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AJ's Car of the Day '71 Plymouth Road Runner Hardtop Coupe
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Car: Plymouth Road Runner Hardtop Coupe

Year: 1971

What makes it special: Plymouth introduced the Road Runner for 1968 as a stripped-down, low-price alternative to its fancier but weaker-selling GTX. The scrappy new model's performance and cheap base price lured buyers that year, far exceeding initial sales projections. Elvis fans and 1971 Road Runner hardtop coupe admirers share one important experience: Both groups witnessed the object of their veneration grow from spare and hunky to showy and chunky. As the 1970's began, steadily rising insurance premiums and changing tastes were cooling demand for performance cars.

What made it famous: Amid this climate, Plymouth introduced a redesigned mid-size line for 1971. The increased bulk signaled a departure from Road Runner's raw performance approach, a fact underscored by new options such as a color-keyed "elastomeric" front bumper, a rear spoiler, and backlight louvers. At the same time, the standard 383 dropped 35 bhp to 300, and a smaller 275-bhp 340 cu in V8 was offered at mid-year. The Hemi was still an option and it was as strong as ever, but this would be its last season.

Why I would want one: I still think despite the lower horsepower, the car was still quick, and the look of the redesigned Road Runner is still badass. It looks fast while parked.

Fun fact: Plymouth paid $50,000 to Warner Bros.-Seven Arts to use the Road Runner name and likeness from their Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner cartoons, as well as a "beep, beep" horn, which Plymouth paid $10,000 to develop.

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