Would you like to rate this car just like we do in DieCast X? Click below.
Isn’t it funny how so often we fail to recognize or appreciate the passing of something special in the moment, and only years later do we look back wistfully on the last great ones. This was surely true of the last Hemi Road Runnerthe 1971 model. The Road Runner was supposed to be Plymouth’s elemental musclecar; the lighter, simpler, more economical, and most importantly, faster. By 1971 the ‘runner’s bare-bones essence had been at least partially diluted by added convenience and styling features. Air Grabber flip-up hoodscoops, luxury interiors and wild graphics cluttered up (and weighed down) the ’71 more than previous years, but the judicious buyer could still spec out a pretty formidable performance car without too much extra junk.
And the new-for-1971 design did offer a number of dynamic benefits over previous models; 1968-70 ‘runners were never much for turning corners, and their brake pedals were alarmingly ineffectual. The ’71 offered substantial upgrades in handling and braking, and while a slight increase in weight may have slowed them a touch, they were still among the quickest musclecars on the market. As with all Mopars, the Hemi engine option was the most potent and most sought-after. So equipped, the ’71 Road Runner was a legitimate 13-second car in showroom form with either a 4-speed or a Torqueflite auto.
Diecast Reproductions is one of a limited number of dedicated vendors that offers the limited edition Tor Red Hemi Road Runner manufactured by Franklin Mint. This color is limited to just 500 pieces, and is sure to be a sellout before too long. Let’s take a look at this 1:24 example of the Last Hemi Road Runner and see what makes it so special.
Exterior. The ’71 model’s frowning grille and curvy flanks were a radical departure from previous years. To my eye, the older cars were a little stodgy and I like the ’71’s bold profile. The separate castings for the wheel-well trim really highlights the subtle character lines imbedded there. Tor Red is one of those high-impact Mopar colors that belongs either on a hairy-chested muscle car or in a child’s crayon box. It works well here, although the black perforated stripe on the C-pillar is a bit much. That’s no knock against the modelwhich executes both quite proficiently. I also like the functional Air Grabber with its crisp lettering.
Interior. The interior is pretty tame, reflecting a car spec’d out for speed more than cruising. It’s a 4-speed and features a scale version of what remains the coolest gear shift handle in automotive history (sorry Ferrari fans!): the Mopar Pistol Grip. There is no console or other frippery, and the black vinyl seats and black carpeting are good if somewhat less than arresting. The deeply dished 3-spoke wheel looks right, and the gauges aren’t bad, but the beige tones on the dash facings (is that meant to be wood?) is pretty bland.
Under the Hood. You know, the 426 Hemi engine just never gets oldwhy is that? Those huge valve covers hulk like the shoulderpads of a 350-pound lineman daring you to try and power your way past. With the Hemi laughably underrated at 425 horses, very few were fast enough get by it. Detail is excellentFranklin even pulls off the black wrinkle-finish in scale. Plug wires and hoses are typical Franklincorrect in
size and placement. The orange oval aircleaner that sits top-dead-center on the engine has the proper decal and mates up with the shroud for the Air Grabber scoop nicely. The body-colored fendersa trait of Moparsreally adds contrast to the engine, although the VIN tag on the drivers-side fender was peeling up just slightly.
The trunk is accurate with its mini spare tire, bumper jack and black carpeting. One non-scale feature is the Limited Edition plaque declaring this as number 353 of 500. This is a neat place to put such an itemout of the way yet easier to access than if stamped or riveted to the undercarriage.
Chassis, wheels and tires. The chassis and suspension is a fine effort, with clean casting and plenty of individual detail. The front and rear suspensions are both sprung and operate in a scale manner. The suspensions actually have more travel than is typical in 1:24, and the springs are realistically soft enough to allow the car to settle, and even to sit at angles if the car is placed on an uneven surface.
Wheels are outstanding examples of the classic Mopar Rally wheel, with gorgeously polished chrome outer rings, a matte finish inner surface and blacked out recesses. This is one of the best examples of this wheel I’ve seen in 1:24. Tires are also excellent, with clear sidewall markings, good tread and just the right width to reflect the G60-15 size.
Any Hemi Mopar is going to be worth a mint, and therefore is probably worth minting in diecast. However, I’ve always felt that the ’71the last true Road Runner to my mindremains underappreciated. Its a strikingly handsome car with a solid performance pedigree, and it is the last of a breed. Franklin’s castingone of their newer designsmore than does this car justice, and the added appeal of a limited edition color with this much charisma makes this definitely a bird to grab before it flies away!
Length 8.4 in
Wheelbase 4.78 in
Width 3.3 in
» Operational steering
» Opening hood, doors, trunk and hood scoop
» Articulated suspension
» Limited edition with trunk-mounted plaque
» Body/Paint 4
» Wheels/Tires 5
» Engine 4
» Chassis/Suspension/Undercarriage 4
» Interior &nbs
» Presentation/proportion/stance 4
» Collectability 5
Diecast Reproductions Inc.; (813) 882-8482; diecastreproductions.com