Born to Be Original

Sept. 1, 2012
Scott Peterson has fixed snowmobiles, lawnmowers and cars since he was a kid. But none of his projects have compared to his 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner.

Scott Peterson was just a teenager when he found the perfect car to repair.

It was 1974, and he had been working for a Ford dealership in Mapleton, Minn., when he heard about a $225 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner with chrome slotted wheels that had been sitting on a local farm next to a machine shed.

He borrowed a pickup and pulled it home with a chain. The original owner thought the engine had completely blown out, but Peterson found it only had two bent pushrods, which cost him 98 cents each. “I replaced those and it ran like a top,” he says.

So began his restoration project. Peterson is now owner, CEO and shop manager at Scott’s Body Shop in Mapleton, Minn. He still takes out the Roadrunner, and buffs it now and again to keep it shiny.

When he first got the blood-red vehicle with a silver and gray vinyl interior, he didn’t work on it much right away. The 383-cubic-inch engine, which makes 330 horsepower, took him only a day to fix. Even though the car had a crushed quarter panel and a smashed fender, the 17-year-old Peterson wanted to drive it before he truly fixed it up.

So he did. He even drove it in winter, using the chains he put on it to pull police out of back roads during blizzards.

But Peterson eventually got the itch to restore the car. He spent March, April and May of 1975 pouring nights, weekends, 300–400 hours and $1,500 into the car. He began by doing the bodywork, replacing the wrecked fender and quarter panel. He braised the quarter panel with a gas torch and braising rod. Peterson says he was allowed to do all this work at his high school job at the Ford dealership’s body shop.

After finishing the bodywork, he and a friend began painting. He had seen in magazines a painting style using metal flake and Mirra Chrome paint that he wanted to try. So the first task was to put dry glitter into a primer gun and put that down. Then for nine days straight, he applied lacquer clear. Peterson figures they used about five gallons of high-performance lacquer clear.

Then he and his friend taped off quarter-inch lines up, down, around and all the way down the length of the vehicle. After taping the car, they applied a transparent candy color.

Then he wet sanded and buffed the car. About a month later, he wet sanded it and buffed it again, and put on two more gallons of clear.

He finished the car in time for his senior prom. Upon graduation, his parents bought him Cragar S/S wheels, which are still on the car. That summer he enjoyed his youth, going to parties and working to buy performance upgrades. He did that for the next five years or so. He bought a bigger camshaft for it, and gave it a 750 Holley double-pumper carburetor.

During that time, he took it to local car shows, where people knew the Roadrunner was his because so few people had that kind of paint job anymore.

He keeps the car around, and takes it out regularly. He says a lot of his buddies who have completed restoration projects have gotten rid of their cars; they had to when they started their families.

But, not Peterson. He not only plans to keep this car, but he plans to do more restorations, especially as he gets closer to retirement.

“There was no way they were prying my Roadrunner away from me,” he says.