Winged Warriors/National B-Body Owners Association
Special Feature Car

Text and Photos by Sue George

[Driver Side]
[Engine Compartment]
[Driver Side From Rear]

Not too many Mopar owners can claim the honor of being the original owner of their car 28 years after its birth. Ralph Yarnell of Independence, Missouri can do just that. He ordered this stunning black 1971 Hemi Road Runner from Shepherd Motor Company on April 9, 1971 and waited patiently until July 9, 1971, when the car was finally delivered to the dealership. Note that interestingly, it took exactly three months to the day for the Road Runner to arrive at Shepherd's.

After getting that long awaited call notifying him of his new car's delivery, Ralph arrived at the dealership to find it completely empty. Every employee, the owner and the manager were all out behind the building admiring this new Black Bird!

Backing up a little, when Ralph was filling out the order form for the Road Runner, the only items he specified that he really wanted were the 426 Hemi engine, 4-speed manual transmission and the Trak Pak. Ralph told the salesman that he would prefer not to have carpeting or power brakes, but was informed this was not possible. The one thing that he did forget to mention at the time he was filling out the order form was that he wanted black Hemi decals on the front fenders rather than white ones. Long after sending the order off, Ralph realized this oversight and he fretted for the next three months that the engine size would be announced in bold white lettering on the front of his sleek black beauty. He was thrilled and relieved to see the factory had installed black decals, due to the fact, according to the dealership manager, that the assembly line had run out of white decals at the time Ralph's car came down the line!

Lest you think a 1971 Hemi 4-speed Road Runner is rare enough as it is, think about this.....strangely, this Hemi B-Body came from the factory with G70X14" steel wheels (code T93), Polyglas white letter tires and chrome dog dish hub caps. This pretty much puts to rest the standard belief dictating that ALL Hemi B-Bodies came from the factory with 15" wheels. When Ralph questioned why his car did not have the 15" wheels and tires, everyone just shrugged.

The truly miraculous part of this story is that this perfectly beautiful and rare car is also a true survivor, never having been restored or even touched up in any way, and with only 10,800 original miles showing on the speedo! Shortly after taking possession of his new Road Runner, Ralph joined the now defunct National Hemi Owners Association (NHOA) and drove his car to several of their meets, all held several states away from his home in Missouri. He was proud to drive this machine and show it off to other Mopar enthusiasts, but soon enough, the NHOA members started buzzing about what a rare car is was and how it should really be preserved. After giving it some thought and deciding that they were probably right, in 1979, the Road Runner made its last trip....this time to the Indy 500 race track, where Ralph parked it in front of the gate for one last photo.

That year, the Road Runner was put away in the heated garage under Ralph's house and was destined to never see daylight again until September 25, 1999, when he brought it to the Mopar Super Weekend at Topeka, KS for its very first outing in twenty years! As you would expect, the original fuel pump was a little week and it was hard to start (some gas down the carb throat helped solve that problem), and it smoked a little out the exhaust, but it was like 1971 all over again looking at a brand new Hemi Road Runner!

This car is sooo original inside and out, that is still has the factory air in the tires! The only things that have been changed are the engine oil, battery and spark plug wires....but Ralph is quick to point out that he still has the original spark plug wires at home. As you can see in these photos, the Road Runner's paint and chrome are still in perfect condition. It is still sitting on its original tires, which are VERY bald. The engine compartment and trunk have not been cleaned and detailed....they appear just as they did twenty years ago when the Road Runner went into storage.

Ralph has never taken the broadcast sheet out of the rear seat for fear of disturbing the car's interior. The Dana housing still has the original paper on it and the factory chalk marks are still visible on the tires and transmission case. A bit of factory over spray is still visible on the exhaust tips and other areas under the car.

After Ralph had his new Road Runner home for a few weeks, he noticed a small dimple in the metal on the passenger's side quarter panel above the rear wheel. It was obviously a defect in the panel when it was installed at the factory prior to the car being painted, as there is no damage to the paint in any way. He immediately returned to the dealership with the car to see about having it repaired. The dealership body man told Ralph he would drill a hole in the panel and use a dent puller to straighten it out and then repaint the whole quarter. Ralph recoiled in disgust at the thought of maiming this beautiful car's body and decided not to let them touch it. The "birthmark" remains as part of this Road Runner's special personality even today, but chances are you won't notice it until Ralph points it out to you.

Several years ago, a construction trailer containing demolition explosives, parked many miles from Ralph's house, was ignited by vandals and caused a tremendous explosion that was felt all around the area. Ralph's garage wall right next to the Road Runner was cracked from the explosion, but luckily the car wasn't damaged.

The selling dealership, Shepherd Motor Company, built a new building and moved to North Kansas City in later years. Eventually they closed down the business. Along with all of the original paperwork and documentation on the Road Runner, Ralph also still has the original key fob that Shepherd's gave him with his new car's keys on it.

Besides the E74 426 Hemi engine which added $833.55 to the Road Runner's price, and the D21 4-speed manual trans costing $206.40, the Road Runner is also optioned with G11 tinted windows (all) at $43.40 and an R11 AM radio at $66.40. It's surprising to see the low-key black bench seat interior in this machine. The Road Runner's total price with options came to $4,000.00. Shepherd's subtracted a discount of $679.05 and Ralph walked away with this wonderful piece of history for the bargain price of only $3,320.95.


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