Sticky situation for a ’70 Six-Pack Road Runner
By Jim Koscs Photos by TheBruntBros
On Thanksgiving Day in 1984, Rhonda Hatzelis and her brother Jimmy Hopper were wondering what the ruckus was outside their Tucson, Arizona home. “We heard this car out behind the neighborhood, just tearing it up, she said. “My brother went to see what it was and found it one block over. It was a 1970 six-pack Road Runner.”
Brace yourself for what happened next, and remember, this was an original Six-Pack bird with a four-speed. “The guy said he was moving to California and asked Jimmy if he knew of anyone interested in trading a truck for the Road Runner,” Rhonda said. “My brother had a 1970 Dodge Tradesman van that was his daily driver. He asked, ‘How about a van?’ The guy said sure, and they made a straight trade. There was no cash exchanged.” The bird was straight and rust-free.
Rhonda decided she would give her brother’s Road Runner a Mod Top. She ran into the obstacle that confronts all Mod Top fans: no material available. In addition, she wanted the Dodge pattern. Even vendors that had been reproducing it were no longer offering it at that time. All Rhonda heard was that she couldn’t get a Mod Top for the Road Runner. “I don’t like when someone tells me I can’t do something,” she said. And then she thought of the buses and vans she’d been seeing around town with colorful vinyl graphics on their sides. That was the light bulb moment. She recalled the paisley-print clothes her mom her made for her as a little girl in the early 1970s. “That’s in style again, so I ran down to the fabric store and found a very nice paisley print. It had too many varied and bright colors, which was not appropriate for the car’s original Sub Lime color. So I took the main pattern to Signs Now in Tucson, which does a lot of that kind of work for trucks. They’d never done it for a car roof before.
They scanned it in and we changed all the colors. Then they repeated the pattern over and over and printed it onto large vinyl sheets. That’s my Mod Top.” The “top” was installed as two large sheets, with the pattern carefully matched to hide the seam down the middle of the roof.
There is a totally different feel to Rhonda’s top compared to an original Mod Top, because it’s smooth vinyl. “It’s basically a big decal,” she said. “The car didn’t come with a vinyl roof in the first place,” Rhonda said. “The moldings are on with 3M double-stick tape underneath; they’re easily popped off and on without damage.”
Rhonda and Jim weren’t sure how the Mopar enthusiasts would take it. “We drove it to Mopars on the Strip, and it was the biggest hit. My husband lost his voice from talking to so many people about it.” In the car’s trunk, Rhonda carries a picture frame holding photo samples of the original Mod Tops and her Mod Top. “Even a lot of Mopar people don’t know that the Mod Top was a factory option,” she said.
“When I heard that someone was reproducing Mod Tops again, people asked if I would switch. I thought about it, but when I saw the Dodge pattern, I felt it just wasn’t vibrant enough.”
Speaking of vibrant, check out the paint. Rhonda didn’t feel that any of the Mopar High-Impact greens were bright enough for her brother’s Road Runner. While in the body shop that painted the car (no longer in business), she spotted an M&M’s package in a candy vending machine. She bought a pack, took out a green M&M and asked the owner if he could match it. He scanned it and found a match, a PPG color called “Sun Green.”
For the interior, Rhonda and Jim designed a green and white scheme, and their friend Arnold Welch turned it into their new interior. They built their own dash, installed a rollbar and a Kenwood stereo, and Rhonda drives it quite a bit. The couple also owns a brace of 1966-1967 Chargers, a 1969 Coronet and various other project cars.
Oh, so now you want to know about the engine? It’s the original 440 6-Barrel, bored .040 over by Doc’s Engine Machine in Tucson. Rhonda’s hubby assembled it, and the couple installed it. Minor mods include a Crower .487” lift cam, Hedman Hedders, electronic ignition and chrome valve covers. With the original Dana 3.54 rear, highway driving is pretty easy.
The chassis got a few mods, as well, including frame connectors, heavy-duty springs, poly bushings and gas shocks. The rear was lowered an inch. Budnik Fontana wheels carry BF Goodrich rubber – 225/70R15 up front and 285/70R15 out back.
So, now you know how to make your own Mod Top. Aren’t you happy it didn’t take our usual 23-part series to explain it?