The Chevrolet Chevelle Versus The Plymouth Roadrunner

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The Chevrolet Chevelle Versus The Plymouth Roadrunner
The Chevrolet Chevelle Versus The Plymouth Roadrunner

There is no denying that throughout history, cars have had a special place all their own. Things like body styles and engine size have changed across the various makes and models found on and off the road. You know the different makes – Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, Chrysler, and so on. But do you know the specific differences between all of these?

In this installment, we wanted to provide you with a notable Mopar vehicle to compare to the Chevrolet Chevelle and one with a unique history behind it – the Plymouth Roadrunner. Mopar does not fall short of unique vehicles, especially during the time that the Chevelle was being manufactured.

The Chevrolet Chevelle – 1964 Through 1978

The Chevelle is one of Chevy’s most successful nameplates and was manufactured from 1964 through 1978. The Chevelle is best known for three different generations of manufacturing – 1964-1967, 1968-1972, and 1973-1977. The Chevelle came in body styles which included coupes, sedans, station wagons, and convertibles.

Chevrolet Chevelle Versus Plymouth Roadrunner

First Generation Chevelle (1964-1967)

The first generation of Chevelle was the only vehicle line introduced by Chevy in 1964 and was meant to fill the gap between the small Chevy II and the full-sized Chevrolet models of the time. The Chevelle was first introduced in August 1963 by Semon Emil “Bunkie” Knudsen, a well-known American automobile executive within the industry.

The first generation Chevelle included notable variants, including the SuperSport (SS), which signaled Chevrolet’s entry into the muscle car battle royale of the time. Z-16 SS 396 was a special design that was completed in 1965 at the Kansas City plant. Only 200 (technically 201) were built, with the “1” being a custom-convertible created for “Bunkie” Knudsen. Only 75 of the original 200 built are accounted for.

A new body style was introduced in 1966, which continued into 1967. The Chevelle remained with the trim names of the previously manufactured body styles. 

Specs for the first generation of Chevelles:

Body Style

2-door hardtop

2-door coupe

2-door convertible

2-door sedan

4-door sedan

4-door hardtop

4-door station wagon

2-door station wagon

2-door coupe utility

Engine

194 cu in (3.2 L) Chevrolet I6

230 cu in (3.8 L) Chevrolet I6

250 cu in (4.1 L) Chevrolet I6

283 cu in (4.6 L) Small-Block V8

327 cu in (5.4 L) Small-Block V8

396 cu in (6.5 L) Big-Block V8

Transmission

3-speed manual

4-speed manual

2-speed automatic

3-speed automatic

 

Chevrolet Chevelle Versus Plymouth Roadrunner

 

Second Generation Chevelle (1968-1972)

The second-generation Chevelle was created with a new distinctly shaped body and the long-hood/short-deck profile. The new government-mandated side marker lighting was incorporated into these models. The Concours Estate Wagon was one of four distinctly designed Chevelle wagons, and a one-year Nomad was offered.

The first set of style changes for the second generation came from 1969 to 1972, with 1970 being a very distinct model year for the Chevrolet Chevelle. In 1970, sheet metal revisions gave the design a more indicative “coke bottle” look with the interior to boot. Another set of design changes came to the second generation in 1971 – retaining the body style of the 1970 model but reconfiguring the front and rear ends. Minor adjustments were made to the 1972 models. Still, they had a wide enough appeal that it was considered America’s second-best-selling car.

Specs for the second generation of Chevelles:

Body Style

2-door hardtop

2-door coupe

2-door convertible

2-door sedan

4-door sedan

4-door hardtop

4-door station wagon

2-door coupe utility

Engine

230 cu in (3.8 L) Chevrolet I6

250 cu in (4.1 L) Chevrolet I6

307 cu in (5.0 L) Small-Block V8

327 cu in (5.4 L) Small-Block V8

350 cu in (5.7 L) Small-Block V8

396 cu in (6.5 L) Big-Block V8

400 cu in (6.6 L) Small-Block V8

402 cu in (6.6 L) Big-Block V8

427 cu in (7.0 L) Big-Block V8

454 cu in (7.4 L) Big-Block V8

Transmission

3-speed manual

4-speed manual

2-speed automatic

3-speed automatic

 

Third Generation Chevelle (1973-1977)

The third generation of the Chevelle marked the most extensive redesign in the history of the model. Because of the concern over federal rollover standards, the convertible and four-door hardtop models were discontinued from the line. The two-door hardtops were replaced with the “Colonnade Hardtop.”

Some of the Chevelle’s updates were delayed by a full model year due to the massive strike at some GM assembly plants. The biggest steps made during this third-generation include the changes to adhere to the new regulations that were brought forth by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. 

During this generation, all-new chassis designs were introduced. Despite the model lineup being changed and improved, the critics spent a lot of time comparing it to the industry counterparts. The Chevelle introduced the Laguna trim-level as the top-of-the-line series. Chevrolet continued to maintain yearly facelifts of the Chevelle, keeping up with the ever-growing strict federal vehicle standards. Come 1978, the Malibu took over for Chevrolet’s mid-size line of sedans.

Specs for the third generation Chevelle:

Body Style

2-door coupe

4-door sedan

4-door station wagon

Engine

250 cu in (4.1 L) Chevrolet I6

305 cu in (5.0 L) Small-Block V8

307 cu in (5.0 L) Small-Block V8

350 cu in (5.7 L) Small-Block V8

400 cu in (6.6 L) Small-Block V8

454 cu in (7.4 L) Big-Block V8

Transmission

3-speed manual

4-speed manual

3-speed automatic

 

Chevrolet Chevelle Versus Plymouth Roadrunner

 

The Plymouth Roadrunner – 1968 Through 1980

The Roadrunner is a mid-sized car built with a focus on performance by Plymouth from 1968-1980. By the time the Roadrunner entered the scene, the muscle car industry was moving away from the roots of being classically cheap and fast – gaining features and increasing the overall value. There are a total of three generations that exist for the Roadrunner model.

Plymouth paid Warner Bros. – Seven Arts $50,000 in royalties to use the Roadrunner name and likeness from The Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoons. Plymouth also paid an additional $10,000 to produce a horn that made the iconic “beep, beep” of the Roadrunner. The model was based on the Chrysler B platform, much like the Satellite and Belvedere models.

Chevrolet Chevelle Versus Plymouth Roadrunner

First Generation Roadrunner (1968-1970)

The earliest Roadrunner models (1968) were only available as a 2-door pillared coup but were eventually replaced with a 2-door hardtop model. The inspiration for the first generation Roadrunners was the Belvedere. At the same time, the higher-end GTX trim was based on the Sport Satellite. Plymouth only expected to sell about 20,000 of these first Roadrunner models but ended up selling closer to 45,000 that first year.

The next couple of years brought very little in terms of body changes to the Roadrunner, but Plymouth did make some changes to the look of the car – adding additional decals and changing the front and back ends. In 1969, Roadrunner was named Motor Trend Car of the Year. After this, the first generation of the Roadrunner began offering new high-impact colors in the 1970s model – In-Violet, Moulin Rouge, and Vitamin C were some available. The convertible options were also made available beginning in the 1969 and 1970 model years.

Specs for the first generation Roadrunner:

Body Style

2-door coupe

2-door hardtop

2-door convertible

Engine

                383 cu in (6.3 L) 335 hp (250 kW) V8

426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi V8

440 cu in (7.2 L) V8

Transmission

3-speed automatic

4-speed manual

 

Second Generation Roadrunner (1971-1974)

Things begin to get a little more interesting, starting with the second generation of the Plymouth Roadrunner. The convertible was done away with, and current Chrysler trends showed up across the board. Interiors were even upgraded to include 6-way power seats, thick carpeting, and soundproofing. The second generation offered improved high-speed handling and a more aerodynamic design than the original models.

As federal emission regulations became more strict, the Roadrunner was quick to adapt. In terms of design, there were few changes between the 1971 and 1972 models. The originally famed engines were replaced due to not being able to sufficiently meet the requirements for emissions. The 1973 and 1974 models received new sheet metal with a more squared conventional front end, with the rear somewhat resembling the earlier models. Restyling helped to boost the sales that were beginning to plummet. In fact, the changes increased the sales by close to 40% - reviving the Roadrunner and giving it the drive for a third and final generation of cars.

Specs for the second generation Roadrunner:

Body Style

2-door coupe

2-door hardtop

2-door convertible

Engine

                383 cu in (6.3 L) 335 hp (250 kW) V8

426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi V8

440 cu in (7.2 L) V8

Transmission

3-speed automatic

4-speed manual

Chevrolet Chevelle Versus Plymouth Roadrunner

Third Generation Roadrunner (1975; 1976-1980)

The 1975 model was the last redesign with the original body type of the Roadrunner. 1975 is considered to be the “third-generation” of the Roadrunner as it was originally designed to be. However, it isn’t fair to stop at the 1975 to 1976 redesign when the Roadrunner technically lived on through the Volare name until 1980.

From 1976 to 1980, it took the F-body trim package. The intention was to keep the B-body style of the Belvedere turned Satellite turned Fury model, but that didn’t happen. The body was soon changed to the Volare-based F-body package. It kept with much of the same features until discontinuation in 1980.

Specs for the third generation Roadrunner:

Body Style

2-door coupe

2-door hardtop

2-door convertible

Engine

                383 cu in (6.3 L) 335 hp (250 kW) V8

426 cu in (7.0 L) Hemi V8

440 cu in (7.2 L) V8

Transmission

3-speed automatic

4-speed manual

Chevrolet Chevelle Versus Plymouth Roadrunner

Winner Takes All (or Nothing)

If you get your hands on one of these cars today (Chevelle or Roadrunner), consider yourself a winner. You hear it all the time, especially from those who are older than you are “they sure don’t make them like they used to.” Unfortunately, there is truth to this. For many years (generations) of vehicles, the idea was to change the styling – being bigger, better, faster, and more aesthetically pleasing.

Look at the cars on the road today. In terms of the same type of craftsmanship the older cars show, there is little evidence of that today. Generations of cars vary very little in terms of design changes. Instead of muscle, pony, or other delegation – we focus on fuel efficiency, safety, and dollar signs. Not saying that these are less important, but in terms of making an impact on the road, today’s cars lack a lot of what these discontinued cars had.

The next time you get a chance to go to a car show, take it. Take the opportunity to see how the automotive industry has evolved. Look to see just how much impact the Chevrolet Chevelle, and the Plymouth Roadrunner had on the overall industry. 

If you do see a Roadrunner, there is one thing you have to do (with the owner’s permission) – BEEP BEEP!

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Joe Webster began his journey in the auto transport field by attending the University of Southern California (USC), where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Marketing. 

After college, he started his career in the auto transport industry from the bottom up and has done virtually every job there is to do at A-1 Auto Transport, including but not limited to: Truck Driver, Dispatch, Sales, PR, Bookkeeping, Transport Planner, Transport Manager, International Transport Manager, Brokering, Customer Service, and Marketing. Working with his mentor Tony Taylor, Joe Webster has learned the ins and outs of this industry which is largely misunderstood. 

With over 30 years experience in the industry, we've been helping people ship their vehicles, motorcycles, RV's, heavy equipment, household goods and more across the country or overseas without a hitch. Ask us anything.


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