Winged Warriors/National B-Body Owners Association
Plymouth RTS Caravan

Text by Sue George (With B&W Photos From the Original RTS Press Release)
Other Photos by John Antonelli


Back in 1970, when Chrysler Corporation was most interested in selling their performance cars, engines and accessories, they brainstormed one of the most grandiose and successful marketing concepts in automobile history. It was called the RTS Caravan, short for Plymouth Rapid Transit System. This was not only a prosperous time for Chrysler, but also a fun time, when they offered a club--The Rapid Transit System Club--to enthusiasts, held car clinics all over the US, sponsored races and competed fiercely against Ford and GM for performance car sales.

The RTS Caravan was like a live traveling commercial for Chrysler. In 1970, it consisted of: a Hemi Cuda, built as a replica of Don Prudhomme's champion drag race car, a 440 Cuda, a Road Runner and a 340 Duster. There was also a cut-away engine and performance accessories displayed with the cars, as well as racing films shown during display hours. The entire Caravan was hauled around the country in a loudly painted yellow 55' Dodge tractor/trailer with RTS logos and a big "Plymouth Makes It" logo on the sides. Three men traveled with the show, setting up the displays and answering questions for the interested crowds of people.

The premier showing of the RTS Caravan was at New York City, with over 73,000 people attending! After the New York City date, the Caravan traveled the next ten months to Plymouth dealerships and major racing events across the US.

The RTS Caravan's premier showing did not go without a hitch, as in a Plymouth press release following the New York City show, it is stated that the Funny Car Cuda was flown directly to New York City from Los Angeles and arrived just in time for Jack Kampney to finish lettering it as it sat on the show floor! While the 440 Cuda was being transported from Detroit to NYC, the truck threw an axle on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and a second truck had to be dispatched from New York to complete the trip.

[Don Prudhomme's drag race car] [Don Prudhomme's drag race car]

Shown here is the Hemi Cuda, built by Ron Scrima's Exhibition Engineering, as a replica of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's champion drag race car. It has a single piece fiberglass body on a tube frame. The body is hinged at the rear so it can be raised for easy access to the engine (and looks great like this for exhibition!) The Hemi engine is real, however the car is non-functional. This was the only RTS Caravan car that never ran under its own power. As mentioned earlier, the builders were running so late in getting the Hemi Cuda ready for the RTS Caravan premier showing that the final artwork was hand-lettered right on the show room floor!

[1970 440 Cuda] [1970 440 Cuda]

The car shown here is the 440 Cuda, designed by Harry Bradley and built by Chuck Miller of Styline Customs. It was the most extensively altered body of all the cars in the RTS Caravan. The car was lowered two and a half inches. The front end was re-styled into a sleek new beak with chin spoilers. All door handles and the trunk and hood latches were removed and replaced with electric solenoid openers.

The 440 Cuda was painted in a pearl white base, with green, orange and black stripes. Note the wheelie bars, which exit through what would normally be the exhaust exits in the rear valance panel. A parachute is mounted between the bars. This car is often confused with the "Sonic Cuda" of the same era, which was also built by Chuck Miller, but note that the RTS car has a shaker hood, while the Sonic Cuda had a blower.

[1970 Road Runner] [1970 Road Runner]

At left is the original press release photo of the 1970 Road Runner. Because of its poor quality, I have also included a photo of it, as it appears today, taken by John Antonelli at the 1999 Chryslers At Carlisle show. The Road Runner had an air grabber hood. The side markers were filled and replaced with 1970 Chrysler 300 markers. Door handles and trunk/hood key locks were removed and replaced with electric solenoid openers. The rear quarter panel scoops were enlarged and the rear wheel wells were flared with 4" of steel. Up front, the headlights were square. A really attractive treatment was used on the Road Runner's south end, with tail lights extending the entire width of the rear panel that were back lit from the trunk area. There were running Road Runner decals at each inside end of the tail lights. A sleek new spoiler was molded into the sides of the rear quarters and is sectioned at the top to allow the trunk lid to open normally. A large Road Runner was painted on each door with a dust trail leading into the quarter panel scoops. The plush GTX interior had manual 6-way adjustable driver's seat, woodgrain trim and power windows. Interestingly, the original press release states that: "The Road Runner is painted light blue with dark blue pearl flip-flop, and black and dark blue striping, and is powered by a 440 4-speed with a Dana 3.54 rear end". The Road Runner, as it appears today in Steve Juliano's collection of RTS Caravan cars, is painted candy apple gold with a white roof and black hood, deck lid and stripes, and is powered by a 426 Hemi and automatic transmission!

[1970 340 Duster] [1970 340 Duster]

The last car in the 1970 RTS Caravan was the 340 Duster shown here. The body was lowered three inches and chrome rocker panel trim was added to draw your attention to this fact. You can't really see it in these original pictures, but there was a strange little duck-tail type of spoiler built into the rear of the Duster's roof above the window. The rear valance was rolled under the car and two sets of twin rectangular tail lights were installed with chrome bezels. Note the quad-pipe big tube exhausts exiting the center of the valance. Up front, the valance panel is also rolled under the car and twin square parking/turn signals were mounted into either side of it. The grille opening was a small rectangle between the headlights, with "Duster" painted in big letters above it. The Duster had a stock 340 4-speed with a 3:91 rear axle. Tires were Goodyear Speedway Y-7's. It was painted in shades of Candy Brown. The car was built by Byron Grenfell. After the Duster completed its time with the RTS Caravan, it was sold to a Detroit policeman, who later almost destroyed it in an accident.


As stated previously, the Rapid Transit System Caravan was probably the greatest marketing concept in automobile history. Chrysler's idea was to include all of the elements of their factory Rapid Transit System into a single exhibit which consisted of providing the high performance cars, the special parts and the how-to-do-it information for owners who wanted to personalize their cars. People flocked to dealerships to see the display, many of them buying cars hoping to get the same excitement out of their new purchase. A lot of performance equipment was also sold through exposure in the traveling show, especially during stops at major racing events. The Caravan was such a success, in fact, that Chrysler decided to add some cars and sent them back out on the road in 1971! They were scheduled to visit 100 dealerships that year.

In 1971, the Caravan featured four new cars (although two of them, the 440 Cuda and the 340 Duster, were reworked versions of the 1970 cars), two cut-away performance engines, a display board of performance parts and a 27-minute film showing the history of drag racing with highlights of Plymouth's racing accomplishments, as well as a couple of the 1970 Caravan cars.

The 55' tractor/trailer painted yellow and carrying the RTS and "Plymouth Makes It" logos was once again used to haul the display, this time with two men who were responsible for setting up the display and answering questions and making sure those potential customers had information about how to order their performance parts. The press release for the 1971 Caravan went like this:

"For those lucky enough to really see the Caravan, it was truly a sight to behold. These days of yesteryear are all but gone, only memories remain, and maybe a couple pictures. We hope this will make all members aware of the goals of the system, both now and then.

Although customizing is not utmost of the current club, it still is a part. The idea of providing a complete system of high performance parts and information is still the number one goal of the Rapid Transit System. The original club was nothing more than an advertising gimmick with a bunch of decals.

We have expanded the Rapid Transit System to include all Mopar cars, trucks, and years. No Chrysler owner will ever be denied membership because of make, model, year, custom or anything else, as long as his car is a Chrysler Product!"

Incidently, Chrysler referred to the RTS Caravan as their Plymouth Mobile Performance Display. Someone in the corporate offices with too much time on their hands figured out that the combined horsepower of the four new cars and two display engines in the 1971 Caravan was more than 3,400 hp!

[1971 440 Cuda] [1971 440 Cuda]

Now for the 1971 Caravan cars......beginning with the 440 Cuda. The Cuda is a carryover from the 1970 Caravan, however for 1971, the Cuda was different from all other years because of the addition of four headlights. The rear end of the car remained the same, with wheelie bars, a parachute mounted in the rear valance and steel braces over the rear window. The side pipes stayed, as did the sleek front end extension with the chin spoilers and the shaker hood. The paint was changed, and this year's Cuda appeared with reverse reds, oranges, yellows and white. The entire car was then covered with Merano Pearlescent to give it depth.

The 340 Duster for 1971 is a reworked version of the 1970 Caravan's Duster. It uses the same body, lowered three inches. The front end of the car was changed slightly, with the absence of the twin sets of square parking/turn signal lights and the addition of a thin bumper. Thin rectangular-shaped lights were mounted in protruding chrome bezels under the new bumper.

In the rear, the only change from the previous year was the use of two huge rectangular exhaust ports exiting in the center of the lower valance (on either side of the license plate location), instead of last year's four big tube exhaust exits. The strange duck-tail spoiler on the roofline was retained. Also like last year's Duster, this one has two fuel filler caps mounted on the rear fenders (the press release never gives any indication that the Duster actually has two fuel tanks, though).

The Duster used the same stock 340 4-speed and 3:91 rear end. The interior features white bucket seats. The biggest change in the car was its new paint scheme. It was repainted in Candy Greens with flat black and pearl stripes. Note that the "340" painted on the hood appeared later on the production 340 wedge cars.

[1971 340 Duster] [1971 340 Duster]

The most powerful car in the 1971 RTS Caravan was the Hemi Cuda, a replica of Don "The Snake" Prudhomme's drag race car. This car had a supercharged, fuel injected Keith Black 426 Hemi engine that put out more than 1,500 horse power!

As a safety measure, the engine and drive train were encased in aluminum. The car sat on Cragar wheels and Goodyear tires. Twin 12-foot parachutes, used to help stop the drag car, were mounted in the center of the rear panel. A spoiler was built into the deck lid, which was said to accommodate the opening of the parachutes and lend stability.

The Cuda was painted in basic white pearl with red, orange and yellow flames on the hood, roof and deck lid, by Jack Kampney of Detroit.

[Don Prudhomme's drag race car] [Don Prudhomme's drag race car]

[1971 Road Runner]

Shown here is a very rare glimpse of the one-of-a-kind customized 1971 Road Runner which traveled the USA with the Plymouth Rapid Transit System Caravan. Aside from the drag race Cuda, another of the 1971 RTS cars, this Road Runner was the most popular car in the Caravan, always creating a frenzy where ever it appeared.

The front end was molded and extended over six inches. The front pan was rolled under the car. Twin sets of rectangular headlights were installed with a hand formed steel grille between them. There is a 3-D Road Runner head mounted in the center of the grille. The fiberglass hood has two recessed scoops which extend almost the entire length of the hood.

At each corner of the car, there are two-inch-square 3-D Road Runner heads in full color, which serve as the car's side marker lights. In the rear, some extensive re-styling occurred. The rear bumper was removed and some trick fabrication left a very flush rear panel. In this panel, two concealed rectangular tail lights were mounted. Each tail light had a green light, a yellow light and a red light.

The rear deck was recessed from the fenders on each side, and a horizontal bar rear spoiler bridged the two fenders over the trunk lid. All exterior hardware is deleted and the doors open from the inside by grabbing the "fake" door locks. The car was finished in vibrant candy-over-pearl orange with a white pearl break line below. All body work and paint was done by Chuck Miller of Detroit. The Road Runner was powered by a 440 automatic.

After traveling with the RTS Caravan, the Road Runner spent some time on display at Harrahs in Reno and then did some gigs with the ISCA. Finally, it was returned to Chuck Miller in Detroit, who kept it in storage until recently when Steve Juliano added it to his collection of RTS Caravan cars.

Interestingly, the text on the back of the original color postcard (part of which is shown above) states that the Road Runner was equipped with a 318 2bbl. We now know this information is incorrect.

The Plymouth Rapid Transit System cars, and the truck/trailer rig and most of the original RTS display accessories have been found, purchased and lovingly restored recently by Steve Juliano. Thanks to Steve, this wonderful one-of-a-kind bit of Mopar history has been preserved!

[1971 Road Runner]

This photo, taken at the 1999 Chryslers
at Carlisle, shows the 1971 Road
Runner show car as it looks today.

[Modern Chrysler concept cars]

Modern Chrysler concept cars on display
at Chryslers at Carlisle.....not nearly
as exciting as the days of old!


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