Poison Bird: Mike Smoker’s Viper-Powered ’70 Plymouth Road Runner


It’s always wise to listen to one’s gut and stick with your instincts. That’s exactly what Mike Smoker did and his instincts created a stunning one-of-a-kind Mopar. On one early Saturday morning in August 2010, Mike sat down with his coffee and started to browse through Craigslist. A 1970 Plymouth Road Runner that was in desperate need of saving caught Mike’s attention. The Road Runner was a 383 four-speed car but was thrashed on for years and was in need of a total restoration. The previous owner had great intentions of restoring the car but after 8 years passed by, he knew it was time to let it go.

Even though the car looked rusty in the pictures, the car was very solid. Mike knew that it was still possible to make something out of the heap of parts. He went and looked at the car, agreed on an amount and hauled it back home. The next day, he started to compose a game plan for the ‘Runner. He knew the car wasn’t rare and really didn’t want to build another average ’70s era muscle car. Mike wanted something unique and very different. He wanted to be able to enjoy the comforts of modern day cars but keep the essence of the Road Runner styling. Mike soon figured out what he wanted but realized he couldn’t do it alone. Mike called on his brother Bob and a good friend, Mark Phifer for help.


Bob has been around a paint booth for many years and knows a thing or two about bodywork. After looking over the car, Bob knew that there was a lot of potential in the rusty Road Runner sitting in Mike’s garage. Before they could get started into making the B-body look pretty, they needed to iron out the rest of the car. Mike still had not made a decision on what motor to build. He knew he wanted something reliable and that didn’t have to be tinkered with all the time. Mike heard a rumor about a Viper V10 being stuffed in a Sport Fury over in Rochester, Indiana not horribly far from Mike’s house in Marion. Mike, Bob and Mark decided to make a drive and see what this Sport Fury was all about.

When they arrived in Rochester, Earl Gaerte, owner of the Plymouth was very welcoming. He put the Fury up on a lift and allowed the guys to look over what was involved in the swap. Earl went over all the issues and custom fabrication it took to make the giant V10 fit and work properly. After spending the good part of the day looking over the Fury, Mike, Bob and Mark decided that it would be pretty much impossible to do the same thing in the Road Runner. They knew the ‘Runner was a smaller car and would have its own set of challenges. The three of them drove back home and went back to the drawing board.


For the next few weeks they kept tossing some ideas around as what to use as a powerplant; the availability of Gen III Hemis were becoming more abundant, multiple fuel injection kits from Edelbrock, FAST and Holley were available, or they could go with a big ol’ 426 Hemi, but in the back of Mike’s mind the V10 stuck out. Mike couldn’t stop thinking about how jaws would drop if he opened the hood and a giant V10 were staring them in the face. A few more weeks went by and Mike finally made the decision that he wanted a Viper V10. Bob and Mark knew that it would be a challenge to make it work but they were up for the task. Now that they knew what they wanted, then arose their first of many issues, where to find one.

Sometime in mid-2011 they came across a complete setup out of a SRT-10 Ram from Cleveland Power and Performance. After gathering the heart of the build everything came together over the next few years. When Mopar Connection Magazine came across Mike’s Road Runner at The Nats in Ohio, we had to look twice. As one looks at the Road Runner from few cars away, you could tell the paint is incredible and the wheel choice was spot on. When observed closer you realize that there were small details that told this wasn’t any old Road Runner. The fuel cap was from a second-generation Dodge Charger, sitting on top of the quarter panel. The car sat a little lower than normal and its lines seemed a sleeker than stock.


Walking to the front of the car there sits a Viper engine under the hood. As you stand there looking, while trying not to drool, you realized this car is anything but ordinary. After walking around the car a couple of times, we were waiting to see what big name shop brought this car, but came to discover it was just a couple of guys from Indiana that did it in their garage. We took some time to talk with Mike and Bob about the car. They told us not to forget to check out the interior, which honestly, we nearly forgot because we were busy staring under the hood and at our reflection in the paint.

When you open the door you are greeted with the smell of a new car, or maybe that’s just the hand-stitched leather, but either way we weren’t complaining. Mike found some great Sebring seats from a local salvage yard. He had them recovered and the rear bench to match. One neat detail was the embroidered Road Runner emblem in the front and rear headrests. When it came to the dash, they called on Dakota Digital to fulfill their needs for gauges and A/C controls. They used the original dash frame but custom-made the rest. They couldn’t find a good spot for the power window switches in the dash, so they moved them down to the console. Sitting inside you would never know you were in a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner. Mike definitely had a great vision and with the help of Mark and Bob, it came together perfectly.


For a few guys with an idea and some time on their hands, we would say they definitely did an incredible job. Mike mentioned that the car took about 5 years to complete but said it was well worth it. Mike and his wife, Susan (who wasn’t a fan until it was done), spend time driving to nearby shows, which they’ve never left without a trophy. We asked Mike what his plans were next now that the Road Runner is complete and Mike replied, “I’m just waiting for someone to make me an offer I can’t refuse and then I’ll do it all over again!”

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Gavin Wollenburg

Gavin grew up around Mopars in his lakeside home in Ohio, his father showing him nearly everything he needed to know about haulin' some serious rear in his '72 Dart Swinger. Since then, he's made his little A-Body a serious autocross contender and regularly shows the modern boys how an old Dart does it!

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