Rare Rides: The 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi Convertible

We have looked at some seriously rare American muscle cars from the past in this monthly column. The 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird of which only 135 were produced, the 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible had 17 examples leave the factory, and the 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZL1 saw only three cars built, are just a few we have covered.

If you really want to talk ultra-rare though, you need to turn your attention towards an automobile that is not only one of the world’s scarcest muscle cars, but one of the rarest cars ever produced. This month’s Rare Rides is doing just that by examining the 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi Convertible!

The 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi Convertible – one of the rarest muscle cars ever produced. (Photo courtesy of Mark Worman.)

The model line that ultimately culminated in this beast of a muscle car has its genesis back in the post-war auto-manufacturing boom and had two-distinct periods comprised of seven generations of designs.

History:

Coronet translates to “Little Crown.” It was first introduced as a full-sized model in 1949 with the lesser trim lines, Wayfarer and Meadowbrook, following shortly behind it. Featuring an egg-shaped, oblong design and equipped with a 230ci flathead straight-six pushing 103hp, the first-gen Coronet could reach top speeds of 90 miles per hour.

The first-generation Dodge Coronet. The car depicted is a 1949 model. (Photo courtesy of GR Auto Gallery.)

Most remarkable though was the car’s fluid-driven, three-speed tranny, which was shifter-free, and operated by depressing a pedal on the floor.

Dodge gave the Coronet several complete makeovers during the 1950s, owing to the fact that the initial car was a sales success. The house of Pentastar upped its performance first with the 1953 introduction of the “Red Ram” 241ci-Hemi V8. The new powerplant featured a two-barrel carb and a 7.1:1 compression ratio, good for 140 horsepower.

Subsequent engine upgrades included a 260hp 315ci-Hemi V8 in 1956, and a snarling 354ci Hemi providing 340 ponies in 1957.

A two-tone 1958 Coronet. (Photo courtesy of classiccars.com.)

The Coronet was dropped from Dodge’s lineup after the 1959 model year to make way for a new naming scheme. The new scheme included the Dart Seneca, Dart Pioneer, Dart Phoenix, Matador, and Polara rounding out the lineup.

But, this was far from the end of the Little Crown. The hiatus was lifted with the release of an all-new Coronet for 1965. This fifth-generation car was now a mid-sized, mid-level offering, featuring the svelte, sleek Jet-Age lines dominating the auto industry at the time. It was initially offered with a slant-six as standard, and an optional 273ci V8.

The sleek, Jet-Age styling of the 1965 model. (Photo courtesy of Streetside Classics.)

A facelift followed for the 1966 model. The 375hp, 440ci V8 and legendary 425hp, 426ci-Hemi V8 “Elephant Motor” were added as optional powerplants.

Redesign:

1968 saw yet another complete redesign to Dodge’s B-body car. Slab sides, a flowing roofline, swollen rear fenders, and crisp lines all around, were hallmarks of the new car. A variety of trim lines were established including the base Coronet, Coronet Deluxe, Coronet 440, Coronet 500, Coronet R/T, and Coronet Super Bee.

The new-for-1970 front-end styling of the Dodge Coronet was controversial at the time of its release, and still remains a love or hate automotive-styling statement. (Photo courtesy of Hemmings Motor News.)

For the 1970 model year, the Coronet’s front end was bequeathed a new look on all trim levels. The new design consisted of twin oval grilles colloquially known as “Bumblebee Wings” that encompassed the quad-headlights. The restyle resulted in what modern collectors and enthusiasts consider to be the most-iconic version of the Coronet.

The R/T was the choicest high-performance trim level, with the aforementioned raised-block 440 Magnum, 4-barrel V8 as the base engine. The 390hp 440 Six-Pack V8 (with three 2-barrel carbs) and 426 Elephant were also optional motors.

The massive 440ci V8 in Six-Pack configuration, featuring three two-barrel carbs. Outfitted this way, the motor was good for a factory rated 390 horsepower. (Photo courtesy of conceptcarz.com.)

Power was transmitted to the rear via a standard-equipment three-speed 727 Torqueflite automatic with the shift lever located on the column or on the floor in an optional console. The A-833 four-speed manual was available as a “no-charge” option as well.

440 cars with the TorqueFlite came with an 8 3/4-inch axle assembly with a 2.94 or optional 3.23 final drive. Hemi automatics came standard with the 3.23. Four-speed versions received a larger 9 3/4-inch Sure-Grip with a 3.54:1 ratio.

Suspension on the R/T consisted of the heavy-duty Torsion-Aire package with a thicker front torsion and anti-roll bar than lesser trims, and beefed up leafs in the rear. One-inch hydraulic shock absorbers made their home at all four corners.

Dodge engineers blessed these powerhouse Coronets with a standard hydraulic drum brake system with 11×3-inch fronts and 11×2.5-inch rears. Power-assisted drums were optional as were vented front discs with 11-inch rotors.

The 426 Hemi was a seriously tight fit even in the spacious engine bay of the Coronet. (Photo courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

Wheels consisted of stamped-steel, 14-inch units with “dog-dish” hubcaps wrapped in F70 whitewall or red stripe tires on 440 cars. Hemi-equipped Coronets received 15-inch wheels with F70 red stripe tires. All R/Ts could be outfitted with optional Magnum 500 wheels.

The R/T received additional external adornments including dummy rear-fender scoops with R/T badging. It was also repeated on the car’s nose and in-between the twin, segmented taillights. A contrasting “Bumblebee” stripe also circled the car’s rear deck and trailing end of the rear quarter panels. A power bulge hood was standard on 440 cars. Hemi cars commanded Ramchager-style twin-scoop induction.

Detail of the non-functional fender scoop that was standard equipment on 1970 Coronet R/Ts. (Photo courtesy of Classic Industries.)

The R/T came standard with vinyl bucket seats up front, color-keyed interior carpeting, and a horizontal 150 mph speedometer.

The Rarest Of The Rare:

Despite all of these options, R/T’s did not fly off showroom floors. This can be attributed to the controversially styled front end and declining consumer interest in the Coronet in general. Only 2,615 Coronet R/Ts were produced for the entire model year. Of those, only 296 cars were convertibles, and shockingly only two were Hemi-equipped, making the 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi Convertible possibly the rarest muscle car ever made.

The Sublime Green 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi convertible. Note the Ramcharger air induction system on the underside of the hood. (Photo courtesy of High Def Forum.)

Of the two ragtop Hemi cars, one was painted in J5 Sublime green with a black Bumblebee stripe and power black convertible top over a white interior.

It featured the Ramcharger hood with Hemi call-outs. Options included Magnum 500 wheels, hoodpins, power windows, power steering, power front disc brakes, and a woodgrain floor console with shifter for the 3-speed TorqueFlite auto. It also has vinyl front seats, clock, “tic-toc” tachometer, and an AM/FM radio.

The unique FT6 Dark Tan Metallic Hemi Coronet convertible. A true stunner. (Photo courtesy of Coronet Tripod.)

The other car was dressed in the unusual and rare FT6 Dark Tan Metallic paint with a white Bumblebee stripe, a matching dark tan interior, and a white convertible top.

The rear of the FT6 Coronet Hemi convertible. (Photo courtesy of Mark Worman.)

This 4-speed car also had the Ramcharger hood with Hemi call-outs and pins, and was outfitted with the 15-inch Rallye wheels, Super Track Pack, chrome passenger-side mirror, power windows, power steering, woodgrain floor console with Hurst pistol grip shifter, vinyl front bucket seats, power front disc brakes, clock with “tic-toc” tach, and an AM radio with 8-track player.

The 4-speed car was subjected to a ground-up restoration for the owner by Mark Worman. It was extensively documented on his show Graveyard Carz. If you’re a fan of the show and Mark’s work, you know the car was brought back to a 100-point factory-correct condition.

The Dark Tan Metallic car undergoing a ground-up restoration. (Photo courtesy of Mark Worman.)

While the 1970 Coronet was less than a hit at the time of its release, Dodge’s pain has been transformed in the past-50 years into a modern enthusiast’s gain. The two R/T Hemi convertibles are now considered amongst the most desirable muscle cars of the era – possibly of all time. Their estimated value of $1.5 million each certainly establishes them at the top of the heap of exclusive rare rides.

See you next month when we deliver another “Rare Ride!”

About the author

Rob Finkelman

Rob combined his two great passions of writing and cars; and began authoring columns for several Formula 1 racing websites and Street Muscle Magazine. He is an avid automotive enthusiast with a burgeoning collection of classic and muscle cars.
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