Hey Chrysler, Bring Back the Road Runner
Last month, the automotive rumor mill was set ablaze with word that the Plymouth Barracuda could once again prowl the back alleys and drag strips of Detroit. The spark? News that Fiat Chrysler had re-registered its trademark on the “Barracuda” name.
Practically speaking, it’s likely just a matter of housekeeping in order for FCA to retain the trademark of the hallowed nameplate. On the other hand, as it was suggested back in 2012, perhaps a new-millennium Barracuda is still in the works. There’s just one little nagging itch. Do performance fans really want another Barracuda…or is it a reboot of the Road Runner that gets the blood pumping?
First things first, let’s give the legendary Barracuda the honor its due. When it first arrived as an evolution of the Valiant, the Barracuda earned wide praise for its nimble handling and poise. Later in life as an E-body, it wouldn’t retain those same accolades, but it did command massive respect as a tower of power…especially in its now vaunted Hemi Cuda form. But pump the brakes for a second. For fans eagerly awaiting a new “tower of power” in the pecking order…let’s not forget the 707-horsepower Charger and Challenger Hellcats currently in roost. Surely the pair is plenty powerful enough, and on a side note, it’s a blessing they even exist at all. Instead, think for a moment about the original Plymouth Road Runner and Plymouth GTX relationship. In the late ‘60s, the most hardline of performance car fans didn’t care about creature comforts, they just wanted to go fast…and at a bargain. The GTX supplied that speed, provided you paid up. But the Road Runner…now it was special. If you didn’t want all the frills, you didn’t get them.
That meant dog-dish hubcaps, no carpeting, and bench seats, but it also meant a heavy-duty suspension, 335 horsepower “Coyote Duster” V8, and four-speed manual transmission. Hardly a bad shake in terms of base model performance. The thing is, those people still exist today. There are plenty of folks who yearn for Hellcat levels of performance out of the box, and couldn’t care less about air-conditioning or infotainment. For them, a no-frills reboot of the Road Runner would be an answer to prayers. So, is that a car we’ll ever see? Uh, probably not. Today’s complex emissions, safety equipment, and the sky high costs of developing such vehicles would likely put the kibosh on a stripped-out, big-engined, no-frills muscle car on the cheap. There's also no money to be made when you're slinging a supercar on a budget. Though that doesn’t mean it isn’t what the people (or at least some people) want.