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Mention the name Road Runner and immediately many will snap back to their youth remembering a Saturday morning sitting in front of a TV watching a skinny fast bird constantly outwitting the inept Wile E. Coyote. The Chrysler Corporation, looking to have a catchy name for their new inexpensive yet performance oriented Belvedere, contracted with Warner Brothers to use the name and likeness of the Road Runner for this new 1968 Plymouth B-body. The Road Runner was developed to attract the late sixties youth buyer’s market by including a powerful engine and a 4-speed transmission to go along with the catchy model name. Chrysler’s objective was to have a mid-14 second quarter mile ride that cost less than $3000. So what did you get for $3000? How about a 383 with 335 horsepower, an A-833 4-speed manual transmission (early ‘68s were outfitted with an Inland shifter but by the middle of the 1968 production run a Hurst shifter became standard), and 8 ¾” rear end packed with 3.55 gears (other gears were available). You also got big brakes, a responsive and fun suspension, air scoops (non-functional), roof drip rails, and the “beep-beep” horn all standard. The first ‘68s to roll off of the assembly line were all coupes (code RM21) and then the hardtops (code RM23) started mid-year after the production was up to speed. If you added no additional options you paid $2896 for the RM21 and $3034 for the RM23 excluding including tax, processing fees, and destination fees. According to Hot Rod magazine’s writer Eric Dahlquist the 1968 Road Runner (RM21) test vehicle assigned to the magazine was able to run a quarter mile run in 14.74 seconds at 98 mph with less than 850 miles on the new engine (November, 1967). So the Chrysler Corporation did it, a 14 second quarter mile for less than (or just a touch over) $3000 and the total of 44,599 Road Runners (29,240 coupes and 15,359 hardtops) sold proved it.
Anyone that has ever attended the Bloomsburg Nationals Powered by Carlisle Events in Bloomsburg, PA knows that the three day show attracts hundreds and hundreds of vehicles of different manufacturers and models. The cool thing is that you see almost everything you can imagine and some of the vehicles may be a real surprise to see in person. James Shelhamer, of Miffinville, PA, rolled into the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds in his 1968 Road Runner with little fanfare by the legions of people in attendance; his car just slipped by most as they assumed it was just a simple and clean 383 Road Runner. But James’ 1968 Road Runner that graces these pages is not the $3000 version of the Road Runner and his is also a bit quicker than the 14 second variety. As James idled by, a few keen individuals noticed the hood scoop engine call out badges had the little word “HEMI” on them. There was also a little “HEMI” badge on the trunk lid to let you know what resided under the hood.