It may have seemed as though Plymouth was late in entering the branded muscle car game with the 1967 GTX, but the division quickly made up for lost time the following year by introducing what became one of the most iconic models of the era, the Road Runner.
While the GTX was a sort of gentleman’s hot rod, the Road Runner was introduced as a bare-bones performer—essentially a two-door police car with some blackout trim and a special hood with simulated vents and engine callouts. A high-performance 383-cu.in. engine was standard, and buyers could choose between a TorqueFlite automatic or a four-speed manual.
The most basic Belvedere interior was also standard, and initially, all Road Runners were pillared coupes with flip-out quarter windows; a hardtop option would come later in the model’s first year. The only engine option was the 426 Hemi, which added significantly to the bottom line.Plymouth aimed to get the Road Runner to market for under $3,000. Not surprisingly, the combination of an austere performance image, tried-and-true Chrysler durability, and a quirky cartoon character, yielded an instant sales hit.
The following year brought minor aesthetic changes to the Belvedere, with a revised grille and taillamps, but the Road Runner package continued mostly unchanged, with some additional available options, including a functional “Air Grabber” hood and induction system, and the addition of a convertible to the lineup.
Sales nearly doubled , making the Road Runner the number one selling muscle car that year, surpassing the stalwart GTO.While Hemi Road Runners and the 440 Six-Barrel “A12” models have always been held up as quite special, most ’69 Road Runners were 383 powered, and most of those were hardtops. These models would become ubiquitous in dragstrip staging lanes and high school parking lots as the ’70s unfurled.
Yet, even after the woes of the Great Recession kicked in, Road Runners of this vintage didn’t drop off, but rather, held steady, with a slight uptick a few years back. As is often the case, four-speeds tend to be more desirable (most guides give them a 10-percent edge) and color can factor significantly, particularly if the car in question features one of the mid-year “Performance” colors (Performance Red, Rallye Green, Bahama Yellow, and later, Vitamin “C” Orange).
Today, the ’69 Road Runner remains emblematic of the first muscle era, and it still looks tough and ticks the boxes that make gearheads swoon.