This Unique 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Might Have Saved Your Life


The HEMI variant of the Plymouth Road Runner is highly praised by the majority of Mopar aficionados. And with good reason—there were only 2,003 HEMI Road Runners produced between 1968 and 1971. However, this non-HEMI vehicle may be more important than any other Road Runner available.

Wayne State University bought this fairly ordinary white 1970 Road Runner brand-new and utilized it for study on highway traffic safety. Among other things, the vehicle assisted the university in realizing the dangers of Armco obstacles when driving on the highway.

But why a 1970 Road Runner and not any other vehicle from the era? Well, the university crash-tested unmanned cars by pulling them into traffic signs and guardrails. So it needed a car capable of pulling the said vehicles to 70 mph (113 kph) in about 1,000 feet (305 meters).

The story goes that they looked into every high-performance car available at the time and found the 1970 Road Runner with the 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) V8 to be the right vehicle for the job. Fitted with three two-barrel carburetors, the beefed-up RB mill was good for a solid 390 horsepower when new.

Wayne State University kept the car for about eight years until the Mopar was auctioned off in 1978. Come 2022 and the Road Runner has been with Dave Hakim since 1996. And while it’s a whopping 52 years old as of this writing, it looks downright stunning inside and out and it still carries the original Wayne State University stickers on its doors.


However, that’s not the only thing that makes this Road Runner different from its 1970 counterpart. A sign that reads “50 mph speed restriction” is also located on the glove box.

It is present because the test cars were brought up to speed by the university using a complex cable and stanchion system. The collision car accelerated in the opposite direction, traveling at twice the speed of the Road Runner as it pulled away from the guardrail. The test vehicles would have crashed into the obstacles at over 100 mph (161 kph) if they had driven the Road Runner faster than 50 mph (80 kph).

But that’s not to say that this Plymouth hasn’t been manhandled like a true muscle car. The owner says he raced it at pure stock muscle car drag events, covering the quarter-mile in less than 13 seconds thanks to a few tune-ups under the hood. Now that’s a cool retirement routine for a muscle car that was used to make highways safer and save lives.

This Road Runner is a real survivor, even though it was painted decades ago and the engine has some upgrades to be proud of. Wayne State University had just 14,000 miles (22,531 km) remaining on the odo, but almost all of those miles included laboriously moving bulky Detroit iron into guardrails. It’s already over 26,000 miles (41,843 km) driven, making it another low-mileage classic.