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1971 Plymouth Road Runner 440-6

In this edition of Muscle Car Milestones, we’ll look back at the 1971 Plymouth Road Runner 440-6. Plymouth’s budget muscle car got a major makeover for 1971. The standard engine was still the 383 V8, but drivers who wanted more performance without spending Hemi money opted for the 440-6. The 440-6 was a decent performer and deserves a second look. Let’s see what makes the 1971 Plymouth Road Runner 440-6 a Muscle Car Milestone.

1971 saw lots of changes for the Plymouth Road Runner. The Road Runner received a major restyling, featuring rounded “fuselage” body styling, a three-inch wider rear track, and a one-inch shorter wheelbase. The new Road Runner also featured flush door handles, concealed windshield wipers, and ventless side glass. The design for the new Road Runner was credited to Chrysler automotive stylist John Herlitz, who had also created the 1970 Plymouth Barracuda and 1971 Plymouth GTX.

Notable options include a compact cassette player and recorder, power sunroof, color-keyed elastomeric bumper, and remote control racing mirrors. Another noteworthy option was the Air Grabber air scoop. Vacuum power opens the scoop to feed fresh air to the carburetor for a boost of power. This fresh air induction system also featured an intimidating bright orange and white decal with a shark baring his teeth. Maybe that’s a good sign not to pick a fight with this potent street brawler. One option missing from the Road Runner 440-6 order sheet was air conditioning. The good news is a power-operated sun roof was available to let in some fresh air.

The Plymouth Road Runner 440-6 was rated at 385 gross horsepower and 490 lb.-ft. of gross torque. The 440-6 featured three two-barrel Holley carburetors, a dual breaker distributor, and hardened exhaust valve tips. This engine also featured a 10.3:1 compression ratio, unsilenced air cleaner, and dual exhaust system. The 440-6 option cost around $262, which is significantly lower than the Hemi’s lofty price tag.

Motor Trend put the Road Runner 440-6 to the test in their February 1971 issue. The Road Runner 440-6 sprinted from 0 to 60 in 6.7 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 15.02 seconds running 96 mph. Overall, Motor Trend took a liking to the Road Runner stating “So, in summary, the Roadrunner revised is still an enjoyable car to drive, it still has all of the good features of an enthusiast machine and, in certain readily available configurations, is quite insurable”.

While the Road Runner would soldier on for 1972, the 440-6 engine would not. Cause of death could be credited to high insurance premiums being levied on horsepower and Uncle Sam’s war on tailpipe emissions.

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