Give the guys at Plymouth credit they kept stepping up to the plate long after the government shut off the field lights and told everyone to go home. By 1980, America had pretty much written off the concept of the muscle car for good, and small cars with small engines were the wave of the future. The base Mustang engine was a 4-cylinder, the mighty Corvette wheezed out 170 horsepower, and the Mopar guys had all but killed off all the great names like Challenger, Charger, Barracuda, and GTX. However, this 9300-mile 1980 Plymouth Road Runner is proof positive that real car guys never die, they just work quietly behind the scenes, and the guys at Mopar, even during the dark years, were true car guys.
Yes, you read that correctly, this car has just 9290 original miles and is in 95% original condition. The interior is amazing, and Marlon in the detail shop brought out a shine in the 30-year-old black paint that wasn't even there when it was new. Survivor? Absolutely. Aside from a small touch-up on the passenger-side quarter panel, this car sports factory paint everywhere you look, enough to qualify for survivor status with almost any club you'd care to join. Body panels are, of course, all OEM (nobody makes reproduction Volare sheet metal), and the paint is as the factory applied it. Panel gaps are decent again, like the factory did it and out back, the ducktail spoiler is undamaged save for signs of age in the paint.
For 1980, Plymouth dressed up the Road Runner with blacked-out trim, including the grille and a lot of the trim, giving the car a more sinister, cohesive appearance that actually looks pretty darned good. I like the square headlights instead of the round units in square housings from earlier years, and the taillights are big pieces that remain in excellent condition. And while the Pontiac guys up the street were going crazy with their stripes, decals, lettering, and birds on the hood, Plymouth kept it simple with red accents on the fenders, hood, and around the windows. It's enough to let you know that this car is not your run-of-the-mill Volare, but not so much that the car becomes a parody of itself. The bright Road Runner decals on the fenders and doors force viewers to remember the great years of Mopar muscle, although the Warner Brothers bird emblems are notably absent by 1980, the Road Runner had grown up.
Power comes from Chrysler's evergreen 318 cubic inch V8, now generating 120 horsepower thanks to a 2-barrel carburetor and single exhaust. Nevertheless, it moves the relatively lightweight car pretty well, and makes good V8 sounds while doing it. Aside from basic service items, the engine bay is 100% stock, and while it may not be sparkling show quality, a little elbow grease will go a long, long way on a survivor like this. The only major replacement part, aside from the battery, is the new radiator that we just ordered and will have installed within a few days. No, it's not beautiful, but it is authentic and original, and thanks to the restored cars we're all used to seeing, you can be forgiven for thinking that all cars came from the factory sparkling clean and new. This one has been undercoated since new, so rust is not an issue, but it does collect debris a lot more easily than simple painted panels might. Either way, if you owned this car in 1982 or so, this is exactly what it would look like and it remains an outstanding benchmark for anyone interested in preserving and restoring these cars.
Underneath its solid and clean, but like the engine compartment, not quite ready for show. The original TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic clicks through the gears easily, feeding a 2.47 rear axle. There are no rust issues, all the components are still present, and it all works properly. The exhaust looks original, right down to the single catalytic converter, the shocks are OEM, and I am inclined to believe that even the FR70-14 Goodyear Eagle ST tires are original (and showing their age; they're for show only, not driving). The wheels are surprisingly cool-looking pieces that recall the old Rallye wheels of the 60s, painted red with chrome accents and a polished outer trim ring. They're in great shape, befitting wheels that have never even seen a tire changing machine.
The interior is as close to new as a 30-year-old interior can be. Is it leather? No, but it sure looks good, doesn't it? L6M6 buckets were part of the package, and they are incredibly well preserved today. The carpets are very nice, with that luxury pile that automakers were so fond of during this era. The dash is Plymouths last gasp at a performance look, with a sporty brushed aluminum appliqué around the rectangular instrument binnacles. A console separates the seats, and is undamaged by wear or time, including the woodgrain border. The steering wheel is wrapped in matching red leather, and looks a lot like the old Tuff Wheels of yore. The door panels, headliner, and rear package shelf are time-capsule items and the AM/FM radio works properly, including the optional rear speaker. Other options include an electric rear window defroster and factory floor mats. The trunk is original, and features a full sized spare, which was a $36 option.
On survivors like this, documentation is often part of the package, and you won't be disappointed here. We have the original window stickers (two of them) for the car, the original invoice from DeLuca Chrysler-Plymouth in Bedford, Ohio, and copies of the original title and registration. These are all things you'll want to have to place your car in competition in a survivor class. My research suggests that this is a fairly rare car, too, with only 496 Road Runners being built in 1980.
Believe it or not, the Volare Road Runners are gaining popularity as collector pieces. The old saying that a high tide floats all boats applies here prices of Mopar muscle continue to spiral upwards, and budget-conscious hobbyists look for ways to have fun on a smaller scale. No, it isn't a Hemi Cuda, but it costs a fraction as much. Unusual cars like this, especially when they have less than 10,000 miles on them, always cause a stir at car shows, so you can be the center of attention not because you spent a million dollars, but because you bought something very few people have ever seen before. Car clubs are working hard to incorporate standards for survivors into their judging rules, putting cars like this at a premium for historians. If you're looking for a fun, inexpensive way to attend the next Mopar Nationals, look no further. Call now!
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