Thursday, October 13, 2011

1972 Plymouth Road Runner

Gone In Sixty Seconds

Found at a crosstown competitor’s used car lot

Story Al and Lynne Rogers

Images Al Rogers

As a mechanic at a Michigan Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in the ’70s, Mike Ryckman watched many of his favorite Mopars come and go. His passion for big block Mopars continued to grow.

His first Mopar was a 1969 GTX and you’d find him staged, making runs at the historic but now no longer standing Detroit Dragway.

Mike’s father was a dealership manager, giving Mike many opportunities to take the Mopars for a spin. It fueled his passion for the products. He dreamed of owning one and cruising on Woodward Avenue. When the situation presented itself, Mike worked some Hollywood magic and acquired what would turn out to be his Mopar version of the famed Eleanor from the movie Gone in 60 Seconds.

In 2002, as sales manager of a Dodge dealership in Brighton, Michigan, a friend at a crosstown dealership called to tell him that they had just taken in a red 1972 Plymouth Road Runner as a trade on a new convertible. It seems a lady wanted a new era convertible but didn’t have the money to make the deal. She told her husband she knew something else they could use. They later returned with a bright red 1972 Road Runner equipped with a white interior and offered it as a trade-in.

Mike went to the dealership and took it for a test drive. He could hardly believe it was a real 1972 Plymouth Road Runner in beautiful condition. Mike made a phone call to the dealership to say he wanted it. He was told it was already sold, but he realized they had not received any money yet.

Being a determined car fanatic with knowledge of dealership practices, he knew the deal is not done until there is money in hand. He sent one of his porters to the selling dealership with a check as payment for the car. The selling dealership never saw the Road Runner again as it was “gone in sixty seconds”. He knew he would never have a chance to purchase a 1972 Road Runner like this at such a fair price.

This Road Runner was an original unrestored, rust-free car. It started out powered by a 400 cubic inch engine back in 1972. At some point, the original owner felt the need to drop a 440 Magnum engine into it. This wasn’t a backyard job as indicated by the engine bay and documentation that came with the car. The odometer also read 24,310, believed to be original miles.

Mike’s vision was to transform the Road Runner into a top shelf, best-of-the-best ride. With the resources and talented technicians at the dealership, it put him in a position to make this Road Runner stand tall. It took a few years of sourcing small parts from local swap meets and the Internet. The interior was totally redone as Mike would have his interior trim technician re-stitch the factory white interior. The body, freed from dents and dings, was given a fresh coat of the factory TorRed color. At first look, one can’t help but notice the “attention to detail” that went into this paint. The body margins are precise and the sheetmetal is laser straight.

Although this Road Runner is not numbers-matching, there are a few rare things about it.

The car is registered with Galen Govier and the National Chrysler Registry. It is one of 1,489 produced with an automatic transmission and number 17 of 44 registered in the United States.

The 1 of 1,489 automatic transmission option is also accompanied by a host of other unique factory options. This car came with the machine-gun slotted factory exhaust tips, factory power disc brakes and electronic ignition, which was a rarity for cars of that era. It still possesses the factory original glass with the Chrysler stamping and date codes.

Mike drives his Road Runner regularly to car shows and events. He and his Classic Legends Car Club attend events and take part in the pilgrimage to the Woodward Dream Cruise. “Hanging out with family and friends at this yearly event is a blast,” he said.

When onlookers see this Mopar for the first time, the young ones usually gravitate to the Road Runner emblems. That is when the dad will tell them the story of what a muscle car should be. Mike also notes that many observers look at the well-detailed 440 Magnum engine and say, “Wow”. This Road Runner was exactly what Mike was looking for; it is an unabashed and unashamed great example of a muscle car.

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