Everyone knows that the Plymouth Road Runner was designed to be a low cost high performance machine. When the muscle car craze was in full swing, manufacturers were constantly trying to find a way to entire younger buyers into their showrooms, and the promise of big power in an affordable package made the Road Runner incredibly successful. It’s no surprise, then, that Chrysler made their top motor, the 426 Hemi, available to Road Runner buyers, giving them the ability to create an invincible street brawler that was still affordable and stylish. This 1968 Road Runner is a true Hemi car, and has been recently completed by our own pros here at the RKM Performance Center restoration shop not only to look amazing, but to run with some of the nastiest hardware on the track.
Like many Road Runners, this one was built for just one purpose, and isn’t loaded up with a lot of power-robbing and weight-adding options. Just the Hemi, power disc brakes, and an AM radio, thank you very much. The fender tag tells you everything you need to know:
* CAR: Plymouth Road Runner 2-Door Hardtop
* ENGINE: 426 cubic inch Hemi 2x4 barrel V8
* TRANSMISSION: 3-Speed TorqueFlite Automatic
* TIRES: F70x15 Red Sidewall, nylon belted
* MODEL YEAR: 1968
* BUILD DATE: June 20
* AXLE: 3.23 Rear Axle Ratio, Sure Grip
* INTERIOR: High Trim Grade, Vinyl Split Bench Seats. Light Blue Interior.
* PAINT: Monotone Dark Blue Metallic Paint.
* MOLDINGS:25: Drip Rail Mouldings
* A1: 26in Radiator
* D9: Front Disk Brakes
* H1: Power Brakes
* R1: AM Radio
* m6: Driver''s Outside Remote Operated Mirror
Nobody bought a car like this in 1968 because it was luxurious, and the same holds true today. This car is built to run, and anything that gets in the way of absolute performance has no place on this Road Runner.
However, that doesn’t mean it can’t look spectacular, and the Dark Blue Metallic paint is an outstanding choice when it comes to the Road Runners great shape. It’s also incredibly rare. Restoration photos show a very clean car to start, but it was stripped, refinished, and rebuilt from the ground up by the experts at Totally Auto. It appears that the sheet metal is almost all original with a few patches here and there. Panel alignment is good throughout, and it shouldn’t be news that build quality in 1968 wasn’t stellar, so any restored Mopar is going to be worlds better than a new Mopar, as this one is. And paint a car with this much sheet metal a dark color means it has to be straight take a good look down the sides of this one, especially the quarter panels, and you’ll see that Totally Auto took a lot of time block sanding the body to eliminate distortions. The paint is two-stage urethane with just the right amount of metallic in it, which not only looks amazing, but will last for decades with moderate care.
The grille is either a perfectly preserved original piece or someone spent a ton of cash getting it restored. Bumpers have been re-chromed, the stainless trim has been polished, and correct Road Runner badges have been affixed to the doors. The only thing that gives you any clue as to what lives under the hood (aside from the rumbling exhaust note, of course) are the HEMI block letters on the hood. Can you say “sleeper”?
And sleeper is definitely the right word. The engine to which the hood refers is a Ray Barton built Hemi that cranked out an astounding 571 horsepower on the dyno, and that’s without any power adders or external modifications. When RK Motors acquired the car, we had Hemi expert Larry Shepard go through it and make sure everything was right, then we dropped it between the fenders. Ultimately, this one looks a lot like any other restored Hemi, with the correct Hemi Orange paint on the block the giant chrome air cleaner with correct Hemi decals, and those massive valve covers with the black wrinkle finish. OK, Ray Barton put his signature on the valve covers, so once the hood is open the secret is out, but the attention to detail in the engine bay is awfully nice. They used reproduction hoses and clamps because the modern stuff never looks quite right, as well as a group 27 red cap battery. Original style cast iron exhaust manifolds were used for authenticity’s sake, not long tube headers, and I don’t think it hurts power production one bit. This one rumbles to life easier than most Hemis, idles extremely well (although you can tell there’s a giant cam working inside), and pulls like few other Hemi cars we’ve driven. Maybe you’ve driven stock Hemis before, but were warning you: they have not prepared you for how fast this car is. Those skinny bias-ply tires just don’t stand a chance and it will spin them all the way through second gear if you’re not careful.
Although the fender tag calls for a TorqueFlite, a date-code correct 18-spline Hemi 4-speed manual has been installed, and it is more than up to the challenge of harnessing all that power. The fender tag also calls for a wimpy 8.75-inch rear with 3.23 gears, but we stepped it up to a bulletproof date-coded Dana 60 that will survive the worst the Hemi can dish out. While you’re under there, you’ll also note the massive custom aluminum oil pan to keep the Hemi healthy under load, as well as the stock style exhaust system that includes original style mufflers and resonators that sound great. The front and rear suspensions have been rebuilt, and feature new shocks and bushings all around. Original Hemi-spec steel wheels and simple hubcaps perfect the low-buck, high-performance look, and wear reproduction G70-15 redline tires as original.
Inside, it’s an all-new black interior by master upholsterer Ralph Farinacci at the RKM Performance Center. With this much performance, a light blue interior just wasn’t the look we were after, so we ordered up the good stuff in black, and wow is it ever nice. A correct 4-speed console was sourced, restored, and installed, along with as correct shifter and knob. The dash was restored and upgraded, with fresh gauges that include a tachometer. The bucket seats feature fresh foam and new covers in the correct pattern, and the back seat was finished to match. New carpets, a new headliner, and new door panels ensure everything is consistent, and a fresh set of monogrammed floor mats have been installed. The original Music Master AM radio still lives in the dash and works as it should. In back, the restored trunk features a correct mat and a full size spare tire and jack assembly.
Documentation is just what you’d want to see on a killer street fighter like this; proof that everything was done correctly. There are the dyno sheets I mentioned earlier, a Govier report, and a cam card from Larry Shepard. We also have restoration photos and a ton of receipts that are more proof that this car was done right.
We''re big fans of subtle performance cars here at RK Motors Charlotte, and there aren’t many that walk softer or carry bigger sticks than this Road Runner. These are extremely popular cars with our customers, and we’ve sold dozens of them over the years. This one is exceptionally well done, with monstrous horsepower and all the go-fast hardware you need. It’s also nicely detailed and short of looking at the fender tag, you won’t be able to see the changes and upgrades just by looking. Fast when it was new, and even faster today, this Road Runner represents a ton of performance for a lot less cash than a trailer queen. If you like to drive your Hemi, this is the one that will make you feel like a kid again. Call now!