Childhood Memories in a ‘74 Plymouth Roadrunner

July 30, 2010
A 1974 Plymouth Roadrunner gets a personalized redo.

After years of restoring Camaros and Chevelles, Gary Hasselman wanted to do something different. So Hasselman, the fixed operations director of Holm Automotive Center in Abilene, Kan., looked to his past in order to find his future challenge: a 1974 Plymouth Roadrunner. “When my older brother was in high school he had one, and I always thought it was cool,” he says. “We lived out in the country, and once in a while he’d even let me drive it. I was probably eight years old.”

In January 2008, Hasselman found a Roadrunner on eBay and began bidding. He won the car with a final $1,625 bid, and thought he’d gotten a good deal. After all, the car was supposed to be original, from the bucket seats to the engine, and in good shape body-wise, with no rust issues. But when Hasselman made the trip to San Antonio to pick up the car, he found that he didn’t get quite what he’d bargained for. “I got down there and I could tell right away that it had some body filler and rust issues,” he says. “Later, I found out it didn’t even have the motor it was supposed to have in it—it had a 360 engine from a truck. It was a little bit disappointing.”

A New Direction

Hasselman decided to go ahead with the project, but with a twist. Instead of sticking to his initial plan of restoring the Roadrunner to its original condition, with “everything numbers matching,” he got creative with the car. “I decided to take it in a different direction and make it a little more personalized,” he says. Rather than search to find a numbers matching engine, he bought a 1971 Chrysler Newport “that had been sitting in a barn for about 20 years” and converted the Roadrunner to a big block car. He installed aftermarket reclining bucket seats by Procar, because he thought they’d be more comfortable. And instead of repainting the car its original blue hue, he chose a bright canary yellow—the same color that his brother’s car was painted.

Work on the car began in Hasselman’s home shop in October 2008; by April 2009 he had the engine and driveline in it, and with the help of fellow Holm employee Jason Manning, he finished the paint and body work in December. In April 2010 the interior was finished—local upholstery shop John’s Upholstery helped—and the car was essentially complete. Hasselman didn’t track his hours or his expenses on the car. “I have an envelope with receipts, but I didn’t add it up,” he admits. “It’s one of those things where you almost hate to find out how much you have in it. Trying to find parts for this car was very difficult, and when I did find them they were very expensive.”

Hasselman ended up going back to eBay for most of the Roadrunner’s parts, including a hard-to-find valance (which he found new on the auction site). “I sat at the computer bidding right down to the wire on that one, and I ended up spending way more money on that than I wanted to,” he says. “But I had to have one. The one that came on the car was in bad shape.” He also spent time searching local salvage yards for parts.

Glory Days

Just two months after completing the restoration, Hasselman entered the Roadrunner in two car shows. It won first place in stock division in the first show, and best Mopar in the second. Other highlights have been more personal: His brother has ridden in the car—“It brings back old memories for him,” Hasselman says—and his son drove it to his junior prom.

Still, Hasselman admits, “I don’t know if a project like this is ever completely done.” He is looking for two more parts that need to be replaced on the Roadrunner (a right headlight bezel and passenger door glass, in case anyone’s got spares, he jokes.) “And, as my wife, Pam, would tell you, now that I don’t have anything to work on constantly, I’m looking for another project.”

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