1968 PLYMOUTH ROADRUNNER BACKGROUND
By the mid-1960s, the muscle car boom was…uh, booming and Plymouth wanted a bigger piece of the action. Plymouth was one of the largest-volume automakers in America at the time, always maintaining the Second-, Third-, or Fourth-largest title by volume. And they did it by fielding lower-priced cars that were well-built, just not very fancy. Plymouth was considered to be one of “The Low-Priced Three”, referring to Ford and Chevy, whom they were always in neck-and-neck competition with, for sales and market share. Pretty heady company for a high-volume commodity carmaker. So, when Plymouth decided to enter the muscle car fray, they approached it from the same angle: Solid, simple, nothing fancy, price-leader. To accomplish this, they started with the plebeian Plymouth Belvedere 2-door Coupe and Hardtop, dropped in a fire-breathing 383 Magnum big block V8, a special trim package, and let’s not forget that crazy bird. Plymouth approached Warner Brothers about licensing the rights to use the Road Runner cartoon character for its new car. They got to use the name, the image (it’s emblem), and that crazy “Meep, meep!”-horn. What a great idea! And people loved it. 1968 was the first year for the Plymouth Roadrunner, as nearly 45,000 were sold in the first year alone.
1968 PLYMOUTH ROADRUNNER OPTIONS LIST
The list of options was long on these cars. Plymouth was following the practice of the day of presenting a low-priced base car that was fairly stripped-down, in order to brag about the low price. Then offering a plethora of options that most customers would want and be willing to pay for, to get their car up to a standard they could live with. In the end, the 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner came within a few dollars of its competitive set, once it was optioned up to the same level of content. A bare-bones 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner came with manual drum brakes all around, manual steering, a 3-speed manual transmission, and rubber floormats instead of carpet. The funny thing is that cars like the 426 Hemi Roadrunner pictured here always seem to be bare-bones, no-option cars, right down to the stamped steel wheels with “Dog Dish”-hubcaps. The Hemi was a very expensive option at the time, so maybe these guys used up all their option money on the Elephant Motor and had nothing left for the niceties. Still, can you imagine trying to slow down a big heavy, cast-iron torque-monster like the 426 Hemi with unboosted drum brakes?
1968 PLYMOUTH ROADRUNNER ENGINE OPTIONS
The 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner came standard with the 335-horse 383 Magnum big block V8, and a 3-speed manual gearbox shifted on the floor. Most opted for either the 4-speed manual with “Pistol Grip” shifter, or the 3-speed Torqueflite automatic. The only other engine that could be ordered in a ’68 Roadrunner was the 426 Hemi, the ultimate muscle car monster-motor. While officially rated at 425-horsepower, the actual output was rumored to be somewhere north of 500. Big, heavy and brutally powerful, it was an expensive option at $714. That doesn’t sound like much today, but when you consider that the base price of the whole car was only $2,900, that’s an expensive option. And of course, the Hemi was really a race motor, not meant for the street, unless you wanted to street race. But with a big lumpy came, high compression, and twin 4-barrel carburetors, they were just to radical for normal street driving. And they got horrible mileage. And their massive torque tended to break things, and land people in jail. All these factors combined led to very few Hemis being ordered. They would be very desirable on the collector car market anyway, but its made even more so by their extreme rarity.