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         > Plymouth Road Runner History <
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    THE REAL STORY - the Godfather of Road Runner
 How it came to be - the car - the name - beloved horn

Shown above is an ivy green 1969 Road Runner (limited color production)

The Plymouth Road Runner was a muscle car built by the Plymouth division of the Chrysler Corporation in the United States between 1968 and 1980. In 1968, the first muscle cars were, in the opinion of many, moving away from their roots as relatively cheap, fast cars as they gained options. Although Plymouth already had a performance car in the GTX, designers decided to go back to the drawing board and reincarnate the original muscle car concept. Plymouth wanted a car able to run 14-second times in the quarter mile (402 m) and sell for less than US $3000. Both goals were met, and the low-cost muscle car hit the street. The success of the Road Runner would far outpace the upscale and lower volume GTX, with which it was often confused.
First Generation Road Runner (the true "muscle car" in every respect)
    Production        1968 - 1970
    Body Style
        2-Door Coup, 2-Door Hardtop, 2-Door Convertible
    Platform
           B-Body
    Engine              383, 440 Six-Barrel (added mid-year), and 426 Hemi
    Transmission   3-Speed Automatic, 4-Speed Manual
    Wheelbase        116.0 Inches
    Length
              202.7 Inches
    Width
                76.4 Inches
    Height
               54.7 Inches (with five passengers on  board)
1968 Road Runner

Paying $50,000 to Warner Brothers to use the name and likeness of their Road Runner cartoon character (as well as a beep-beep horn, which Plymouth paid $10,000 to develop), and using the Chrysler B platform as a base (the same as the Belvedere, Satellite, and GTX), Plymouth set out to build a back-to-basics muscle car. Everything essential to performance and handling was beefed-up and improved; everything nonessential was left out. The interior was spartan with a basic cloth-and-vinyl bench seat, lacking even carpets in early models, and few options were available - just the basics such as power steering and front disc brakes, AM radio, air conditioning (except with the 426 Hemi) and automatic transmission. A floor-mounted shifter (for the four-speed) featured only a rubber boot and no console so that a bench seat could be used. The earliest of the 1968 models were available only as 2-door pillared coupes (with a B-pillar between the front and rear windows), but later in the model year a 2-door hardtop model (sans pillar) was offered. The Road Runner of 1968-1970 was based on the Belvedere, while the GTX was based on the Satellite, a car with higher level trim and slight differences in the grilles and taillights.

Plymouth dealers gave away this promotional windbreaker in 1970. The "heart with an arrowhead at bottom" design was part of Plymouth's ad campaign that year. The Road Runner is holding a helmet with the same symbol on it.

The standard engine was an exclusive-to-the-Road Runner 383 CID (6.3 L) Road Runner V8 rated at 335 bhp (250 kW) and 425 lb·ft (576 N·m) of torque. Its extra 5 horsepower rating was the result of using the radical cam and heads from the 440 Super Commando and a .25 raise in compression to 10.5:1 (vs. 10.25:1 with the 330 horsepower 383). When air conditioning was ordered, the cars received the 330 h.p. version, as the radical cam specs of the 335 h.p. version didn't create enough vacuum to accommodate a/c; and there were concerns of overrevving which would grenade the RV-2 York compressor. For an extra $714, Plymouth would install a 426 CID Hemi rated at 425 bhp (317 kW) and 490 lb·ft (664 N·m) of torque. Combined with low weight, the 6-passenger Road Runner could run the 1/4 mile in 13.5 seconds at 105 mph (169 km/h). It would prove to be one of the best engines of the muscle car era, and the Road Runner one of the best platforms to utilize it.

The standard equipment transmission was a four-speed manual with floor shifter and Chrysler's three-speed TorqueFlite automatic was optional. Early four-speed '68 Road Runners featured Inland shifters, which were replaced by the more precise Hurst shifters during the course of the model year.

Plymouth expected to sell about 2,000 units in 1968; actual sales numbered around 45,000. This placed the Road Runner third in sales among muscle cars with only the Pontiac GTO and Chevy's SS-396 Chevelle outselling it. Dodge debuted the Road Runner's cousin, the Super Bee, as a mid-1968 offering after seeing Plymouth's success with the Road Runner, along with demands from Dodge dealers for their own low-priced muscle car as the Dodge Boys started the model year with the higher-priced Charger R/T and Coronet R/T - both of which were priced similar or higher than the Plymouth GTX.

1969 Road Runner (currently most sought after of the Road Runner Lineup)

The 1969 model kept the same basic look but made some slight cosmetic changes (i.e. rear tail lights, optional bucket seats, new Road Runner decals). The Road Runner added a convertible option for 1969 with 2128 droptop models produced that year, and only ten with the Hemi (j code). Six of those Hemi convertibles were automatics; only the remaining four were four-speed manual transmissions. Three are known to exist.

An "Air Grabber" option (N96 code) was introduced this year; it consisted of an air duct assembly bolted to the underside of the hood that connected to twin rectangular upward-facing scoops in the hood. When the hood was closed, a rubber seal fitted over a large-oval unsilenced air cleaner assembly that ducted air directly into the engine. The scoops in the hood could be opened and closed via a lever under the dashboard. The lever opening the louver vents was labeled "Coyote Duster." A convertible was added.

While the 383 engine remained the standard powerplant, a 440 CID engine with three two-barrel carburetors, known as the 440 6bbl, was added to the lineup at mid-year to qualify the engine for the Super Stock drag racing class. Dodge marketed its three two-barrel setup as the 440 Six Pack on Super Bee models and this familiar moniker is often mistakenly associated with Plymouths. 440 6bbl Road Runners had no wheel covers or hubcaps, had flat black H wheels, and an organisol black lift-off fiberglass hood with functional hood scoop. This model of Road Runner and Super Bee had a Code M as the fifth character in the VIN and was also known as the A12 model. Its 440 engine produced 390 hp (291 kW) and 490 lb·ft (664 N·m) of torque at 3200 rpm, very similar numbers to the Hemi and at a lower engine speed. This meant the cheaper 440 6bbl was nearly as fast as the 426 Hemi, at least up to highway speeds. This option, along with the economical yet fast 383 and the outrageously fast Hemi helped propel Plymouth, and corporate sibling Dodge, to the top of the dragstrip echelon.

In order to up the resale price of the bird was the illegal and false practice of replacing the stock 383 badge with a fake 440 badge on the stock hood. This was not only common in the private  resale sector, but routinely practiced by shady dealers... because a 440 was thought to bring a higher price and quicker sale than the standard 383.  The average buyer was unaware that the 69 Road Runner only had three engines... the standard 383, the mid-year 440-6BBL, and 426 Hemi. The only 440 was the one with the three two-barrel carbs and only came with the fiberglass liftoff black hood. So, if you ever see a 68 or 69 Road Runner touting a 440 badge on the side of the stock hood... IT'S A 383... and the owner may not even be aware of it's false identity!! So there ya go and there ya have it!! If it's a 440 it better have three two barrel carbs and a glass liftoff hood.  Of note... the majority of Hemi and 44-6BBl Road Runners are clones that were originally 383 cars.

The Road Runner was named
Motor Trend Car of the Year for 1969. Sales almost doubled to 82,109, second to the Chevelle SS-396 and more than 10,000 units ahead of the Pontiac GTO, which dropped to third place in this market segment.

1970 Road Runner

1970 brought new front and rear end looks to the basic 1968 body, and it would prove to be another success. Updates included a new grille, leather seats, hood, front fenders, quarter panels, single-piston Kelsey-Hayes disc brakes (improved from the rather small-rotor Bendix 4 piston calipers of '68 - '69 ), and even non-functional scoops in the rear quarters. The design and functionality of the Air Grabber option was changed this year to increase both efficiency and the "intimidation factor". A switch below the dash actuated a vacuum servo to slowly raise the forward-facing scoop, exposing shark-like teeth on either side. "High Impact" colors, with names like In-Violet, Moulin Rouge, and Vitamin C, were options available for that year. The 1970 Road Runner and GTX continued to be attractive and popular cars. The engine lineup was left unchanged although a heavy-duty three-speed manual became the standard transmission, relegating the four-speed to the option list along with the TorqueFlite automatic. This was to be the second and last year of the Road Runner convertible, with only 834 made. These cars are considered more valuable than the 1969 version due to a better dash, high impact colors and more options including the new high-back bucket seats shared with other Chrysler products which featured built-in headrests.

The relatively popular 440 Six Barrel was relegated to option status for 1970. The 1969 "M" Code Edelbrock aluminum intake was replaced by a factory-produced cast iron piece; however, due to a porous casting, there was a recall early in the iron intake-equipped 440+6 run, and these were supposed to be replaced with the more-desirable Edelbrock intake from the year prior.

Sales of the '70 Road Runner dropped by more than 50 percent over the previous year to around 41,000 units (about 1,000 ahead of Pontiac's GTO but still about 13,000 units behind Chevy's Chevelle SS-396/454). This would also be the last year of the road runner convertible with 834 total production. Only 3 hemi (R) code road runner convertibles were built. The declining sales of Road Runner and other muscle cars were the result of a move by insurance companies to add surcharges for muscle car policies - making insurance premiums for high-performance vehicles a very expensive proposition. Also, Plymouth introduced another bargain-basement muscle car for 1970, the compact Duster 340 which was powered by a 275-horsepower 340 Magnum V8 which in the lighter-weight compact A-body could perform as well if not better than a 383 Road Runner. Furthermore, the Duster 340 was priced even lower than the Road Runner and its smaller engine qualified it for much lower insurance rates.

Second Generation Road Runner
(the generation that moved further away from "Musclecar" status)
     Production        1971 - 1975
    Body Style        
   2-Door Coup
    Platform
               B-Body
    Engine                 318 small-block (not a muscle car), 383, 400, 440, 426 Hemi
    Transmission      3-Speed Automatic, 4-Speed Manual
    Wheelbase          115.0 Inches
    Length
                  203.2 Inches

In 1971, the coupe bodywork was completely changed to a more rounded "fuselage" design in keeping with then-current Chrysler styling trends, including a steeply raked windshield, hidden cowl, and deeply inset grille and headlights. In a departure from previous thinking, the B-Body two-door bodies shared little if any sheet metal, glass, or trim with the four-door bodies. The convertible was canceled. 1971 was a high-water year for ride and handling for the Road Runner. The overall length was decreased, but the wheelbase was increased, and a rear sway bar was used in conjunction with staggered rear leaf springs, resulting in better handling and cornering without the stiff ride. It also saw the introduction of the 340-4bbl option, and a detuned 383 "Road Runner" engine with 8.7 compression, hardened exhaust valve seats, and power dropping to 300 HP. In return, Road Runners with the 340 and 383 engine received a standard insurance rating without the costly premiums normally tacked on to muscle cars. The 383 would now run on regular gas. Aerodynamics were much improved over the first generation Road Runners, resulting in much-improved high-speed handling. 1972 saw new emission regulations drive power down and 1/4 mile times up.

1972 Road Runner

The 1972 model was nearly identical to the 1971 with a few minor changes. The grille design was cleaned up, and the tail lights were changed to match the new aerodynamic look of the grille. Side marker lights changed from the attractive, stylish, flush-to-the-body surface side markers to the cheap, protruding, smaller "Chrysler Corporate Generic" tack-ons for the 1972 model year (the green one to the right is 1971?). The optional bumper guards for 1972 included a rubber strip surrounding the tail lights and a rubber strip below the grille. The big differences came in the suspension, rear axle ratios (a 3:55 ratio was the tallest available), rims and tire sizes (14"x6" rims, G60 series tires biggest available) and lastly (and most noticeably), the engines, with the big-block 383 being replaced by a larger-bore (and lower performance) 400 CID version. A 440 CID engine with a 4-barrel carburetor was available. All of the engines suffered a drop in compression ratios to allow use of low-lead/no-lead gas, as well as to meet the first round of emissions regulations. The 280 hp 440 engine was the basis for the "GTX" package (as the GTX was no longer available as a separate model) that was available on Road Runners from 1972 to 1974. Many interior and comfort/convenience options were gone, such as power windows/seats, leather seat covering being the most noticeable.

Power ratings on all engines looked much lower on paper due to the new SAE net measurement system. The famed 426 Hemi was gone for 1972, and only five 440 Six Barrel equipped cars were produced before the engine option was dropped (it was determined the 440 six-pack could not meet the stricter 1972 emissions regulations) in the fall of 1971. The 1973-74 models received completely new sheet metal and had more conventional squared-up front-end styling and changes to the rear that more closely resembled the four-door models than the 71-72s. The restyling helped sales which were up 40% over the 1972 models. In testing 1/4 mile times were getting close to the 16s, top speeds had dropped to barely over 120 mph (190 km/h), and the car moved further away from "musclecar" status. The base engine for the 1973-74 models had dropped down to Chrysler's workaday 318 CID V8; however, dual exhaust (which bumped the power up to 170 hp) was still standard. After 1972, no 440 with four-speed manual cars were built. The 400 was the biggest engine Plymouth offered with the four-speed, which could also be had with the 340 (1973) and 360 (1974) engines. The 440 was still available for 1973 and 1974, but only mated to the 727 TorqueFlite automatic.

The 1975 model was based on the newly restyled, more formal-looking B-body which was now called the Fury (the former full-sized Fury being called Gran Fury). The Road Runner came with a blacked out grille and a special stripe treatment to distinguish it from the Fury. As before the 318 was the standard engine, but it was now just with a single exhaust. The 360 (220 hp) and the now largest engine was the 400 (though still with a four barrel and dual exhausts, the horsepower was down to 230) were also available. In Car and Driver magazine testing of a 1975 car with the 400 engine; 0-60 happened in 8.1 seconds and quarter-mile times were solidly in the 16-second range. While just a shadow of the 1970 figures, this performance was at least respectable for the times. Plymouth's most powerful engine, the 440, was restricted to police models, though it has been rumoured that a few were built (via special factory order) with the 240 hp (180 kW) police spec 440, and the police spec suspension and wider rims. 7,183 Road Runners were built in 1975, and most (over 50%) had just the 318 engine.

Though the name of the car the Road Runner was based on changed from Belvedere to Satellite to Fury, the Road Runner remained a B-body through 1975. While the Road Runner name was planned to be on a B-body in Plymouth's published literature for the 1976 model year, the name was transferred to an optional appearance package for the all-new Volare.

Third Generation Road Runner
(or the "they should have stopped at the second generation")

    Production        
1976 - 1980
    Body Style           
2-Door Coup
    Platform               
F-Body
    Engine                  225 Slant-Six Weenie Motor, 318 Small Block, 360 Small Block
    Transmission       3-Speed Automatic, 3-Speed Manual, 4-Speed Manual
    Wheelbase
              108.7 Inches

In 1976 the Road Runner name was switched to the 2-door model of the replacement for the compact A-body Valiant/Duster series. This car, based on the new F platform, would be known as "Volaré". The new Road Runner was little more than a trim and graphics package; however, many suspension parts were borrowed from the police packages. A 360 CID engine was offered as an option (but only with a two barrel carb for 1976-'77 and single exhaust) to the standard 318 V8, but only paired with the 3-speed automatic transmission. Rated at 160 hp (119 kW), the F platform's best 1/4 mile times would be just inside 16-seconds at 88 mph (142 km/h). Although no comparison to the earlier stormers, the 360 powered models were respectable performers in their time. By 1978 and thru to 1980 the 360 was offered with a four-barrel carb and, for 1980, dual exhaust, bringing power up to 195 hp (145 kW). However, performance continued to suffer, and by 1979 the 225 CID Slant 6 six-cylinder became standard. The Road Runner continued as part of the Volaré line until its discontinuation in 1980.  


 

Courtesy of the Plymouth Bulletin and Mopar Action - from a 2000 speech

                                     (Jack Smith - The Godfather of the Road Runner)



I'm going to talk about the Road Runner, the birth of the bird, and how it happened that the conservative company that Chrysler was at that time could field a car named after a cartoon bird.

Muscle cars came out of the youthful exuberance that followed World War II. Many people who came back from military assignments had a lot of experience in motor pools. They were accustomed to working on vehicles and doing things to improve them. It was from this experience that street rods were born and a culture of performance was built up.

This culture was recognized by a guy named Jim Wangers, the account executive for the advertising agency that handled Pontiac’s LeMans. He foresaw the possible success of a muscle car, a performance car in the mid-sized category, and prevailed upon a sufficient number of people at Pontiac to give it a shot, and the GTO was born in 1964. It immediately conquered the street and became the performance image icon Pontiac needed. The GTO was copied by just about everybody. Within General Motors, the Chevy SS 396 and the Oldsmobile 442 shortly came into existence.

Chrysler eventually copied them, but before they could do so, Chrysler had to create a plan aimed specifically at the mid-sized market. At the time, the Plymouth product planning group was split into two sub-groups. One group did the Furys together with the mid-sized cars, with the latter a sort of second thought. The other group did the compact and the pony cars. The mid-sized cars just didn’t have a home. That was corrected in 1965 when Plymouth created an office for mid-sized car planning. At the same time the company set up a similar office over in the Dodge camp.

I was there to become the manager of the mid-sized Plymouth product planning group. When I got that job, one of my first chores was to field something that could compete with that GTO. Thus, the Plymouth GTX was born. Frankly, it was just a philosophical copy of the GTO. We took a premium Belvedere with a premium interior, premium accoutrements and moldings - all that stuff - and added the biggest engine that Chrysler had, the 440 four-barrel. A very strong car! It could easily compete with the GTO.

But the Plymouth showroom was considered by the kids in the youth market to be a very conservative, stodgy place. They didn’t flock in. As a matter of fact, those who went in, did so with their collars up to make sure their friends didn’t recognize them in an old folks’ shopping spot. In 1967, we sold 12,000 GTXs - that was 8.7% of Plymouth’s mid-sized sales effort, but that seems pretty small when Pontiac was selling about 81,000 GTOs in its mid-sized market. One out of four cars from Pontiac was in that price range. One out of four! My God.

Chatting with a number of you, I see that some of you remember things like the Mod Top cars. How many of you remember the Mod Tops? A few... Oh, lots of you!

The mod top was something that came out of my office. At that time psychedelic clothing and the whole spirit of Carnaby Street prevailed in the youth market. We tried to steal into that general emotional atmosphere, creating a sort of a turquoise-bluegreen-paisley pattern that we used as a vinyl roof on a car with body paint colors that complimented it. We also took the same material and we used it as inserts on the seats, making the car paisley on the roof and paisley inside. It sounds a little strange by today’s standards, but at the time, it struck a chord. We were trying to tell the kids, “Hey, we understand. We want to give you something to drive!“ and we hoped they would buy it from our store.

Still, the conservative issue remained as we were getting ready to do our 1968 car. That was an all-new mid-sized car that, as you know, if you’re in this room - and there’s more Plymouth enthusiasts here than in probably any other room in the country right now. Now you people - it’s intimidating to talk to you about Plymouths because you know more about them than I do - I'm going to give you some personal experiences. The stories I'm going to tell you are things I've been involved in personally. Hopefully, it will be of interest.

A big thing happened early in 1965. Robert S. Anderson was named vice-president in charge of the Chrysler-Plymouth sales division. Behind his back, we called him Big Bob. He never knew it. We never said, “Hey, Big Bob” - it was, “Mr. Anderson.” But Big Bob was a real car guy. As a car guy, he knew the task he had.

He was aware, as we were, that surveys had been done to discover how people felt about the mid-sized Plymouth, specifically the Belvedere. The most damning thing that came out of that survey was what a little old lady said: “Oh, I just love that name Belvedere. It’s so serene.” (Apologies to those of you who are driving cars with Belvedere nameplates.) We weren't looking for serenity, we were looking to get into this social beat and trying to attract the people in the youth spectrum of the market. Anderson was well aware of this.

The first thing Anderson did was to take a look at what the advertising agency had planned for the new 1967s which were about to come out. The agency had developed a marketing plan aimed at getting people to switch from Ford and Chevy to Plymouth. Their program was called “Switchcraft,” and they had a real cute gal dolled up like a witch who was to be featured in the ads for the year. They even did a parody on the song  "Witchcraft.”

Anderson wasn’t sure this was the way he wanted to go with the 1967 cars, so he brought a second agency into the picture, Young & Rubicam, challenging them to come up with a theme. At the same time he gave the original agency an opportunity to rethink the Switchcraft thing. He set up a timeline - it was short notice - about three weeks away, He said, “Okay, you guys, we’re going to get together and review how we’re going to market these new cars in 1967.”

The original people did not abandon Switchcraft. They refined it a little, dolling up the pretty little witch even more. They worked on the song and all that stuff. But Young & Rubicam, starting from scratch, came up with the theme: “We’re out to win you over.”

They invented the heart with the little red devil’s tail, a real ingenious stroke! The guy who did it had come up with the idea at home, late at night. Just sitting there, pondering notes, he had a vision of the little heart. So that became the pitch and Anderson bought it. The first agency was out. The new agency came in. Young & Rubicam proved to be a very creative outfit. That was the first thing Anderson did.

Another thing he did was to contact one of his grassroots advisors from the outside world, Brock Yates, a writer for Car & Driver. Anderson asked Brock, “What do I do to get the kids’ attention?” Brock’s advice was, “Take a car and just strip it down. Anything that isn’t essential, get rid of it. And then stuff the biggest engine you've got into it, so that car will sit at a red light and go: Vroom, vroom, vroom. All the other cars will see it, and they’ll be so frightened that they will run up alleys and hide. Do that car and you'll get their attention.”

Although Brock Yates had made the suggestion to strip the car, when it came down to the end, my boss, Joe Sturm, told me, “Okay, it’s not that you can just think of something and say ’Hey, that’s neat! Let’s do it!’”

If you've got a great, fresh, new idea that’s never been done before, conservatism can take over and it becomes a tough sell. Now, a bare-bones performance car hadn’t been done before. Here was our opportunity to do it. We had been thinking about it, I have to admit. My 1967 company car had been built to my specifications. It was a Belvedere II two-door hardtop, and it had a 383 four-barrel engine, four-on-the-floor transmission, heavy duty suspension, 11-inch police brakes and wide-rimmed wheels with F70 red striped tires. It was one hell of a car! What I just described was a specification of the Road Runner. I was driving - in 1967 - a car that I just loved. It felt like the car we were about to propose.

So, we were going to propose a car. We adopted some standards. It had to please the kids if it was going to be successful. Number One, it had to do 0-to-60 in under seven seconds, right off the showroom floor. You could break it in, but you wouldn’t have to buy headers and all that stuff. It was to be stock, but it had to do over 100 MPH in the quarter mile in less than 15 seconds. That was another objective. Yet another objective was that it had to have, as standard equipment, all the mechanical toys the kids wanted: high performance brakes, transmission and stuff like that. Lastly, it had to sell for under $3,000!!

This was a challenging task to take on, but we knew how to do the mechanical stuff. The mechanical stuff was easy because Chrysler was blessed, at that time, with a fleet engineering operation, run by a chap named Dave Hubbs, that was just wonderful. Dave devised the engineering specifications: the suspensions, the brakes and all the things wanted by police agencies from coast to coast. These sales-coded options used in creating police cars were available to anybody. (At that time - as you may already know - Chrysler had 51% of the nationally available police car business. In regular cars, we were way under 25%, but in police cars we had over half the business.) So the tangible stuff was easily available and wasn’t really a test.

The intangible stuff for the car, though, was extremely important and very elusive. It’s the stuff that makes people want to buy cars. A good salesman recognizes that he’s not just selling transportation, he’s selling social admittance. He’s selling the impression that you make when you drive up in front of the country club. He’s selling the impression that you make on your fellow parishioners when you drive up to church on Sunday. “Oh, there’s Jack Smith. He’s driving that great big car.” You’re selling that. And, to the kids, you’re selling admission to various social atmospheres and, let’s face it, you’re selling sex, because for guys, it was thought to be a lot easier to attract the “dolly of your choice” if you had a hot set of wheels. So, it’s the intangibles that we had to find for this car

The big issues remained: What were we going to call it? Anderson said, “Hey, you product planners, you take care of the tangibles. I'm going to give the name chore to the advertising agency.” So we got to work on it, on that basis. They were to do the name and we were to do the rest. We also got to work on it ourselves. We had to have it named in three weeks.

All of this came up after the ’68 cars were released for production. The drawings had been released. The engineering paperwork had been cleaned up. The corporate planning office would have said, “It’s too late to even think about anything new, particularly, a whole new car.” But we were thinking about it and that’s the part of the story I'm about to tell you.

About a week into our planning, my ace assistant, Gordon Cherry, came into my office, and said, “Jack, I think I've found a perfect name for our car.”

“What is it, Gordon?”

“It’s a name that involves all the characteristics we want in our automobile.”

“What is the name, Gordon?”

“Tell you what. Do you ever watch cartoons... on television... on Saturday morning?”

And I said, “No.” I had two girls and they were already in school, beyond that age. Gordon was younger than me and had smaller kids.

So he said, “There’s this bird. And he has all the characteristics of our car. And I want you to watch television and tell me what you think.”

It was Road Runner and his ace adversary, Wile E. Coyote. Those of you who have seen the cartoons know that Wile E. Coyote is always trying to snag Road Runner, and Road Runner cannot be caught. He cannot be caught because he is so agile. He’s just a happy-go-lucky guy, loping along. He’s just a happy personality. He can take off the line very quickly! When he gets going, he is very fast. Now, anything that goes that fast has to be able to stop very quickly; stop on a dime. You can see the characteristics that he had. He is never caught and that’s why! And best of all, he whoops: Beep-Beep!

When I saw the cartoon on my television set, I fell in love with the thing. I’ll be frank, I didn’t know what the Road Runner was before Gordon mentioned it. I looked. The Road Runner was perfect! He appealed to me for one reason that may not be overly apparent. I had developed a philosophy that the way to appeal to the youthful generation was to do something that leaves the next older generation feeling a little awkward. Not that you want to alienate them, but just have them feel a little awkward. The younger generation would recognize that and embrace the product you have.

That philosophy came from a number of things. Back in that era, it was not like today when a kid gets a driver’s license and feels entitled to a car. Back in that day, if a guy had a date, chances were he’d have to say, “Hey, Pop! Can I borrow the car tonight?” Now, chances are that once he borrowed the car, the first thing he’d do would be to drive the car around the corner, open the trunk, get the tire iron, kick off the wheel covers and put them in the trunk. Because a car without wheel covers says “This ain’t my dad’s car. Dad wouldn’t drive a car without wheel covers.”

The idea of putting a bird on a car, and maybe going so low as to make the horn go “Beep-Beep!” was exactly the kind of thing that would say, “This is a young person’s car!” It wouldn’t necessarily make the older people mad; they’d just sort of maybe give it a few whimsical snickers. Hopefully they’d go and buy a Chrysler Newport, which was a typical car for that generation

I was sold! I had Gordon come in and I said, “This is great! But we’ve got to get this information to Young & Rubicam so they can consider it.”

Then the phone rang. It was Young & Rubicam inviting me to preview the presentation they had already prepared. They had done the job. They had selected their name. They had a presentation to give to Big Bob Anderson. Now, I was suspicious. Either they were patronizing me by asking me in to preview it or they weren't fully convinced that they had the right name, and they wanted to get cohorts: a few other guilty parties to share the feeling with.

They invited me to lunch at the London Chop House, a very nice restaurant. I took Gordon Cherry with me. We were seated at the end of a long table. About seven or eight people from Young & Rubicam were there, One of them was a young man whom I will remember until my dying day. He was from the art department.

They made the presentation which included a sheet of paper with two lists of candidate names. They explained how they had researched these names and done studies and their suggested name was on the bottom: AND THE NAME OF THE NEW CAR IS ... LAMANCHA! Man of La Mancha was the hit musical of the time.

The presenter said, “Well Jack, what do you think?” I stood up and congratulated them on a job well done, thanking them for the effort they had expended in analyzing all this stuff. I suspected that LaMancha might have been influenced by the fact that the GTX name was a copy of the GTO.

And I can tell you how we got GTX, if you want to know. What does that X mean? It’s just a letter. We arrived at it in sort of a logical way, but it was a copy of GTO.

Maybe the agency said, “Aha! Pontiac has LeMans... LeMans... LaMancha.” There might have been that association. I don’t know if it entered their minds or not, but I suspected it might have

While I was on my feet I said, “You know, you guys have done a great job, but there’s one little disappointment we have. In addition to your candidate names is the name that Gordon and I think would be perfect for the car. It has all the characteristics of the car and we think it would do a good job.”

They said, “What’s the name?”

I said, “you'll love it!”

They said, “What’s the name?”

I said, “Do you guys ever watch cartoons on television?”

It turned out, they did; they were better than I was. So I said, “We think a perfect name for the car would be Road Runner.” There was absolute silence at the table. I remember this clearly. The young man from the art department was at the other end of the table with his head in his arms. He was thinking. And I think he got lost in his own thoughts because he was dreaming of how he viewed our suggestion and his body began to convulsively shake. And he got our attention for fifteen to twenty seconds - that’s a long time for a table to be quiet - his body was going “like this” and everybody was starting to watch him. Suddenly his hands came down and he sat up and he said, “God! I could really do a lot with that!”

He broke the spell. God bless him, And God bless Young & Rubicam because they recognized the possibilities. Within a minute of quick conversation, they had torn up their list and said, without research, “Road Runner is the name we’re going to suggest.”

So, it happened just like that... just that easily. We left the restaurant and Road Runner was the name we used. We knew Bob would buy it. We knew we needed that name.
As soon as I got back, I called AMA (Automobile Manufacturers Association). They maintain a gentleman's agreement that if anybody puts a name on the AMA list, that name is theirs. Caling the AMA and talking to the young lady in charge of the list, I asked, "Is Road Runner on the list"?
“No, it’s not.”

“Put me down.”

Now, I knew that we had the name.

At that point, we approached Warner Brothers about buying the rights to the Road Runner name. To short-circuit the story: they sent an emissary, a cute little guy who represented all these little animals. He was almost a Yosemite Sam, and he took care of all of them: Tweetie Bird, Sylvester the Cat, and Road Runner, of course. All these Warner Brothers characters were just like his children! His job was to see that nobody did anything that would damage the image that Warner Brothers had spent so much money to develop.

They have certain rules. Road Runner has nine rules that he never violates. For example, if anything is purchased, it has to come from Acme Corporation; Wile E. Coyote keeps buying things to try to blow up Road Runner, and they always comes from Acme. Road Runner never runs on the prairie, he only runs on roads. Things like that.

We did the negotiations in one afternoon. We placed a long distance call from our advocate’s office - George Calvert was his name - to Warner Brothers in California. We had George, the attorney, of course, and representation from Product Planning and from our purchasing table and the advertising agency, about six people. There was a similar group on the phone in California. That conference call was placed at about 3:30 in the afternoon and we had completely worked out the contract with all the details, price and everything, by the end of the call at about 8:30 that night. We went right through the dinner hour and wrapped it up.

The opening shot by Warner Brothers was, “Hey, guys, this is a very valuable property. Be prepared to share in the investments that we have made in creating this.” They were preparing us for a high-ball price.

Our opening shot was: “There’s an organization called the AMA, and they’ve got a list. And if you’re on that list, you've got the name and no one else can build a car with that narne.”

They had said, “If you don’t want to pay the price, maybe somebody else will.”

Our reply was: “We are going to build a car and we’re going to call it Road Runner. We don’t have to buy ‘roadrunner’ because it’s in the dictionary. It’s the state bird in New Mexico. You can see a roadrunner at the zoo. A roadrunner is a part of our environment. Everybody can see roadrunners. But what we’re debating here is: Will the car that we’re going to build - called Road Runner, that nobody else can ever build by that name - have your bird on it or not?”

That was entirely different. There was a quick retraction, and actually, it was checkmate because we really had them to the point where they had to join us or discourage us by saying: “We don’t want to join the party.”

We worked out details. They gave the rights to do all the commercials and art work for ads and stuff like that, and it was a profitable arrangement. I have forgotten, frankly, the set annual fee. I think it was $50,000, which is peanuts now. Anyway, we had the bird!

We decided it would be so nice for the Road Runner car to have a horn that would go “Beep-Beep”.

You might be interested to know the Road Runner cartoon celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999. Chuck Jones, the cartoonist, was still alive at the time of the anniversary and was still doing cartoons. [He died in 2002 at the age of 89.]

At the time he was inventing Road Runner, Chuck Jones was at his desk in his studio while one of his fellow cartoonists pattered down the hallway with a big armload of drawings. Not wanting to bump into people, he was going, “Beep-Beep! Beep-Beep”! As he walked past Chuck Jones’ door, Chuck turned and said, “That’s it!” So, that’s how the "Beep-Beep" was born.

I asked Warner Brothers to give me a tape of the beep sound. They sent me a tape of a human voice attempting to sound like a car horn. And the tape just went "Beep-Beep" (PAUSE) "Beep-Beep" (PAUSE)  "Beep-Beep". The whole tape was like that!

I went to purchasing and I asked who on the approved source list sells us horns. (We were really out of time. This whole Road Runner car was being done, not overnight, but in less than two months.) They gave me the three horn vendors that we were permitted to buy horns from, so I called the chief engineer of each of these three companies and told them the story. I said, ’’I'm going to send you a tape in today’s mail. I want you to listen to it at once. Call me back as soon as possible if you have anything in your roster of horns that is anything like this sound “Beep-Beep”?

Very shortly, they all called back. Two of them said, “Not a prayer!” The third one, the Sparton Horn Company and Richie Vanstroodle - who turned out to be a heck of a guy - really wanted to get into the swing of this thing. He said, “Hey, we’ve got a horn that sounds pretty close. We’re building it for a military vehicle. It’s built to government specifications. It works under water. And it’s really expensive because it meets all these requirements: Forty-five dollars a piece.”

I said, “No way! I tell you what, I want you to get your best cost estimator to review that horn. Have him work all night at this. Call me back tomorrow and tell me the cost after you take off all the waterproofing and everything else but keeping it a legal horn, meeting government regulations. Tell me what you can sell it for.”

They called back and it turned out to be like a 47-cent penalty over what we were already spending for horns, so we had a horn. Sure, we said we’d buy that little bit of “plus;” at least I say “a little bit.” People in the industry would drive each other up the wall just to save a dime on a car. But a dime times a couple hundred thousand cars is a lot of money! In that case, we would have done a lot to save a small amount of money on each car. Cars are implicitly the product of a lot of cost reduction: coldly looking for pennies, trying to get the money out so we can be a competitive company and sell a car for a competitive price.

But we had the horn and it almost fit into the car. The horn was held by one bolt. There’s a little tab that goes into one hole and there’s a second hole for the screw that mounts the horn. That hole in the horn bracket was about 5/32 of an inch long. So we had to have them move that hole that little distance and moving that hole that little distance was the biggest tooling cost ($243 out of a total of less than $500) associated with the production of the Road Runner car!

Anyway, we had the horn. It turned out that they had a test that had to be conducted on every horn before it was authorized to be released: an engineering cycling test. The horn was placed in a sound-proof box and the switch was flipped - Beep, Beep, Beep, Beep - twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. At that rate there wouldn’t be enough time to get the test completed in order to support buying it for the start of production of the car. Remember, we were doing this car at the very last minute, so there were a number of things that came up which almost scrubbed the car.

I told my story to the supervisor in charge of the lab and my understanding that his engineering responsibility was to never release anything that hasn’t passed all engineering tests. Fortunately, his view of it was, “Hey, I'm responsible for releasing only things that are right, and I can’t shirk my responsibility ”.

So, I offered hjm a bargain: “If you will release the horn, right now - we both expect that it’s going to pass the test - I will write you a letter assuming full responsibility for the horn.” Now, I had no authority to do that! Who was I? I was just a product planner, but the guy said, “Okay.” And he actually released the horn. And I wrote the letter.

Eventually, after the horn was in production, the test was completed and the horn was a hit. But, it’s just a little example of the inter-relationships that were played out in getting the horn and in getting the car itself. We got the horn, we got the bird. We had all the mechanical components.

There was one thing that we really wanted. We wanted the engine in this car to be unique to Road Runner. We felt, for whatever reason, that it had to be a Road Runner engine; that when you lift the hood that “pie plate” on the air cleaner should say ROAD RUNNER ENGINE, and to be honest, it had to be unique. How, with the little time remaining, could we do that in a positive way and, hopefully, get the horsepower we needed?

I consulted my friends in the racing fraternity at Chrysler. Dick Maxwell was the chap who made the suggestion. He said, “Hey! Why don’t you take the camshaft out of the 440 (known as the A-134) in the GTX. Take that camshaft; it’s a hotter cam than that in the 383 4-barrel but it will fit in exactly. Slide it into the 383 and you'll have an unique engine that has somewhat more capacity. It has to be established on a dynometer.” It was a fantastic idea because it legitimized us saying,“This is a Road Runner engine,” The trouble was, doing so created an extra engine assembly in the plant.

Now, the plant was going crazy already with the complexity of multiple parts. And an engine is a big part to keep in stock. They call it an assembly because the transmission is a part of it. So, if we did this, there’d be one 383 Road Runner engine with a manual transmission - a four-speed - and another would be with the automatic. That would result in two more assemblies for a plant that was already choking on what it was putting out.

The chief engineer in Car and Truck Assembly was a guy named Bob Steere, one of the most fearsome men in the corporation. He would fight to the death to do things to benefit the Car and Truck Assembly Group, and he completely dominated the chief engineers’ meeting every Monday morning. He was on a campaign to reduce the number of engine assemblies because they couldn’t handle them all.

There we were, proposing yet two more. What to do? I could have just written a Product Planning letter, saying, “Do it,” but he would have... well, this would have roused his ire. When he was confronted, he’d get emotionally involved and his voice would shake. He was a hell of a nice man. I had a great relationship with him. We respected each other. We were friends. But we were tough.

So, I had to make peace with him personally, and hopefully before we gave a “go” to this plan. I tried to reach him while he was on vacation, asking his secretary when he would be coming back. “He’ll be in first thing on Monday morning.”

When Bob arrived back from vacation on Monday morning, he came to his office an hour early. He was a hard-working guy. But when he arrived, I was sitting at his desk! And he said, “What in the hell are you doing here?”

I said I had a story to tell him, and I told him about the Road Runner and the youth market and how we had to get this and why it was important to do. He heard me out, didn’t say a word, and when I was finished, he just said, “Go do it!” He was, in my mind, one of the several big heroes of the program, just because he said those words.

It was quite a different situation on the engine row with Dean Engle, the chief engineer of Powerplant Engineering. He was the guy responsible for the design and development of all engines, He had to release this engine. I told Dean we wanted to do it. Dean and I had a very, very good relationship, but, even so, he said, “Jack, you don’t want to use that camshaft!”

“Why not?”

“The engine won’t be right.”

“My racing friends told me I’d love it.”

Dean said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ll build up a car, so you can check it out yourself. We’ll build up an engine with that camshaft; in a mid-sized car for you to drive.”

So, he did. Two days later the car arrived. I drove it overnight... and I agreed with him. That car didn’t seem right. So I took the car to Frank Anderzjak at the Product Planning garage which had great contact with the racing community, including Ronnie Sox and Dick Landy, and many big name dealers. It was a good place.

I said, “Frank, check this car out.”

Frank did and called me back, saying,“Of course it doesn’t feel right. It has the wrong axle ratio.”

So I called Dean and said, “Hey, Dean! You were right. I didn’t like the car, but it has the wrong axle ratio.”

He said, ’’I'm sorry about that. You can bring it back and I’ll get the axle corrected and then you can drive it. But you still won’t like it, because, you see, it’s just not right.”

The car was back in a day or so; he was right. It was better, but it still wasn’t right, and I didn’t like it. I sent it back to the Product Planning Garage and I said, “Frank, check it again.”

He took that car apart and he found that we had the wrong torque converter. Now that was a hard problem to find. So I called Dean, said “Dean, you’re right. I didn’t like the car, but it has the wrong torque converter.”

Dean gave up.

Now, as I stand here, I don’t know whether this (the car having wrong parts) was done intentionally to support his contention that I wouldn’t like it, or if it was an oddball coincidence of mistakes. But Dean settled it, and two years later, he liked it so much by then that he used the cam in all the 383 four-barrel engines.

Now, the biggest part of the story is about to unfold. you've got the car. you've got the bird. you've got the horn. you've got the engine. You’re ready to go and tragedy takes place

You remember, I talked about doing things to a car that might alienate an older generation? I didn’t realize that this alienation was at work on Dick Macadam, who was styling director for the Chrysler-Plymouth studios reporting to Elwood Engle, vice president of Design, He had all the Chrysler and Plymouth styling activity under his wing. Eventually he became the vice-president, so he was a very serious man to contend with. He had a lot of influence.

He must have been brooding at night about the cartoon bird, because it led, one day, to a three-man conversation in the hallway. The three people were Dick Macadam, the stylist, Big Bob Anderson, the corporate vice-president in charge of sales for all these cars, and little old Jack Smith, the manager of the product planning activity. Now, if I assigned importance to the three of us, I’d give myself two votes, I’d have to give Macadam four votes but Big Bob would get eight votes, he was the controlling influence.

In this conversation Macadam got so perturbed that he laid his job on the line and, pointing his finger on Mr. Anderson’s chest, saying these very words (I’ll never forget): “Nobody! But nobody will ever put a cartoon bird on one of my cars!”

Hell of a time for that to come up!

Now, Anderson was on the spot because he’d depended on Macadam for all of his styling activities. And, doggone, Anderson said to Macadam, “OK, Dick, we won’t do that.” Now at that point, the whole thing was down the drain!

I had one piece of information that they didn’t have. And that was that if Purchasing didn’t have a drawing (of the bird) with a part number on it within two weeks, they couldn’t meet Job One with any of them. We had to move. We had to get a drawing. We had to have something in a purchasing agreement. So, with one of the few flashes of inspiration I've maybe had in my life, I made a proposal on the subject. I said to Big Bob, “Look, we’ve done enough research to think this is a great idea. We think the kids are gonna love it. At least, let’s get this decal going, and we can put it in the glove box with instructions, and we’ll let the owner decide whether he wants it on his car or not. Now, how can you say ’No’ to the owner?”

So Anderson looked at me and said, “OK, Jack. We’ll do it that way.” That let me go to Purchasing with the drawing. At least we could keep the idea alive and hope to save it at some future time.

That made Macadam a little pouty, so he said, “Well, okay. But I get to pick the bird.” What he meant was, he got to pick one of the renderings of the bird submitted by Warner Brothers. By that time, we had a big stack of them. Anderson said to Macadam, “Okay, you get to pick.”

So I took all of my drawings to Macadam and he picked the bird. If you’re familiar with the bird on the initial 1968 Road Runner car, you know that the bird on the outside of the car is not running; it is walking. And it isn’t in color; it’s in black and white. We were left with a decal of a black and white bird.

You may wonder, “What if we had lost the plate that Warner Brothers had sent?” What would we have done? Some of the stylists had already been inventing birds of their own. I found a lot of the original drawings done by these people who were generating their own ideas of the bird. I tore them out and pasted them on a big piece of cardboard The one in the upper left is one I think I could have lived with, it’s not bad. But some of them, like those on the middle right - with a lot of plumage - l think these were so close to the Warner Brothers’ Road Runner bird that we might have been in court with them. We were a lot better off with the real bird than anything like these.

The 1968 black-and-white decal that was on the Road Runner car for the first year is the one we had to pick under duress. With one minor exception, that bird was not used in advertising. When Young & Rubicam ran their ads and their TV commercials, everything was done in color. It was all speed. Everything was, you know, “Road Runner.” But it was the black-and-white bird that was on the 1968 car. At this point, the decal was still in the glove box.

Now I’ll tell you how the bird got on the car. How did we overcome Mr. Macadam? Virgil Boyd was the president of the company at that time. He had developed a way in which he could work out how he felt about a car. He had something called a Dealer Council made up of four Chrysler-Plymouth dealers and four Dodge dealers who pretty much represented all dealerships in the country. He’d bring them to Detroit, now and then, for meetings to preview future products. He’d give them a preview of the cars and learn what they thought about them while there would still be time to make little changes. Virgil Boyd had a meeting coming up. The cars were going to be displayed in what we called Fort Zeder, a wooden fenced stockade at the north end of the engineering complex. In the facility was room to park a dozen cars. It was a place to show cars privately for product security reasons.

Macadam had the cars parked in there. Virgil Boyd, president of the company, was going to take this viewing body through to show them the new cars. One of the cars was a Road Runner; and, of course, it didn’t have the Road Runner decal on it.

A young man working for me, Bruce Scott, happened to be a bird fan. He raised pigeons and won awards at the state fair. I gave him this assignment: “Bruce, get some black-and-white photographs of the decals that were done for glove box. I told him to make them the right size. There is one decal for each side of the car and another of the bird standing that is for the back of the trunk, and one more for the dash panel. Four decals. Get black-and-white photos of those decals and then get out your Exacto knife, and ve-e-ery carefully cut them out so they look sort of like the decals. Then, take your pot of rubber cement and get over to the stockade just before they have the show for the dealer honchos. Do whatever it takes to get those birds on the car.” Needless to say, they accomplished that. God bless them.

So, the meeting took place, and fortunately, the dealers liked the new mid-sized Plymouth models which were all-new that year, an ideal base for the Road Runner. Recall that the ’66s and ’67s, although attractive cars, were sort of linear in style: crisp. The new cars were sort of organic, the lines flowed. They liked that. It was good at the time. All these things made a great impression on the dealers

God bless one guy, and I didn’t know this ahead of time. He had a dealership in New Mexico, where the ’runner is the state bird.

It was a very happy meeting. When the big stockade door opened up, Anderson, Big Bob, was coming out with a dealer hanging on each arm patting him on the back and praising him. Everybody was smiling and all and I thought, “Well, it’s now or never.”

So, I broke into this chummy situation. (You may remember the W. C. Fields movies where a little boy would come up and tug on W. C. Fields’ pants and he would say, “Go away, boy! You’re bothering me!”). I felt like the little boy when I went up to Anderson. I said, “Hi Bob.”

“Hi, Jack.”

“How’s it going, Bob?”

“Fine, Fine,”

“Did you notice that the bird was on the car?”

“I noticed it.”

“Everybody seems pretty happy.”

“Yes.”

“I’ll tell you what: let’s make a decision, and put it on the car in the factories, if they’ll do it.”

“Okay.”

In telling these stories, I hope to give you some feeling for the human relationships we had with each other and some of the nonsense we had to go through in order to get our job done. That’s what put the bird on the car.

The official pictures of the Road Runner from the Chrysler records show, in black and white, what we had to sell. The car looks plain, the real Road Runner was even plainer; from the front view, it looks just like a Belvedere. Obviously, it’s a nice car, but it was not what you’re going to go out and sell to kids. So, let’s take a look at how we sold the car

We start with the bird. There he goes, beating a cloud of dust. Now what if we took his feet and added a wheel? Then he is on wheels and the dust becomes burning rubber and we tum it into a car. There’s the car. Now that’s Road Runner in every respect except it’s exaggerated a little bit. Needless to say the tires are bigger. The scoops on the hood are bigger.

See the two-page ad that appeared in November of 1967 in the hard core muscle car magazines such as Hot Rod, Car Craft and Popular Hotrodding. That’s a Road Runner ad, That’s the way the car was presented in the advertising.

There’s another piece of artwork that happens to be something we found that in the hands of a guy named Jim Ramsey who was working at Young & Rubicam back in those days. It’s a picture of a jigsaw puzzle (which he still had in the original format, under cellophane). It’s a good picture and it’s the only piece of artwork I know of in which, if you walked up to the picture, you can see the little black-and-white bird on the door. (It was the stance of the bird in the back, with his racing outfit, that was far more typical of the way the car was marketed.) The same artwork was turned into an ad. We don’t have to read the ad to know what it should say about performance and the four-on-the-floor as standard equipment, brakes, engine and all that stuff.

These ads did a really good job, and after a while we expanded it beyond the Road Runner. Here is a GTX ad in which we used the same technique on that car. you'll recognize the car except, of course, the wheels are overemphasized as it is driving off in a cloud of burning rubber.

But by the end of the year the car was introduced, 1967, and early in 1968, we could see that the car was transcending the youth market and was being sold in substantial numbers to an older crowd

When we propose a car, we cannot write a Product Planning Letter without including an official volume forecast from the marketing department. They have to agree: “Yes. This is a sales-worthy car. It will be profitable.” The official forecast number for Road Runner was 2,000 incremental units. Incremental units means that you can build this car, and at the end of the year the corporation will have sold 2,000 more cars than they would otherwise have sold. It was a pittance: 2,000 cars. And it was a tragedy because purchasing volumes and manufactured parts volumes based on that forecast would limit the production we might have had.

The car was an instant smash success, and buyers couldn’t get enough of them. A truck load of Road Runners would arrive in front of a dealership and the dealer would practically deliver them right off the truck to the guys who were waiting for them. The demand was very great.

Of course, they increased the volume level. Then, they doubled it. And then, when that wasn’t enough, they doubled it again. And when that wasn’t enough, they kept going up, all year. How many Road Runners could we have sold if we had a more optimistic volume forecast? Who knows? We did sell 45,000 during 1968. My personal opinion is that it could have been at least twice that many. The GTX had sold 12,000 units in 1967. In 1968, even with Road Runner selling from the same store, GTX sales were up to 18,000. That was close to a 50% increase. And Road Runner sales came to 45,000 out of a total of 63,000 units for the year for Plymouth’s two mid-sized muscle cars.

We thought that GTOs selling 25% of Pontiac’s mid-sized cars was the speed of light. For us, even with our problems in getting parts, by October, 1968, the Road Runner was making up 30% of Plymouth’s mid-sized production - thirty percent and the GTXs were making up another portion. Road Runner’s success was that good.

In 1968 the industry-wide numbers for sales volume were up 3.5% from the previous year, Plymouth’s volume was up 18% from the previous year. That represents a lot of success and a lot of money. Part of it was the fact that the new cars were styled better than those of previous years. I'm not saying it was all Road Runner, but Road Runner had made the showroom a swinging, desirable and interesting place to be. Now when a kid would say, “Daddy, buy a Road Runner when you get that new car,” the guy may say, ’’I'm not going to buy a Road Runner, son, but I’ll at least buy a Plymouth.” That’s how it would work. So, what was the Road Runner responsible for in overall profit? I don’t know. One time I made a few estimates, and I figured it might have been $100 million, which is a hell of a return on a tooling investment that was under $500.

The car was selling, and some of the sales were to older people, so they began advertising for that generation. Reflecting that reality is an ad created featuring the fictional Mipswich Valley Sports Car and Goodfellows Club with their cars in the back - all British cars. The written material tells the story of the club and how their secretary had been so audacious as to go out and buy a Road Runner with a Hemi engine, he was almost thrown out of the club but he entered the car in the club’s competitions and won; took them for rides and they thought, “Boy, it goes where it’s pointed, and it handles pretty well, and it’s a thoroughly desirable car.”

The ad concludes: “What saved George ultimately was when he took everyone for a ride. The Bird didn’t lean or sway as everyone expected; moreover it went where it was pointed, it stopped when asked, the ride didn’t shake any fillings loose; and the interior, like the exterior, was functional and businesslike. It even had these neat, Porsche-type drafter windows in back. The effect was educational, to say the least. No, the membership didn’t rush out en masse and buy Road Runners. But now, late at night, when the coffee runs low and the conversation turns to Let’s-knock-Detroit-iron, somehow the MVSCGC just isn’t the same. Beep-Beep. The Plymouth win-you-over beat goes on.”

We wanted to get the company to get behind the project and to understand and be enthusiastic about it. How do you do that? How do you communicate to people in finance and service and the whole organization in Highland Park?

Well, we had a barber shop in the basement of the administration building and every executive would go there for a haircut. All he had to do was call up, make an appointment, show up, get his hair cut. He could read his mail, even make phone calls, while getting his hair cut. Everybody wins because they save him the trouble of getting his hair cut on his own time.

The three neat Italian barbers - Sam, Phil and Pete - wore white smocks. I took each of them one of these jackets and said, “Hey, you guys! How about wearing a Road Runner racing jacket instead of your barber’s jacket. How about letting me set one of these Road Runner statues here in the barber shop to get the conversation started.”

They said, “Sure!”

So, I’d stop in the barbershop every day or two and give them a Road Runner story: How the program was going; what had been happening. And they’d feed that to all these people because the statue of the bird would start the conversation. It just shows some of the devious means that we went to in trying to keep things active and happy, even within our own ranks.

For 1969, we had improved the car. The horn had been made purple and had a decal on it that read: VOICE OF THE ROAD RUNNER. The four speed stick was now a Hurst unit. The decals were in color and the bird was running. The car was now available as a hardtop as well as a coupe, and we added a convertible. The convertible idea had been sold to Big Bob while he was getting a haircut. I couldn’t get an appointment with him, so I had his secretary line me up, As he was getting his hair cut, I took my board in and made the presentation. That convertible was “sold” to him while he got a haircut. It really was a nice car.

We continued to use exaggeration in ads. That’s a ’69 GTX on the right; Road Runner on far left. And the car in the middle is a car we’ve seen a lot of people with out in the yard today. That’s a Barracuda.

Arriving in the mail one day, with letter from Ray Brock, the publisher and editor of Motor Trend, was something that said, “The Birds of America.” One’s the eagle, the next is the robin. And if you can read what it says about the Road Runner, it says, “It’s a great American bird, and not only that, it’s just been selected as Motor Trend Car of the Year.”

The car was only a year old and it had won that very, very prestigious award. Car of the Year! I went to the awards ceremony. Gordon Cherry and I were sitting at a little table along the wall. Ray Brock, the publisher, made the presentation.

By this time Big Bob Anderson had left the company for North American Rockwell where he became CEO, eventually to became the father of the Space Shuttle. So you know the nature of the man. He was one heck of a guy. But he was gone.

I was gone from the Road Runner job, but I was sitting there, though already at a new job. At the ceremony the award was presented to Big Bob’s successor. He was a handsome smiling chap. I said to Gordon, “My God! Look at the guy!” (Glen White’s his name.) “He’s got a grin on his face. Just made the vice-president of sales and already getting these big awards!”

Glen White, even to this day, doesn’t know the story I just told you of what we went through to get that car.

Jack Smith, trained as a mechanical engineer, joined Chrysler in 1957, after working for Studebaker on chassis assigmments. From 1952 to 1955, Jack was the head of Studebaker’s successful Mobilgas Economy Run team.

At Chrysler, Jack took on management assignments in engineering and product planning. The latter brought him to Plymouth in 1967, where he became manager of the team that conceived the Road Runner. When Jack retired from Chrysler in 1980, he was the Chief Engineer of Vehicle Emissions and Fuel Economy Planning. In retirement, Jack was on the development team for the Chrysler Technology Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

                                  > Beep-Beep <

                                                             




                                   



 

                                         Earl Scheib - The History

          “I’ll Paint Any Car Any Color For $29.95”

                                              

Earl A. Scheib's association with automobiles began in the automobile mecca of southern California in the 1920s. After graduating from Los Angeles High School in the late 1920s, Scheib secured a job as a gas station attendant rather than pursuing college. Through numerous oil and tire changes completed for the General Petroleum Co., Scheib gained valuable experience. Soon Scheib branched off onto his own, purchasing his own service station in Los Angeles. Scheib fell into auto painting rather by accident. Customers frequently asked Scheib about auto painting shops, so Scheib decided to paint a few cars in the station's garage during the evening hours when the station was closed. What began as a small, after-hours endeavor soon blossomed, and Scheib could not keep up with demand. He thus sold his gas station and in 1937 opened Earl Scheib Paint and Body on a Los Angeles street corner near Beverly Hills.

Scheib was the first to introduce production painting of automobiles in the United States. Touting low prices of $29.95 for sedans and $24.95 for coupes, Scheib seriously undercut competitors' prices, which generally ran a few hundred dollars to paint an automobile. Because of the rock-bottom prices, customers rushed to Scheib's shop, reportedly causing traffic snarls that required assistance from the police. Open daily, Scheib and his ten employees painted between 150 and 210 cars per week during the early years.

Earl Scheib hit a snag in the 1940s with the advent of World War II. The war generated a great demand for paint, and paint supplies in the United States grew thin. Scheib was forced to lease a gas station to make ends meet, and he fought to keep his business open. In 1946, however, paint rationing ended, and the auto painting business experienced tremendous growth and popularity. Scheib opened additional stores in the San Fernando Valley, located just outside of Los Angeles, to accommodate the demand.

King of Advertising and National Expansion: 1950s-70s

Scheib began to expand nationally in the 1950s, and to raise awareness of his auto painting shops he turned to advertising. Earl Scheib marketed his shops through low-budget television commercials. Appearing on late-night television programs, Scheib soon became a national icon and celebrity, and his oft-heard sales pitch, 'I'm Earl Scheib, and I'll paint any car, any color for $29.95. No ups, no extras,' became an instantly recognizable phrase. Scheib, credited as being the first spokesperson for his own company, handled all advertising and developed and wrote his own television commercials. Scheib believed viewers would find his ads more convincing and genuine if he spoke directly to the viewers about the company's offerings.

Earl Scheib also handled media buys, placing his television and radio ads carefully. As son Donald explained in a company statement: 'He'd personally call the station manager and tell him to interrupt a sponsored show at a pivotal moment and run his ad. ... So you'd be watching a show, the villain's sneaking up behind the hero with a knife, and just when he's about to plunge the knife into the hero's back ... Earl comes on the screen pitching his service.' Scheib's commercials were seen and heard on television and radio stations in more than 100 cities, and he continued to film spots until his death in 1992. Despite his fame and television ad ubiquity, son Donald claimed that Scheib was less than fond of appearing in commercials. 'In truth,' Donald Scheib said in a company statement, 'he hated doing those television spots. ... He didn't like being in front of the camera, you'd have to drag him feet-first into that studio, screaming.'

Expansion and Competition in the 1980s

Earl Scheib, Inc., which went public in 1963, was the largest non-franchised auto painting chain by the 1980s, thanks in large part to founder Earl Scheib's promotional efforts. Though the cost of a standard Earl Scheib paint job had grown to $99.95, the chain's prices were still among the lowest in the industry and appealed to budget-minded consumers. Car owners were choosing to keep their cars longer, and this trend was reflected in Scheib's sales; in the early 1980s the company's sales increased an average of 17.6 percent per year, and between 1982 and 1985 the firm's stock quadrupled. By 1985 there were 275 Earl Scheib stores, ranging from Hawaii to New York. The company opened its first store in Canada in 1984 and planned to open 25 new outlets in fiscal 1986. Overseas expansion was in the works as well, and an Earl Scheib store opened in London in 1985.

Despite sales growth in the 1980s, Earl Scheib faced increasing competition in the industry it had essentially created. Chains and franchises such as Maaco, which had 380 outlets in 1985, and One-Day Paint and Body were expanding more aggressively than Earl Scheib and taking away its market share. This competition, coupled with Scheib's commitment to low prices, presented challenges for the company. If the company continued to raise prices--the cost of an Earl Scheib paint job had increased 43 percent between 1982 and 1985--it risked losing its standing as the low-budget alternative to more expensive shops, some of which offered paint jobs starting at $129.95. In addition, Scheib paint jobs had earned a reputation as being rather shoddy, and the potential for customers to jump into a higher price range for better-quality work was something Earl Scheib was forced to face. Some industry analysts believed Scheib could grow through diversification and the offering of more expensive and upscale services, but the company was hesitant to change its tried-and-true formula.

Sales Slump in the Late 1980s and Early 1990s

After reaching record sales of $69 million in 1987, Earl Scheib entered a period of decline. At the end of 1987 Earl Scheib announced plans to close its European auto painting operations. Though the company had entered the European market only two years earlier, losses continued to build, and future prospects appeared gloomy. The domestic situation seemed no better. Under Earl Scheib's command, overall yearly sales sagged in the late 1980s, and though sales began to inch upward in the early 1990s, the company continued to rack up losses. For the third quarter ended January 31, 1991, Earl Scheib reported a net loss of $1.9 million on sales of $9.9 million.

On February 29, 1992, a day after turning 85, Earl Scheib passed away, leaving behind a legacy and a struggling business. A few days later, on Monday, March 3, the company's stock skyrocketed 47 percent as investors speculated about the future of the company. Many believed Scheib's 37 percent interest in the company would be sold in order to finance his estate taxes. Irwin Buchalter, an Earl Scheib board member and executor of Scheib's estate, indicated that the 37 percent stake would be divided between Scheib's three sons, all of whom were employed by the company. Buchalter acknowledged problems with Scheib's management and commented in the Wall Street Journal that Scheib 'refused to take realization of the economy--of what was happening to the auto-painting business. ... He always felt he had to have the lowest prices in the business by a wide stretch.' Scheib's belief, Buchalter noted, prevented him from raising prices to compensate for slow sales. It was not until June 1991 that Scheib finally relented, raising the price of a basic paint job from $99.95 to $119.95. Buchalter believed the stock rise was indicative of stock buyers' optimism about the company's potential for growth.

A week after Earl Scheib's death, his son Donald was named president and CEO. Donald Scheib had previously served as vice-president. Irwin Buchalter was elected chairman. The company also announced that it had no plans to sell. The formidable task of turning around the ailing company was started. For fiscal 1993 the company reported sales of $53.64 million and a net loss of $110,000. The following fiscal year sales declined to $48.49 million, yet net loss grew to $1.82 million. In November 1994 Donald Scheib stepped down as president and CEO and was elected chairman, a position that had become vacant upon the death of Irwin Buchalter in August. Daniel Seigel was appointed president and CEO and handed the task of making the 250-store chain profitable once again.

The New Earl Scheib: 1995-2000

With a new CEO leading the company, Earl Scheib faced many changes in the second half of the decade. A major restructuring strategy was adopted in fiscal 1995, and as a result 84 unprofitable stores, most situated in the Midwest and East, were closed. The company took a pre-tax charge of $4.2 million for restructuring-related costs. The following fiscal year Earl Scheib reported its first profit in four years. The company earned $895,000 on sales of $43.98 million, compared to a loss of $5.55 million on sales of $47.28 million in fiscal 1995. The company also spent about $4.6 million to renovate and convert 137 stores into the New Earl Scheib Paint and Body store format. The new stores boasted an updated look, including new paint and graphics, as well as new exterior signs. The shops also offered a customer information center and modern equipment, such as the Infrared Quartz Finish Drying System, used to facilitate the drying of car paint. Conversions of stores in California were completed in early fiscal 1996, and results were positive--during the first quarter comparable store sales grew by 24.2 percent compared to year-earlier figures. The upswing in sales spurred Earl Scheib to renovate the remainder of its shops.

Another challenge Daniel Seigel and Chief Operating Officer Christian Bement had to tackle was Earl Scheib's image. Many customers viewed the chain's auto painting work as being of poor quality, and new management needed to alter this perception if Earl Scheib was to once again reign the industry. Bement, reflecting upon the state of the company in 1995, admitted in the Dallas Morning News in 1998: 'We mainly had the Earl Scheib name. That was the good news. That was also the bad news.' The new shop format was designed to boost the chain's image, and to back up its new exterior, Earl Scheib started developing a new, top-quality paint. 'We definitely had some of the worst paint in the industry,' Bement recalled in the Los Angeles Daily News. 'When I first got here I received letters from customers complaining about the paint jobs. The paint that was chipping off was actually in the envelopes,' he added. The company-owned paint manufacturing plant in Missouri was called upon to create a high-quality auto paint, and the outcome was Euro-Paint, a 100 percent acrylic urethane paint. Introduced in 1997, the paint provided durability and a high-gloss finish and was rated as the best paint in production auto painting by Paint Research Association Laboratories Inc., a paint-testing firm. The paint, as well as other changes, effectively reduced the percentage of jobs that had to be redone because of poor quality. The company's 'redo rate' dropped from 22 percent in 1995 to below six percent in the late 1990s.

Earl Scheib stepped up its expansion efforts beginning in 1997, concentrating on opening more stores in existing markets to diminish the need for increased advertising expenditures and to fully penetrate existing markets. The chain opened five new stores during fiscal 1997 and the following fiscal year opened 12 new shops. Sales continued to grow, reaching $48.34 million in fiscal 1997, up from $43.98 million the previous year. In late 1997 the company established a fleet sales department. The division, which initially had a staff of ten sales people, sought to establish multi-vehicle fleet sales accounts. It was hoped that fleet sales would help offset the regularly slow winter months. One of the first contracts secured by the fleet department was a three-year agreement with US Airways Inc. to paint about 3,500 ground vehicles and equipment. The fleet division also gained contracts with Orkin Exterminating, the Hertz Corporation, and several government agencies.

Hoping to grow to 200 shops and $100 million in sales, Earl Scheib opened 19 new stores during 1999. The company also closed six stores, bringing the year-end total to 174. Daniel Seigel resigned as president and CEO in January, and Donald Scheib retired from the board of directors in August. Seigel remained a member of the board, and Christian Bement was appointed president and CEO. Sales for fiscal 1999 increased 8.2 percent from the previous year to reach $55 million. Although comparable shop sales increased by 3.1 percent, earnings were essentially flat due to various non-recurring expenses. As increased sales returned, so did founder Earl Scheib's classic commercials, a result of a resurrection of old television programs and commercials. Not only did Earl Scheib's ads appear on Nickelodeon's "TV Land" cable network, which featured classic television shows and ads, but Earl Scheib merchandise, including T~shirts and hats, were offered for sale through specialty catalog merchants.

As Earl Scheib entered the year 2000, the company continued with its comeback strategy. The company hoped to increase sales in stores open for more than a year and to continue expansion. Earl Scheib also planned to seek strategic acquisitions to grow the company more quickly. As the year commenced, however, the outlook was restrained. Rising materials and administrative expenses, among other factors, affected first quarter sales, which reached $15.75 million, down from $15.90 million the previous year. Comparable store sales were hit harder, dropping 6.7 percent compared to the first quarter of fiscal 1999. As a result, first-quarter net income reached $345,000, down considerably from the year-earlier figure of $1 million. Earl Scheib remained focused and hopeful, however, and planned to continue painting cars--any car, any color--well into the 21st century.

 



               Mopar Big Blocks - Part One
 

How about a 350 cubic inch engine for your Mopar? Sounds like heresy, doesn't it. Has a kind of General Motors ring to it. Would you believe that this could be true, be a big block, and be a Mopar? This article... will deal with the progression of the big block Mopar and the common parts associated with each family.
The 350 cubic inch engine was introduced in 1958, as a purely passenger car engine. The performance engine was the same engine with the bore increased .060, which became the well-known 361. This engine reached significant performance proportions in the 1959 model year. The 1959 Sport Fury with the 305 horsepower 361 was a formidable street vehicle. The same engine was also available in the Dodge.

The first 383 was introduced in 1959, but as the raised block. The dimensions on this engine were a bore of 4.030 and a stroke of 3.750 inches. This engine was available with two four-barrel induction and a horsepower rating of 345 @ 5000 rpm. The following year retained the raised block status of the 383, but introduced the outrageous long ram aluminum manifolds. There is some confusion over the long and short terms and the availability. The manifolds were dimensionally identical. The difference is internal. In the long ram, the Siamese tubes are separated by a continuous wall, the entire length of the runners. In the short ram, the term short refers to the divider wall, which extends only 10 1/2 inches from the cylinder head surface. In other words, the terms long and short refer to the divider wall, and not the length of the tubes. All passenger cars had the long ram configuration. The short ram was available over the parts counter. The long rams were for low and mid-range RPM applications and the short ram was strictly high RPM and performance on the track. This system was offered again in 1961. Let's take a look at the numbers. The long ram 383 produced 330 horsepower at 4800 rpm, with a torque reading of 460 ft. pounds at only 2800 rpm. The short ram 383's numbers are 340 horsepower at 5000 rpm, with a torque reading of 440 ft. pounds @ 2800 rpm. The differences are minor, but the drivability was major.

The 383 was converted to a low deck configuration in 1960. It was now a 4.250 bore with a 3.380 stroke. The highest horsepower 383 featured the 300J heads, with two four-barrel induction, and a horsepower rating of 343 hp. This combination was offered primarily in the big cars, but was available over the counter through 1962. There is an NHRA class engine for the 1962 B-body Plymouth and Dodge listed in the 1962 rule book for this application. Research into this engine has shown that the 1962 B-bodies with this option were ordered as 383 four-barrel cars, with the induction system (manifold, carbs, linkage, and football shaped air cleaners shipped in the trunk) dealer installed.

The 383 remained a strong performer through the mid 60's, but the performance image had shifted to the 413 and 426 wedge and max wedge programs. The incredible 426 Hemi was on the horizon, but the low deck engines were far from the scrap heap.

The advertised horsepower ratings of the 383 were actually lowered in the mid 60's, in order to highlight the performance aspect of the RB engines. The late 60's performance spotlight returned to the 383, with the introduction of the Plymouth Roadrunner and Dodge Super Bee. The 1967 year is very significant in the development of the 383 as an image engine. This is when the high performance 440 was introduced in the first badge identified B-bodied performance cars. The GTX and the R/T featured the high compression, big valve, hot cam, dual exhaust, unrestricted air cleaner, 375 horsepower earth-moving 440 HP. The market in 1968 demanded an affordable muscle car. The hot 440 parts would bolt right on the 383, and Chrysler had built millions of them. Cheap to produce, bullet-proof, and possessing outstanding performance, the 383 embarrassed a lot of 440 owners. The short stroke engine with the proper gearing was a performance and sales success.

The 383 was gradually detuned, as all smog motors were, and in 1972 it was replaced with the huge bore (4.340) 400. Do not overlook this engine as a performer. Think of it as a big 383. Lots of cubic inches in a relatively small package. Lots of options on the performance list. There were over 3 million 383's produced through 1971 and they are still relatively easy to find. The 400 blocks are very common and will bolt in anywhere there was a big block engine. The 400 is externally balanced and requires the correct damper and torque converter. 
   

                    Mopar Big Blocks - Part Two

The last installment dealt with the low-deck engines and the natural progression of the displacement variations. This time we will talk about the raised block versions of the big block Mopar. The 413 wedge was first introduced in 1959 in the Chrysler nameplate and 1961 in the Plymouth and Dodge lines. The bore and stroke measured 4.180 x 3.750. The engine was rated at 350 horsepower at 4600 RPM and 470 ft. pounds of torque at only 260O RPM. The long ram version produced 375 horsepower at 5000 RPM and 465 ft. pounds of torque at 2800 RPM. The higher horsepower was at the expense of low end torque.

   
1962 was the year that stands out in the minds of true performance enthusiasts. Described to this day as the Magnificent Max Wedge, the 413 Max Wedge motor raised the bar for performance. Truly a drag strip only creation, this engine featured the following significant parts:
  • Unique heads with 25% larger intake and exhaust ports
  • No heat crossover
  • 2.08 intake valves and 1.88 exhaust valve size
  • 510 lift mechanical camshaft with 300 degree duration
  • Special tubular pushrods
  • Dual valve springs-and nodular iron adjustable rockers
  • One piece ram induction manifold with 15 inch runners
  • Staggered dual Carter AFBs with 650 cfm each (3447)
  • 11.0 or 13.5 TRW forged pistons
  • Forged and magnafluxed rods
  • Cast iron headers
  • Deep grove pulleys
  • Stayed in production until 1978, and the last 440 was offered in trucks and motorhomes.
  • Special baffled oil pan and custom swinging pickup

   
The 1962 Melrose Missile was the first production passenger car with a factory option engine into the 11's. Tom Grove ran an 11.93 @ 118.57 on July 15th, 1962.

  
The Max Wedge 413 was dropped in 1963, but the 413 displacement engine soldiered on until 1965 in the Chrysler models. A dual four barrel version was available throughout 1964.
  The Max Wedge 413 was dropped in 1963, but the 413 displacement engine soldiered on until 1965 in the Chrysler models. A dual four barrel version was available throughout 1964.

  
The 426 wedge engine also appeared in 1962, but was only installed in the top of tile line Chrysler models. The Dodge and Plymouth debut was saved for 1963 and it was special, the Max Wedge 426, Stage II. The primary difference was in the bore... which was enlarged to 4.25 inches. While the books show that the Stage III engine was not introduced until the 1964 model year, this is not entirely true, based on my own personal experience. The Stage III appears to have been available in late 1963. The Carter AFBs were changed to the 3705 number and offered a higher CFM rating. The basic difference is that the 3447s have four ventures with the same size, or 4 equal holes in each carb mounting flange. The 3705’s feature larger secondary, with tile original size primaries. It does appear to be a common performance improvement for the Stage II engines to have the carb mounting flange enlarged to accept the larger carbs. The camshaft was increased to 520 lift and 320 degrees of duration on the Stage III engines. There was a new cast iron header offered which was referred to as the Tri-Y.

  
The street wedge was offered in 1964 and 1965, rated at 365 horsepower and 470 ft. pounds of torque. It was a single four barrel engine of conventional design and street application.
  The street wedge was offered in 1964 and 1965, rated at 365 horsepower and 470 ft. pounds of torque. It was a single four barrel engine of conventional design and street application.

  
1966 found the 440 cubic inch engine offered in the big car passenger line. The engine was offered in two versions: 350 horsepower @ 4400 RPM and 365 horsepower @ 4600 RPM. Both engines developed 480 ft. pounds of torque. Neither engine was considered a performance engine. With a bore of 4.320 and the long 3.73 stroke, the performance image of the largest displacement engine ever installed in a Chrysler Corp. vehicle was about to change. The Super Commando, Magnum, and TNT pie plates were installed in 1967. The high lift cam, modified exhaust manifolds, hi-flow closed chambered heads, increased exhaust valve size, dual exhaust and the R/T & GTX nameplates spelled trouble for the competition. 375 horsepower @ 4600 RPM and 480 ft. pounds of torque at 3200 RPM. Chrysler had a winner. The 440 high performance engines fit very nicely between the 383 and the 426 hemi. With the addition of the 6-pack induction in mid-1969, and the 390 horsepower rating, the 440 with the right gearing was nipping at the heels of the hemi. By 1971, the 440 was beginning to suffer from emissions, mileage, and other corporate ailments. The 1972 brochure does show the 6-pack option, but few, if any, were produced.


Engine
 
trivia question... Which engine has been produced in the most displacement sizes, the low deck or raised block? The correct answer is the same number. Low deck variants have been the 350, 361, 383, and 400. The raised block... 383, 413, 426, and 440. The raised block 383 is basically non-existent... but was built... good luck finding one! 
 





            
Check This Out... Tons of Old Cars Must Go Now
 
   427 pics from a junkyard located north of Quartzite AZ full of classics (truly the middle of nowhere...). Word is the property has been sold and they all must go. Too bad, there can't be many more collections of this size left. 


  


     
                    History of the Car Radio

One evening, in 1929, two young men named William Lear and Elmer Wavering drove their girlfriends to a lookout point high above the Mississippi River town of Quincy , Illinois , to watch the sunset. It was a romantic night to be sure, but one of the women observed that it would be even nicer if they could listen to music in the car. Lear and Wavering liked the idea. Both men had tinkered with radios (Lear had served as a radio operator in the U.S. Navy during World War I) and it wasn't long before they were taking apart a home radio and trying to get it to work in a car. But it wasn't as easy as it sounds: automobiles have ignition switches, generators, spark plugs, and other electrical equipment that generate noisy static interference, making it nearly impossible to listen to the radio when the engine was running. One by one, Lear and Wavering identified and eliminated each source of electrical interference. When they finally got their radio to work, they took it to a radio convention in Chicago .There they met Paul Galvin, owner of Galvin Manufacturing Corporation. He made a product called a "battery eliminator" a device that allowed battery-powered radios to run on household AC current. But as more homes were wired for electricity more radio manufacturers made AC-powered radios. Galvin needed a new product to manufacture. When he met Lear and Wavering at the radio convention, he found it. He believed that mass-produced, affordable car radios had the potential to become a huge business. Lear and Wavering set up shop in Galvin's factory, and when they perfected their first radio, they installed it in his Studebaker. Then Galvin went to a local banker to apply for a loan. Thinking it might sweeten the deal, he had his men install a radio in the banker's Packard. Good idea, but it didn't work -- Half an hour after the installation, the banker's Packard caught on fire. (They didn't get the loan.) Galvin didn't give up. He drove his Studebaker nearly 800 miles to Atlantic City to show off the radio at the 1930 Radio Manufacturers Association convention. Too broke to afford a booth, he parked the car outside the convention hall and cranked up the radio so that passing conventioneers could hear it. That idea worked -- He got enough orders to put the radio into production.

                                         What's in a NAME

That first production model was called the 5T71. Galvin decided he needed to come up with something a little catchier. In those days many companies in the phonograph and radio businesses used the suffix "ola" for their names - Radiola, Columbiola, and Victrola were three of the biggest. Galvin decided to do the same thing, and since his radio was intended for use in a motor vehicle, he decided to call it the Motorola. But even with the name change, the radio still had problems: When Motorola went on sale in 1930, it cost about $110 uninstalled, at a time when you could buy a brand-new car for $650, and the country was sliding into the Great Depression. (By that measure, a radio for a new car would cost about $3,000 today.) In 1930 it took two men several days to put in a car radio -- The dashboard had to be taken apart so that the receiver and a single speaker could be installed, and the ceiling had to be cut open to install the antenna. These early radios ran on their own batteries, not on the car battery, so holes had to be cut into the floorboard to accommodate them. The installation manual had eight complete diagrams and 28 pages of instructions. Selling complicated car radios that cost 20 percent of the price of a brand-new car wouldn't have been easy in the best of times, let alone during the Great Depression --Galvin lost money in 1930 and struggled for a couple of years after that. But things picked up in 1933 when Ford began offering Motorola's pre-installed at the factory. In 1934 they got another boost when Galvin struck a deal with B.F. Goodrich tire company to sell and install them in its chain of tire stores. By then the price of the radio, installation included, had dropped to $55. The Motorola car radio was off and running. The name of the company would be officially changed from Galvin Manufacturing to "Motorola" in 1947. In the meantime, Galvin continued to develop new uses for car radios. In 1936, the same year that it introduced push-button tuning, it also introduced the Motorola Police Cruiser, a standard car radio that was factory preset to a single frequency to pick up police broadcasts. In 1940 he developed with the first handheld two-way radio – The Handie-Talkie -- for the U. S. Army. A lot of the communications technologies that we take for granted today were born in Motorola labs in the years that followed World War II. In 1947 they came out with the first television to sell under $200. In 1956 the company introduced the world's first pager; in 1969 it supplied the radio and television equipment that was used to televise Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon. In 1973 it invented the world's first handheld cellular phone. Today Motorola is one of the largest cell phone manufacturer in the world -- And it all started with the car radio.

                  What Ever Happened TO Those Two Men?
Elmer Wavering and William Lear, ended up taking very different paths in life. Wavering stayed with Motorola. In the 1950's he helped change the automobile experience again when he developed the first automotive alternator, replacing inefficient and unreliable generators. The invention lead to such luxuries as power windows, power seats, and, eventually, air-conditioning. Lear also continued inventing. He holds more than 150 patents. Remember eight-track tape players? Lear invented that.  But what he's really famous for are his contributions to the field of  aviation. He invented radio direction finders for planes, aided in the invention of the autopilot, designed the first fully automatic aircraft landing system, and in 1963 introduced his most famous invention of all, the Lear Jet, the world's first mass-produced, affordable business jet. Not bad for a guy who dropped out of school after the eighth grade. Sometimes it is fun to find out how some of the many things that we take for granted actually came into being!



Road Runner (and SuperBird)
LYNCH ROAD ASSEMBLY LINE
OPERATING DESIGN
By David J. Patik

Few Mopar enthusiasts have ever seen an automotive assembly line. Fewer still saw the assembly of Mopar muscle cars. Almost no enthusiasts active today in the hobby worked at Chrysler those many years ago.

Imagine the wealth of memories a Chrysler Engineer of that time period could share with us today! Gil Cunningham from late 1969 to 1974 was a Product Engineer at Chrysler's Lynch Road Assembly Plant, specializing in Body Sealing and Paint. This job entailed keeping his area of the assembly process running smoothly, and production testing of proposed changes in materials and/or their method of application and installation. Before and after Lynch Road service, Gil held several engineering positions at other Chrysler facilities, in both the car and truck divisions.

Today Engineer Gil is Dr. Gilbert Cunningham, chiropractor in private practice in Tallahassee, Florida. After a total of nineteen years at Chrysler, Gil eventually fulfilled his desire "to do something completely different than engineering, and work for himself." He is very much an enthusiast of Chrysler special cars, being Vice President of the Chrysler 300 Club International, and is the owner of a rare 1962 300H convertible, as well as other Letter Series Chryslers.

The article that follows is based on several interviews with Dr. Cunningham. It also contains information from interviews with former Chrysler Production Scheduling Programmer Walter Redmond, and long-time Chrysler Facilities Engineer Bob Badyna. In addition, Chrysler special body program information was derived from a presentation by NASCAR Program Design Engineers Larry Rathgeb, Gary Romberg, and John Pointer at the Winged Warrior National Meet in 1977.

Let's make a tour of Lynch Road in December of 1969, and follow the building of a SuperBird. But first, this imagination exercise: to get a good idea of the size of this facility, think of your local K-Mart store. It's about the size of a one-stall garage compared to the Lynch Road Plant! Built in the late 1930s, Lynch Road began building Plymouths after WWII. During the Muscle Car era, it employed 5,000-6,000 people. Only one story in design for the most part, ranging from eleven to fourteen feet tall, Lynch Road measures 660' wide by 2500' long. In 1969, it is considered quite modern and efficient, although the low ceiling height causes considerable difficulty in moving equipment into place.

Cars actually begin their life in the Production Scheduling Department. There, computer programmers perform tasks that are listed here in simplified form:

    * Highland Park (main office) decides which plant will build the car, based on distance from dealer, workload, and parts availability.
    * If the car has been ordered by a customer through a dealer (Sold Car), insure that the sales personnel have ordered options and equipment possible for that model of car. The Vehicle Order Number that will appear on the car's fender tag and broadcast sheet is preprinted on the dealer's order form (except Special Order Cars).
    * If the car is a dealer supply (Sales Bank) car, insure that this order information is correct.
    * If a Special Order Car (S.O.C.) is to be built, (SuperBirds are S.O.C.) program in code "Y39" special building instructions on the broadcast sheet.
    * Schedule the car's build date. Nightly meetings of Production Control personnel determine which cars will be built three days in advance, based on the in-stock supply of necessary parts.
    * Assign a Production Sequence Number, used for tracking the car through the assembly process, and coordinating parts and sub-assemblies for the car.
    * Assign a Vehicle Identification Number (V.I.N.) to the car.

The scheduling of production requires some explanation of a basic goal of an automotive assembly line. That is, cars were scheduled for assembly in the ultimate mixed up order. Models were mixed (Belvederes and Coronets), bodies were mixed (station wagons, sedans, etc.), engines-transmissions-options were mixed. Why?

There were two reasons for this mixing. Bearing in mind that the line never stopped moving (except for disasters!), almost one car per minute left the final assembly line as a finished machine. Therefore, there were very real limits on the available manpower and space to physically get the exact needed parts where needed, as needed. The second reason for mixing models and options was the actual assembly time required. Some options were very common, some rare. A person on the line may have been responsible for installing more than one item on each car. Several people were needed to install some items.

So, the last thing that Lynch Road assembly supervisors and workers wanted was a relatively small order of very special cars. Imagine the massive increase in the order shuffling system that was required to integrate a SuperBird sub-model that required many special parts! This was to be a run of about two-thousand cars, scheduled for late 1969, with a required completion date of January 1, 1970 (to meet the NASCAR homologation deadline).

Chrysler management decided to have Lynch Road build running, completed SuperBirds, minus the wing and the nose cone assemblies. The cars would then be transported to the nearby Clairpointe Pre-Production facility for completion. Most special SuperBird parts were to be supplied by the custom-specialty firm Creative Industries, which either made these parts or purchased them from outside vendors.

Well, now that we understand the basics of SuperBird production planning, let's get to work building one!

The Lynch Road Plant consists of six major areas of assembly, each of which functions as a nearly-independent mini-factory.

    * Metal Shop = Body-in-White (BIW): assembly of complete bare body.
    * Paint Shop: metal preparation, painting.
    * Chassis Department: Engine "dress," mating of engine-transmission-rear end assemblies.
    * Trim Line: Installation of body mechanical and electrical parts and sub-assemblies.
    * Final Line: Glass, interior, final details.
    * Car conditioning: Repair of completed vehicles, misc. tasks.

It will take two day's construction from Metal Shop to loading a running car on a transport truck! The very long assembly lines move slowly and steadily.

We will begin our tour in the Metal Shop, where a few codes on a fender tag and a broadcast sheet guide the production of a complete, bare metal body. These two all important "blueprints" for each car result from the work of the Production Scheduling Department.

Lynch Road in the 1970 model year builds ("frames") sixteen different body types:
 R = Belvedere  W = Coronet
 Coupe
21  Hardtop
23  4-Door
Sedan 41  Wagons
45/46  Coupe
21  Hardtop
23  4-Door
Sedan 41  Wagons
45/46
Non A/C  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X
With A/C  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

Assembly of the body shell begins by laying the sub-assembled passenger compartment floor and forward frame rails and the sub-assembled trunk floor and frame rails onto a moving floor-level "truck" fixture. To either side of this floor pan fixture are secured (a short distance later) massive, hanging, moving fixtures called "sidegates." They locate to the floor pan assemblies the body side components: lower sills, cowl sides, "A" pillars, roof rails, and quarter panels.

Body parts are manually welded. Several hundred huge, pincher-type spot welders and their many cooling lines hang from the ceiling in the Metal Shop, giving it the appearance of an industrial rain forest. The high heat of the welders is dissipated by piped-in water to each unit, and their bulk is made more maneuverable by using their transformers as counterbalances.

In essence, every part of the body that will be color-coated is permanently attached in Body-in-White. Mating surfaces are coated with a grey, zinc-rich weld-through primer prior to spot weld assembly (in corrosion-prone areas). To prevent rust-out of bolted-on mated areas like door hinges-to-cowl, and fenders-to-inner fenders, a dark green zinc chromate primer is manually brushed onto each of these mating surfaces before body assembly.

Whether a car has air-conditioning is vital to Metal Shop because the dash panel (firewall) is a much different stamping for air conditioned cars than non-air cars. What about other options that require special body holes and studs? Nearly every body hole required for these options is dimpled into the metal stamping. The Metal Shop line is very long, with ample time to use its many hole-drilling fixtures and weld-stud fixtures. This avoids the plant complexity of too many different stampings, (regarding ordering and storage), and it's cost effective.

If a run of special bodies is planned, as with the SuperBirds, Metal Shop builds up from the stamping plant a "bank" of the special parts before assembly of the cars begins. These special runs of cars are never sent en-masse down the assembly line, but are sent in small clumps. (SuperBird records on file today reflect exactly this procedure).

Hemi-powered cars merit special mention. Their rear frame reinforcement plates are welded on to the frame rails at the stamping plant, creating a special trunk floor sub-assembly to be stored and then used at Lynch Road. Approximately one Hemi-car per shift is assembled (two shifts per day; the third shift is for plant maintenance).

Before exiting the metal shop fabrication area, every body receives its very own premade fender tag. It is attached to the left inner fender by its forward screw only, then pulled up at its rear. This allows inspector's punches to be impressed on it later, and allows the primers and color coats to be applied under it. (This is not a universal practice on every car or at all plants; sometimes the tag is hung inside the car by a paper clip).

Another vital task of the Metal Shop is embossing "secret" portions of the VIN on at least two pieces of welded-on sheet metal of the car. This is accomplished with an air or hydraulic embossing tool containing numbers and letters, manually located and actuated by its operator.

Since we are building a SuperBird, the work of the Metal Shop is still not finished. Every special part to be welded on and/or color-coated must be installed in this area. Most of this work will be done in "repair holes," which are side-tracks off the main assembly line. The major parts to be welded in are the rear window plug, wing support plates under the quarter panels, trunk floor brace brackets, and the hood latch tray mounting bracket.

The major bolted-on parts are the modified 1970 Coronet hood and fenders. The front section replacement work on the hood is done at the Chrysler stamping plant, while the more minor fender modifications are done at Lynch Road in the Metal Shop. Many special holes are drilled in the body for the wing, the 1968-69 Charger vacuum headlight system, and the fender scoops. Some usual Road Runner holes are not drilled, such as those for the metal nameplates on the quarter panels.

When the special-body modifications are completed on the SuperBird, it rejoins all other completed bodies in a holding area at the end of Body-In-White. From here, cars are selected at random for insertion on the Paint Shop line. The Sequence Number of each car is sent ahead via computer to the Paint Shop.

Every car begins its trip through Paint Shop with a trip through a seven-part, full-body spray and partial immersion in a series of chemical applications.

   1. Hot chemical cleaner to remove waxy die-drawing compound, dirt, joint-leading residue.
   2. Hot rinse.
   3. Another hot rinse.
   4. Paint anchoring, metal etching and coating phosphate solution.
   5. Cold rinse.
   6. Conditioning solution.
   7. Dip up to headlamp level in grey water-based primer. Before this has dried, outer body is hosed off to prevent paint ridges caused by this primer, which would show through the color coat.

The first six of these steps are the "Bondurite" cleaning and coating process. The final dip in primer is a Chrysler-invented step in corrosion protection, begun with the 1960 model year. Through all of these operations, the body is supported by large hooks, the forward of which pass through the windshield opening and attach to the dash panel area. The rear hooks attach in the wheel tub area. The hood and deck lid remain open to avoid large amounts of the chemicals becoming trapped in them. The many stamped-out large holes in the floor pans allow the chemicals to drain out. Passage through a dry-off oven dries the Chrysler Chemical Corp.-manufactured dip primer, and evaporates any water wash residue.

Now the SuperBird body requires another special step, the application of heat-curing "Plastisol" one-part filler around the rear window plug. Since the car will have a vinyl roof (purposely), only shaping and rough sanding of the joint area is necessary. This avoids the time-consuming (and toxic) joint-leading process that is performed at the roof-quarter joints on all cars without a vinyl roof.

Body sealers are now applied to all cars. A black, tar-like sealer is applied to all passenger compartment floor joints. This same always-soft material was used in the trunk compartment area until the wife of Chrysler President Lynn Townsend found that her luggage once was marred by it. That episode resulted in a corporate switch to the much more expensive, hard-drying Plastisol white sealer in the trunk! This sealer is also used in the joints around the rear window panel, and similar outer-body joints. Sound deadener is sprayed on the inside of the quarter panels as accessible from inside the trunk compartment, and to the inside of the door skins.

Now it is time to prime the body. All cars, regardless of body color, use a dark grey primer. Workers in the prime booth spray the door openings, and under/inside the hood/deck areas. Dummy, recycled 1/4" wire latches keep the doors, hood, and deck lid shut. Robot guns on curved tracks spray the sides, roof, hood, and deck lid outer body, their spraying actions programmed according to the car's body style. The insides of the car, and the underside receive only overspray.

Booth overspray is collected by water that flows downward all along the sides of the spray booth and over to its center, where it catches the paint particles in the downdraft through the open steel gridwork floor.

The "Upper Door Frame" (UDF) color is sprayed on any inside metal of the body shell that will not be covered by upholstery or metal finish panels. This colored paint is sprayed on before the primer overspray has dried.

Cars remain in the primer baking oven for approximately twenty-five minutes at 350-375 degrees. This high heat is intended also to cure the weld primers and vinyl plastisol sealers, which were applied with a gun to panel joints prior to being welded together.

The primer is wet-sanded at Lynch Road, using power disc hand-sanders, which have built-in water sprayers. Only the outside of the body is sanded. Following a wipe-off of primer residue, the body is cleaned with naphtha, then wiped with an alcohol-and-water solution. The UDF color is masked off by hand, with tape and masking paper.

Since our sample SuperBird is basically a 1970 Road Runner, its tail lamp bezels have been attached to the tail light panel with their purposely-long studs, while being spaced from the panel with one-inch sleeves. This allows the bezels to be painted with the car body, and allows painting of the tail-light panel contact areas, preventing rust. After the paint is baked, the sleeves are removed, and the bezels are permanently attached.

It is essential to note that a primary goal of assembly line painting of all cars is to have every part of the car that will be color-coated be permanently attached to the body before it enters the paint booth. This prevents the inevitable paint scratching of subsequent painted-parts assembly. Also, parts that are not to be color-coated are not installed on the car prior to entering the paint booth, thus avoiding masking off.

The front valance panels present a problem unique to SuperBirds. (They are the body panels that attach to the fenders forward of the wheels, and are later bolted to the nose cone supports [bumper brackets]). The valance panels cannot be attached to the fender during painting because they would hang down at their underbelly end and get caught all along the assembly line. Yet, the valances are in an area of high rust potential, and must be color-coated.

The solution was to make them of galvanized steel, eliminating the need to run them through the Bondurite system. For color-coating, the valances are hung with short wires from the roof rails inside the passenger compartment, and painted there by the workers while the car was in the color paint booth. (This was a later standard practice on cars with bolted-on front or rear valance panels).

The SuperBirds' rear window lower "corner" pot metal trim pieces are another painting problem, because they cannot be attached to the body during color-coating. Painting of the underlying sheet metal is necessary to avoid rust, and the trim pieces are painted body color and flat back. So, they are supplied to Lynch Road already color-coated for each allowed SuperBird color.

The baking oven for the color coat has a temperature of about 250 degrees, and baking time is twenty to thirty minutes. If a car comes out of the oven with paint problems, (usually dirt, sags, or drips) it goes to a Paint Shop repair hole. There the finish in the problem area is correctly prepared, the surrounding area is masked off, color-coating is applied, and the car is sent to the repair area's oven.

Those rare cars (fleet cars, usually) that are to be two-toned (painted metal roof different than body color), are removed from the exit line of the baking oven. They are placed on the entrance line to the paint booth, where the lower body is masked off. In the paint booth the roof color is sprayed, then the car passes through a baking oven again.

No color coat is applied to the roof of cars that will receive a vinyl roof, greatly cutting the use of expensive finish paint. Vinyl roofs are installed in the Paint Shop after a car's exit from the baking oven. This includes our sample SuperBird, which passes through the adhesive spray booth, then gets its mandatory black vinyl roof, specially-cut to fit the semi-fastback rear window plug. They may also apply decorative stripes to other models, particularly if the stripes are installed before body fittings that cover portions of the stripes. Station wagon woodgrain decals are applied by Paint Shop workers.

Now is a good time to illustrate one of the assembly line problems caused by the special-ordered SuperBirds. Our tour guide through time, Engineer Gil, distinctly remembers one SuperBird that was painted a color not allowed for SuperBirds.

Every dealer announcement for the SuperBird, and every factory engineering document for the car states that it would be available in only seven colors:

    * Blue Fire Metallic EB5
    * Alpine White EW1
    * Vitamin "C" Orange EK2
    * Lemon Twist FY1
    * Lime Light FJ5
    * Tor-Red EV2
    * Corporate Blue 999 (Ditzler DRA 12785)

This problem car got painted FK5; that's Burnt Orange Metallic. The car went as normal through the baking oven, had it's vinyl roof installed, and had quite a few of its mechanical parts installed. Someone caught the paint error on the line in the Trim Shop. The painters had read the fender tag incorrectly, or the Production Scheduling people coded its color incorrectly, or an "illegally-ordered" color slipped through from a dealer's order.

By now the car was much too far assembled to pull it off the Trim Line, re-insert if on the Paint Line, scuff sand its new paint, reshoot it a correct color, and run it through the high heat of the baking oven. And, the car was already built in the Metal Shop as a SuperBird, so it could not easily be converted to a regular Road Runner, which did allow Burnt Orange Metallic paint. It was finally decided by Product Planning to finish building the car as a SuperBird, and send the car to Clairpointe as usual, along with a can of orange paint, and a note explaining the problem! (If the broadcast sheet and fender tag paint codes did not match the FK5 color, this car received re-issued identification). Researchers have so far found three SuperBirds painted the "impossible" FK5!

Back to the normal assembly line now! The work of the Paint Shop is now completed; the painted shells gather in the painted body bank before they are loaded in a mixed-up order of paint and body style onto the track for the next assembly line area at Lynch Road, the Trim Shop.

Here a wide variety of parts for the car will be installed except the interior, glass, window chrome, and final details. The Trim Line installs weather seals, all electrical wiring and its equipment, headlights, and the complete instrument panel. Here the engine; transmission; rear-end will meet the body, the tires and wheels will be installed; a running car will be produced.

How is it possible for the thousands of parts for each car passing through Trim Line to be quickly selected for assembly to the correct car? A central feature of assembly line operation is having the exact needed part awaiting the exact intended car. Some parts are small, and are used on every car. They are dispensed from bins and buckets within easy reach. Large parts, such as engine and transmission are trucked in from their manufacturing and sub-assembly plants, and placed in plant storage areas.

A basic description of the role of broadcast sheets, also called "track sheets," in the assembly plant would now be helpful. Cars are sent from one stage (or department) of assembly to another department without any regard for keeping them in the numerical order of their Vehicle Identification Numbers. Yet, the sub-assembly personnel, as well as the car assembly workers, know in what order the cars will be arriving on the line well before the car actually gets there. That is because the broadcast sheets in their area are printed in the order in which the cars will actually arrive using the Sequence Number of each car for their department re-sequencing; i.e., each "new" department has its own Sequence Number. There is a broadcast sheet Addressograph Multigraph teletype at the start of all major departments. A highlighted broadcast sheet four times the normal size is taped to the front of the hood, which provides ready reference for assembly workers.

To understand how a major part moves from its sub-assembly plant to installation in a car, let's suppose the SuperBird we are building is to be Hemi-powered. We will follow the path of its engine.

The Marysville Engine Plant is located about fifty miles from the Lynch Road Assembly Plant. All Chrysler street Hemi-engines are assembled there. As is standard practice with most Chrysler engines, Hemis are assembled as complete basic engines, including exhaust manifolds, heat tubes, and even the negative battery cable. The coded assembly markings are stamped into the block's forward identification pad before the entire assembly is painted Hemi orange. The black valve covers are installed, then the spark plug tubes, plugs, wires, and the distributor. Oil and water are added to the engine, and a source of propane and air is fed into the intake manifold. The engine is test run and checked for leaks.

No Vehicle Identification Number is stamped onto the block's right lower pad because at this point the engine is generic; it could be installed in any body. For the same reason, the carburetors and the oil pressure sender unit are not installed-different cars use different parts. However, the engines are designated for manual or automatic transmission, depending on whether the pilot bushing is installed in the crankshaft.

Like all engines, Hemis are inserted into heavy steel racking that holds six engines to a rack. These are loaded with a forklift onto a Dodge-powered Corporate Transportation semi-trailer. Once transported to Lynch Road, the racks of engines are moved to a production line storage area. Forklifts stack these racks four to five levels high, creating a formidable-looking skyscraper of Hemis! When the Engine Dress staging area runs low on its immediate supply of Hemis, a forklift brings one rack-full. Much more frequent deliveries are required for 318 and 383 engines! The Engine Dress area is part of the Chassis Department, which is fed into the moving Trim Line. The idea is to have the completed assembly of K-member (with mounted steering, brakes, suspension, and engine) plus transmission-drive shaft-axle meet the waiting body.

Let's backtrack a bit, and look at the process of parts selection for the Engine Dress and Chassis Line areas. Here are the teletype printers that issue broadcast sheets well before the car arrives to meet the Chassis Line; in fact, these broadcasts are printed as soon as the car is loaded onto the Trim Line from the Paint Shop. Parts are always stocked on line on basis of production schedule - i.e., what mix of cars are being built. Parts are not "gathered" on receipt of a particular track sheet (hopefully anyway!).

This parts selection is simplified to reduce time and errors by marking the parts and sub-assemblies with partial part numbers, identification stickers, tags, and paint-dabbed color codes on the parts. The partial part numbers that appear in the upper portion of the broadcast sheet guide this entire selection process for each car. Workers in all plant areas also refer to large, hanging instructional posters, called "graphic illustrations" for correct car construction.

As soon as a generic Hemi engine is selected from the supply rack, the partial VIN of its intended car body is stamped by hand onto the right side pad cast there for this purpose. An inverted "Y"-shaped hook attached to a one-ton air-powered hoist grabs an engine by its exhaust manifolds. This transfers it to an oval track (called the merry-go-round), from which hang large "hooks" on which the engines are loaded.

A generic Hemi automatic or manual transmission is selected, and mated to the engine. It becomes specifically built for our SuperBird with the additions of stamping the car's VIN, and installing the shift linkage and speedometer pinion. The engine now receives every part to complete it except the air cleaner: carburetors, fuel lines, pulleys, power steering pump, fan, oil filter, and throttle linkage. A steel shroud is placed over the right Hemi valve cover to prevent it being scratched and dented during the tight clearances of installation.

Adjacent is the moving Chassis Line, which has been busy installing its correct parts for our SuperBird. Beginning with attaching the special Hemi K-member to a line fixture, the items installed on it include the steering box and all linkage, the complete front suspension, and brakes.

A few feet farther back on the line, the correct axle housing and differential has been installed in a fixture, and includes the rear springs and brakes. The K-member and axle are spaced apart on the line fixtures exactly as on the underbody of our SuperBird. Now the engine-transmission unit is lowered onto the K-member, the propeller shaft is installed, and this completed drivetrain disappears from view, proceeding under the plant floor.

All the while the engine and chassis are being built-up, the body shell is being built-up on the Trim Line. Workers on wheeled stools do underbody work first, installing the gas tank, fuel lines, and brake lines. Undercoating is then applied.

Shortly after this work is completed, the body lowers toward the floor and the Chassis Line rises from under the floor to meet it. The chassis assembly is installed together, upward into the car body. Attaching the entire K-member assembly is accomplished by installation of the large frame bolts. The upper A-arms are installed into their body receptacles, the transmission crossmember is bolted in, the rear spring ends are attached, and all lines and linkages are connected. The correct torsion bars are selected from crates containing five hundred bars each, as received from their manufacturing plant. This unibody chassis mating method is very similar to the old body-drop used with body and full-frame construction.

There is another area of the Chassis Line whose work is now installed on the car, the Tire and Wheel section. This area is elevated above the main floor of the plant. It also has a broadcast teletype printer. Responsibilities here include providing the Trim Line with mounted, matching, correct sets of tires, with the correct style of wheels. Tires are mounted on wheels with an automatic, high speed machine. It blows the correct amount of air into the tire very quickly between the bead and rim just before mounting is complete. Balancing follows.

Ready sets of four tires, plus the correct spare, are dropped down metal tubes to each side of the Trim Line installation point. Assembly line boredom combined with the desire for efficiency apparently has motivated workers here to learn how to land the spare tire of each and every car with one bounce into the trunk! They will find this trick tougher on the SuperBird; its deck lid opens a limited amount, to prevent it from hitting the fastback panel.

Once all the underneath work is done on the car, it drops onto a "flat top" moving assembly line, which resembles the tracks of a bulldozer. The car now sits on its own mounted wheels and tires, but it is guided along the line by the flat top. The front end is sitting very low because the torsion bars have not yet been adjusted. This allows easier engine compartment access.

Instrument panel sub-assembly is in a remote area of Lynch Road, and requires its own broadcast sheet. Whether a car will have air conditioning makes a big difference to instrument panel parts selection. Nearly each of the car's electrical options has an instrument panel control or light, all of which must be installed, together with the correct instrument cluster, all of the panel wiring, and the crash pad.

Another sub-assembly area of the plant Bondurites and color-coats the small, Lynch Road-made metal items like the instrument panel frame. This "Small Parts Painting Department" has its own broadcast sheet for parts selection and preparation. After Bonduriting, the small parts are not primered. Rather, they are color-coated electrostatically. An instrument panel frame is connected electrically to one polarity, while the paint gun and its paint is of the opposite polarity. Good paint adhesion results, but more important is the even coverage and paint savings.

Completed instrument panels are sent according to Sequence Number by overhead hooks to their installation point on the Trim Line. Sometimes a highlighted broadcast sheet is taped to the glovebox or is stuffed above it by the Instrument Panel Department workers. These sheets may remain in place on the instrument panel when the car leaves the factory.

On the Trim Line, the heater/air conditioner has already been attached to the dashpanel. All body wiring, lights, and electrical equipment is installed. The radiator, and all the drive line fluids are added from overhead-mounted hoses. By now we have reached the rear of the plant after traveling through the many turns of the Trim Line.

We now have a car that will run and drive. A worker carrying a simple wooden seat (hand-upholstered with scrap foam!) walks to our waiting SuperBird, places the seat on the driver's side floor, starts the engine, and drives off!

He is not going far, only to another part of the Trim/Chassis Department, called the "Rolls." Here are floor-mounted rollers onto which the car's rear wheels are driven. This allows considerable driveline testing, as well as providing a complete electrical check under a variety of running conditions. The object of this testing is to detect any noises, vibrations, leaks, shorts, or outright failures. If such are discovered, repair holes, manned by line workers with seniority, are able to fix any problem from minor to disastrous. Cars are never scrapped as being "unfixable" or "not worth fixing."

When roller testing and any repairs are completed, the car is driven another short distance in the plant, to the Final Line stage of assembly. This is the longest line of all, being 1980' in length, extending straight to the front of the plant.

Final Line work concentrates on body trim and the interior. An early task is installation of the headliner. For our sample SuperBird, it is a special-cut piece due to the added rear window area, and it is always black whether the remainder of the interior is black or white. (This is a singular exception to color coordination).

Next installed are the door latches, window seals, window regulators, and the glass. Before any upholstery is installed, every car passes through a water leak test booth, which is the length of three cars. Highly-pressured water is directed at the top, bottom, and sides of the car as it travels through the dark booth. An inspector riding inside the car looks for leaks, using a flashlight, and notes any problems on a heavy paper inspection form.

Charge-up of the air conditioning system is done on the Final Line. Four cars at a time can be charged, which is all automatically done. Each car is hooked to an overhead rail-mounted charging system, which is pulled along by the car itself as it travels down the line.

Upholstery panels for the doors and quarters, and the seat fabric and foam, are supplied by a Chrysler subsidiary, or by an outside vendor. Lynch Road assembles to the seat frame and spring assembly the padding and upholstery in a remote sub-assembly area. Here is yet another broadcast sheet printer. Often, this area's sheet is inserted behind the springs of the rear seat vertical cushion before the group of seats for that car is hooked to the Final Line installation area. The front seat(s) are covered with clear plastic.

Much of the length of Final Line has a center pit for under-car installation and adjustment. A major task is complete alignment of the front steering and suspension. There are many small tasks done on Final Line, such as installation of the air cleaner, window chrome trim, some mouldings-emblems-stripes, and all of the many instructional and legally required small decals, dispensed from overhead rolls. Several owner/operator instruction tags are attached to the driver's controls. The plastic-wrapped bumper jack is installed in the trunk and cars with standard-type wheels have their hubcaps placed in the trunk. The headlights are aimed with special instruments.

When a car reaches the end of the main part of the Final Line, and it requires minor optional items, the car goes onto short "repair" lines running the narrow direction of the plant, crosswise of the Final Line. This is the Car Conditioning Area. Here some of the decorative stripes, and painted-on stripes are applied. Any final repairs are made. A car that has randomly been selected for a full-car inspection may spend time here if anything was found amiss. This inspection will be evidenced by many more inspector's stamps and markings than found on the usual car, which will have received an inspection only at the end of each department through which it passes.

A very late, final sequencing task is application of the car's VIN-imprinted Monroney Label to the rear of the driver's door. As the car goes out the Lynch Road door, the final operation is spray-on protective waxing.

None of the SuperBirds are completed cars, for they are all missing their nose cone assembly and wing. These cars were driven onto semi-trailer car haulers for the five mile trip to the Clairpointe Pre-Production facility. Its purpose needs to be explained before we complete assembly of our car there. Its usual function was a training area for assembly of the next-year's models. It was complete with scaled down versions of every major area of an assembly plant, so that the new parts and new technologies could be tried under actual conditions before the "real" cars were assembled. (Clairpointe test cars completed are "pilot cars"). For example, in May of 1969, perhaps twenty of the soon-to-be-introduced E-bodies were completely built at Clairpointe. In late 1969, this facility was not in use because the 1970 models were already in full production (since August 1, 1969), and the 1971 model pilot assembly had not begun. Therefore, it was ideally suited for SuperBird final assembly; its close proximity to Lynch Road was an added bonus.

There actually was little assembly required when the cars arrived in no particular order from Lynch Road. The first car to arrive was RM23?0A149789, on October 17, 1969. It was completed and shipped out the same day. The last car to arrive was RM23U0A172609, which arrived on December 17, 1969, and was completed the next day. (SuperBird VINs themselves range from 149597 to 181274). Several cars were returned to Lynch Road for repairs, which must have meant major parts were wrong, such as a 1970 Road Runner front end mistakenly attached, or the car was seriously damaged in transit. Clairpointe normally could repair normal parts malfunctions itself.

Nose cones were received from Creative Industries fully assembled. All internal nose parts (except hardware) and the interior surfaces of the shell itself had been individually sprayed flat black over bare metal before any assembly. The outer surface of the nose shell was painted with light grey primer, before assembly of internal parts.

Almost all internal structural parts of SuperBird noses were borrowed from the Charger Daytona nose. Despite countless press articles about these cars, the only fiberglass parts of the nose cones were the headlight doors, which do interchange between Dodge and Plymouth. Both cars used the complete 1968-69 Charger vacuum headlight system. SuperBirds used nose parking lamps from the 1970 Fury (clear lens version). Both winged cars used the same small nose cone spoiler, the exact design of which merited more time than any other special part, due to cooling worries. The SuperBird's inward tilted wing uprights result in superior air flow compared to the Daytona's straight uprights. However, the SuperBird's compromised rear window area resulted in an overall slower car.

The primary Clairpointe concern with the nose cones was correct operation of the headlight doors, and proper parking lamp mounting. Precise federal safety rules had to be strictly followed after approval for these designs had been obtained.

Wings and noses were painted in lacquer before installation on the car. The Clairpointe baking oven could not be used to bake enamel paint because the nose cones had to be fully assembled before color-coating. Sometimes the lacquer-colored nose and wing did not precisely match the enamel-colored body of the car! The nose spoiler was painted body color while off the nose.

All of the decorative decals on the car were installed at Clairpointe. The assembly guidebook prescribes these combinations concerning the wing decals and the "Plymouth" quarter panel lettering:

White decals: EB5-EV2-999
Black decals: EW1-EK2-FY1-FJ5

The nose decals were always matt black, using DiNoc material (slightly textured). Only the left headlight door received a miniature version of a wing decal.

The final items installed on the SuperBird were the trunk-mounted front frame rail jack and handle, special jack instruction decal under the deck lid, the loose-shipped nose spoiler, license plate bracket, and the cardboard template to mount it. For those states requiring front plates, it was to be mounted on top of the nose shell, between the headlight doors!

Perhaps a postscript is justified here. While about one-half of the approximately two-thousand SuperBirds found immediate buyers, many of the remainder were almost unsellable. It was possible to buy a dealer-new SuperBird in some locations two or more years after their production. Many were converted into Road Runners by weary dealers. Some of this sad problem was undoubtedly due to the limited demand for so impractical a car. But in large part it was due to insurance rates so expensive that some companies instructed their agents to "write for a quotation."

Selling SuperBirds proved to be of little difficulty for performance-wise dealers, however. First Avenue Plymouth, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sold fifteen, more than any other dealer.

BROADCAST SHEET NOTE: In our tour of Lynch Road, we encountered broadcast sheets from at least every major area of production. There was no legal reason to include with the completed car any of the sheets. In fact, in later years they were actively eliminated because the paper was not in compliance with government standards of cloth fire resistance.

LYNCH ROAD TODAY: By leveling the Hamtramck Plant, then leaving Lynch Road, Chrysler ceased to build cars in Detroit itself. City government pressured Chrysler to sell Lynch Road to the city for one dollar in about 1984, as compensation for large employee layoffs. Today, the plant still stands, and is used by several small businesses and city government for storage and light manufacturing.

RESEARCH ASSISTANCE: Galen Govier, Nigel Mills, and Jim Radke provided valuable knowledge based on their many years of Chrysler product research.

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