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Road Signs

Written By: Lorna Kohn

Not many positive things come from a rodent infestation, but to Greg Vanderpoele’s wife, Missy, it was a sign. A sign that Greg needed to get his car out of the shed and get it fixed the right way, the way he always wanted to.

Nearly 40 years ago, Greg purchased a 1972 Plymouth Road Runner. He was only 15 at the time but he just couldn’t pass up a $1,400 muscle car, even if he couldn’t legally drive it.

“My brother actually found the car,” remembers Greg. “But he had just bought a Dodge Challenger and convinced me I needed it so I bought it with my own money.”

The Road Runner got Greg through high school before it ended up parked in a shed, only to be unleashed for special occasions. From the stories Greg tells (not to be released in print), that may have been for the best.

“I did a lot of dumb things in that car,” admitted Greg. “My friends convinced me into getting it out for my five-year reunion -- and let’s just say we ended up going back into town in reverse.”

When mice began to take up residence in his beloved car, Greg decided it was time to revive it. As a mechanic for 20 years, he wanted to do most of the work himself. He called in favors to friends to help him rebuild the motor and transmission but when it was time for the body work he enlisted the help of The Body Shop in Bradley, South Dakota.  About an hour from his hometown of Lake Wilson, Minnesota, Greg trusted The Body Shop after a glowing recommendation from a friend, and former owner of the car.

“My experience with the guys at The Body Shop has been great,” said Greg. “They kept me informed the whole time and answered any questions I had.”

Greg was even able to go to the shop and help work under the hood himself before they put the fenders back on. Spending most of his adult life as a mechanic, being able to contribute to the restoration of his nearly half-century old car was something that was important to him.

The Road Runner changed ownership five times in the first seven years of its life. As the sixth owner, Greg’s title came with high insurance rates and rising gas prices. It may not have been an ideal time to purchase a gas-guzzling muscle car, but Greg didn’t care. He knew there was something special about this car, and he was right.

“This car has a 440 engine,” explained Greg. “I’ve never seen another one; there were only about 650 or so ever made.”

According to Greg, the rarity of this specific car has increased its value nearly 50-fold. Some sites have listed similar cars for $70,000. In addition to its unique 440 engine, the car is equipped with a factory 727 automatic transmission, factory air conditioning and rear defrost.  As with most classic car owners, Greg doesn’t plan on selling his car anytime soon.

“I’ve had this car for 39 and a half years; that’s longer than I’ve had some of my siblings,” Greg joked. “She is going to the grave with me.”

While the 1972 Road Runner has probably retired from reverse ventures with teenagers, Greg and Missy have several road trips and regional car shows planned for the car. Greg hopes to give her a ‘sibling’ or two – once he wins the lottery. I imagine they would make a much better companion than the family of mice who once took up residence in the headliner.


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