Finders Keepers: Eric VanDamia’s 5,082-Mile 1970 Plymouth Road Runner 440-6BBL

In today’s times, many can only dream of finding a rare Mopar hidden away. While most think the days of finding that elusive Hemi or V-code car stashed away are long gone, stories of incredible finds from Mopar fanatics like Eric VanDamia prove that theory wrong. Many dream of coming across that forgotten and neglected rare Mopar sitting in a barn or garage but will say those dreams usually don’t end up resulting in much. For Eric, his recent find and purchase of a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner V-code that was tucked away in a garage are what dreams are made of!

“I’ve been buying a lot of cars both new and old for the last couple of years,” says Eric. He continues to say, “Very recently, I found an ad on that really intrigued me. The ad briefly described a B5 Blue Road Runner that was only 80 miles away from me. The only picture in the ad was of the quarter panel. It had a huge high price on it but I sent an email anyways wanting to know more. The next day I received a call and this is where the story got interesting. The woman on the phone told me that she was representing her uncle who was in his mid-80s and had been placed in a nursing home with dementia. She continued to tell me that she was put in charge of his estate being as she was his only living niece.”

“I immediately thought it was a scam and this conversation was going to end quickly as she’s probably going to want me to send her money online. Curious to see where it was going to go, I let her continue. She told me her uncle had basically no family and no one to help him so she was left in charge of the entire estate. She then told me about the Road Runner and how she had no need for the muscle car that he had left behind. I asked her to send me a few pictures of it including the fender tag. When she asked me how to open the hood, I knew she had to be legit. Sure enough, in no time I had pictures of the interior and the fender tag. When I saw the fender tag, my jaw dropped. The Road Runner just so happened to be a factory V-code 440-6BBL, Pistol-Grip 4-speed, Air Grabber car!” says Eric.

Eric, a dentist by trade quickly told her that he was cancelling his patients on Friday morning to come right away. “All four of the people that I had to do root canals on that morning we’re out of luck unfortunately,” laughs Eric. 48 hours after receiving the pictures, Eric was on site. Eric tells us, “I looked over the car and found out that it was matching numbers to make things even better. The Road Runner was completely untouched, right down to the carburetors. The car even still had the original bias-ply spare tire in the trunk!”

Knowing he had to have the car, Eric talked to the niece and her husband. She explained that a couple of local wheeler dealers had come looked at it and was interested so Eric knowing he had to secure a deal quickly threw a big wad of cash on the hood. “They almost fainted when they saw the cash so they must of not have liked the wheeler dealers offers. They were happy with the deal so we shook hands and went to the notary. When they found out I was a dentist, they asked if I could throw a couple of new Oral B electric toothbrushes into the deal which I gladly did. Both parties were very happy,” says Eric.

On Sunday morning, Eric and his two friends went with toothbrushes in hand and loaded the Road Runner up. After topping up the air in the original F60 15-inch tires, the car rolled easily right into the enclosed trailer. According to the niece, her uncle had worked in Cleveland his entire life for an auto manufacturing supply company that made parts for the Big Three (Chrysler, Ford and Chevrolet) in Detroit. In 1971, he walked into Don Jordan Chrysler in Cleveland and purchased the car brand new off the lot. He drove the Road Runner until late 1974 when it was pulled off the road with very low mileage. Eric says, “The niece said he had quite the scare with the bias-ply tires. It got loose on him and came around. He managed to regain control but quickly parked it. He was a big wig at his company so he had other cars to drive.”

Worried about somebody stripping the car while it sat in his downtown Cleveland garage, the original owner installed a chain lock on the hood and then got the dealership to put an aftermarket security system in it. Once it was parked, the Road Runner sat untouched for 42 years until last year. When he was placed in the care home, the niece un-tombed the car from the garage and brought it home to her garage. Unfortunately because of his dementia, the uncle had no idea where he had put the keys, the title or the folder with all of the original paperwork for the car. According to Eric, he is hoping those things are still somewhere tucked away with the family and will be found eventually. Over the year the niece had the car, she had it flat-bedded to a service station to get new keys made and managed to obtain a new title from the state.

Once Eric got the car home, he quickly went over every nook and cranny. “It’s a total time capsule right out of 1974 with only 5,082 miles on it! The car is all numbers matching and even retains the original grease pencil markings on the spare tire, trunk lid and the Dana rear end. It’s one of the most solid cars I’ve ever seen with only a little bit of surface rust here and there. I had a couple of Mopar friends over one night for beers and we decided to dig into it more. We found two really nice broadcast sheets; one under the rear seat and another underneath the driver side front seat. Underneath the passenger side front seat, we found a newspaper from 1971 and an empty 1972 Coke bottle! We even found the original steering column operating instructions on the driver side sun visor!” says Eric.

Wrapping up, he tells us “As you can all imagine, I’m on Cloud 9 right now. We search for cars our entire lives and it finally happened to me. My first “barn find” ever! I love this hobby so much. When I was 14, I bought my first car; a green on green ‘68 Charger R/T. I sold it four years later to pay for dental school. I purchased another ‘68 Charger right after I got out of school and I’ve been collecting since. The Road Runner is in good company in my shop with my Charger, ’69½ A12 Super Bee, ‘17 Viper ACR, ’18 Challenger SRT Hellcat and others including a Porsche and a 2005 Ford GT. My plans for the car are to hang onto it and put it in a couple of shows as-is. I want to keep it as original as possible.”

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Cody Krueger

Car Feature Editor – Since the age of 4, Cody has been obsessed with everything Mopar. On Christmas of 1998, Cody's parents gave him a rusty '69 Charger shell that his father saved from a field. Cody's garage still features that '69 Charger as well as the additions of a '71 Charger R/T, '71 Super Bee, '73 Duster, '08 Challenger SRT8 and a '13 Ram 3500. Cody can truly and proudly say that he is a true Mopar nut in love with all types of Mopars!

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