Road Runner reminiscent of countless road trips
One of the show cars at this week's Daily Herald Cruise Night that caught my eye was Jim Thomas' 1970 Plymouth Road Runner. Sticking out far more than the B5 Blue paint or sharky Air Grabber hood was his story.
While he's only owned this car for a year, it hearkens back to a similar Mopar he bought new and jammed full of memories.
Jim was born and raised here in the Windy City and in 1967 joined the Marines. After coming home from Vietnam in 1970, the 21-year-old was assigned a post in the motor pool at the Cherry Point (North Carolina) Air Station. "While in the barracks oversees, I picked up a Plymouth military sales brochure," recalls Jim, who now lives in Elk Grove Village. "I loved the Road Runner's pistol grip shifter and the bright, vibrant color."
He also loved the fact that he could order one at the base and then pick it up at the dealer closest to his family's home, Park Chrysler.
"If I had any brains, I would have ordered the Hemi," laughs the enthusiast, who instead selected the 383-cublic-inch V-8 option. He cashed in a savings bond he bought in 'Nam a year earlier and picked up his new car on April 25.
Right away, Jim was burning up the road in his hot car, making regular trips between the base and his Illinois home. "I had a serious girlfriend and every chance I could, I'd come back," Jim recalls. A one-way trip was 1,050 miles and the serviceman made that journey dozens of times. When he got rid of his Road Runner in June of 1971, he had racked up more than 88,000 miles on the odometer.
While the trip was long, he always had company. "Word got out quick that I was repeatedly returning north. I'd always have buddies asking for rides to stops along the way," Jim says. He'd oblige in exchange for a few bucks.
"It was $105 for gas and tolls and even then, it was expensive," he chuckles.
Jim never raced that car but did bolt on different wheels and installed wide Mickey Thompson tires in the back.
Never once did Jim have a serious issue with the Plymouth but in 1971, given its high mileage, he was ready for something new. He traded it in on, off all things, an MG MGB.
"A friend of mine let me drive his around base and I liked how sporty it was," Jim says. "Looking back now, I wish I'd kept that Road Runner."
That wishful sentiment has always stayed with Jim and in 2018 he set out to relive those motoring memories. He found this restored example, which isn't identical to his original but close, for sale in Washington state.
"My heart was racing when it came off the delivery truck," gushes Jim. "I was so excited. Every time I get behind the wheel, I'm 21 all over again."
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