By Nick Brunt Translated from the Polish by Mel Coznowski Photos by Bill Erdman
Marvin Ball has an unusual phobia: fear of dump trucks. No, he doesn’t break out in a cold sweat when he sees one, nor does he run for cover should one appear on the horizon. The way Marv’s phobia plays out is that he won’t drive his custom Mopars on the street for fear of getting rear-ended by one. Or T-boned, or head-on’d. “I got too much money in them,” Marv says. So Marv is content just to trailer his Mopes to shows.
Marv’s last custom was a ’74 Duster built by Willoughby Hot Rods. ‘Course having stuff “built” for you these days ain’t cheap, and Marv figured the Dustpan would be his last venture into the world of customdom.
It happened at the ’05 Mopar Nationals where Marv was showing his Duster. Marv and a bunch of the guys were sitting around dinner, when the subject of a green ’69 383/4-speed Road Runner came up. The car had been sitting in a guy’s backyard in CA since 1977. It was an old street fighter with 6.60-14s in the back and a set of traction bars among its other amenities. The current owner was going to restore the beeper until the car-building project got shelved in favor of a house-building (or building-building) project. One of Marv’s buddies looked up from his plate of pate de fois gras and said to Marv, “you oughta buy that car.” Marv was silent for a while, and then said, “tell the guy I want it.” We don’t know why Marv wanted it, and in all honesty, Marv probably doesn’t know either.
Well, to make a long story short, as we no longer get paid by the word (we’re just lucky to get paid, period), Marv bought the beeper and sent it over to Willoughby for a resto back to stock. We don’t know if Marv’s dump truck phobia also applies to stock vehicles instead of only customs. The Road Runner was in Willoughby’s shop for two minutes, when Tim, owner of the shop, got a call from Marv: “Hey, I got a Hemi for it.” Here we go again.
Marv’s Hemi starts with a Mopar Performance block and heads and is stroked to 482 cubes. Hood Performance handled the buildup going with an Eagle crank and rods and Ross pistons. The Bullet cam we guess has a custom grind for setting on the grass application. Bet ol’ Marv coulda saved a ton o’ dough by dropping in a Lawn Boy engine—at least he could have done some maintenance on the show field grass.
Anyhow, the Hemi, dyno’d at 521 HP and 548 ft.-lbs. of torque, is backed by a stout Tremec 5-speed from Classic Mopar. Not wanting to blow the rear with the fore and aft maneuvers needed to angle into a tight show spot, Marv went with no less than a Moser Dana 60 packing 3.73 cogs and True-Trac.
Realizing that nothing gets into Mopar Action unless there’s a theme to it (if it’s not visual you at least have to hum a few bars), Tim and Marv and Obie Harrup III Designs (you know it’s gotta be good when you have this many folks thinking up a concept) came up with the R/TX idea. They figured a visual package was needed, as not many showgoers would be crawling underneath the beeper to appreciate the driveline/chassis work (even with the available creeper) on this rotisserie-roasted bird.
R/TX. Yeah, we know—a mix of metaphors—Plymouth and Dodge. It’s maybe how Plymouth would have built it if it had been a Dodge, or vice-versa, or something like that. Anyway, there’s a dash in there from a Charger R/T and Charger low-back buckets. Once the theme was finalized and the assurance of Mopar Action magazine coverage, Tim went to work. When he came back, he started on the ‘Runner. He worked with the paint gurus at O’Reilly Auto Parts to come up with a custom silver color that he calls Iridium Burst. It’s now in the DuPont catalog as ’69 R/TX. Easy to remember if you’re building one.
Tim says that he always wanted to do a silver car with a red interior. So to him, the beeper with its mid-‘60s crimson gut (all courtesy of Legendary) is a dream come true. Some folks dream of hitting the lottery, Tim dreams of color combos. ‘Course, you can’t really see the interior through all the JRD smoked glass, but Tim knows it’s there, and now you do, too.
So, there you have it—the Road Runner Hemi R/TX. If we had the bucks tied up in this ride that Marv has, we’d be afraid of dump trucks too, along with flying saucers and a herd of stampeding cattle—boy can they ruin a nice paintjob in a hurry. But even just harnessing his beeper for show instead of go, Marv really enjoys the car and thinks it’s worth every penny he’s put into it. You might even say Marv is having a (ahem) ball.