Something Different: 1972 Plymouth Road Runner GTX

© Hot Rod Network Staff
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From Hot Rod Network

Dave Graver is the apple that didn't fall far from the tree. As a young lad growing up, his dad, also named Dave, was a hard-core car guy who had an eclectic taste in vehicles that ranged from Willys Jeeps to International trucks, and a Kaiser-Frazer to an Impala SS to name a few. Automobiles were an integral part of the Graver household, and it was something that rubbed off on young Dave. By 2010, when he was in his mid 20s, the desire to follow in his dad's automotive footsteps to get something that was off-the-beaten path started to manifest itself. He explains, "I have always been a fan of muscle cars. I never wanted anything that everyone else had. I always wanted something a little bit different."

Looking for something that was different led him to a '72 Challenger that was in a collection of 20 Mopars parked inside a building in the Pittsburgh area. In that mix were numerous high-end V-code E-Bodies, and what ended being a very worn-out Challenger that was too far-gone for his tastes. The pricey stuff was out of his reach, and the lack of a private garage to work on a car negated the purchase of the Challenger. While that was a disappointment, parked in the corner was a '72 Plymouth Road Runner GTX that he barely looked at. While he took notice of the car, and the owner made a passing comment as to how rare it was, it didn't initially spark any interest. It wasn't until a few days later, and some online digging that he realized just how rare that car was, which prompted a phone call with an offer. The owner was surprised, and they eventually settled on a dollar amount. Dave points out, "It was kind of random how I ended up with the car. I wasn't really looking for one. I was just looking for something a little different than everyone else had, so that's how I ended up with it."

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As you read this, you might be wondering if calling it a Road Runner GTX is a typo on our part, and we assure you it's not. From 1972 to 1974, Chrysler offered such an option if you ordered the 440. With the demise of the Hemi and anything with high compression, the top of the food chain in the B-Body Plymouth lineup was the 440 with a single Holley four-barrel, and 8.2:1 compression rated at 280 net horses. Anyone ordering a Road Runner with a 440 in 1972, optioned with either the 727 TorqueFlite automatic, or the four-speed, received the GTX emblems on the side of the fenders and rear trunk lid. As for rarity, a total of 672 were produced in 1972, with 453 automatics and 219 four-speeds making up that number. Dave's car is equipped with the automatic.

His Plymouth changed owners a few times over the years, and what he purchased wasn't quite what rolled off the assembly line in 1972, especially under the hood. The low-compression 440 was long gone — in its place was a '69 HP 440. Beyond that, everything else was stock to the car. Originally painted Tor-Red, it had undergone a same color respray at some point in the ownership chain. It was also an N96 car, meaning that it was factory equipped with the optional Air Grabber hood, which was still in place, as were the 15x7 Rallye wheels.

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As with any car that has had a number of different owners, things will tend to change with each one. He felt that since the car was now his, it was in need of his own personal stamp — even if it meant deviating from stock. The initial goal was to slowly work out the existing issues on the car, which he planned on doing during the harsh winter months in Pennsylvania. The purchase of a house with a garage also facilitated his ability to work on the car. When he came time to dive in, the first thing he tackled was the exterior paint. It was in excellent condition, but he notes, "The body was as-is. It had a ton of clear on it, and I went through it and wet-sanded and buffed it." Also on the to-do list was the interior, which consumed a few winter months. That portion started with what he describes as "a deep scrub to get all the grime out." Beyond the dirt, the biggest eyesore was the heavily cracked original dashpad, which he replaced with a mint original. New headliner and carpet were also installed, and a Secretaudio sound system mounted under the front seat. The factory T-handle shifter was also swapped with an Auto-Grip handle.

On the performance side of the equation, by 2015, he was ready to pull the trigger on a rebuild of the 440 and the TorqueFlite. What he describes as his divorce present to himself culminated in the drivetrain being pulled for a refresh. The 440 was sent to Mapstone's Custom Speed Shop in Irwin, Pennsylvania. They rebuilt the bottom end using the original crank and a set of six-pack rods, and installed a set of Wiseco 10.5:1 flat-top forged pistons. The heads were also given a complete refresh with ARP hardware, and a hotter Comp Cams camshaft installed. On the list was also an induction upgrade, which meant ditching the cast-iron manifold in favor of an Edelbrock CH4B aluminum intake and a Holley 750-cfm carburetor. The TorqueFlite was sent to Wolfe's Transmission in Irwin, Pennsylvania, for a full rebuild as well, which included the addition of a shift kit and a 2,500-stall converter. After they were reinstalled, Dave decided to mount a set of Hooker Competition headers in place of the stock cast-iron manifolds. He also went with new 2.5-inch pipes and a set of Black Widow Venom 250 mufflers.

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It terms of how the car sat, it had been riding on 15x7 Rallyes all its life. It was also originally equipped with the A36 performance axle package, which consisted of an 8 rear with a 3.55:1 posi. Dave wanted to add a more aggressive stance to the Plymouth, so he installed a set of Mopar Performance Super Stock leaf springs and a 3.91: posi. The factory wheels were also ditched in favor of a set of 15x8 at the rear and 15x7 at the front stamped steel wheels salvaged from a police car. Those police wheels were eventually replaced with another set of reproduction stamped steel wheels with the same measurements. That swap was to a great degree fueled by his desire to add some drag radials at the rear. "I always had a thing for drag radials," he explains. "I wanted to see how big a tire I could stuff in the back without having to cut anything up." To his surprise, it all fit neatly without any surgery.

With all of the changes, the current performance level of the car exceeds what it was originally equipped with, as well as what it was when purchased. It's an increase that puts a smile on his face. The car is regularly driven to local shows and sees regular use during the weekends in the summer months. On the horizon Dave is planning another installment of engine upgrades like a set of aluminum heads to bump up the power curve, while the 3.91:1 posi seems to be headed for a demotion. The plan is to install a highway-friendlier set of 3.73:1 gears. He's also toying with the idea of a transmission swap. While the TorqueFlite has been rock solid, the allure of a four-speed is strong. He knows that it'll mean cutting into the floor, however he points out, "I have no plans to sell this car. I know this might piss the purists off, but I would love for it to be a four-speed. I would love that Pistol Grip in there." He further adds that, "My son loves it. We named it Wilma, and it will be his one day." It's a sentiment that echoes back to the experiences that he had with his dad.

Fast Facts

1972 Plymouth Road Runner GTX

David Graver, Oakmont, PA

ENGINE

Type: 1969 RB 440 big-block

Bore x stroke: 4.32 (bore) x 3.75 (stroke)

Block: Cast iron 440 RB block

Rotating assembly: forged steel crank, six-pack connecting rods, Wiseco flat-top forged pistons

Compression: 10.5:1

Cylinder heads: cast-iron, 906 big-block Mopar

Camshaft: Comp Cams, .474-inch lift, 233/240 duration

Induction: Edelbrock CH4B aluminum intake, Holley 750-cfm carburetor

Oiling system: Mopar Performance oil pump

Exhaust: Hooker Competition headers and 2.5-inch X-pipe, Black Widow Venom 250 mufflers

Ignition: Mopar Performance distributor and electronic ignition, MSD Blaster 2 coil

Cooling: factory Mopar 26-inch radiator

DRIVETRAIN

Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite, 2,500-stall converter

Shifter: Auto-Grip

Driveshaft: factory Chrysler

Rearend: Chrysler 8 3/4 rear, 3.91:1 Sure Grip

CHASSIS

Front suspension: stock Chrysler torsion bar, stock shocks

Rear suspension: Mopar Performance Super Stock leaf springs, Monroe Max-Air air shocks

Steering: factory Chrysler

Front brakes: Chrysler, 11.00x3.0-inch drums

Rear brakes: Chrysler, 11.00x2.50-inch drums

Wheels: 15x7 (front) and 15x8 (rear) Mopar stamped steel

Tires: 235/70R-15 National Commando A/S (front) and 295/65R-15 Mickey Thompson GT Street S/S (rear)

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Autos - U.S. Daily News: Something Different: 1972 Plymouth Road Runner GTX
Something Different: 1972 Plymouth Road Runner GTX
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