MY STAR REVISITED:1980 Plymouth Road Runner – The last of the series

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Kid wants to buy car-“absolutely not”

In 1980 Chrysler was headed into the financial whitewater rapids of a 2 year recession in a leaky canoe full of weak sales. Their products weren’t moving and a survival life raft full of government loans was a year away.

Sound familiar?

my-star-lost-star-don-runner-new-1They needed customers in the worst way and in early spring 1981 18-year-old Don Sutherland saw a brand new black T-top 1980 Plymouth Roadrunner sitting in the corner of a local Chrysler-Plymouth dealership. That was it-his 1st brand new car.

In theory.

Picture this-a company that was treading water while strapped to a 500 lb. anvil of debt, desperately in need of customers building cars that people actively avoided, selling cars at the worst time of year and in walks a highly motivated and qualified young buyer named Don. Naturally you’d expect the sales guy to belly crawl through 30 yards of broken glass sitting on hot coals to get this sale done. That’s the hypothesis.

In real life this salesman took one look at Don, wrote him off as a young punk and gave him a brief 2 word answer to the possibility of a test drive-“Absolutely not”.Don was determined to own the ‘runner so he went to the owner and cut a deal himself. He paid $8700 plus another 300 for a cassette stereo.

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No word on whether the half-assed salesman got a cut.

Don didn’t waste anytime taking his new car on a road trip. Scant weeks later Don, his cousin Darcy and the ‘runner headed to Vegas, LA, and San Diego on a giant road trip. The trip had its share of adventures. Don was clocked at 85 mph in Montana and received the cheapest ticket in his life-a $5.00 EPA violation.

Darcy inflicted the first major war wound on the brand new Plymouth. Cousin Darcy discovered that he had a pathological hatred of pheasants so he aimed Don’s black beauty at a particularly cocky one. Final score- car 1 bird 0. But the victory came at a price. The 95 mph impact ripped half the front grill off the car and Darcy’s trip suddenly became a lot pricier.

Don’s new ride was scarred but that was the 1st of many great road trips in the faithful Road Runner-Don and the Road Runner became life partners and in 2011 they’ll celebrate 30 years together.

Since then he married Michelle and they have 2 sons plus he started a business but the Road Runner is still there. That’s a feat because in the early stages of his new marriage he ran into the struggle between the eternal enemies-old car vs. new bride. He solved that by moving the car out of the coveted carport in the winter to neutral storage.

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They took the last big trip in the car to Spokane when Michelle was expecting their oldest son Stu.

That’s where Don sucked Michelle in-now it’s her life partner too.

Jerry Sutherland

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