With the hood up, the powerful 383 V8 engine in the 1968 Roadrunner is a thing of beauty. But Tommy Sink quickly shows what makes the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s special when he gently pushes down on the hood and it quickly closes with a solid sound. He does the same thing with the doors. As good as the Roadrunner looks, Sink said the quality of the cars that were built in that era was second to none. Sink will show the Roadrunner off for the first time this weekend at the Ol’ Marais River Run car show in Forest Park.
But it’s more than just the quality that led Sink to purchase the Roadrunner this year. It was all about a connection to the past.
“When I came home from overseas in 1968, I bought a new one exactly like it,” Sink said. “The only difference that the interior was black and it was a four speed. This one is an automatic. When you get my age automatics are a lot better. So many years later, I’m back with my baby so to speak.”
Sink said when he returned from his time in the service, he was looking for a car with great looks that went fast and the Roadrunner, he said was a perfect fit. He owned his first car for a four or five years until he needed a vehicle that was more family friendly and economical.
Sink found the car in St. Louis, Missouri, this past winter. He said it was pretty much original, just like he wanted.
“It has a few modifications to it,” he said. “It’s still got the 383 (engine) and it’s all stock interior, stock outside. The wheels are not stock of course but other than that it’s pretty close to stock.”
Consumer Guide gives a history of the 1968 Roadrunner with some interesting facts. According to their report, Plymouth paid Warner Bros. $50,000 for the rights to place the cartoon bird on each side and an additional $10,000 for the horn to make a beep, beep sound like the cartoon bird. The car was unique and although Plymouth projected sales of 2,500 the first year, nearly 45,000 were sold, making it one of the most successful muscle car launches of all time. A year later, the 1969 Roadrunner would be named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. The Auto Editors of Consumer Guide said 383 V8 engine had a strong feel. According to GraveyardCars.com, the Roadrunner was faster than most police cars of its time and it became the car of choice for moonshiners.
Getting behind the wheel for Sink now he said was a pleasure every day.
“I just enjoy even wiping the dust off of it,” he said. “My kids had heard the story about the old Roadrunner so much that they are thrilled that I have my baby back. It’s not the same one but it’s awful close.”
Sink is one of the five original members of the Over the Road Gang. At that time, he had a 1976 Chevy pickup and a 1979 Chevy Impala. Soon after the car show started three decades ago, his attention turned to the kind of horses you raise and ride. He said now he is not able to ride horses as much so he is back to enjoying his muscle car and is excited to bring the Roadrunner to the show.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to run in the cruise,” he said. “When we started it, we didn’t have the cruise or as many cars. The people that run this do an outstanding job. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
His search to replace his original Roadrunner was not an easy one.
“I went looking for this car for about five years and you have to get lucky, that’s what it amounts to,” he said. “I found it on the internet and it’s stock from the exhaust pipes to the vintage Franklin County tag. It’s the way it came out.”
His car is one you may see driving around town at any time. Sink is not a fan of keeping his baby in the garage.
“It’s not a trailer queen, it’s a driver,” he said. “It has some flaws in the paint. It you can’t dive them what’s the use in having them.”