The 1969.5 Plymouth Road Runner 440 Six Barrel makes no sense at all. It makes no sense that a 3450-pound automobile with a leaf-spring rear suspension and torsion-bar front setup should be enjoyable to drive. After all, that’s a perfectly good recipe for a pickup truck. In 1947. But, inexplicably, this car is fun, and I’m guffawing like a drunk donkey with every flex of my right ankle.
Having covered only 200 miles since a full restoration, this particular bird-one of just 422 hardtops built with the four-speed manual-is tight, taut, and much improved over the car that rolled out of Detroit’s Lynch Road assembly plant in 1969. Its “440 6-Barrel Package” (code A12), a $462.80 option, netted all manner of go-fast gear, including a special Edelbrock intake manifold, three two-barrel Holley carburetors, heavy-duty brakes, and a matte-black, lift-off fiberglass hood. Among the improvements made by its owner are a quicker steering gear, a larger-diameter exhaust, and stiffer suspension bushings. The car, which originally cost about $3500, is now worth more than $200,000.
Yowza. If that lofty figure is head-spinning, the car itself is even more so, and my brain can’t fully come to grips with the enigma that is the Road Runner. So much about it feels wrong. The front bench seat’s springs are so soft that when I sit down, it feels like my rear end is being lowered into four-hundred dollars’ worth of pudding. I can’t see anything over the massive hood tumor that feeds air to the 390-gross-hp, big-block V-8. The unboosted brakes have about a quarter-inch of travel and two settings: off and full lock. And even with the tighter steering, I don’t drive, pilot, or steer so much as I suggest, coerce, and beg the car to turn before the seventeen-foot-long behemoth-this is what passed for mid-size in 1969-careens into oncoming traffic.
But none of this matters. What matters is the blub-blub-BLUB-blub idle, the resolute ka-chunk of the four-speed Hurst shifter-topped, as God intended, with a white, cue-ball knob, not the sissy wood piece that came with the car-and the Sam Kinison-esque RRRWAAAAAAHHHH! unleashed whenever stop turns to go.
So I do what seems natural, what the Road Runner is begging for. I rev it up, dump the clutch, and grab bias-ply rubber in all four gears. Making sense is for losers.