David Newhardt, courtesy of Mecum Auctions

• Five-year restoration

• One of 34 built in 1970

• One of 20 4-speeds

• Documented on the Chrysler Registry as a factory V-code convertible

• 440-ci Six Pack engine

• 4-speed transmission

• Dana rear end

• Power steering

• Power disc brakes

• Air Grabber hood

• Bucket seats and console

• Original fender tag

• Copies of old title to the mid-1970s

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Plymouth Road Runner Convertible
Years Produced:1968–70
Number Produced:824 convertibles total; 20 with these options (1970)
Original List Price:$4,599
SCM Valuation:$33,500–$55,500 (base convertible)
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$22.58
Chassis Number Location:VIN plate on the driver’s side instrument panel behind windshield
Engine Number Location:Pad on the right side of the block to the rear of the engine mount
Club Info:Walter P. Chrysler Club
Alternatives:1970 Ford Torino GT Super Cobra Jet convertible, 1970 Chevy Chevelle LS6 convertible, 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge convertible
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot S164, sold for $120,960, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s 27th Original Spring Classic 2014 in Indianapolis, IN, on May 17, 2014.

You’d think it was a match made in heaven. The visceral excitement of a big-bore V8 propelling a ’60s mid-sized American performance machine at crazy speeds, and the wind-in-your-hair, sun-at-your-back enjoyment of a convertible. Put the two together and get two thrills in one, right? Not so fast.

Think of some of your favorite muscle machines from that era. Take the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, for example. Just 108 convertibles made. 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T? Only 236 ragtops. You get the picture. Then when you combine topless muscle with the highest-horsepower engine on the option sheet, the numbers get really small. 1970 Ford Torino GT Super Cobra Jet convertible? Only 19 made. How about the 1965 Chevelle Z16 convertible? Just one. And the “Gentleman’s Hot Rod,” the 1968 Hurst/Olds? Absolute zero.

So why are muscle car convertibles so scarce?

“Go” over “show”

Performance certainly would dictate the lightest, strongest body possible. Serious drag racers and street racers bought “post coupe”-bodied cars. They didn’t look as nice as a hard top, and the rear windows didn’t roll down, just popped out, but that was a small price to pay for the flyweight of the bunch.

Pillarless hard tops were a bit heavier and less torsionally rigid, but they looked cool and were an acceptable compromise for most buyers. Convertibles? With their top mechanisms and hydraulics, and with their requisite chassis reinforcements, they usually were 200 or 300 pounds heavier that a post coupe or hard top.

Weight is the enemy of speed, and in the muscle car world, guess which was more important? Keep ’em simple and make ’em fast — that’s how most were made, and that’s what made the overly basic Road Runner a success. Many of them didn’t even have carpeting.

But as the muscle car era raced into the ’70s, a new type of vehicle emerged. Motor Trend tested three of them for their December 1969 issue: a 1970 Chevelle LS6 hard top, a 1970 Ford Torino Cobra Drag Pack hard top, and a 1970 Road Runner 6-barrel hard top. They wrote, “Coming of age in America — 1970: Tooling down to the local Big Boy in your shiny, new iron. Ergo, the SUPERCAR. But it’s not just for kids. These gutsy intermediates are available with enough velvet to capture the imagination of the briefcase gang as well. And that’s their insurance; their ace in the hole. Even the establishment digs groovy cars… for now, anyway. This year, they’ve continued to flourish and thrive, with ever-bigger engines, better handling, enough options to choke a memory bank and an abundance of gimmickry to amuse and delight this jaded old world…. All three of the vehicles we tested had, to varying degrees, the performance, handling, and braking that you’d expect from a Supercar, but they were also loaded with creature comforts you don’t normally associate with the breed. Could it be we’re getting into a new bag — the mature Supercar?”

More options, more dollars

Yes, supercars were maturing in 1970, but those changes came with a price. Take a look at our feature 1970 Plymouth Road Runner ragtop, packed with the potent 390-hp 440 6-barrel V8.

The base Road Runner convertible listed for $3,289 — $393 more than the base coupe, and $244 more than the popular and sporty hard top. Add $249.55 for the 440 6-barrel, $197.25 for the beefy 4-speed, and $235.65 for the bullet-proof Dana 60 rear end, just to get this car moving with authority.

Then there is the mile-long option sheet: Power steering and front disc brakes, light package, AM radio, Rallye gauges with Tic-Toc-Tach, three-spoke Sport steering wheel, pedal dress kit, and high-back bucket seats and console with Hurst pistol-grip shifter. Toss in Rallye road wheels, dual outside mirrors, hood pins, chromed exhaust tips, and flat-black performance hood paint for an unforgettable look. Total sticker price: around $4,600. That was just about Corvette, Cadillac and Lincoln territory in 1970.

The establishment may have dug groovy cars, but the vast majority of these cars were still bought by 20-something males, and most could barely afford a stripped-down hard top, much less a decked-out convertible. No wonder only 34 ’70 Road Runner convertibles were built with this engine, and just 20 with the 4-speed manual gearbox.

Nice car, right price

Our feature Road Runner received a total restoration completed in 2006, performed to a high degree of quality. Mecum tried selling this car at Indy in 2009, where it was a no-sale at $160,000 (ACC# 120640). Our reviewer commented: “Exceptionally nice, but not more than $160k of exceptionally nice. If the consignor doesn’t need to dig out from this restoration, he’d be best to sit on the car for a while.” Five years later, it’s apparent the seller should have taken that bid.

Today, $120,960 bought one of the prettiest muscle machines you’ll ever see, at a price that would have been about right for a nice-condition Hemi Road Runner coupe. There may be faster supercars, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Hemi — or any other muscle car — with as much overall “wow” factor as this one. Considering that and this car’s option list and great overall condition, I’d say this was a fair and reasonable price. Well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

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