The 1968 Plymouth Road Runner: A Hemi-Powered Jar of Mustard on Wheels

It wasn’t all that long on the market, but the Plymouth Road Runner made such an impression that diehard fans still go nuts over it even today – and some of them were not even born back when the car first appeared. And when a rare example such as the one we have here surfaces, all bets are off.

The Road Runner needs little introduction for a true car lover, but we’ll go into it a bit, just to build up our appetite for a very fine dish later on. Introduced as some sort of a poor man’s poison, it packed muscle car capabilities in the appropriate body without requiring people to break the bank to get their hands on one.

The Chrysler-owned brand let the Road Runner loose on public roads in 1968. The car was named so in honor of the Warner Bros. character that pranks Wile E. Coyote every chance it gets ever since 1949. The right to use the name alone added $50,000 to the development cost of the car back then. In today’s money that would be over $440,000, and the sum does not include the 10k ($88,000 adjusted for inflation) paid for the horn that goes “beep, beep” when engaged.

All that spending, including for the neat stuff above, paid off, as the Road Runner enjoyed a very successful launch in an already crowded segment. The moniker remained a favorite of the American car buyer for a while, and by the time it was discontinued in 1980, three generations were made and sent into the wild, along with the mighty Superbird variant.

It’s the first generation that’s of concern to us today, the one produced by Plymouth between 1968 and 1970. As the inaugural generation, it is also one of the most appreciated by today’s collectors, who at times spare no expense to get their hands on a relevant example.

And the Road Runner we have here is relevant in more ways than one, if not to all collectors, than at least to some of them. First up, it’s a 1968 model year, meaning a car produced in the very first year of the series. Then, it’s one of just 449 examples to have been made with a four-speed manual transmission that year – and that’s saying something, given how a total of over 44,000 rolled off assembly lines.

1968 Plymouth Road Runner

Photo: Mecum

The first generation of the Road Runner was powered by a choice of three engines, with the base one being the 383ci that developed 335 hp. The one before us now has the 426 Hemi under the hood.

It’s not the engine that originally shipped with the car, as far as we can tell, but we are still talking about a date-correct one featuring all the required pieces of hardware. That includes the hemispherical cylinder heads, the dual 4-barrel carburetors, and of course the dual exhaust system. The powerplant is rated at 425 hp.

The exact history of this Road Runner is not known. We do know someone, somewhere, treated it to some restoration work just five years ago. Mileage at the time of writing is not known.

The car now presents itself in a color called Sunfire Yellow. It kind of looks like the color one sees when staring at a jar of mustard, and would have probably looked horrible on any other car.

Here, however, it looks just right, especially as it extends down to the steel wheels of undisclosed size. The only decorations on the car’s body and wheels come in the form of the hubcaps with the Plymouth emblem, the red stripe on the rubber, and the few bird and Hemi emblems featured here and there.

The seemingly perfect body hides an interior in a rare color combination, silver gray with black inserts. The interior is very 1960s-looking, with a split bench up front, the stock dashboard holding an 8-track radio, and matching seats at the rear.

We stumbled upon the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner on the lot of cars going under the hammer later this month in Indianapolis. Auction house Mecum is tasked with finding a new owner for it, and it’ll do so as part of a no reserve sale – that means the Road Runner will go to the one who offers the most for it, no matter how much that is.

We’re told the only documentation that accompanies the car is a dealer brochure. No estimate is given on how much it might be worth. For reference, though, valuation house Hagerty places a concours-condition Plymouth Road Runner from that year at $82,800. One of the highest-selling Road Runners was a 1970 example of the Superbird variety, which back in 2022 sold for $1.65 million.

We will of course come back on the story once we learn for how much it went, so stay tuned about two weeks for now, when the auction takes place, for that crucial piece of info. 

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