ROAD RUNNER LEGACY
Original Owner’s Son Finally Gets Father’s Convertible Back
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.