He has played plenty of tough-guy roles. Col. William Sharp in Armageddon. The prison-guard quarterback in The Longest Yard. The FBI Agent in the TV series Prison Break. Sgt. Jeff Sanderson in Black Hawk Down. Flanagan in Crash.
But when Bill Fichtner takes the controls of his favourite car, a 1970 Plymouth Road Runner, he’s quite nostalgic, along the lines of a contented kid back in his element. Reliving his youth, the grin on his face matches the toothy smile on the Runner’s signature Air Grabber hood scoop.
"I always wanted a Road Runner from my days growing up back in Cheektowaga, New York," says the 51-year-old Fichtner. "I had a ‘69 bronze, four-speed Road Runner when I was in high school. I owned it for all of 13 days.
"My parents convinced me that I should sell the car before I got hurt. They had evidently heard that I was burning rubber every day (driving to and from school), so I sold it. I bought it for $750 and sold it for $1,100 not two weeks later. Not a bad turnaround."
Working a deal with his dad, he bought a 1966 Mustang that became his daily driver for his college days out on Long Island. While the Mustang was a plenty cool car, Fichtner always wanted to replace the Road Runner someday.
Someday came 20 years later when the Chrysler bug resurfaced in the actor. His agent at the time, Joe Rice, knew of Fichtner’s latent Mopar interest and on a whim located a 1970 Road Runner, amazingly enough, through his Honda mechanic.
"Joe told me he had found the perfect car for me," Fichtner says. "I wasn’t looking at the time, but Joe insisted that we drive up to Santa Clarita (north of Los Angeles) and see this guy’s car. Once we got there and pulled the car cover off, my first reaction was, ‘This is too nice of a car for me.’ We left, and it was only after some soul-searching, and Joe’s threat that if I didn’t buy it, he would, that I drove back and bought the car."
The Road Runner sports a 383 V-8 (factory rated at 335 horsepower), a single four-barrel carburetor and factory exhaust manifolds. The “Vitamin C” orange paint and the black hood stripes set off the functional Air Grabber hood scoop (complete with air-munching side graphics).
Inside, the classic Road Runner features the signature black-vinyl interior and a four-speed “pistol-grip” shifter that requires a significant amount of muscle to work.
"The Road Runner has all the classic lines… the body is just perfect. That back window is just incredible with its race-bred contours. It’s just a great car in every way. It drives and rides great and I enjoy driving it whenever possible. And more than once I’ve been stopped by folks looking to buy the car."
And he does let it run on the road.
"My favourite run is up the coast through Malibu and then over the canyon to drive back home. I really enjoy those runs and it gives the Road Runner a place to stretch its legs."
Though it’s a head-turner on the road, Fichtner still likes to show it off. “I love taking the car to cruise nights, like the ones at Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake (a legendary cruising stop in Los Angeles), not far from where I live.”
Fichtner relies on his mechanic, Nick Jennings, to keep the 383 running hard. Jennings is the son of Bob Jennings, as in Bob Jennings Dyno Shop, which has tuned many celebrity-owned vehicles.
So now that he has the Road Runner, what’s next on his list? “While I’d never think of selling the Road Runner, I really like those classic ‘32 Ford roadsters. If I were going to get another car at this time, that’s the kind of car I’d shoot for. That would make things complete, the cherry on the top of the cake.”
Celebrity Car is produced by Wheelbase Communications in conjunction with quarterly publication Celebrity Car Magazine (celebritycarmagazine.com) and the duPont Registry (dupontregistry.com).