Ron Cherry: The Big Guy’s ‘Big Block’ Road Runner
Special to The Union
Presence is a lot of how a person is viewed.
Al Ramsey has a lot of presence. He comes across larger than life, just like his cars.
His ‘70 Plymouth Road Runner is a good example of a car with a presence. It is a classic example of a muscle car, what Merriam-Webster defines as “any of a group of American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines designed for high-performance driving.”
“I love muscle cars,” Al said. While working in a gas station as a kid, he saved up enough money to buy a big-block Chevelle.
“I’ve always had hot cars,” he said. “Everything I had was big block.” With neck-snapping torque, they dominated the era.
The story of Al’s Road Runner begins in 1988, when his brother traded a ‘70 GMC pickup for it. With a 383 CID engine and A-833 4-speed trans with the distinctive pistol-grip shifter that ran to a 355:1 Sure Grip posi rearend, it was a hot car.
This was a straight swap of pink slips (remember those?) but, Al said, “My brother’s wife didn’t want to do it.”
However, his brother prevailed and the deal was made. A very good trade, in light of current car values. Al’s brother later sold it to his stepson, who drove it some before parking it in a field.
When he decided to sell it in 1998, Al bought it.
Although it was still in decent condition, Al described it as being, “nothing special. Just a good-running Road Runner.” Al drove it as it was for a couple of years, then decided to do a complete, frame-off restoration.
One thing about Al is that he never goes into something half-heartedly. All the suspension was redone, adding heavy-duty anti-sway bars, performance shocks and upgraded front disc braking.
“It tightened up pretty good,” Al said. “It handles a lot better than other Road Runners.”
Although he kept the original block, not much else was left stock in the engine. He went for Edelbrock aluminum heads with roller rockers and a roller cam.
A Holley 750 cfm carb was placed on an Edelbrock Performer intake and spark came from an MSD system. With Doug Thorson headers and a Flowmaster exhaust, it breathed freely. A Hayes competition clutch linked the engine to the rebuilt trans.
“Everything was done right,” Al said. “With the rev limiter set at 6800 RPM, it could hit 150 MPH.” Of course, he’s never gone anywhere near that speed.
Doing things right included the interior.
The bucket seats were re-upholstered in original fabric. The entire dash and all the gauges, including the factory tach and clock, were sent out for professional restoration.
“It cost 1,100 bucks, but everything works now,” Al said. He also added aftermarket air conditioning for creature comfort. For rubber on the road, Al went for Weld polished racing wheels, using 10” wide ones in the rear.
“It’s a big car and you need big tires,” Al noted.
The body was in pretty good shape, with no real dents and a few minor rust issues, so restoring it was not that hard. He painted it Hemi Orange rather than the original Vitamin C Orange. Who wouldn’t? O.J. just doesn’t sound as awesome as Hemi. Besides, it looks better, too.
Al also put the flat-black performance stripes on the hood. It took two years to complete, but it was worth it.
In all this work, Al had a key player: his son, Ryan. In fact, Al said, “Ryan did 95 percent of the work. I put out the money and he did the work.”
Al can take credit for starting Ryan on the road to restoration.
“I started taking him to Good Guys car shows as soon as he could walk,” he said. “Now he knows how to do it all. He lives and breathes muscle cars, like I do.”
Lest it just sounds like a bragging father, it should be noted that Ryan has built several award-winning Mopars.
At the last Roamin Angels “Cruisin’ the Pines” Car Show, his trophy-capturing ‘70 Hemi R/T Challenger was featured at the Riebe’s booth after Bart Riebe saw it at the major Good Guys show in Pleasanton.
Nice to have such skill in the family.
Since getting his Road Runner on the road, Al has driven it to many NorCal shows.
“People swarm over this car,” Al said. “Guys burned the tires off them, crashed them. Not many survived.”
But, just like Al, the Road Runner is a big presence from an era when size mattered. Engine size, that is.
Ron Cherry’s three books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. For more about his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com
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