Dodge Hemi Coronet R/T

Chrysler’s 426 Hemi engine made its reputation on the race track, but it also powered a generation of street machines that only added to the legendary status it enjoys today, despite severely limited production numbers. This 1970 Dodge Hemi Coronet R/T Coupe is an example of one of the rarest Hemi 4-speed Mopars ever built, rarer even than the 62 Plymouth Cudas so equipped in 1971. In fact it is one of only thirteen Hemi Coronet R/Ts built in 1970, the first of just four with the combination of 426/425 HP Hemi engine and New Process 4-speed manual transmission.

Stylistically the 1970 Coronet was worlds removed from its 1965 progenitor, which marked the return of the Coronet nameplate on an intermediate after a seven-year absence from the Dodge model lineup. After just one year the Coronet and its Plymouth counterpart were completely restyled for 1966, adopting the now-famous “Coke-bottle” shape that characterized the full-size and intermediate offerings of the period. Unfortunately, General Motors and Ford had embraced the theme with much more curvaceous designs, once again leaving an Elwood Engel-designed Mopar in the position of playing catch-up with the competition’s styling advances.

There was no playing catch-up on the track, however. Only Chrysler had a Hemi engine, and it continued to reign supreme over the competition despite extensive detuning to make it more suitable for street use. The new “Street Hemi” established the configuration that would remain virtually unchanged until it was dropped from the lineup for 1972. A pair of progressively-activated Carter AFB 4-barrel carburetors sat in line atop a dual-plane aluminum intake manifold between enormous Black crinkle-finish valve covers; compression was reduced from the Race Hemi’s 12.5:1 ratio to a more tractable 10.25:1, and a hydraulic cam offered smoother operation at idle and more linear power delivery. Otherwise the Hemi remained a tough and reliable powerhouse that could yank the 3,400-pound Coronet from a standing start to 60 MPH in just 5.3 seconds, acceleration described by Motor Trend as “absolutely shattering.”

The Coronet R/T’s Hemi powerplant was complemented with a choice of heavy-duty drivelines: a Torqueflite automatic transmission and 8¾ inch rear end – perfect for street use – or the competition-oriented combination of 4-speed manual backed by the bulletproof 9¾ -inch Dana 60 third member. Like all other Hemi-powered Mopars, Coronet R/Ts utilized heavy duty suspension, particularly in the rear where staggered leaf springs capitalized on the Hemi’s tremendous torque by acting as highly effective traction bars; no-one who has ever seen a Hemi Mopar launch from the starting line at the local drag strip will soon forget the sight of the entire car bouncing upward with each shift as the rear tires are planted to the asphalt.

The Coronet was restyled in 1968 as Engel and his staff continued to pursue the competition. The full-length body-side character lines were now confined to the quarter panels, giving way to a much smoother look that suited the car’s upscale position. In 1969 the Coronet’s front and rear styling was only slightly changed, but in 1970 the model received all-new front sheet metal and a dramatic split front grill with chromed surrounds. The new look met with mixed reaction from the press and buyers, but it is as instantly recognizable today as it was in 1970.

Source: Mecum Auctions as part of the Harrisburg event in July, 2014.

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