|1969 Plymouth Road Runner Resto-mod
|1969 (Road Runner), 2008 (Charger), 2012 (this combination)
|Original List Price:
|$4,298 (Road Runner), $37,010 (Charger)
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|On plate at base of windshield
|Engine Number Location:
|Decal on driver’s side front of engine, behind water pump
|2013 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, 1969 Plymouth Road Runner A12, 1968 Dodge Hemi Charger
This car, Lot S69, sold for $108,000, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s sale in Kissimmee, FL, on January 17–26, 2014.
The notion of partnering old-school aesthetics with modern engineering is nothing new or unusual. But it is truly rare that we see two distinctly different vehicles Franken-fitted together in the style we see here: a functional graft of purpose and pleasure, a mechanical unicorn emerging from the tire smoke.
On paper, a build like this makes a lot of sense. Peel the body off a proven, modern car, then simply plop some old skin over it and voila: a daily driver in a retro wrapper. Unfortunately, as with most “Gee whiz, why didn’t I think of that?” ideas, it’s not being done often for a reason. And that reason is a complex one.
Not so simple
The reality of putting the peel-and-stick concept into practice is much more complicated than you might think. Starting with simple dimensionality, the likelihood of old and new matching up even approximately in terms of length, width and height is slim to none. Modifying those dimensions — any of them, in any way — affects the integrity of one or both of the entities, and complications, at least in my experience, compound at an exponential rate anytime a Sawzall is introduced into the equation.
There is certainly a long list of reasons why building a car like this makes less sense than sitting on your favorite park bench and feeding hundred-dollar bills to squirrels. But there is also something about this one that just feels right. I can’t deny that it’s flat-out cool.
Fused for life
There are a lot of classics that have simply exhausted their usefulness, and judging from the build photos, this Road Runner was on its last legs. Whether the original driveline walked off, the floorboards were MIA or the bone structure had been rearranged thanks to too much go and not enough whoa, this project looks less like an abuse of a classic than an effort to make something out of nothing. Likewise, the Charger hiding underneath was sourced by West Coast Classic (as in the west coast of Florida) sporting a “damaged goods” toe tag.
With projects like this, utilizing imperfect but salvageable units makes a lot of sense in the event that the mad-scientist experiment goes a bit haywire. But due to the inevitable cutting and welding and stretching and shaping required to make the union work, neither car will likely ever be usable in any other iteration beyond what you see here. Sense and economics pretty much dictate that they’re mated like this for life.
You can argue that any custom-built car that has undergone any major chassis transplant or body modifications is likely stuck that way, too. While that may often be true, there are significant differences to consider. For example, semi-mass-produced chassis from the likes of Art Morrison or The Roadster Shop often require fairly substantial modifications to floor pans, but those chassis are purpose-built for each specific vehicle. In contrast, modifying a chassis engineered for an entirely different vehicle, such as this one, which was shortened four inches, can create unpredictable consequences.
I’m not saying that the setup here doesn’t work, but I can’t help but be wary. If it does work, great. Here’s something you could drive every day. But I’d certainly need a seat-of-the-pants experience before handing over a mound of cash as large as what was spent here.
Injected with depreciation
Also — and this is crucial — there are life-cycle limitations that come with using a production-line structure as a build foundation for a car like this one. In this case, we’re looking at a pre-bankruptcy Chrysler product that, despite benefiting from the Daimler-Benz relationship and having some significant power and handling abilities, is known for squeaks, rattles, and some low-grade materials.
And while it may be cool now, don’t forget that both the chassis and interior of the 2008 SRT8 are on a different depreciation curve than the ’69 Road Runner exterior. The SRT8 lower half is now six years old — and that platform has already been revamped and improved by Chrysler into an even meaner production SRT8. What was used here is not the latest and greatest thing, and that’s what tends to be favored by the resto-mod crowd. In five years, will the combination still be as cool as it looks now? If not, how would you update it without breaking the bank?
And what about that interior? Although it looks fantastic as it sits, there must be a tremendous amount of custom mounting work behind the dash and trim bits to make it all fit together nicely. For the time and money obviously invested, will it hold up as well as a nicely restored original or custom leather interior of roughly the same expense?
A cool cruiser and a lot of money
It takes an extremely colorful imagination, a heck of a lot of creativity, and some serious skill to so cleanly execute such a tremendously difficult build. This thing has exceptional curb appeal and an undeniable “wow” factor.
In terms of performance and usability, the Charger is a better car than the original Road Runner ever was. But is this concoction worth a six-figure price tag? That’s an awful lot of money to spend on a daily-driver hot rod with a shelf life, particularly when you consider what other turn-key cars can be had for that kind of cash. They say you can’t buy cool, but I think a shiny new ZR1 will probably get you pretty close for similar money. If four seats and the Mopar nameplate is what you’re after, you could opt for a new Challenger and Charger, both SRT8s of course.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this thing’s build cost approached six figures, but I am surprised that it made what it did here. In the eyes of most collectors, it is neither a 2008 Charger nor a 1969 Road Runner, and it’ll likely suffer from new-car depreciation without the upside of either originality or antiquity.
Of course, to an end-user who wanted modern convenience, vintage looks, easy serviceability, and was willing to pay whatever it took for all that, this was just the ticket. Here’s a car that’s both mainstream and different — both drivable and showable. More power to the buyer — I just hope he knows that the most enjoyment here won’t come from its dollar value in the future. This thing was built for the road, so the best bet is to hop in it, light up the tires, and head down the highway.
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.