"What is it like on the street? Breathtaking. The Hemi Road Runner has more pure mechanical presence than any other American automobile. ... It has an impatient, surging idle that causes the whole car to quiver. ... Open everything in the two four-barrel Carters [and] the exhaust explodes like Krakatoa and the wailing howl of surprised air being sucked into the intakes turns heads for blocks. Baby, you know you're in the presence."
That was Car and Driver after comparing the '69 Hemi Road Runner against five other econo-racers that, in just one year, had sprung up to imitate Plymouth's budget-muscle blockbuster. Such breathless prose wasn't rare; anyone who drove a Hemi Road Runner seemed similarly affected.
With the Road Runner accounting for 35 percent of its midsize-car sales, Plymouth didn't tamper much with the winning formula as set out in the '68 original. A convertible joined the hardtop and pillared coupe, the grille and taillamps were revised, and the bird insignia were now in full color. A center console, front buckets, and power windows were added to the options list.
The 335-bhp 383-cid four-barrel returned as standard, with the 425-bhp 426-cid Hemi again the top engine option. Midyear, buyers got a third choice, the same triple-two-barrel 440-cid V-8 that debuted in the '69 Dodge Super Bee.
Here it was called the "440+6" and it came with the big-scoop, lift-off fiberglass hood, Hurst shifter, and 4.10:1 Sure-Grip. The 390-bhp 440+6 provided Hemi-style acceleration for about half the price. But Hemi-style does not mean Hemi excitement. Motor Trend knew that after swaggering up California's car-crazy Sunset Strip in a blood-red '69.
"The rough, hard idle swells up and out from under the car, ricochets off other cars, and rams into the ears of the driver, the spectators. You think twice about a 383 Road Runner, but a hemi only once -- and let it pass."
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For more cool information on muscle cars, check out:
- Plymouth muscle cars spanned the spectrum from fanciful to fearsome -- and sometimes displayed both qualities in a single model. See profiles, photos, and specifications of Plymouth muscle cars.
- Muscle cars came in many shapes and sizes. Here are features on more than 100 muscle cars, including photos and specifications for each model.
- Muscle cars created their own culture. To learn about it, read How Muscle Cars Work.
Check out these profiles of muscle cars, which include photos and specifications for each model:
- Cougar pulled out of Mustang's shadow with the striped and spoilered 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator.
- Beep, beep! Make way for one of the baddest muscle cars of all time, the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi.
- The 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am combined sports-car handling and muscle car power.
- An all-aluminum, race-proven V-8 defined the rare and wicked 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
For related car information, see these articles:
- The engine is what gives a muscle car its flamboyant personality. To learn everything you need to know about car engines, see How Car Engines Work.
- Muscle cars wouldn't have much muscle without horsepower -- but what exactly is horsepower? How Horsepower Works answers that question.
- NASCAR race cars embody the muscle car philosophy of power. Read How NASCAR Race Cars Work to find out what makes these charged-up racers go.
- Are you thinking of buying a 2007 muscle car, or any other car? See Consumer Guide Automotive's New-Car Reviews, Prices, and Information.