TOUGH CAR, TOUGH GUY: Canadian motoring enthusiast Bill Tevruchte alongside his 1974 Plymouth Road Runner – a muscle car rarely seen outside of North America. Image: Dave Fall.
Ford has the Mustang, Chevrolet the Corvette....but 40 years ago if you really had good reason to get from A to B (maybe to rob a bank!) you had to drive a Plymouth Road Runner.
Ford performed brilliantly through the years with sales of its Mustang models – and, as you might know, an right-hand-drive version will arrive in South Africa in 2015.
We are told Chevrolet and Pontiac once ran a close second in market share with their Corvettes, Stingrays and TransAm models, but nobody did it slicker and meaner than Chrysler’s (Plymouth) R&D team to produce the baddest, maddest powerhouse coupe yet.
CLASSIC ROAD RUNNER
Enter the Road Runner, quite possibly the rarest factory-made muscle car ever produced Stateside.
Spending a few days in Toronto proved a real eye opener for this motoring enthusiast. During my visit I was lucky enough to met up with the Canadian chapter of the British Car Club, along with the Corvette Club who were both having a day out at Wataga Beach – and I drove a Lincoln product in surely the worst-congested city in the world – that’s right: to my mind even worse than Paris or Rome – or even Cape Town during rush hour.
Who in their right mind would sit in a traffic jam for three hours plus to see the Niagara Falls? OK, I did, but apparently every weekend during the summer months it’s the same scenario. Winter months are an entirely different story, of course, when Canadians are often snowed-in during those legendary awful winters they are forced to endure.
When that happens cheerful Canadians do their shopping in places like the Dundas Centre in downtown Toronto, where most of the shops can be found below ground in a 35km expanse of shopping malls. I’m not saying Dundas is big, but there are three subway stations within to get people where they want to be – and safely home again all warm and cosy.
Gladly I wasn’t there at that time of the year but rather in the glorious month of August. And that’s where I bumped into my first and only Road Runner – or more exactly Bill Tevruchte, the proud owner of the 383cu in. Plymouth seen alongside.
‘REALLY HARD TO FIND’
“I’m an off-duty fireman but if you want to take a closer look at the car, feel free. You can sit in it and I’ll take your picture if you want,” the amiable classic car enthusiast drawled in his gravelly Canadian accent.
“This one’s a ’74 model and I’m the third owner. I always wanted one – Mustang’s are two-a-penny – but Road Runners are really hard to find.”
He was double-parked but not too concerned, and continued: “Did you know that Plymouth paid out over $50 000 dollars to Walt Disney for the right to use the Road Runner name? This particular car is so original it still has the signature ‘Beep! Beep!’ hooters and transfer on the trunk (bootlid).”
Reputed to be able to genuinely outrun police cars when new, the Road Runner came standard with a V8 250kW motor. Coupled to a four-speed manual gearbox there was little outside of a Ferrari to catch it from standstill. Factor in some trick suspension parts from the factory and it could really handle, too, I was assured.
Tevruchte needed to get back to the fire station. “Just wish the original owner had shelled out a measly $715 for the 426 cu in. Hemi. I could have got you through to Niagara in under an hour with that motor!”
In a flash, he was gone. I never got a chance to ask, but suspect he also drove the fire rig – just like the Loonie Tunes cartoon, there was never ever any dialogue needed – except that plaintive call: “Beep! Beep!”