1971 Blue Plymouth Road Runner
1971 Plymouth Road Runner

Cruisin’ Franklin – 1971 Plymouth Road Runner

The Chrysler Corporation, often referred to as Mopar, had several brands including Plymouth, which was first introduced in 1928 as a low-priced competitor to Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouth gained a reputation of creating low-frills automobiles that had style even at lower price points. When Pontiac unveiled the GTO, the race was on among the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler) and Plymouth emerged as a leader in performance engineering.

Muscle cars appealed to the youth of the ’60s, and Plymouth became a master of marketing to the Baby Boom generation. In 1968 they set the performance market on fire with the Plymouth Road Runner. They paid Warner Brothers $50,000 for the use of the name and likeness of their popular cartoon character, the Road Runner. The Road Runner character was known for his speed and ability to evade Wile E. Coyote, and its namesake car lived up to that reputation.

Plymouth Road Runner

While the Road Runner was built for performance with the big-block engine standard, it was sparse in creature comforts, offering basic vinyl seating and few options. One defining, standard feature of the car, however, was a costly one – its distinctive “beep beep” horn, modeled from the cartoon character. Plymouth spent $10,000 to develop the horn, which equates to about $90,000 in 2024 dollars. This single feature became iconic to car enthusiasts. The Road Runner quickly became one of the top-selling muscle cars of the day.

Plymouth Road Runner trunk

In 1970, the third year of the model, sales were still high, but they declined by a whopping 50% as insurance companies began adding surcharges to these high-powered beasts, so in 1971 the Road Runner was completely redesigned. It sported a more rounded body, deeply raked windshield and modern styling accents. The changes made the car more aerodynamic, but the engines (both small and big blocks) were slightly detuned to receive a standard insurance rating, and could now operate using regular gas instead of premium.

Franklin resident Steve McGeary has always loved the Plymouth Road Runner. In fact, he drove a 1971 model while in high school. Like most gear heads, McGeary has owned many cool cars and trucks in his lifetime, but he couldn’t get his high school ride out of his head. He knew he had to own one again, so the search was on. He found this 1971 True Blue Iridescent (B5) Road Runner in Wisconsin and brought it home, where it can be seen cruising downtown Franklin and The Suds in Greenwood on nice summer weekends.

McGeary’s beauty sports the factory black strobe stripe over the roof, all-original Road Runner emblems, blue vinyl interior, and that distinctive “beep beep” horn. It retained its original 383 big block and remains virtually stock with the exception of a wheel upgrade, now donning Mopar Magnum 500 chrome wheels on raised-white-letter tires.

Road Runners remain very popular at car shows, and McGeary won the People’s Choice award at the 2022 annual Cruisin’ the Amp car show in Franklin. Expect to see it at the 2024 show on June 7 at the Franklin amphitheater.

Comments 1

  1. Ronald Harris says:

    Awesome article and well written

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