The Plymouth Road Runner was introduced as part of Plymouth’s revamped intermediate lineup for the 1968 model year. It was essentially a Belvedere two-door sedan fitted with the heavy-duty suspension normally found on cars earmarked for police or taxi duty. The standard engine was Chrysler’s familiar 383 cu. in. (6,276 cc) V8 wearing “Coyote Duster” decals on its air cleaner and borrowing the cylinder heads, camshaft, and intake and exhaust manifolds from Chrysler’s bigger 440 cu. in. (7,206 cc) engine. With single four-barrel carburetor, this combination yielded 335 gross horsepower (250 kW) and 425 lb-ft (574 N-m of torque), about the same as a base GTO. A four-speed manual transmission was standard equipment and the only really essential straight-line performance item not included was a limited-slip differential, which was available as part of the Performance Axle Group for an extra $87.50.
The base price of a Plymouth Road Runner was $2,870, which was a little above Brock Yates’ proposed target price, but undercut a base Pontiac GTO hardtop by $231. If you included the extra cost of adding a four-speed and heavy-duty suspension to the GTO, the price differential became closer to $500 — not small change in 1968. The Road Runner was also $559 cheaper than an equivalent Plymouth GTX.
Naturally, that budget price entailed certain compromises. Choosing a Road Runner over a GTX condemned you to flat bench seats, taxicab-grade upholstery, dog-dish hubcaps, and rubber mats instead of carpeting. There was of course a host of dress-up and luxury options ranging from power steering and front disc brakes (unimportant to drag racers, but of more than passing interest for street driving) to a padded vinyl roof and a big swash of flat black paint on the hood. Buyers were well advised to exercise caution with the options list, which could add almost $1,000 to the list price. As a stripped-down street racer, the Road Runner was a bargain, but if you were looking for a fully loaded cruiser, the GTX made far more sense, offering better performance without the Road Runner’s low-rent ambiance.