Back From The Dead: John Livingston’s Battle-Tested ’69 Roadrunner

 

That’s one bad mutha!

Every once in a while we come across a car that speaks to us in one way or another. But, sometimes it isn’t the car itself. Sometimes it’s the owner and their harrowing journey to bring that car to fruition. 

Such was the case for John Livingston and his battle-tested ’69 Roadrunner. We say that because, if ever there was a story of real-life automotive trials and tribulations, his is it. 

John, a Sergeant First Class(SFC) in the Army, is no stranger to hard work, but what he and his poor car went through to get to the point you see here, is incredible. 

How did Plymouth make such a square car look so muscular? John’s Roadrunner is all business baby!

It all started when John was gifted a 1968 Plymouth Satellite by his father. The Satellite was John’s first car and he drove it all through high school. Owning that car is really what made him fall in love with Mopars. Unfortunately, due to rust, the Satellite was too far gone. But, admittedly, his holy grail was really a 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner. 

Fast forward – while stationed in California, John began hunting for his elusive grail. He found his car hiding in Yuma, Arizona. Although, the seller was reluctant to part with the Roadrunner, John made the trek to see him face-to-face. Up until then people had been pestering him about the car over the phone but no one had gone to the trouble of traveling. When someone owns a car for 25 years, like the previous owner did, they don’t want it to go to just anyone. But, John assured him it was going to a good home, and would be restored to better than new condition – something they could both be proud of. 

Jacked up in the back, this thing’s got stance for days.

 

They spoke car-guy to car-guy – John explained that he had no intention of selling the car for a profit, but instead wanted to cherish the car and bring it to it’s full potential. Once the previous owner saw John was the real deal, they came to terms, shook hands, and locked in the deal. 

“After we spoke, he knew when I was done with the car, he would see it and know he sold it to the right person.”

Once John got into the restoration, he took the 440 over to Superior Automotive Engineering where they installed new heads, stuffed it with forged internals, and bored and stroked it to 512ci of displacement! But, when John picked up the car, one of the rocker arms malfunctioned on the test drive. 

As if that wasn’t bad enough, after they loaded the Roadrunner onto Johns trailer and began to transport it back to the shop – things really went south. The tie-downs (which have since been recalled by an unnamed manufacturer) failed, separating the cherry Roadrunner from the trailer at highway speeds. What happened next is enough to make your stomach turn. 

The car was sent careening into a drainage ditch on the side of the highway, destroying the suspension, and front end of the car. The all original ’69 Roadrunner sat there with it’s brand new 512 between bent frame rails and crushed body panels. The whole front end was toast. 

That ain’t no 440. That’s 512 cubic inches of displacement! Forget coming back from the dead, this is muscle car heaven.

Gutwrenching…we know. Luckily the previous owner was right to entrust the care of the ’69 to John. There are plenty of people who would have called it a day, made the insurance claim and walked away from the whole project. Not John. He loves his Roadrunner, and he wasn’t going to let a bump in the road deter him from his ultimate goal of building his dream car. 

So, he did what any self respecting car-guy would do – he put it back together. With the help of Lanzini Body Works, and Lee & Sons Suspension, they were able to straighten everything out. That’s right, even with all the damage, they were able to pull everything back together. The car retains all of the original steel. They really worked some magic! 

John wanted us to give special thanks to Lanzini Body Works for bringing his car back from the dead. Superior Automotive Engineering for the extensive work they put in building his stroked 440. And finally Lee and Sons Suspension Works for straitening everything out and putting it back to factory specs. 

Build Sheet

Owner: John Livingston

Year: 1969

Make: Plymouth

Model: Roadrunner

Engine: 512 Stroker

Transmission: Tremec TKO600

Rear-end: Dana 60 w/ 3.54 gear ratio

Suspension: Factory suspension with air shocks in the rear for rake.

Wheels/Tires: Magnum 500 wheels. BF Goodrich Radial T/A Tires. 295/50r15 rear. 245/50r15 front

Interior: Factory bench with pistol grip shifter.

Paint: Vitamin “C” Orange

Enjoy the gallery below, and check back in with us for more Street Muscle.

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About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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