by David Zatz
The 1975 Plymouth Road Runner used the Fury body. It was, now, mainly a cosmetic option package; but though the looks changed dramatically, and the performance was far lower than in the past, the Road Runner still ran on the same B body.
See our main Road Runner page
The Fury Road Runner’s base engine was the humble 318 V8; a 400 four-barrel was at the top of the options list. The optional engine, rated at 190 hp (net) and 290 lb-ft of torque, ran managed a 17.1 second quarter mile at 80.5 mph, well below the older models and, for that matter, below the Matador X and Chevy Laguna Type S-3. Mopar’s once superior brakes were not up to the task; Car & Driver measured a 70-0 mph stop at 204 feet, far longer than the AMC (185 ft) and Chevy (188 ft). The 0-60 time was 10.7 seconds.
In 1976, Plymouth replaced the long-running Valiant with a new car, dubbed “Volare” to make it seem somewhat more upscale. The Volare had a more comfortable ride, nicer seats, a more upscale and driver-oriented cabin, and few water leaks; but the first year was an assembly-and-rust disaster.
For the first time, the Road Runner was not on a B body — just as well, without its potent 383. The lighter “F” body of the Volare could support higher performance with a smaller engine. The “Road Runner Pack,” added to the Volare Coupe, had a choice of 318 or 360 V8 engines, both with two barrel carbs (150 and 170 hp, respectively). The 360 was likely quicker than the prior year’s 400 option; the base 318 was certainly faster than it had been.
In 1977, the 360, equipped with the world’s first on-board engine computer (the Lean Burn spark timing 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. Regardless, for 1977, the Road Runner 360 was a much better match for its looks.
The 1980 Road Runner was the final year — as it was for the Volare. The two cars shared all the same engines — except one: only the Road Runner could get the 318 four-barrel. 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 leaded gas. 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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