"Sarge" ('74 Plymouth Roadrunner)
Sarge is a rescue, pulled from a shed in north Texas and brought into my life by a man named Brian who just had to have a Pinto with a V8 shoved into it I used to own. He trailered what was left of this once noble steed from south Oklahoma, filled with parts and red dirt mud dauber nests, to me in early 2013... doing a spectacular brake stand and Pro Stock launch in the Pinto ("I'll TAKE it!!!") and thus my dream car manifested, albeit in kit form. Some assembly required.
A very rare but somewhat under-equipped 318/manual trans/bench seat absolute base Roadrunner in its first life, it was rode hard, put away wet, and parked for 25 years. Yes it's smarter to spend the money and buy a whole one that is running, but it's part of being a car guy to attain the "Brought one back to life" merit badge. It's a labor of love to save something from becoming dust and give it another chapter on the road.
Clues to this distant past include a crumbling key fob with "Bitch" scrawled on it, kid-carved in names of Jeremy, TJ, Casey and Joey, what remains of small decals on the trunk lid and passenger quarter windows from Westrum, a Chrysler dealer of the era in Iowa, and a faded blue access sticker on the front bumper for somewhere secure in Sherman, TX.
Never forget - inside every old guy is still a bit of a wild young man, and if you get the chance to bring it out you've done a great service. Brian, an old Army veteran, felt like he was 20 again. And I had the makings of a car I had wanted since I was about 9. As an aside, I talked to him about three months later. "I had to sell that Pinto - I've got a bad ticker, I can't be driving things like that." A Pinto is not a happy home for a big V8 if you're actually going to stop or go around corners - I'm glad I got my kicks and crossed it off my list before it crossed me off of its, and the same for Brian.
This body, the '73-'74 Roadrunner, is my favorite because as a kid in the late '70s my older cousin Jimmy had one and I was just waking up to cars and thought it was the coolest machine on earth. His was a red '73; the dark green is for my stepfather Jay who, when he came into our life, traded in his Austin-Healey for a then year-old dark green 1970 Roadrunner. Which he absolutely hated and soon sold, returning to his British sports car fetish with MGB-GTs and TR6s. But there were pictures and I saw them. To say I came of age with a '70s fixation would be an understatement. People think I'm retro - I never left. My clock stopped.
In 2016 it was time; I had gathered the remaining parts needed and had a great running parts car that I'd had lots of fun with but needed work... and if it was going to get that work, that engine & trans was not going back into that car, it was going into the Roadrunner. The parts car was a '79 Chrysler 300, a one-year Cordoba package with the E58-code HP 360 4-barrel, factory dual exhaust, all the beefy cop suspension parts, firm-feel steering box, 9-1/4" rear, heavy duty brake & cooling systems, and factory heavy duty / high performance 727 trans. A rare car itself, but no Roadrunner. I'll build it into something fun in a few years. ALL of this went into & under Sarge in a two month thrash, including the oft talked about but rarely actually done "Old Mopar lift-the-car-off-the-K-frame" driveline, steering, front suspension & brake swap technique. It works!
Sarge took his name from the military history in his story, his green, and how he carries himself. Old and scarred but still proud and tough as nails. Should've been dead but they didn't try hard enough. For me he represents these old muscle-era cars as I remember them up in the Boston area in the early '80s - faded, rusty, beat, but jacked up on mags and riding it in as street machines all the way to the wrecking yards and forgotten garages of passing time. My dream car is a machine you'd find in the parking lot of a Bob Seger concert in Detroit about 1982. Thanks to some car buddies and keeping the dream alive, here he is. Yes, he's cool. No, he's not getting painted. Sarge will sport his original tattered fatigues with honor.
Returned to the road after 25 years, his first mission was to tear up the back roads out to Canyon Lake to get a pizza. A real roadrunner - the bird - ran across the dirt driveway on our way out. A sign. And on Saturday May 7th 2016, Sarge went to his first cruise-in in decades. Don't worry - the vintage CB, 6x9s pumping Meat Loaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" and Springsteen's "Born To Run" tapes, and some green shag is coming. He's more than a car - he's a time machine. Amidst beautiful restored rods & classics, middle-aged car guys were coming UNGLUED over Sarge. Remember - this is how we remember these cars, and this one is pretty authentic! The advice a back-to-the-land mentor gave me a long time ago comes to mind. "You don't wanna buy MY dream - you wanna go build your OWN!" Go do it. It's a shitload cheaper than therapy and even ugly cars deserve to run wild. Sarge salutes you.
1974 Plymouth Roadrunner (RM21 vin)
1979 E58-code 360 4-bbl / 727 auto trans
'70s Rod Shop valve covers
Gold Moroso air filter
Functional side pipes
Full HD/"Cop" suspension & brakes (from the 300)
HD 5-leaf springs
Shackles & traction bars
B&M Quick Silver ratchet shifter
'70s 3-spoke steering wheel
Cal Custom foot gas pedal
Vintage Don Garlits tach
Aluminum wheels with Firestone Wide Oval 70s (front)
10" aluminum slot mags with N50 Pro Tracs (rear)
Sarge got his first cleaning in decades. Don't worry, there'll always be PLENTY of patina left. I felt it was important to return him to the road as is, to add these first miles of road grime on as a continuation. But it's time for a bath, to try to get a little of the spray paint off, the mud from my road, and a layer or two of sitting funk. Grab the red cover Aerosmith Greatest Hits and set the wayback machine to 1982. (5/15/16)