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
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?
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.