Classic Car Watch
A Road Runner to Start a New Column

July 1, 2004
By Scott Lewis

This month I am introducing a new "column" to my web site, Classic Car Watch. What I plan to do is put at least one car here every month that I find for sale on the Internet. The cars that make it here will be cars that meets my requirements for my next classic car.

My requirements are as follows:
1) Air Condition
2) Manual Transmission
3) Rust Free
4) Power Steering & Power Disc Brakes
5) $15,000 Budget (includes working air conditioning)
6) Performance potential

How will I decide what cars show up in this column? Good question. Aside from the above requirements, I will keep looking on the Internet casually as if I was close to buying a car. I will find cars that I would be willing to call about if I had the cash in hand. I will save the links for the ads (new for me) so that when I do come up with the money I can really call.

Each month I will look over all the cars I find up until the end of the month. I will narrow the list down based on that month's competition. I will try to put 4 or 5 cars in here a month (more this month because I had more time to prepare for this first edition) with one preferred car. The preferred car is the car I like the best assuming all the information in the ads and pictures are accurate. I will also invite back the previous month's preferred car, unless it is sold,  with the chance to take the top honors again. Similar to Car and Driver's 10 Best list.

I plan to narrow the choices as the month progresses. I will freeze the list of cars one week before the end of the month. If I discover a car I selected sells before I go to press I will mark it as sold. This will give you some idea of the cars that move quickly. However, this is hardly scientific since I don't necessarily find cars as soon as they are posted.

This is really just an excuse for me to keep up with what is going on out there. I will be saving for a classic car and when I find that perfect car I will want to jump on it.

What cars will be on the list? My mood changes over time, but my requirements do not. Don't be too surprised if you see cars listed here that match what American Muscle Car on Speed Channel is showing. I like the show quite a bit. Most of the time I want to go out an buy the car I see that day. It is amazing. When they tell about the Boss 302 Mustang I completely forget about Camaros and what a Boss 302. When they talk about the Charger I suddenly wish I had a nice 1969 Charger R/T 383. When they talk about the Nova I wish I had one of those. Like I said, my mood will change.

I would like to provide a definitive list of my favorite cars, but that would take a lot of space. Maybe that will be a topic for Car Corner. We'll see.

To help those following along more closely, I will post pricing information from CPI. I have a June 2002 edition of the CPI Guide. I will use this and CPI's web site to come up with a value range. CPI's web site only has the excellent value listed. I will take the current CPI value and determine the percent the value has changed since June 2002. I will use this percentage to calculate an estimate of today's good value. I will also show you the percent change for those that want to know how well these cars are changing in value.

Please don't use my research for investment purposes. In fact, if you are an investor please stop reading this column. This information is for automotive enthusiasts. As an enthusiast, you can use this information to plan your car purchase. Know how much a car is increasing in value can help determine how much money you are willing to put into it before worrying about losing money. And, let's face it, priorities change and you might have to sell the car in the future to pay for things like rent and stuff.

If you know of a web site that has a nice selection of classic cars at reasonable prices please let me know. 

The List

Below are the cars for this month. The preferred car is a 1973 Road Runner, picked for sentimental reasons. Next we came up with a 72 Road Runner with a big block as a backup. This month also seems to favor Novas as I found two worth consideration. I even managed to get a 4 speed equipped 69 Camaro in the mix. Here is the list.

1973 Plymouth Road Runner - $9,950  

73_roadrunner_1.jpg (43603 bytes)  73_roadrunner_2.jpg (36855 bytes)  73_roadrunner_3.jpg (27162 bytes)  73_roadrunner_4.jpg (45882 bytes)

Description: Gorgeous original! Same owner since 1989! Car show winner! Stock V8, automatic, P/S, P/B & A/C. After market wheels, very clean, looks & drives new!

Source: Brockers Beautys

Value: $7,975 - $10,850 (+27%)

Comments: This month's preferred car is a 1973 Road Runner. Yea, I know, a 73 Road Runner was a pale excuse for a Muscle Car as the era was dying. But the 73 Road Runner has a special place in my heart. I used to own one. Mine was a Road Runner GTX. I don't know enough to know what put the GTX onto the Road Runner in 73, but I do know that the GTX was no longer a model of its own. Mine was equipped with a 440 and the slapstick automatic. It was slow when I bought it from the original owner. The smog motor was so tired it could not even spin the tires. That was until I rebuilt the engine. I used a set of 69 440 heads, the best from the factory, with a 10:1 compression short block. Added a Comp Cams Magnum 292 camshaft, Edelbrock intake, Holley 750 carb and Black Jack headers. The car would leave two black marks on the ground for at least a hundred feat if I wanted.

So, the 73 Road Runner is special like all the other people out there buying old cars. It represents part of my past. The price for this car seams reasonable to me. At $9,995 it is about one thousand below CPI's excellent rating. That means this car should be in very good condition. Of course, we are assuming a rust free car, and that would be a show stopper for this car.

Many of you will look closely and see that this car is not exactly the best Muscle Car out there. Since the ad does not mention anything more than it having a V-8, I assume it has a 318. I know that the 318 was available in the Road Runner in 73 because I use to have an acquaintance, Charlie, that was the original owner of a Road Runner and his had a 318.

Charlie modified his quite a bit for performance back in the mid-seventies through mid-eighties. He put 340 heads on it, added a bigger camshaft, headers, and intake and carb swap. He also had 4.30:1 gears in the rear end. His car ran 13.90 in the quarter mile at Englishtown's Raceway Park in New Jersey. Not too bad for a large car with a small block.

This month's car reminds me of Charlie's. Charlie's Road Runner was a special order dark blue. It was a color that was available on the Imperial at the time, and they charged him an extra $69 for that color. That was a bargain, because the factory had to take his Road Runner off the Satellite assembly line and put it on the Imperial assembly line to paint it. Then they had to move the car back to the Satellite assembly line to finish it. It had to cost Plymouth more that 69 bucks in labor to do that. My car was silver with a black vinyl roof, so it didn't have the big stripe.

It is a shame this car has a column shift automatic. Both Charlie and I had the console with the slapstick auto. I would start searching for the parts to convert this car to buckets and a console as my first change.

Next of the list of things to do would be the exhaust. Since we only have a 318 here I would definitely put headers and a nice dual exhaust to get the right sound for a Muscle Car. Charlie went to great lengths to maintain the right look for his exhaust tips. The original tips on these cars were a slotted chrome design that had a plastic orange insert. They looked good when new, but they didn't last too long. Most people didn't bother with them back then. Charlie was such a fanatic that he could tell the difference between the tips of all the Road Runners from 71 to 74. One of his was a modified 71 tip he picked up at a swap meet because his originals were in such bad shape from daily driving the first 3 or 4 years of its life. I have lost touch with Charlie, but I assume he has now found a good restoration company to get correct exhaust tips for his Road Runner. I would do that as well.

Back to the 318. This is hardly a performance engine, regardless of how well Charlie's Road Runner ran. I will not put up with that kind of gearing to get decent performance. So, that means an engine swap. I used to think you had to replace the entire K-Member to switch between small and big blocks in the Mopar world. If that is the case I will stick with a small block. Mopar makes a nice 360 crate engine that is rated at 380 horsepower. That should be good enough. If a big block could be bolted in I would look to drop in a 440 and get the GTX emblems to make the car like the one I had so many years ago. Either way, the goal is a car that can leave a smoky burnout for at least a 100 feet... without power braking.

I love the hood on this car. It was impressive to look over driving down the road. It is a shame that emissions prevented Plymouth from making it a ram air hood. These hoods were so hard to come by in 85, when my car died, that I gave the hood to Charlie so he could cut it for a blower and paint it to match his car. I don't know if he ever did that. I do know he went nitrous.

I don't know if I would cut the stock hood to make it into a functional ram air hood, but I would look into finding a hood that I could use for that purpose.

I could easily see myself with this car as a classic and a new Mini Cooper for daily driving chores.

1972 Plymouth Road Runner - $8,950

72_rr_1.jpg (33981 bytes)Description: Numbers matching 400ci V8, Slapstick auto, P/S, P/B, A/C, bucket seats & console, recent paint, nice original interior Aftermarket wheels. Drives like new!

Value: $7,975 - $10,850 (+27%)

Source: Brocker's Beautys

Comments: This Road Runner is a bit more outrageous that the 73 above. However, it has the slapstick automatic with the console. The interior is just like the 73 Road Runner I had back in 85. The big block will provide decent performance, but the era's smog equipment will have to go. This car is priced right in the middle of its value between good and excellent condition. If its condition is better than the 67 Camaro I sold last year than it is worth the money they are asking. It already has A/C and the necessary power accessories. So, with the money left in my budget we could actually consider swapping in a manual transmission.

I would definitely spend some time getting the proper wheels and exhaust tips on the car. The factor exhaust tips looked very cool. Of course I would add some horsepower. The 400 cubes under the hood should be enough, so I would concentrate on an intake/exhaust/cam swap for some extra power. Other than that this is a great big block cruiser.

1970 Chevrolet Nova - $10,700  

70_nova_5speed_1.jpg (87559 bytes)Description: NO Rust, rebuilt 350, 4-bolt main, steel crank, forged pistons, Edelbrock Performer intake, Comp Cam, Holley 4bbl 650cfm, 5-speed Richmond tranny, Hurst short throw shifter, Centerforce clutch, GM 10-bolt Posi Trac. 3.73 gears, Hooker headers, dual Flowmaster exhaust, American Racing Torq-Thrust II 15x8 wheels. Dark green paint, clearcoated, New front suspension, polyurethane bushings, front disk brakes, alternator, starter, battery, wheel alignment, Monroe air shocks, door panels, headliner. interior in good condition. All exterior SS emblems and SS hood have been added.

Source: Collector Car Trader

Value: $4,500 - $7,325 (+1.0%)

Comments: This guy has done to his car almost exactly what I would do. I want a hot small block with a 5 speed. He sure has a lot of new parts. Why? Is it a money pit? Why is he selling it after all that work? Some good questions.

As for the car, there was just the one picture. I like what I see. This car shouldn't need much to be a great daily driver. I assume it does not have air conditioning since he didn't mention it. But that is it. I would need to see the interior to see if it needs some nice bucket seats and a console.

This is a real caller. Too bad I don't have the cash yet.

1971 Chevrolet Nova SS - $12,900

71_nova_ss_4speed_1.jpg (49234 bytes)Description: Just brought in from southern California, 1971 Nova SS with 4 speed transmission and built small block. Ready for weekend racing and daily driving. Power disc brakes, dual exhausts, cd radio, rally wheels and new black interior finish off this beauty. The car also has the protect-o-plate showing it was a new car purchase in sunny San Diego.

Value: $8950 - $14,775 (-0.5%)

Source: West Coast Car Connection

Comments: It looks like we might have a fairly priced car. The full ad mentioned they will raise the price when they turn it into a Yenko clone. Imaging that! They don't mention if it is a matching numbers car, so I would assume it is not. That will help with negotiations. As it sits if it is a rust free car this should make for a really nice project car. They are right in the middle of the good to excellent price range, but at least it is not priced over its value. Notice that this car has actually gone down a tiny bit in value over the last two years. That's surprising because of the number of Novas I see for sale for closer to fifteen grand, and even more. This car fits in our $15K budget. For my needs we will need to add A/C (about $1500) and power steering (about $500). That empties the budget so I would try to wheel and deal. Other than that if you like Novas, this seems to be worth checking out.

1967 Ford Mustang Coupe - $9,995

67_mustang_coupe_1.jpg (47448 bytes)Description: This car feature a new 289 motor with a 50,000 miles warranty. Automatic transmission. Power steering. Nice red paint with red interior. New 17" Cragar wheels and low profile tires. Over $17000 invested. 

Value: $5,900 - $9725 (+4.9%)

Source: Premium Motors

Comments: I like this car. Just from appearances it has the right look for a daily driver classic Mustang. The color/paint look very nice in the pictures. Of course we would call for as many high resolution pictures we could get. The wheels set it off nicely. Keep this in mind with any car. Sometimes adding a nice wheel and tire package on can transform the appearance.

Now, let's take a look at the details. That is not the original engine. Who is the warranty with? When we take the car out of state how will we get any warranty work done? I would write off the warranty when buying this car, but use it to know the engine should be reliable for a long enough time. From the money that has been previously invested we are picking up someone else's project. And this price is good for a project car, though CPI puts the asking price at top dollar. Obviously they want some of the money put into back.

Now, what do we do. This car needs A/C and a power disc brake upgrade. That's about $2500. With the initial investment right at the top of this car's value we might be in a position of paying too much. I would use the non stock engine (instead of rebuilding the numbers matching engine) in combination with the lack of A/C to try and talk them down some. I think it would be reasonable to get this car for $9,000, but I don't know if we could get it for less than that. Hey, it couldn't hurt to offer eight grand... in cash. That seems to be a reasonable price to pay for a classic daily driver project car.

Everything I have said assumes this is a rust free car. If not then run away as fast as you can. The only thing I don't like is the red interior. I would probably convert it over to black over time.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro - $14,900

69_camaro_red_4speed_1.jpg (57978 bytes)Description: 350 engine, 4 barrel, 4 speed, 5 spoke American wheels, red line tires, paint is nice, nice driver.

Value: $8,150 - $13,450 (+21.2%)

Source: Greene's Classic Cars

Comments: Well, this is what I say I am looking for. A 69 Camaro with a V-8 and 4 speed. This car looks sharp in the pictures. But lots of cars can look good in low resolution pictures. However, since CPI says the 69 Camaro coupe maxes out in the $13K range, this car better be perfect. I can bet the engine is not the original. All the more reason why this SS clone is overpriced. The car needs A/C, and I can't tell if it has power steering. I need A/C, so if I called about this car I would be using the CPI guide to get them into the low 13's. Lower if the condition warrants it.

This car should stand out. As long as we can get it to be reliable it should make a good driver, they even say so. The car needs new carpet, and I would want to add a factory console as well. This is definitely a project car, so we will have to negotiate hard to get a fair price. I think $12-13K is fair for this car considering its non stock SS trim, non stock engine, and project car status.

1973 Mercury Cougar XR7 Convertible - $8,995

Description: 351C V8, rebuilt automatic, power steering, power disc brakes, air conditioning, power windows, tilt wheel, power seat, AM-FM stereo, leather bucket seats with console, new white power top, Magnum wheels with Goodyear's. Runs and drives as good as it looks. A/C complete and working but needs charge. Runs great on regular unleaded. Drive anywhere.

Value: $6,250 - $10,325 (+2.5%)

Source: Memory Lane Motors

Comments: This car has been on this site before. It is even listing in this month's Car Corner. It is still for sale, so the price might be negotiable. Buying a car like this would be to get a nice classic cruiser convertible. This car has full power accessories, and a nice white interior. It is priced fairly for a car in very good condition. What's not to like. This body style is not very popular, even less so than the Mustang of the same year. This car won't make much of an investment, so just maintain it and it should hold its value.

1971 Oldsmobile 442 - $14,900

71_442_1.jpg (141336 bytes)Description: 455 V8, Automatic, Air Conditioning, Power Steering, Power Disc Brakes, In-Dash Tach and Gauges, Sport Wheel, Bucket Seats and Console, AM-FM-Cassette, W25 Ram Air Hood, W27 Aluminum Rear End Cover, Rally Wheels. Correct Lime Green Exterior With White Top, Stripes And Interior. Run and Drives Strong and Tight. Solid Rust Free Car With Service Records and Owner History Going Back To The Early 70's. Must See And Hear To Appreciate.

Value: $10,400 - $17,150 (+1.2%)

Source: Memory Lane Motors

Comments: I love the early 70s 442 Ram Air hood with huge white stripes on them. This car looks very nice. It just barely fits in my self imposed $15K budget. All I have to do is give up on a manual transmission. But this car has the one key element that makes that bearable... a BIG BLOCK! Now... we need to check a couple of things. Mainly, is that the original engine. If not I would talk down the price. If the car was not an original 455 equipped car I would talk it down even more. Since they have records going back to the early 70s you would hope it is a numbers matching car. This is truly a Gentleman's Muscle Car. I love that. The 455 should have enough torque to wipe out the tires every couple of weeks if you want. I could definitely see me driving this car to work whenever I could afford the gas. As for modifications? I would want to keep a stock appearance, but I love horsepower. I could see putting some kind of throttle body fuel injection on this car if it could be hidden under the air cleaner. f the motor ever needed to be torn down for anything I would consider Edelbrock's aluminum head. I would paint them so they would appear stock to the casual observer. If I changed the heads I would also change the camshaft. Nothing would be done to the car that would prevent it from being returned to stock. I might even consider a 700-R4 swap to try and get a little better gas mileage... if the tranny ever needed work.