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Mopar, Meep-Meep!


In 1970, Richard Petty was making history and making a fashion statement on the NASCAR circuit in his Road Runner Superbird. Warner Brothers clearly did not waste their licensing agreement, since the Petty version looked like a true Looney Tune, no one can forget that bright Pepsi blue or the massive rear wing that is surely the envy of every modern-day boy racer. And according to a post on Hemmings, a seller has listed a blue 1972 small-block Road Runner and has just slashed the price of his from $35,000 to $32,500, spoiler not included.

The Road Runner small-block is that rare mid-point between the massive Detroit big-blocks of the ‘60s and the spry European powerhouses of the late 70s and 80s. The Mopar 340 doesn’t have the rocket-fueled power of everyone’s favorite 440 Six-Pack, and it lacks some the pure stoplight-burning aggression of the 426 Hemi, but it is one of the only small-block engines that can hang with the likes of the 1970 Corvette.

The crushing emissions standards begun by the US in the 1970s would end up neutering the American muscle car industry for most part until the ‘00s revivals of the Mustang, Charger, and Challenger. While 290hp might seem quaint when compared to the 700-800hp powerhouses pounding the pavement today, keep in mind that ABS and traction control weren’t even on the radar 50 years ago. All of the computerized controls and supports make the all of that modern muscle feel almost pedestrian when compared to the strapped-to-the-rocket feel of classic American muscle.

The Road Runner small-block was one of the last American cars to strike that perfect balance of weight and power that is so often elusive. It might not beat its big-block Brothers off the line, but it could easily lose them in the turns. Like its cartoon namesake, the Road Runner will easily get away from you. And if you strike while the iron is hot, you might still find one in that perfect Pepsi-can blue.

-Trey Fennell

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