Classic Car Watch
Muscle Car Look-a-Likes 

January 1, 2005
By Scott Lewis

I was planning to run another list of Pony cars this month. Camaros are my favorite classic cars. But two things changed my mind. First, I have been working on an article for my Car Corner column about clone vehicles. Second, I came across a clone that I really liked

So this month I decided to get that article finished and coordinate that with a list of clones that I find worthwhile. Now if you read this month's Car Corner article you will learn that I hate clones. But they are out there, and sometimes they are what I think they should be. In a nutshell I think of these cars as look-a-like cars to high performance cars. As you will see below I found a few nice "looking" cars.

I will try to find matching "non-clone" cars, just to show you what is out there if you wanted to take on a project to make a car look like a performance model. And I will have a twist that you will have to read further to see.

The car that inspired this month's list is a 70 Road Runner Clone. Yuck! I hate that word. It not only inspired this month's cars, it also inspires me. I really like it, so much so that it will be no surprise that it made this month's preferred status.

Let's get on with the rest of the clones:

1970 Plymouth Road Runner Clone - $13,995

70_rr_clone_gold_1.jpg (52352 bytes) 70_rr_clone_gold_2.jpg (42634 bytes) 70_rr_clone_gold_3.jpg (51167 bytes) 70_rr_clone_gold_4.jpg (61555 bytes)

Description: This car is an absolutely stunning 1970 Road Runner clone. The car appears to have 28,968 original miles on the entire car. We are in the process of getting documentation. The original interior is perfect throughout. The engine compartment is original and the paint on the motor is still very good. The car does not have any rust anywhere with the exception of some minor surface rust under the original trunk mat. The stainless, weather stripping and glass is all mint as is the entire car. It features factory A/C. Roadrunner 383 hood and steering wheel. Correct emblems and stripes. Power steering and brakes. 17" torque-thrust wheels. Show quality body and paint. Original interior looks like new. Runs and drives like new. MUST SEE!

Value: Satellite: $ - $9,375 (+%) 
           Road Runner: $ - $20,150 (+%) 

Source: Premium Motors

Comments: Wow! The main picture of this car really is stunning. And this is what a clone should be. Notice that a Road Runner is worth over $20 grand in excellent condition. That means there is no way I can afford one on my $15K budget. But this car has all the right Road Runner "look" items at a reasonable price. It even has the Road Runner character on the fender with the dust ball coming from the side scoops. This is the reason I like the 70 model Road Runner the best of the first generation cars.

Now, if you read this month's Car Corner article on clones you should have walk away with the point that you are paying for the craftsmanship in making the clone. This car looks amazing. It has the correct hood and proper striping. It also has a great set of wheels. I really like the Torque Thrust wheels, so they really did save me the trouble of putting them on myself. Those wheels and tires would have cost me at least $1,500 if I added them to a car. Finally, this car has air conditioning, power steering and power brakes. I should be able to put this car into daily driving immediately.

So, what's missing. Well, performance. They don't say it, but we all know this car has a 318. Now, I had a friend that is the original owner of a 73 Road Runner with a 318 and he managed to get it to run 13.9 sec. in the quarter mile. Granted he had 4.30:1 gears in the back, but it was with the original engine with bolt on parts. I couldn't see dual exhaust on the car, but that could be the picture. Regardless I would add headers and a good dual exhaust system to try and make sure this car sounded like a 383 Road Runner.

Finally... does it have the horn. I had a 73 Road Runner and loved the "Beep-Beep" horn. Year One makes them so it should not be hard to get one if they missed this simple thing when making this clone.

Because I love "the look" of this car so much I think I could live with the performance of the 318... especially if this really is a numbers matching car with less than 30K miles. This would be a very slow project. I would drive it as is, and save money for making it more and more like a real Road Runner as the years pass. Put 50K miles on it and then swap in a 383 or a Hemi. That would be cool. Maybe a 360 crate motor. All simple long term plans.

One thing I might not do it switch to bucket seats and a console. I know, I always say I will do that. But first generation Road Runners (68-70) are much more typically found with bench seats and column shift automatics. It works here. I do wonder if Mopar makes a decent overdrive automatic that would just bolt in to give better gas mileage. That would be cool. A little nitrous could be used to fake the performance when necessary. I am liking this car more and more with every sentence. I better stop before I get too excited.

1969 Plymouth Satellite - $6,800

69_satelite_6_cyl_3_speed_1.jpg (50215 bytes)Description: 6 cylinder engine, 3 speed on column! PS, nice clean body, floors and trunk! White with nice black bench seat interior! TN car just out of 20 year storage, one family owned until this week! Make a nice Road Runner or GTX Clone.

Value: $ - $ (+%)  

Source: Herman's Classics

Comments: This car has a great chance to be a clone. Yuck, did I say that. What I meant to say was that this car has a great chance to look like a Road Runner. As a bonus this car is equipped with a manual transmission. The big question here is which way to go. You can always throw a 383 or 440 in this car and back that up with a 4 speed. Poof you have the performance of a Road Runner. But this car just doesn't look cool. I just can't see a white Road Runner. At least we have a black interior, so it will go with any color we should try to paint this car.

So, for the first time since I started this column I am thinking about planning for a paint job. If I am planning for it I need to keep it in my $15,000 budget. I have not priced body and paint work, but I am going to go out on a limb and guess I could get a good paint job for $3,000. I hope that is a lot, and it would be less. But a budget is a budget. I would try to do some of the work myself. Now I can't do bodywork or paint, but I can do some prep work. I would expect to find a body shop that will work with me. I would remove as much trim from the car as is possible. Bumpers, window molding, lights and grill, etc. Then I would consider color sanding and buffing out the paint myself.

Once we paint this car to be cool looking we have to decide how much power we need for the look. What I am getting at here is would it be possible to swap in a 5 speed manual transmission and keep the 6 cylinder engine. That would be different. I kind of like the idea, but it could be a scary project. Getting air conditioning in with the six might be a problem as well. I am liking this as a challenge more and more.

1968 Plymouth Satellite - $7,950

68_satelite_v8_white_2.jpg (39937 bytes)Description: 2dr Hardtop clean California car. Stock V8, Auto P/S, P/B, Bucket seats. After market wheels. New paint (Artic White). Excellent Interior.

Value: $ - $ (+%)  

Source: Brockers Beautys

Comments: This car is a little more than the 69 with a 6 cylinder above. But I gave the nod to the 69 because it has a manual transmission and a black interior. This car is also white, so we will still need to budget three grand for a paint job. Once that is done we probably won't be able to swap in a manual and stay under budget so swapping in a 360 crate motor might be the way to go. If I really want to mimic a Road Runner I should stuff in a 383. Either way I would convert the interior over to black and add all the Road Runner items to get the look down. And don't forget the Beep Beep horn.

1973 Pontiac Trans Am Clone - $14,495

Description: Great "Trans Am" Clone just completed. A California rust free car. Rebuilt 350ci with automatic transmission. NEW paint, interior, decals, spoilers, wheels & tires. Power steering & brakes. CD sound system. Drive a new Trans Am today!

Value: Firebird Coupe: $ - $5,600 (+%) 5525/3350
            Trans Am: $ - $16,000 (+%) 16100/9750

Source: Arizona Connection

Comments: I love the look of this car. This is a perfect example of a look-a-like car since it has a 350 engine. But it doesn't bother me too much. I would make sure the engine produces a great sound, so people will think it has a big block. This car is a returning guest to this column. It was posted here back in August. At that time it did not make the preferred car mainly because it was sold, or so I thought. It was no longer listed by the dealer. A couple of months later it showed up again priced at $14,995. Now it is down to $14,495. I don't know what it will be priced at by the time you read this.

What I like most is that all the visual items are present, including the fender vents. I have seen plenty of Trans Am clones that don't have them.

This car needs air conditioning. At over fourteen thousand dollars this car is overpriced. Since they had it for sale for $12K a few months ago I would remind them of that fact and try to offer around $11K and see what kind of bite I get. I would be willing to go 12K, but don't tell them that.

I could really see myself in this car. The color looks awesome, and as long as it is a good quality paint job I would leave it as is. However, I would tweak the drive train. I would add headers and a good sounding dual exhaust system. As long as your going to look like a Trans Am you should make sure you sound like one too.

1973 Pontiac Firebird Esprit - $8,500

73_firebird_esprit_gold_1.jpg (1230312 bytes)Description: Outstanding original with only 32k miles. Garaged. Texas car. Gold (Rockford Files). Showroom condition interior, brown saddle leather look. A,C, PS, PB. 350. 8-track.

Value: $ - $ (+%)  

Source: Collector Car Trader

Comments: This car looks it might make an interesting Trans Am look-alike. Let's get a late 70's style screaming chicken in gold to go with the stock color. I would how hard it would be to cut the hood for the shaker scoop and fenders for the vents and keep the paint looking good so we don't have to repaint the car. That would be the big trick. But we would have to get the appropriate front and rear spoilers and fender things and paint them to match. I like the idea. For the price this should make a decent project car. The price is well within out self imposed $15K budget, allow plenty to get it right. Also, this car has all the basic power requirements for a daily driver, including air conditioning. We could start driving this car right away while we plan the body modifications.

Let's not forget... this car is located in Texas making it an easy car to see and inspect.

1971 Pontiac Firebird - $7,100

71_firebird_blue_1.jpg (30701 bytes)Description: 71 firebird! 350 2bbl, metallic blue, no rust, past AZ smog test, good running car, must see! must sell!

Value: $ - $ (+%)  

Source: Collector Car Trader

Comments: As long as we are willing to shell out $3,000 for a paint job, we can look at this car as a possible Trans Am look-a-like. We would ditch the Formula hood for a Trans Am hood with the rear facing shaker style scoop. We would strip off the vinyl roof, add fender vents, spoilers, etc. Then paint it a cool color. The only question is whether to do the single stripe look or go for the screaming chicken decal like the Trans Am look-alike above.

1970 Pontiac Firebird - $10,500

70_firebird_400_red_1.jpg (58651 bytes)Description: Solid Tennessee Car! bright GM red paint, new black vinyl interior, 400 ci. engine, Holley 600 cfm 4 bbl, Edelbrock aluminum intake, 6X heads, mild cam, headers, HEI ignition, 8 mm wires, chrome breather & valve covers, power steering, disc brakes, 350 turbo hydromantic transmission, 78,000 original miles, bucket seats, console, Sun Pro gauges, GM seat belts, Grant tilt wheel, 2 1/2 Flowmaster dual exhaust, 10 bolt rear end, new custom 15" wheels, new tires 235/60/15 fronts & 245/60/15 rears, Great Car!

Value: $ - $ (+%) 

Source: Collector Car Trader

Comments: Here we would be spending more to buy a Trans Am look-a-like project. The extra cost up front would be for that 400 engine. This car should have the performance of a Trans Am. We just have to concentrate on the visual elements and getting the car to look and drive its best.

1972 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 Clone - $15,995

72_chevelle_ss_clone_black_1.jpg (84089 bytes)Description: SS396 clone, outstanding big block Chevelle, 4spd, P/S, P/B, 396ci V8, bucket seats, nice white interior, gorgeous black paint w/vinyl top, Rallye wheels, ready to drive a+nywhere!

Value: Malibu: $ - $11,500 (+%) 
            SS396 : $ - $19,375 (+%) 

Source: Brockers Beautys

Comments: I hate clones, and this is a perfect example. Look at the value difference between a standard Chevelle Malibu vs. an SS396. Eight Grand! Ouch! This car is over priced and over my budget. So why is it in here? Quite simply... because it has a 4 speed connected to that 396 big block engine. I just can't resist it.

The only thing missing from the package is air conditioning. Because of that, and the fact that clones are not recognized by pricing guides, I would straight out tell them I need to add A/C (it is a black car that I will drive in Texas) and I have a $15K budget. I would try to get them to $13,500, but would be willing to go to $14,000. Remember, I bought my 67 Camaro RS Convertible for $13,000 and it was advertised for $15,900. Maybe we have a chance. At least this Chevelle clone has the right engine.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Clone - $12,950

70_chevelle_ss_clone_gray_350_1.jpg (64665 bytes)Description: Beautiful SS Clone! Freshly Rebuilt High Performance 350ci V8 Headers Dual Exhaust 350 Turbo Auto Trans w/Moon-Eyes Shifter New Interior Bucket Seats SS Dash Excellent Body New Paint 15" Rallye Wheels P/S P/B Runs & Drives Great! Sharp Car!

Value: $ - $11,175 (+%) 

Source: Brockers Beautys

Comments: Here is a more typical Chevelle SS clone... with an incorrect small block engine. However, there is no denying that this car is $3,000 lower in price than the big block clone above. In fact, it is less that $2,000 over what a plain Malibu should cost in excellent condition. So maybe we can cut them some slack for only doing "the look."

Of course, we need to add air conditioning to make this a daily driver. I like the look, and a 350 equipped Chevelle could make a nice classic driver project car. In the long run I would either swap in a big block or a manual transmission. I would have to save a while for either. In the mean time I could just drive it as is.

1970 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu - $12,500

70_chevelle_24K_green_1.jpg (359564 bytes)Description: 24,000 original miles, 350 V-8, automatic trans, air conditioning. Original Rallye wheels & tires plus aftermarket wheels and tires. No disappointments This Is The Real Deal. 

Value: $ - $11,175 (+%)  

Source: Collector Car Trader

Comments: I didn't spend a lot of time looking for Chevelles to counter the two clones above. There a lot of Chevelles out there, of widely varying quality. But I did come across this excellent, extremely low mileage example that seemed like a good example of where you would be better able to put your money.

Let's assume for one minute that this car is exactly as advertised... a true 24K original miles Chevelle with the original wheels and a set of aftermarket wheels. It also has air conditioning, so we can put it to use as a daily (or near daily) driver right away. This is your basic Chevelle. We could always add SS look items to it, or just add some performance under the hood and in the suspension to enjoy driving it. Either way, I like that it is a very clean Malibu.

I drove a 1970 Chevelle Malibu down to Texas from New York. I bought it for $500, and it was a piece of crap. But I enjoyed it as a project car until it was not worth keeping anymore. This is the cliché of reliving my youth and having another chance with a 70 Malibu, except this time I would start with a car in mint condition rather that a hulking piece of crap that needed an engine rebuild the day I brought it home.

1973 Plymouth Road Runner Clone - $6,900

73_rr_clone_440_4_speed_1.jpg (42864 bytes)Description: Clone project car, 440, 4 speed, new rallye interior, have 95% parts there, over 10K invested, must sell.

Value: $ - $ (+%)  

Source: Collector Car Trader

Comments: This car does not look like much, but it pulls at my heart strings. I had a 73 Road Runner with a 440. The 440 was not available with a 4 speed in 73, so this car will not pass close scrutiny as a clone (typical). However, my Road Runner had a vinyl roof, as does this one. The price is low enough that I would be at least willing to call. At the minimum I need to see more pictures, especially of the interior. He mentions a Rallye interior. Hopefully that means it has the round gauges as opposed to the big bar speedometer setup. If it does have the bar style speedometer that would be a deal breaker. Rust will also be a deal breaker. I only mention this car because of my fondness for my 73 that I had to let go years ago.

Now, this is a perfect example of the right reason to go with a clone. This car is priced at $6,900. Our next car is the real deal... and notice the price. When the clone is less than half the price of the real deal you are getting a clone for the right reasons.

1973 Plymouth Roadrunner GTX - $18,500

73_rr_gtx_green_1.JPG (44787 bytes)Description: Original GTX package, 440hp, A727 transmission and 3:55 SureGrip rear axle. Less than 37k original miles. Like new interior, original style vented exhaust tips, rare gold interior, mostly original Forest Green metallic paint with white stripes. Slap stick console, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, AM/FM radio, Rally wheels and original General Scrambler spare tire. Garaged and never raced. Original build sheet and dealer window sticker. 

Value: $ - $ (+%) 

Source: Cars On Line

Comments: Here is the twist for the month. Up until now I have been showing you clones, and then regular versions of cars that you could get instead of a clone. Ideally you could take the non-clone car and go for the look yourself as a project. This one is different. Here I am showing you the real deal. I am doing this because I stumbled onto this car while looking for Road Runner clones, and this is my car.

I know, this car is so far out of my $15K budget that it is a waist of time. Well, when I bought my 67 Camaro convertible I managed to buy it for $2,900 less than the asking price. If I did that here this car would cost $15,600, only $600 over budget. Plus, like I said above, this is MY car. I had a 1973 Road Runner GTX with a 440. I think 73 was the only year that they put the GTX on the Road Runner instead of its own model. I bought my 73 Road Runner GTX off of my best friend's brother, the original owner. My friend didn't believe me that it was a GTX as well as a Road Runner, even though it was his brother's car and he saw it in his driveway for years. The GTX emblems were long gone, so I bought new ones from a dealer. You have to look close, but they go on the hood bulge just above the 440, which is "cut out" of the stripe that wraps around the hood bulge.

Mine was a piece of crap. The engine was so tired it could not even chirp the tires. It had rust in the quarter panels big enough to put your fist through. But it had a few redeeming qualities. 1) My friend's brother only wanted $500 for it. 2) He was willing to let me make payments (and I was broke at the time). 3) The interior was almost mint, with a couple of tears in the drivers seat as the only thing wrong (seat covers made the interior look mint). 4) It had a 440. Even if it was slow there was potential.

That car was a roller coaster of emotions. The timing chain went while I was still making payments. My friend's bother let me slide on the rest of the payments (I ended up paying $320 for the car). A few months later the engine spun a bearing, and it sat for 6 months while I saved for a new engine. The new engine made the car super fast. Then the electrical system went out and I had to junk the car... after taking my engine out. I sold the engine when I joined the Air Force.

This car reminds me soooo much of my old car that I am willing to go the extra mile. I would not pay $18K, but I would be willing to pay $15-16K. It has air conditioning, power steering and brakes, so its ready to drive. Gas mileage will suck, but I don't care. I would not drive this car everyday, but I would drive it a lot. I really wish I had enough money in the bank to afford this one now. In fact, this is the only car I have seen since I started this column that has made me think I should consider financing a classic car.

I like it that much... as is... with no changes!

1974 Plymouth Road Runner - $12,500

74_rr_340_blue_1.jpg (52687 bytes)Description: 340 V8, runs great! 16,932k miles reading on the odometer, power steering and brakes.

Value: $ - $ (+%)  

Source: Ted Vernon Specialty Automobiles

Comments: To continue the switch, and stay in budget, I thought I would show you this Road Runner.

Would I really pick a clone over the real thing if both were in my budget. I doubt it, but I wanted to make a point. Besides this Road Runner needs air conditioning and is overpriced. If I could get this car for $10,000 I would do it.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS clone - $15,900

69_camaro_ss_clone_burgundy_1.jpg (68108 bytes)Description: Burgundy metallic, 350 engine, 4spd, power disc brakes, cowl hood, spoilers, dual exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers, 15" rally's, Goodyear Eagle's, fresh ivory interior, Alpine am/fm stereo cassette.

Value: Camaro: $ - $13,450 (+%) 
            SS 350: $ - $22,450 (+%) 

Source: Klemme Klassic Kars

Comments: This car is slightly above CPI's best price for a base Camaro coupe. After all, a clone is not really worth more. However, I am willing to concede a slight price hike for workmanship. After all, it does cost money to paint on a decent set of stripes, and add the appropriate emblems, spoilers, etc. So is that worth a little more than two grand. Maybe. Is the 4 speed transmission worth two grand... to me. NADA allows about an extra grand for the 4 speed over an automatic. Considering the cost to swap one in I am willing to concede this one. If this car is in really good or excellent condition... which also means no rust... then I think the price is fair for a dealer. But its condition better stand up to scrutiny.

If I had the cash I would e-mail them for more pictures immediately to try and assess the condition of this car. I expect this is not the original engine, but that is just a vibe I am getting. I don't care, and it only helps with the negotiating if it is not a numbers matching car.

The only thing we have to worry about (after the condition) is air conditioning. I would use the non original motor, and lack of air conditioning to try and get the price down.

Here's an interesting point. On their web site this car was listed with two different prices. On their inventory page it was listed at $15,900, but on the car's own page it was listed at $17,900. Did they lower the price, or are they trying to jack the price. Either way this is why I say everything is negotiable. Let's offer $14,000 and see what turns up.

I did not put a non clone Camaro in here this month because I am having too much trouble finding any 69 Camaros that are in gat least good condition and in my price range. Go figure. Besides, all the Camaros out there are now clones. Jeez!