It was 1997 and Larry Lazarich of British Columbia went to look at a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner for sale with his friend. The car was located at a military station in Abbotsford, British Columbia and was disassembled but all there. “My friend and I purchased it together. We figured we’d buy it, put it back together and sell it. When we went bought the car and picked it up, parts were scattered every where. It was in half decent shape but needed to be put back together,” says Larry.
He continues to say, “There really wasn’t much rhyme or reason to the work that the seller did on the car. He did the interior and put quite a few things together but he never did the rest of it. The gas and brake lines were missing. The body work needed to be done. It had rust and old paint yet he installed a brand new vinyl top; it baffled me. The engine had a bent connecting rod too.”
The pair purchased the car and brought it home to start assembling the car for future sale. A couple of months into the project, Larry’s friend asked to be bought out of his half of the car. It turns out that he had lost his job and was getting divorced and really needed to get his money back out of the car. Larry bought his friend out as requested and the car was now 100% his to deal with. He tells us, “I put it all together, fixed the connecting rod and got the car running beautifully. I listed it in the local Buy N Sell print and right away had someone that wanted it. It was arranged that he would come on Saturday and buy the car. He said he had to have it.”
As fate would have it, Saturday come around and the buyer was no where to be found. It was apparent that he had changed his mind and decided to just not show up. Frustrated with the no-show buyer, Larry told his wife Aleta to take the car and start driving it; they’d potentially list it back for sale eventually. Aleta says, “He told me it was in his way so I could take it, drive it and enjoy it for the summer. It would be fun.” After driving it for a short while, Aleta decided that Larry wasn’t getting the car back and it definitely was not for sale. “I told him we were keeping it; I liked it too much!”, she laughs.
Every summer from 1998-2003, the family would take their daughters everywhere in the Road Runner; camping, to the lake, grocery shopping and even to school. She says, “Whenever I’d drop the girls off at school, all of the kids loved the Beep Beep horn. They’d always ask me to Beep the horn!”.
Larry adds, “My aunt came from Italy one time before we restored the car and we decided to take the Road Runner to my parents house which was a 4 hour drive away. We jammed all six of us in the car and hit the road. I’ll never forget that trip. On the trip, we were flying down the highway and my aunt leaned forwards and said in Italian, “Larry, Larry! This car is too noisy, is it broken?” When we stopped, she had to get a picture in front of the car. She said, “It’s a beautiful car, it’s just too noisy!”
Around 2003, age was taking it’s toll on the car and rust was starting to come through in spots on the body. Larry told Aleta that they had a choice; sell the car or restore it. “I told him we absolutely weren’t going to sell it so we better get started on the restoration”, she shares. Over the next number of years, they took the Road Runner apart and slowly worked on it piece by piece as time allowed. While taking it apart, they stumbled across something that would add to their love for the Road Runner.
“Back when I was driving it in the summer time, it was painted dark orange. I didn’t think much of it. When we were disassembling it, we noticed a different lighter shade of orange that we thought was K2 Vitamin C. We had never decoded the fender tag on the car up until this point. I just loved the car so options or rarity didn’t matter to me. When we finally decoded the fender tag, we realized it was a rare factory code 999 Omaha Orange car. When Larry showed me a picture of a ’69 Road Runner painted Omaha Orange, I told him it had to go back to that color! It was gorgeous!,” shares Aleta.
The couple continued forward with the restoration, doing everything themselves besides the body work and paint. The car was pretty solid and only needed basic metal work such as the quarter panels. The original N96 Air Grabber hood was shot as well as the original under hood duct work so a replacement needed to be sourced. “We got lucky with that one; we were able to find an original hood and Air Grabber set-up that were both in nice shape. The guy had taken it off a car back in 1971, put it in his rafters and completely forgot about it! We bought it from him and it went right onto the car,” says Larry. With the body work complete, the Road Runner was shot in a fresh coat of correct Omaha Orange.
Larry took apart the 383 and rebuilt everything himself. Being as he is a transmission technician by trade, rebuilding the 727 Torqueflite automatic and 8 3/4 rear end was done in his sleep! Originally sold new in California, the Road Runner was came optioned with the aforementioned N96 Air Grabber, A01 Light Package, three speed wipers, power steering, remote driver’s side mirror, chrome wide sill moldings, fender mounted turn signals, rear window defogger, 14″ Road Wheels and the performance hood treatment. A black vinyl bench seat interior and black vinyl top accent the Omaha Orange paint. Back in 1969, it’s reported Los Angeles Regional Manager Jock Fearer sent 11 Omaha Orange ’69 Road Runners to one dealer to give the bright colored cars a sales test. Almost immediately, all of the cars flew off the lot. It turns out that Aleta and Larry’s Road Runner is confirmed to be one of those 11 cars!
Overall, the restoration took 10 years to complete. The goal was to have it finished for Aleta’s 50th birthday in 2015 in which it was. Once it was put together, they took it to a local car show and a local photographer saw the car and took a picture of it for the local newspaper. She says, “I thought it was cool and shared it on Facebook. Two days later, I got an email from a gentleman named Wes Eisenschenk who wanted to feature the car in a ’69 Road Runner restoration book he was doing. It turns out he was looking for an Ohama Orange ’69 Road Runner to finish his book. Recently, we were invited to the 2019 Mopars in the Park show in Minnesota to participate in the Color Me 1969 Road Runner Display at the show. At the end of May we’ll be making the trip to Minnesota with the car!”
As far as future plans for the car, Aleta tells us, “We love to drive it as much as possible. I don’t understand the point of having a car if you aren’t going to drive it. Driving it every summer years ago with the kids created a lot of memories. The car is so special to us and our kids because of all of the memories that were created with the car. We’ll never sell it. It’ll go to our kids eventually. I truly hope that this car is never ending and continues to go for another 50 to 100 years.”