Road Runner. Show Stopper.
The months of hard work and long hours in the garage had finally paid off for Reg Kelley when he stood on the sunny show field of the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals in July. His 1970 Plymouth Road Runner, a mere shell a little under two years ago, was finally restored to all its glory and was drawing large crowds at the annual gathering of elite Mopar® rides.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” said Kelley about his labor of love’s debut which racked up just three miles on the odometer before it was parked on the Carlisle field. “There’s always a little anxiousness; little things often pop up with fresh builds. But it’s been behaving great so far, so we’re good.”
Looking back at the challenges and obstacles encountered during the months-long restoration (including a last-minute transmission problem that forced the delay of the Road Runner’s coming out party), Kelley made sure to note he was not an army of one.
“My buddies —‘Mopar®’ Kevin Haranczak, Jerry Tromala, Alan Parak and Frank Baisley —jumped in to help and were very much part of the project and really made it special. It wasn’t just me; it was a team thing. And my wife was totally understanding —I think because we love to cruise together.”
Kelley made even more friends at Carlisle, with many attendees stopping by to chat about the detail in his painstaking Mopar® restoration.
“A lot of folks have commented on the paint and the detail, things like the Bondo squeezing on features such as the bezels,” said Kelley. “People are noticing the extra work we put into it which makes it rewarding.” Amid one of the largest gatherings of Mopar rides on the planet, Kelley’s 1970 Road Runner earned first place honors in the 1968 to 1970 B-Body Class in its debut.
Ever the perfectionist, Kelley is still finding small detail work to complete. “They’re never really done; these cars always need love,” he said.
Hunting for the correct windshield wipers for his Road Runner, Kelley located a set in the Carlisle swap meet area during the event.
Kelley is planning to retire soon to his home state of Missouri, but he’s staying active in the Mopar build game. He’s already lined up his next projects: a restoration of a 1968 Dodge Dart planned for a year from now and current work to make a 1978 Dodge pickup truck drivable for use around his new home.
“This tool had the most influence on the outcome of the final restoration. We used the rotisserie at the media blast phase to provide better access to all parts of the body shell and during metal repair of the trunk pan, rear quarter panels, seam sealing and rough blocking of the main body shell panels.
“There were so many instances during the build in which it came in handy: final blocking and painting after “gap and flush” work, wet sanding and initial buffing of the paint, and during installation of the fuel tank, fuel line, brake lines, e-brake cables, as well as some of the wiring harnesses. Without a rotisserie and the ability to spin the body shell to an optimum work position, the quality of the work would have been compromised. The rotisserie is without a doubt a must for a top level restoration.”
“Having a wheeled cart, that the main shell unibody frame rails could rest on, was a lifesaver. It allowed the front fenders and rear axle assembly to be installed. A cart height of 30 inches is ideal.”
“I suggest making sure to use four of the Precision Location Points (PLPs) on the unibody frame rails for the support points. These are 5/8 inch diameter holes found in the bottom surfaces of the frame rails. We used the body cart during mounting of the fenders, hood, doors, and deck lid during the setting of ‘gap and flush,’ and also during final body work and near final blocking. It was extremely valuable during the blocking to bring all panels to a ‘flush’ condition.”
“This came in extremely handy, especially during Bondo squeezing of the side markers, taillight bezels and hood bezel. We used a .010 inch thick sheet of wax with an adhesive backing. After applying three layers of sheet wax to the edges of the part being fitted to the body panels, wet Bondo was applied to the area. Then we squeezed the part into the optimum location and let the Bondo set.
“Word to the wise: removing the part will take some effort to separate the wax and release. Be patient, then remove any remaining wax and sand to blend to the body panel openings.”
MEDIA BLAST CABINET
“This was used to remove rust and clean the hundreds of fasteners that were part of the restoration, which was definitely not a small detail. Parts cleaned and prepped for painting or plating numbered approximately 1,200, and included screws, bolts, nuts, small brackets, and more.
“We realized major cost savings in having the parts cleaned for the zinc, cadmium or black phosphate plating process.”
“Verify that the engine build is good and no oil or water leaks are present BEFORE installing the engine in the car. Using the dyno, we found a problem with the cam shaft to distributor drive gear with the 472 HEMI® Stroker engine that saved us many, many hours.
“The instrumentation on the engine dyno included oil pressure, water temperature, exhaust gas temperatures for each cylinder, air-to-fuel ratio, horsepower, torque and RPM. With the various sensor information dialing in timing and fuel delivery, it made our job of finding the final peak performance of approximately 650 hp that much easier.”
WET SAND PAPER RUBBING COMPOUNDS
“These were absolutely critical to obtaining the black mirror finish of the Road Runner. We used an assortment of grits, ranging from 400 up to 3,000. Between sealer and final paint coats, 400 grit was used.
“After paint, we turned to 800 grit to flatten the surfaces, take the tops off the peaks and find the valleys of the paint. After final blocking with 3,000 grit sponge pads, we finished off the exterior by rubbing with glazing and polishing compounds.”
Labor of Love. And Speed.
Kelley’s biggest tip: “My biggest piece of advice for this kind of restoration, is to tag it and bag it. Store, label and take plenty of pictures during disassembly, so you know where to return each piece during reassembly.”
Kelley’s most difficult moment: “The issues with the transmission and having to take it out and repair it.”
Kelley’s favorite feature: “The gap and flush on the vehicle, the way the panels come together really stands out.”
Kelley’s hardest hunt: “The grille, with undamaged stainless trim, was very hard to find. It’s not a reproduction part. We finally located one at a swap meet in Indy.”
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
To get his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner in showing shape, Kelley endured plenty of pitfalls, disappointments and difficulties on the way to the finish line. But, there were also a lot of pinnacle moments during the restoration that seemed to make the journey all worthwhile.
Miles on the odometer when the Road Runner was unloaded at Carlisle.
Approximate total hours logged by Kelley and his team on the project.
Percent of the reassembly personally handled by Kelley.
Total length of the build, beginning when Kelley located the vehicle.
Unique parts sourced for the build.
Estimated number of pieces, mostly fasteners, that had to be cleaned, replated and returned to their original placement (excluding the engine and drivetrain).
Output of the rare HEMI® Six Pack engine, as well as 572 lb.-ft. of torque.