder Dennis Maurer, holder of many national records and builder/tuner of Judy Lilly’s historically significant “Miss Mighty Mopar” race cars. The engine was given a freshening by our team, and topped with an original A12 aluminum Edlebrock intake, three correct, date coded A12 4 speed carbs, an original A12 Six Pack air cleaner and the car’s original A12 fiberglass lift-off hood! Also present is the ORIGINAL ACCEL coil, mated to the ORIGINAL Mopar cast iron dual point mechanical distributor with tach drive. This period correct engine breathes through the ORIGINAL 1973 ceramic coated Hooker open headers.
Paired up with a rebuilt ’69 vintage A833 18 spline, four speed transmission and mated to an original, restored A12-specific Dana 60, Project Six Pack is as authentic of a nostalgia racer as you will EVER find!
The interior of Project Six Pack was restored to 1973-1975 specs, including the ORIGINAL Stahl dash mounted mechanical tachometer. Below the original tach are two reproduction Stewart-Warner oil pressure and water temperature gauges. The door panels, dash pad, dash, arm rest pads, door handles, window cranks and rear seat are original to the car! It’s no-nonsense, no frills, and 100% authentic!
Last, but certainly not least, is the rolling stock. In 1973-1975, Project Six Pack rolled on Fenton Gyros, with Firestone Drag 500 tires. Finding a set of Fenton Gyros in 2009 was a lot more difficult than we assumed. But, after scouring swap meets and talking to anyone who would listen, we found a gentleman in Detroit who happened to have four Fenton Gyros (15x8 rear, 15x3 front), with center caps, sitting in his attic since 1974. After a long courtship, cash was exchanged for the Gyros and we brought them back to our shop to be restored to like new. Thanks to MotoMotion of Medina, Ohio, they look like they just came off of the shelf!
Finding correct tires proved to be even more difficult. We weren’t able to locate any 35 year old drag tires, and Firestone hasn’t been making the Drag 500 for a very long time, so we used the next best thing: 9.00/30.0-15 rear and 7.75-15 front tires from Phoenix Tire, who own the rights to the original Firestone molds. We then replicated the Firestone Drag 500 script on each tire, by hand!
Completely restored to NHRA Class Record Holder form, Project Six Pack has been returned to where it should be, and is an amazing car to behold. Turn the key and the sound is amazing…you are instantly transported back in time 35+ years, to an era when a well-prepared street legal car could set NHRA Class Records.
So let's go back to our original question: what makes a car truly rare? Based on the production numbers of the A12 lift-off hood cars, the racing heritage of this specific car, and it's unique place in the timeline of the Mopar performance world over FIVE DECADES, I submit that this is THE rarest and most significant A12 car in the world, and one of the most desirable Chrysler muscle cars on the planet. And now, fully restored with the blessing of the man who cared for the car over the span of five separate decades, this is a special car that defines the muscle era in a way that is completely unique from any other car produced by Chrysler from 1955 through 1974. Project Six Pack IS history. If you are a Chrysler collector, you know this is a singularly rare piece that has no equal! If you are a Chrysler collector AND an A12 fan, Project Six Pack is the Holy Grail. It just doesn’t get any better!