An Old Goat Speaks

“I gotta change my plugs” was the rallying cry for Hemi owners when we pulled through the drive-in in one of my Royal Bobcat Pontiacs on our late-night rounds up and down Detroit’s famed Woodward Avenue. Why, you ask? Because after a night out cruising Woodward, the “Street Hemi” would foul the plugs and could do nothing more than “piss, moan and backfire” when trying to “get one off” on Woodward.

We would wait down at Royal Pontiac until about 11 p.m., then go out to pick on the Hemi guys, knowing their plugs would be loaded up. Yes, we got our hats handed to us a few times by those factory guys with a well-prepped Hemi – they knew better than to cruise. A well-prepped Hemi was “King Kong,” but wouldn’t hold its tune very long on the street.

With the Hemi, Chrysler was winning every race but the one that counted – the sales race. Its cars had nothing in styling until the Road Runner and the great advertising for it came along. Not only had Chrysler created a new car, its marketing for it was a stroke of genius. It was so good that I wish I had thought of it myself! Promoting that new car around that cocky little bird made everybody sit up and take notice.

Packaged with the 383 “wedge,” the Road Runner was a very capable car. Advancements with the wedge head engines eclipsed the street capabilities of the Hemi, which sat on showroom floors.

Hence, there were so few Road Runners (and Super Bees) and ’Cudas (and Challengers) sold with Hemi engines that they are today’s rare collectibles.
To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Summer 2008 issue of Hagerty magazine.

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