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1974 Plymouth Road Runner – Performance and Functionality

By Alf van Beem (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Alf van Beem, via Wikimedia Commons
Built at the tail end of the muscle car’s heyday, the 1974 Plymouth Road Runner is a fitting reflection of the times. Often referred to as the last “real” Road Runner, the 1974 model year represented one final holdout against falling performance standards prompted by oil shortages and progressively restrictive emissions regulations. Though it lacked the raw power of previous models, the 1974 Road Runner still packed impressive performance into a distinct, stylish and functional package.


Body Changes

With Plymouth in the process of transitioning away from the “fuselage” body style of the 1971 and 1972 models, the 1974 Road Runner featured more traditionally angular, squared-up bodylines. It carried over the reworked front grille, taillight assembly and rear bumper from the previous year, along with government-regulated “5 mph” bumpers. Inside, the Road Runner got upgraded cloth or vinyl bucket seats as an add-on, as well as air conditioning, FM stereo and rear defrosters.


Under the Hood

While many muscle cars had begun to see a precipitous drop in power by 1974, the Plymouth Road Runner remained a stubborn holdout. While the base engine remained the reliable but underpowered 318 cubic inch V8 with dual exhausts, the 340 CID engine from previous years was bumped up to a more powerful 360 CID V8. The venerable 400 CID V8 remained a popular choice for many, while the 280-horsepower 440 big-block held out for a final year as part of the GTX performance package. As with earlier iterations, the 1974 Road Runner also boasted excellent handling and braking performance for a car of its size and power.


Built to Last

With its trademark fusion of style, performance and functionality, the 1974 Plymouth Road Runner was an ideal compromise between daily driver and weekend warrior. It also became a popular choice among moonshiners thanks to its power and rugged build. That durability has served it well, as a surprising number of the approximately 9,500 1974 models that were produced are still running the road today. As the final production year before the once-proud line was turned into little more than a glorified Plymouth Fury, the Road Runner has rightfully ascended to the status of collector car today.


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