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The Plymouth Road Runner in Alternative Bodies: Fury and Volare

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Fury Road Runner: one year only

1975 Plymouth Road RunnersIn 1975, the Roadrunner changed bodies to the Fury, which had just moved from the C to the B platform (the Gran Fury stayed with the big C body); by 1977, the Fury was only about the size of the 1991 Lincoln Town Car. It only stayed with the Fury for a year.

The Fury Road Runner used a 318 as the base engine, with the 400 four-barrel taking the place of the 440 and Hemi at the top of the options list. The 400 was, in that year, rated at 190 hp (net) at 4,000 rpm and 290 lb-ft of torque; it managed a 17.1 second quarter mile at 80.5 mph, well below the older models and, for that matter, below Matador X and Chevy Laguna Type S-3. Mopar’s once superior brakes failed it, with a stop from 70 mph measured by Car & Driver at 204 feet, substantially longer than the AMC (185 ft) and Chevy (188 ft). Gas mileage was similar to the tested competitors, as was the price and noise level. (0-60 was done in 10.7 seconds.)

Volare Road Runner

In 1976, Plymouth replaced the long-running Valiant with a “new” car, which was essentially a new generation of Valiant. It was dubbed “Volare” to make it seem somewhat more upscale, and, more importantly, to try to bring in younger buyers. The Volare improved on the Valiant with a more comfortable ride and comfortable seats, a far more upscale interior, and fewer water leaks; but the first year was an assembly-and-rust disaster. Both cars were available in 1976 — the outgoing Valiant and the incoming Volare. Consumer Reports told buyers to opt for the Volare... a decision the magazine would regret, but hindsight is 20/20. Few could have foreseen the problems that would infest the Volare, especially since other Chrysler-Plymouth cars had gone through total sheet-metal changes without problems.

Volare RoadRunner

The Road Runner left the B body it had been created on, and moved to a lighter body that could better support its performance aspirations without big-block engines. No longer a full model, it was now the “Road Runner Pack,” added to Volare Coupe. Even so, Road Runner had a better guarantee of performance than Valiant or Volare, which both had a base slant six. Road Runner had a choice of 318 or 360 — both with two barrel carbs, so that the 318 generated 150 hp and the 360 created 170 hp. It was decent power for the weight, especially given the engines’ torque bias, but hardly the equal of the 1968 version.

Volare Road Runner PackIn 1977, the 360, equipped with the first on-board engine computer ever - the Lean Burn system - gained a four-barrel electronic feedback carburetor. The four barrel was put onto the mainstay 318 in 1979, but production was only a little over 1,000 vehicles.

1980 was the last year for both the Volare (under that name) and Road Runner; they shared all the same engines except the 318 four-barrel, which was Road Runner-only. The name was never revived for any of its natural targets - the Omni GLH and GLHS, for example.

John B. Cressy wrote: “I ordered a Volare Roadrunner in 1976, one of the first; it had no power steering, and I specified the free NY91 option, a GM smog pump but no catalytic converter, so it ran on regular gas. This option was free, the only problem was getting a replacement exhaust. Most cars with this option were 112-inch wheelbase police cars and taxi cabs. Mine was the 108-inch two-door and you could get an exhaust but you had to find the extra 4 inches in some sort of adapter. It was a 318 automatic with Sure Grip.”

Road Runner (and other B-body) forums • Jack Smith, creator of the Road Runner, tells the story of its birth • B-Body Road Runner

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