IT WAS one of those shed days we occasionally have at Unique Cars – get out of the office and go and see people. Today’s target was young Russell Trainor, who runs a retro Mustang workshop (Just Mustangs) at a place called Riddells Creek in Vic.
What we were up to was assembling a pair of toys for the cover story on our upcoming Muscle Cars special, the annual we last produced two years ago. Yeah, I know – slack. But we’ve been busy. (It’s on sale May 2 – buy two, because you’ll wear out the first one.)
Anyway, we were determined to do something special for this edition and one of the cars Uncle Phil reckoned we had to look at was a Plymouth Road Runner. Who in hell calls a car a Road Runner? Chrysler, apparently.
You’ve got to love the sheer cheek of the idea, and they famously paid Warner Brothers $50,000 for the naming rights and the use of the mad bird logo. It was a bargain.
And the car? That’s what really got my attention. It’s a 1969 model in all its purple and black glory, with a cream vinyl roof and matching interior. Good grief! Was the human race blind back then? Maybe not. The sheer lunacy of the colour scheme just smacks you in the face. It’s fantastic.
This example runs a 383 V8, geared for stop-light drags via the four-speed manual ’box. It’s not the el primo edition – apparently there was a 462 Hemi version as well – but it’s up there and, by all reports, seriously fast in a straight line.
Notice the catch? A straight line. Even Russell happily admitted these things were never designed to cope with corners and, as for brakes, well, you need to be patient. The 350-horse engine is a bit much for the basic drum anchors.
Uncle Phil recognised the danger signs. I was crawling all over the thing, patting its flanks when I thought no-one was watching, and asking way too many questions. He tried to pull me up with what was probably sage advice: “Mate, they’re great fun, but they don’t handle and the brakes are ordinary. You should get something that handles.” Which suggests he’s seen me drive and thinks I need all the help I can get.
The problem was that the more he tried to talk me out of it the more attractive it was. I’m beginning to suspect the whole Uncle persona has become too real – you always want to rebel against your senior family members, don’t you?
In my heart I know I won’t buy the thing, but in a parallel universe where I have expandable shed space and a little more spare cash, the keys would be in my scone-grabbers right now.
For me the real attraction wasn’t just the loudness of the paint, or the whole car. I adore little sharp cars and sophisticated later models that have the mailed fist in a silk glove effect. Seventies Euro coupes do it for me as well and there’s one in the shed. Big and boofy Aussie cruisers like the ones on the cover this issue are also part of my world – I’ve owned a V8 Kingswood for decades. Which is why the Road Runner fits in. Loud and out there, it adds to a healthy mixed automotive diet. Dammit. So little time and so many cars to own…
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