- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

Soon after Richard Vaughn graduated from Bowie High School, class of 1972, in Bowie, Md., he started looking for a new set of wheels.
Before he knew it, the 1973 models were coming out and they captured his attention. The young Mr. Vaughn was attracted to the Plymouth Barracuda but his father, backed with years of experience, suggested he consider the larger Road Runner.
His father argued that the larger car had a useful trunk and, besides, it was heavier and offered more protection if a collision should occur.
In September 1972, father and son went to Tate Chrysler Plymouth in Glen Burnie, Md., for some serious car shopping. Seeing a wide selection of Chrysler products, what caught Mr. Vaughn's eye was a red Plymouth Road Runner. The 3,525-pound, two-door coupe on the dealer's lot beckoned to him.
The base price was $3,115 .However, with a list of goodies, that price was pushed to $3,902.65. After getting a $402.65 discount, adding $140 for taxes and another $30 for a registration fee, the price of the Plymouth was $3,670.
Although there was no trade-in, a $50 deposit left a cash on delivery price of $3,620.
The pair went back the next day with the appropriate amount of money and drove off from the Ritchie Highway dealership in the muscular Road Runner. Standard features include:
Energy-absorbing steer column
Cushioned visors, dashboard
Dual master cylinder brakes
Passenger-guard door locks
Four-way hazard flasher
Three-point safety belts
Dual hood latch system
Self-adjusting brakes
Heater and defroster
Windshield washers
Left outside mirror
Safety rim wheels
Two-speed wipers
Backup lights
Turn signals
The extra-cost optional accessories include:
Torqueflite trans. ……. $231.65
340-cubic-inch V-8 …… 153.00
Power steering …….. 113.70
Outside decor package . . 80.55
AM radio …………… 64.90
Inside decor package …. 58.60
Power front disc brakes .. 44.15
Hood tape treatment …. 21.55
G70x14 tires ………… 18.40
Bright bumper guards … 15.80
Hood release ………… 10.35
A $103 destination charge was added to the total.
The red car came equipped with the bright white "strobe stripe" that started at the rear fenders and reached over the top. "That stripe," Mr. Vaughn said, "makes the police chase you faster."
A total of 19,059 cars like Mr. Vaughn's were manufactured, each one gulping gasoline before the first gasoline crunch of 1973.
"Gas was only 32 cents a gallon," Mr. Vaughn fondly recalls. He and his friends in those days were always looking for a stoplight drag race.
Imagine the surprise of his challengers when they would see his Plymouth at a stoplight but find his mother, Dot, at the wheel. She always was up to the task and said, "I never lost a race."
Because the car was not equipped with air conditioning, Mr. Vaughn visited a friend at the B&B; junkyard in Davidsonville to alleviate the heat problem.
There he acquired a pair of roll-down rear quarter windows from a wrecked Plymouth Satellite. He installed them in place of the stationary quarter windows that came in all Road Runners.
"As far as I know, it's the only Road Runner with rear quarter windows that roll down," Mr. Vaughn said.
The 150 mph speedometer in the dashboard is there simply to register the truth. "I've had the needle buried a couple of times," Mr. Vaughn said.
Since the name of the car is that of a cartoon character, that character is mounted on various spots on the car.
The horn emits the familiar sound shared with the cartoon character. "You have to hit the horn twice," Mr. Vaughn said. Otherwise, how would you get the authentic cartoon Road Runner sound?
Mr. Vaughn dated his wife, Cathy, in the red Plymouth and just before they were married in June 1979, he drove aimlessly around the neighborhood until the odometer neared the 100,000-mile mark.
He then picked her up and she had the honor of driving it by the Sacred Heart Church in Bowie, where they were to be wed, as the odometer flipped over 100,000 miles.
"I was his second love," Mrs. Vaughn said. "The car was his first love."
Years later, Mr. Vaughn was at the wheel when 200,000 miles flipped over. The current reading is shy of 215,000 miles.
Mr. and Mrs. Vaughn agree either one of their sons, Jason and Kyle, are welcome to flip over the 300,000-mile mark.
In 1980, at about 150,000 miles, Mr. Vaughn spun a rod bearing and the 240-horsepower engine started knocking.
After his vehicle spent some time languishing in his father's garage, Mr. Vaughn was able to install a new power plant beneath the sleek hood with the fake hood scoops.
Mr. Vaughn says his Road Runner sat outside, unprotected the first 10 years. Thereafter, it was babied.
Early on, Mr. Vaughn swapped the original wheels for Rocket Mags, which appear to be Cragar 14-inch wheels.
The car spends most of the time parked in the corner of Mr. Vaughn's garage.
However, when the weather is nice he takes it out and collects his old buddies who no longer have their old cars and invites them to go for a ride in his time machine.
"I just love cruising," he said.

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