In 1970, Americans were addicted to muscle cars. Big-engined beasties with wide tires, custom paint jobs and plenty of go-fast parts were all the rage on the boulevards of America, from Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to Detroit’s Woodward Avenue. That same year, the Plymouth Rapid Transit System road show began, a traveling auto-show display that featured four souped-up Plymouths, each advertising parts and services available from the brand’s Rapid Transit System of performance products.
The cars were so enticing that when Steven Juliano, a Shelby Cobra collector from Southern California, heard about them a few decades ago, he began a very personal mission to track down not just memorabilia from the road show, but the four custom cars that Plymouth built specifically for the events. When Juliano passed away after a long battle with cancer in late 2018, he had found all four cars, but only managed to purchase three of them for his collection. His family sent the Rapid Transit concept trio to Mecum’s Indianapolis auction block last weekend, and here’s how they did.
1970 Plymouth Hemi Road Runner Rapid Transit
Sold: $341,000| Pre-sale Estimate: $250,000–$400,000
With Plymouth’s ‘King Kong’ 426 Hemi under the hood and custom bodywork commissioned by Plymouth from Roman’s Chariot Shop in Cleveland, Ohio, this Road Runner is equal parts show and go. Cosmetic differences from production cars include the spoiler blended into the car’s flared rear fenders, nine-inch square Cibie headlights, shaved door handles, and enlarged brake scoops faired into the rear bodywork. Despite all the flashy non-production features, the Air Grabber hood scoop was a new factory option for the ’70 model year and was featured prominently on this show car. Juliano found the car with 1,700 miles in 1991, made a deal with its owner, and commissioned a full restoration in 2000.
1971 Plymouth Road Runner Rapid Transit
Sold: $236,500 | Pre-Sale Estimate: $250,000–$400,000
With 1970 being the last year of the “B-body” Road Runner, this 1971 “G-series” car is an early prototype built up to be displayed on the ’70 Rapid Transit show circuit. Unrestored with just 1,300 miles on its odometer, the car even came with its original title showing Plymouth corporate ownership. Customized for Plymouth by Chuck Miller, owner of Styline Custom, this Road Runner was given its own front end that lengthened the car by some six inches. Covered headlamps and a steel, handmade mesh grille along with the rear spoiler and ram-air induction scoops mark this Road Runner as something unique, with a 383-cubic-inch V-8 chosen for extra oomph. This was the first (and said to be favorite) of Juliano’s Rapid Transit car purchases, though the runner-up sales price suggests it wasn’t as much of a hit with bidders.
1970 Plymouth Duster Rapid Transit
Sold: $264,000 | Pre-Sale Estimate: $150,000–$200,000
From being admired on the show circuit to abandoned in a Detroit parking lot, this Duster Rapid Transit show car has seen it all. The fastback body-style Duster 340 replaced the Barracuda as the hot factory A-body special and this Duster was facelifted for not just the 1970 Rapid Transit road show, but again in 1971. Built by Byron Grenfel at Chrysler’s behest first for the ’70 show, he changed the car to feature functional brake-cooling ducts, color-matched mirrors, faux venting, a custom front end with “DUSTER” spelled out in a psychedelic font, and a roof-mounted lip spoiler. The engine is a relatively stock 340-cubic-inch small block with custom exhaust, producing some 275 horsepower. Juliano acquired this car at a private auction after it was left abandoned outdoors for more than a decade. It was given a full restoration to 1971 specs after a machete, ammunition, and women’s underwear were removed from the trunk.