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Muscle Car Throwdown: 1968 GTO VS Road Runner

Published November 18, 2015

1968 remained a strong year for the muscle cars that Americans had come to adore. While we were still a couple of years away from the peak performance numbers that could be reached, this model year provided some very strong cars.

Very few of them are more recognizable than the GTO and the Road Runner, both of which are some of the most powerful vehicles from the era. But, in a showdown of which car is actually better, who would win?

68 road runner

Photo Credit: Barrett Jackson

No doubt there are haters among us. Those of us who would tout a different car altogether. Or, maybe you have already chosen which car reigns supreme, based on your own vast automotive knowledge. Either way, one thing remains constant: There aren’t as many of these cars left on the road as there used to be, making them much harder to find. That simple fact has a direct impact on which car is a better buy. I do want to say, here, that the results are based on cars which are kept stock.

Power numbers:

With the exception of the 426 Hemi, which was only placed in a very low number of Road Runners for ’68, both cars are right about equal in terms of performance. The offering for the Road Runner was a 335 horsepower 383 with 425 lb-ft of torque. Those power numbers helped it get down the ¼ mile track in 15 seconds at a speed of 96 miles per hour.

383 road runner engine

383 Road Runner. Photo Credit: How Stuff Works

The Pontiac engine offerings were stuck at the 400 cubic inch mark, without any options for a bigger, more powerful engine. However, there were many different power ratings for these 400s ranging from 265 horses up to 370 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. However, it is widely believed that the ram air 400s were grossly underrated for power. The bigger power numbers equate into the GTO scooting down the track slightly faster.

400 Pontiac

400 Pontiac. Photo Credit: Barrett Jackson

Performance:

The GTO beats out the Road Runner in performance for model year 1968, unless the Hemi gets involved—which it rarely ever does. The Goat can out run the Bird in the ¼ mile at 14.5 seconds with a speed of 98 miles per hour. Neither car was designed to go around curves and turns at higher speeds.

Rear-end:

All of the Road Runners came standard with a Dana 60 and a gear ratio of either 3.54:1 or 4.10:1 in the rear end to help aid in quicker acceleration. The GTOs had a wide array of rear ends that could be had, with the lowest gear ratio coming in at 4.33:1. However, a vast majority of all GTOs for this year came with a higher ratio, at around 3.55:1. It is hard to tell which rear end you’re getting, without climbing underneath the car and finding the axle code. It is also possible, however, to get a turd rear end in a Goat, if you’re not careful. 

68 pontiac gto

Photo Credit: Pontiac Server

Weight:

One of the things that made the highly under-powered Road Runner go almost as fast as the more powerful GTO, is the fact that the car weighed about 100 lbs less at 3,405 lbs.

Availability of parts:

Why is this important? Well, if you’ve had your eyes set on a particular car for several years and finally have enough money to buy one–but it needs a ton of work, you may be up a creek if only 15,000 cars were built. You’re just not going to be able to find parts.

Having said all of that, there were over 87,000 GTOs made, and about 45,000 Road Runners built in 1968. Thus, there are likely more parts available for the GTO. Though, there are clearly a lot less than that many Goats and Road Runners left on the streets today. 

Current value:

It is hard to determine a base value for cars that are nearly 50 years old. There is a lot that can impact value like, how original is the car? Is the car free from rust? Has it been restored in any way? Was the car beaten to death on the track?

Having said that, the vast majority of prices for both cars are on par with each other and seem to fall between 20,000 and 40,000 dollars. Of course, these are just estimates, and many cars can be worth more or less than that amount.

The winner:

Picking a clear winner for this Muscle Car Throwdown was not an easy task. Truly, the cars are very comparable to each other. They have roughly the same performance numbers and value. Unless, of course, you’re picking a fight with a Hemi Road Runner.

Though, the production quantity to value numbers seem to be off for the Plymouth (because there were so few of them made), meaning that they could be a better buy, in terms of investment purposes. 

68 GTO rear

Photo Credit: Barrett Jackson

The overall winner, however, is the GTO. If you plan to keep the car as stock as possible, 1968 GTOs have a higher thrill factor, and there were more of them on the road so the parts should be more plentiful. However, though this was hard to choose, the introduction of the 440 in 1969 would have changed the outcome of this throwdown, significantly.

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Calvin Escobar
About Calvin Escobar

The Car scene is so diverse Where I come from, most enthusiasts recognize the amazing engineering (particularly the engines). The bulk of the ridicule originates from the manner in which many of the vehicles are modded/maintained. Thus, the jokes and or hate tends to be aimed more at the owner rather than the machine. All of which makes seeing properly sorted old Toyota's and Hondas at car meets, auto shows, and track days all the more refreshing.

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