The Road Runner, Plymouth’s 1968 entry in the Motor City’s muscle car wars, was based on two fresh but powerful insights about the exploding youth performance market.
First: Many young muscle car buyers, it turned out, cared little about luxury or convenience features. They wanted the most powerful drivetrain they could afford, stuffed into the cheapest (and lightest) package available. Recognizing this desire, Plymouth stripped the Road Runner to taxicab trim level—right down to rubber floor mats and ash-tray hubcaps—to create the lowest-priced muscle car on the market. The list price was comfortably under $3,000, including the standard 383 CID big-block V8 and Hurst-shifted four-speed transmission. Naturally, the 440 CID Magnum and mighty 426 Street Hemi powerplants were available at extra cost.
Next: Plymouth recognized that this crop of young buyers didn’t identify with couples in evening wear or weekends at the country club, so those familiar images were banished from the print and television ads. To reach the baby boomers, the first generation of car buyers raised in front of the TV set, Plymouth borrowed and licensed (for $50,000, it is said) a beloved character from Saturday morning cartoons, the Road Runner. The quick and crafty bird was applied not only to the car’s ad campaign, but to the branding of the vehicle itself. Chrysler Corporation planned to sell 20,000 Road Runners that first year and sold 50,000.
As we all know, when the Road Runner and his nemesis Wile E. Coyote face off in a Warner Brothers cartoon, Road Runner always wins. And that’s just how it went in a whole series of Plymouth commercials, too, including this spot from 1969. There’s even an Acme Rocket Skate bit here. Video follows.