ROAD RUN­NER LEGACY

Orig­i­nal Owner’s Son Fi­nally Gets Fa­ther’s Con­vert­ible Back

Muscle Car Review - - Contents - By Ryan Brutt

Orig­i­nal owner’s son fi­nally gets his fa­ther’s con­vert­ible back

Af­ter hear­ing about a cer­tain car for years, it be­gins to take on the aura of a myth or leg­end. I had a lead on a 1970 Road Run­ner con­vert­ible, which is rare enough, but it was also an orig­i­nal FM3 Moulin Rouge car! My trav­els just never took me close enough to check on the car and see if it was le­git­i­mate. Then one day on Face­book a man posted that he now owned the car. I thought I had missed an op­por­tu­nity to see and doc­u­ment such a cool car. But fate would be far more gen­er­ous, as it turned out it now resided only a few miles from where I stayed in Detroit. So the owner and I met shortly af­ter, and blew my mind.

I pulled up to the home of Gary, the cur­rent owner of the car. In the drive­way was a newer Dodge Chal­lenger in Fu­ri­ous Fuch­sia, the pink paint Dodge used a few years ago. I knew I had ar­rived at the right house. Gary came out and in­tro­duced him­self, his wife, and his son. Walk­ing to the back­yard, he opened the garage door, and there sit­ting next to his son’s midget drag­ster sat the myth­i­cal car.

The Road Run­ner had been spe­cially or­dered by Gary’s fa­ther, who was also named Gary. He had got­ten out of Viet­nam with a cof­fee can full of cash and im­me­di­ately went to his lo­cal Ply­mouth deal­er­ship and bought a 1970 ’Cuda with a 383. It was ter­ri­ble.

Gary the el­der and his friends could never get it to run right. One day, head­ing over some train tracks, the rear win­dow fell out of the car and shat­tered. That was the last straw. He had seen a 1970 Chal­lenger in FM3 and went to Johnny Mo­tor Sales in Ham­tramck, Michi­gan, and or­dered a Road Run­ner con­vert­ible in the same FM3 hue. At first, the sales­man did not know that the color was even avail­able; he had to call an­other deal­er­ship to ver­ify it. Gary wanted some­thing sim­ple, but a car that could do some street rac­ing. He or­dered it with the 383, au­to­matic on the col­umn, and a bench seat for his fam­ily. It also had a 3.91 Sure Grip in the 8¾ rear axle and the Air Grab­ber hood, be­cause he thought it was cool.

De­liv­ery of the car was to be on a Fri­day, but for some rea­son it was de­layed. On a whim Gary went past the deal­er­ship on Satur­day and saw his car be­ing un­loaded from the car car­rier. He pulled in and wanted to take pos­ses­sion of the car im­me­di­ately, but the deal­er­ship couldn’t re­lease the car to him be­cause his orig­i­nal sales­man was not in that day. The deal­er­ship called the

“He had got­ten out of Viet­nam with a cof­fee

can full of cash”

sales­man at home, and he came in on his day off so Gary could have the car.

He re­ally en­joyed that car. Took his fam­ily around in it, did some street rac­ing, en­joyed Detroit as any­one could in a Road Run­ner con­vert­ible. His friends and fam­ily were mostly GM peo­ple, with Pon­ti­acs and Chevro­lets. They all used to rib Gary the younger about lik­ing Mopars, un­til his fa­ther’s Road Run­ner was brought up. They quickly qui­eted down, say­ing that Road Run­ner was some­thing spe­cial.

Beat­ing on the car for over a year, Gary was break­ing parts left and right. It got to the point that the deal­er­ship would not do any more war­ranty work on the car. So he sold it and bought a yel­low 1971 Buick GS con­vert­ible, some­thing he would re­gret for the rest of his life. He would reg­u­larly re­gale his son with tales of the car, in­grain­ing the leg­end of the Road Run­ner in his son’s mind and heart.

For years both Garys searched for that car. His fa­ther passed away in 2002, but that just pushed Gary even harder to find the car. He posted on mes­sage boards and even­tu­ally on Face­book about the car, hop­ing some­one would know where it was. Thank­fully, some­one did.

Dave Bel­carz knew a gen­tle­man that had a car that matched

“The owner had found the car in a junk­yard”

what Gary was look­ing for: pink Road Run­ner con­vert­ible with an Air Grab­ber. Dave shared the owner’s in­for­ma­tion with Gary, and Gary went on it like a Rot­tweiler on a steak. Gary talked to the owner about the car, and had the op­por­tu­nity to head out to the owner’s barn where the car was stored.

Trib­ute cars are com­mon, and even a Pink Road Run­ner con­vert­ible, rare as it is, is not un­heard of. Gary had an ace up his sleeve, though, to de­ter­mine whether this car was his fa­ther’s. Back when the car was new, it was com­mon for peo­ple to paint the wheel­wells of a car white, to con­trast with the black tires. Well, Gary’s fa­ther had found a gal­lon of pas­tel pink on his mother’s back porch and painted the wheel­wells with it. When Gary saw the car all those years later, and saw the pink house paint in the wheel­wells, he just about dou­bled over, re­al­iz­ing that this was his fa­ther’s car.

Ap­par­ently in 1976 the owner had found the car in a junk­yard. The front core sup­port had been cut to yank the en­gine out, and it was rusty and very crusty. Even then the owner knew this was a spe­cial car, so he bought it from the yard and stashed it away in a barn in Cadil­lac, Michi­gan. He never did any­thing with it af­ter that point. It sat in that barn un­til Gary was able to buy the car. On De­cem­ber 19, 2015, Gary se­cured the money and got the car that he dreamed about. He loved that car so much that he made mod­els and die-casts of it. He even bought the new Fu­ri­ous Fuch­sia Chal­lenger in honor of the Road Run­ner. To have the car that his fa­ther spe­cial or­dered, and bring it back to his fam­ily, fills him with such joy.

He didn’t get a turnkey car though. It is just as it was when it was in the junk­yard. Noth­ing had been done to the car in 39 years in the barn. Just about every­thing on the car is rusty, bent, and dented. The core sup­port has a chunk cut out of it, and the trunk is miss­ing. It is a ma­jor project, but it’s in the right hands and will be re­stored even­tu­ally to be en­joyed by Gary and his fam­ily.

In my en­thu­si­asm about the car I talked to Gary about how it would be well re­ceived in the right set­ting. So he dragged the Road Run­ner out to the Mus­cle Car and Corvette Na­tion­als in Chicago in 2017, where it was one of the high­lights of the Barn Finds and Hid­den Gems dis­play that year.

The car cur­rently sits in a nice, dry garage, wait­ing for the time when Gary can bring it back to life. There is such a strong bond among gen­er­a­tions—be­tween Gary and his late fa­ther, and Gary and his own son—that I have no doubt that it will get re­done. Un­til it does, Gary and his son will sit in the car on oc­ca­sion and eat din­ner, or watch a movie on their home­made out­door movie screen, like it was a drive-in in 1970.

n Wear­ing some day-two wheels, here is the Road Run­ner not long af­ter Gary’s fa­ther picked it up from the deal­er­ship.

n Even though the Road Run­ner was found in a junk­yard in 1976 and then sat in a barn for 39 years, it isn’t be­yond help. You can see the car is still a straight project. Rust is pop­ping through the quar­ter-pan­els, and there are fairly large rust holes where the Road Run­ner em­blems once sat. The rust holes in the trunk lid can be eas­ily rec­ti­fied.

n A closer look at the butchered front end. When some­one tore the en­gine out, they were not gentle and hacked a bunch of the mid­dle of the car up get­ting it out.

n Sur­pris­ingly, who­ever took the en­gine left the Air Grab­ber hood ba­si­cally in­tact. Even in 1976 these were rare.nThe 383 is long gone, but other than the hacked-up core sup­port, the en­gine com­part­ment is in fair shape.nProof that this is Gary’s fa­ther’s Road Run­ner is this pas­tel pink house paint in all the wheel­wells, still on there as ap­plied in 1970! n That hole in the floor isn’t for easy ac­cess to the road; it’s one of the many rust holes in the floor. Most of the orig­i­nal in­te­rior is still in the car, thank­fully.nCon­sid­er­ing the Road Run­ner’s hard life, the dash pad is in re­ally nice shape. The orig­i­nal Ral­lye dash clus­ter is still there with Tick-Tock-Tach.nThe Road Run­ner is tucked safely away next to Gary’s son’s ju­nior drag­ster un­til the day he can put the car to­gether.

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