John Buehrle thought his brother-in-law had a cool car when he left for the military: A ’55 Chevy. But when he came back driving a nearly new 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner, the die was cast.
“It was a 4-speed car and he was burning rubber in all four gears. The roar of the secondaries on the carb coming in was so cool, I said, `I’ve got to have one of those,’ ” Buehrle recalls.
So, still in high school, he started saving his money, contenting himself with getting around on a 65cc Honda motorbike while keeping an eye out for an affordable Roadrunner. He and his classmates learned about working on cars from their Atwood High math teacher, Bill Beamgard.
“He taught us how to hop them up, how to shift fast.”
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After graduating in 1971 and preparing to start college, he got serious about his Roadrunner quest. But it was a challenge finding what he wanted.
“All the cars that I looked at were in pretty bad shape. They had all been torn up,” Buehrle said.
He went to check out a Roadrunner at a small car lot in Salina, but it, too, was in pretty sad shape.
“The guy who owned the lot said, `Why don’t you try out that Super Bee over there? It’s just like a Roadrunner, only it’s built by Dodge.’ I didn’t even know what it was.”
He took the Dodge for a test drive and it was just what he was looking for, even if it wasn’t a Roadrunner. The car had a bench seat, 32,000 miles on it and set Buehrle back $2,100.
He drove the metallic green 4-speed Super Bee all through college.
“This was my courting car. I dated my wife in this car,” he said. “It was the only car I had from high school on. We moved to McPherson in 1977 and I drove it to work every day until 1980.”
But the urge to have a Roadrunner was there, simmering in the back of his mind. And when a friend told him about a 1969 Roadrunner for sale in Russell in 1999, he wasted no time heading west to check it out.
It was exactly the same color as his Dodge and was also a 4-speed car, but was outfitted with bucket seats and a console.
“It was not in as good a shape (as the Super Bee) but the price was right. So I drove it home. I taught my son how to drive in this car,” Buehrle said.
“I haven’t really done anything to it. It’s what they call a `pillared coupe’ (with door posts) and the back windows pop open instead of rolling down. It’s got a cam in it.”
The green Roadrunner was pressed into service as a daily driver. And then one day, Buehrle picked up a car magazine at the grocery store and stumbled onto yet another Roadrunner, this one a 1970 hardtop in Burnt Orange, equipped with an automatic transmission, located in Washington.
“DeeAnn had said, `If you’re going to buy another car, don’t by a 4-speed because I can’t drive them,’ ” he recalled. Fortunately, a fellow Mopar friend had a friend who lived near where the car was located, and he checked it out.
He reported back that he had never seen a Roadrunner with so many factory options on it. In fact, he said if Buehrle didn’t buy the car, he was going to.
Buehrle bought the car.
It is also a bucket seat/console car and currently shows 85,000 miles on the odometer.
While all this wheeling and dealing was going on, it was decided the Super Bee needed a full restoration, so it was sent to Buehrle’s uncle, Duane Frech in Woodrow, Okla., where most of the project was done.
The original 383 V-8 was rebuilt, along with the transmission and rear end; rusted sheet metal was replaced and Buehrle swapped out the factory hood for a Ramcharger forced-air hood assembly he had found in Indiana. A set of factory optional side scoops were also added to enhance the Super Bee’s looks.
Topping off the 5-year project was a fresh base coat/clear coat paint job and black Super Bee decals across the rear of the car.
Buehrle began showing the Super Bee in 2001 and has won many awards with it.
All three cars are exercised regularly, but the Super Bee never leaves the garage if there’s any chance of inclement weather. That’s what the ’69 Roadrunner is for.
And of course, Mrs. Buehrle has her automatic-equipped ’70 Roadrunner for trips to the grocery store.
“I don’t think she’s ever sent me to the grocery store since I bought this one,” John Buehrle chuckles.
Mike Berry: firstname.lastname@example.org