RUN­NIN’ DOWN A DREAM

BUILD, IT TOOK MORE THAN 10 YEARS TO BET­TER BUT THIS ROAD RUN­NER IS NOW BUNCH THAN NEW AND PACK­ING A WHOLE MORE POWER THAN IT DID IN 1970

Mopar Muscle - - Con­tents - BY BOB MEHLHOFF

It took more than 10 years to build, but this Road Run­ner is now bet­ter than new and pack­ing a whole bunch more power than it did in 1970.

All car en­thu­si­asts have one thing in com­mon — a time and a place where it all started. For Matt Mor­ri­son, it was back in 1980, and the place was on his sub­ur­ban street in North Hol­ly­wood, Cal­i­for­nia, where a neigh­bor owned and worked on a B5 Blue ’70 Ply­mouth Road Run­ner. The Ply­mouth was pow­ered by a 383 en­gine with a four-speed and was in need of a new tim­ing chain. Fif­teen-year-old Matt Mor­ri­son had ad­mired the car for a long time and was more than happy to hang around and help as the owner took apart the front of the en­gine and re­placed the tim­ing chain.

From that point on, Matt hasn’t only owned more than a few Mopars, but has also made a ca­reer/hobby out of it as a ser­vice man­ager for Depend­able Dodge in Canoga Park, Cal­i­for­nia. And there’s even a lot of in­flu­en­tial mus­cle car his­tory or­bit­ing Matt’s job lo­cale. His em­ployer, namely Depend­able Dodge, has been at the same ad­dress for about 50 years and dur­ing that time has sold ev­ery­thing from 426 Coronets, Su­per Bees, 426 Hemi Charg­ers, 440 Six Pack Chal­lengers all the way up to to­day’s R/TS, Scat Packs,

Hemis, and Hell­cats. In ad­di­tion, Matt is a found­ing mem­ber of Chrysler Per­for­mance West. And only a few miles away is Matt’s buddy Julius, famed Mopar guru of Restora­tions by Julius. To say that Matt has formed a great cir­cle of Mopar al­lies is def­i­nitely an un­der­state­ment.

So when Matt with his spe­cial­ized back­ground took a look at his per­sonal as­sort­ment of Mopars, he quickly re­al­ized he wanted to ful­fill his long­time dream and own his own ’70 Road Run­ner. This all started back in 2003, and even then it was a lit­tle bit of a chal­lenge to find a good

start­ing can­di­date. Matt tells us it took a solid year of fol­low­ing leads across the south­west be­fore he found a de­cent sur­vivor ’70 Road Run­ner, which turned out to be about 20 min­utes from his house. Al­though this orig­i­nal can­di­date didn’t have the ul­ti­mate Hemi en­gine and four­speed he wanted, he knew the 383 and Torque­flite driv­e­train could eas­ily be re­placed with all the nec­es­sary per­for­mance parts he had in mind. And the car was gen­uine Road Run­ner.

Start­ing with ba­si­cally a body in some­what shaggy shape, he started his car­build­ing jour­ney one step at a time. First, he me­dia-blasted the ve­hi­cle to bare metal and dis­cov­ered more than a few of the body pan­els needed re­place­ment. With the help from the folks at Auto Metal Direct, Matt was able to source new quar­ter-pan­els, tail­panel, trunk floor, and a few other items to put the Road Run­ner’s body shell back to solid con­di­tion. Next, with the body on a ro­tis­serie at Depend­able Dodge, sev­eral coats of PPG 2 Stage B7 Blue paint were metic­u­lously ap­plied to the now laser-straight body.

With the body tak­ing shape, Matt moved on to the sus­pen­sion, where he added a pair of rear Su­per Stock leaf springs for the 8¾-inch hous­ing and 3.71 True­trac gearset to re­side. Up front, went a set of Hemi tor­sion bars and Com­pe­ti­tion Drag shocks. To slow down the B-body, Matt se­lected a set of orig­i­nal Chrysler Cor­doba 11.75-inch front disc brakes rid­ing on ’73 front spin­dles and out back the stock heavy-duty 11x2.5inch Road Run­ner drum setup. For rolling stock, Matt gave the nod to a set of 15x7 (front) and 15x8 (rear) Ral­lye Wheels.

In­side, Matt de­cided to tackle the soft parts him­self and se­lected up­hol­stery prod­ucts from Le­gendary to re­cover the fac­tory front buck­ets and rear seats to orig­i­nal. He even suc­cess­fully tack­led the head­liner — al­beit af­ter two good tries! To send 12 volts to the in­stru­ments in good or­der, a new M&H wiring har­ness was in­stalled. Matt wanted to keep the in­te­rior dash ap­pear­ance look­ing as orig­i­nal as pos­si­ble, but also needed a high-rpm shift light, so he came up with the idea to wire the park­ing-brake warn­ing light as his shift light.

Once the body and in­te­rior were checked off of Matt’s to-do list, he went to work on the driv­e­train. One of his ear­lier Mopars was a ’69 Hemi Road Run­ner that had a power level he longed for, but wanted to im­prove. To ful­fill that as­pi­ra­tion, he se­lected a Gen II Chrysler Hemi. With the help of lo­cal ma­chin­ist Ol­lie

Hellert, a new Ele­phant Mo­tor was built. To pro­duce a whole bunch of re­li­able torque, Matt blueprinted and bal­anced the 4.50-inch stroke and 4.50-inch bore com­bi­na­tion, yield­ing 572 ci with 11.5:1 com­pres­sion. For added strength, a set of Man­ley con­nect­ing rods were in­stalled and a very large Comp solid roller cam with 0.692-inch lift. To help move mas­sive amounts of air into the Hemi, a ported in­take man­i­fold and Mopar alu­minum cylin­der heads (by Ol­lie) were in­stalled and fed by two Edel­brock 750-cfm car­bu­re­tors. To ig­nite this air/fuel charge, a stock Mopar ig­ni­tion sys­tem with a Pertronix mod­ule was in­stalled. A set of TTI Ex­haust 2 ¼-inch head­ers bolted to a 3-inch un­der­body ex­haust sys­tem rids the spent gases from the Hemi. A Hemi A833 four­speed with a Hurst Comp Plus and Pis­tol Grip shifter con­trols the power the Gen II Hemi pro­duces, while Matt es­pe­cially en­joys driv­ing his Road Run­ner with so much torque on tap.

When Matt and his Road Run­ner ar­rived for our photo shoot one Mon­day morn­ing, we not only loved the fin­ished look he had achieved with his 10-plus years of great work, but also the way the 572 Hemi sounded as he fired it up. As a mat­ter of fact, Matt’s Road Run­ner cer­tainly called at­ten­tion to it­self as other ar­riv­ing of­fice work­ers who share our busi­ness com­plex were ex­it­ing their com­muter cars. More than a few of them walked over to watch him drive into our stu­dio and com­ment how much they loved his car. Maybe it was the time and a place where it all started for them?

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JORGE NUNEZ

The in­te­rior of Matt’s Road Run­ner is all stock in ap­pear­ance. One mi­nor change is the park­ing-brake warn­ing light that has been rewired by Matt to il­lu­mi­nate as a high-rpm shift light.

One of ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite fea­tures on a per­for­mance Mopar is the Pis­tol Grip shifter, which was some­thing new in 1970. When placed in re­verse, the shifter ac­ti­vated a “Re­verse” light that was dash mounted.

The spe­cial stripe when new was avail­able un­der the op­tion code V8Y — Trans­verse Tape Stripe for the color shown. The op­tional wheels came as 15-inch and were called Ral­lye Road Wheels.

Meet Matt Fer­gu­son and his Ja­maica Blue (B7) ’70 Road Run­ner. Matt spent over 10 years build­ing the car. Matt’s day job is as the Ser­vice Man­ager at Depend­able Dodge in Canoga Park, Cal­i­for­nia.

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