Frequent readers of Rare Rides may have noticed over the years that a disproportionate number of articles have focused on offerings from the Chrysler Corporation and its corporate brands.
While it’s true that I am a certified Mopar nut and have been since the early 1990s, it has little to do with why so many cars from the House of Pentastar have made it to the pages of this column. The actual reason is due to how the Chrysler Corporation produced and marketed its cars.
Of the Big Three automakers, Chrysler was the smallest of the bunch, and by the mid-1960s, was producing far fewer vehicles than Ford or General Motors. Generally, their muscle divisions, Plymouth and Dodge, made their base models very rudimentary, but tendered them at a price point below that of the competition. To upgrade the cars to high performance or luxury spec was often quite expensive, with niceties such as big-block engines, Sure-Grip differentials, and the like jacking the price up considerably.
Since Mopars were aimed at average people looking to get a decent bang for their buck as opposed to well-heeled performance enthusiasts, the high-priced options tended to be ordered in very small numbers. This accounts for why some versions of Dodge and Plymouth cars were exceedingly scarce, and thusly make for ideal subjects here.
Two options in particular that could push the price of a Mopar through the roof had one-word names: “convertible” and “Hemi.” In this episode of Rare Rides, we’re going to examine a car that featured both, and was consequently one of the rarest vehicles the company ever built.
The car I’m referring to? The 1967 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi convertible!
The model line that ultimately culminated in the ’67 Dodge Coronet had its genesis back in the post-World War II auto-manufacturing boom and had two distinct periods comprised of five generations of designs.
The Coronet, whose name translates from French to “little crown,” was first introduced in 1949 as a full-sized vehicle with two lesser trim models, the Wayfarer and Meadowbrook, beneath it in the lineup.
Available as a two-door club coupe and convertible, a four-door sedan, and a four-door station wagon, the cars all sported conservative designs that featured pontoon fenders and a fair amount of chrome.
After a slate of refreshes and a pair of total redesigns, Dodge retired the Coronet name in 1959, despite robust sales. It was supplanted by a slew of models, including the Dart Seneca, Dart Pioneer, Dart Phoenix, Matador, and Polara.
This was far from the end of the Little Crown though. 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, built on the Chrysler B-Body platform and featuring the svelte, sleek Jet-Age lines dominating the auto industry at the time.
While previous generations of the Coronet were armed with a pack of straight-six and small to medium displacement V8s, Dodge stepped up their game for ’65, designing the car to accept high-performance, big-block engines. They included a 361 cubic-inch 265 horsepower V8, a 383 V8 offering 315 or 330 horsepower, and the legendary 426 cubic-inch Hemi V8 in a 365 horsepower iteration. In 1966 the big, 375 horsepower 440 Magnum was added to the roster in a redesigned Coronet with cutting-edge Coke-bottle styling.
1967 was shaping up to be a pivotal year in the muscle car market. In addition to the existing guard, consisting of the GTO, the Chevelle, the Shelby Mustangs, the Buick Gran Sport, and others, Chevy and Pontiac were set to release the Camaro and Firebird, while Mercury had their Cougar locked and loaded.
Determined to have a pugilist of their own in the ring, Dodge readied a redesign of the Coronet, and planned a high-performance version of it that would leave nothing on the table: the Road/Track or R/T trim.
The 1967 Coronet was built on the same B-Body platform that anchored the 1965 and ’66 models, and rolled on a 116-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 209.7-inches. Offered in four-door sedan, two-door sedan, two-door hardtop, two-door convertible, and four-door wagon configurations, the Coronet came in five distinct trim levels that included the Coronet, Coronet Deluxe, Coronet 440, Coronet 500, and Coronet R/T.
The ’67’s exterior was largely the same as that of the ’66 redesign, but with a mild facelift to the front and rear. This consisted of a restyled grille that incorporated the quad headlights, and out back, smaller, wedge-shaped taillights with a more conservative panel treatment between them.
The rest of the body, including the visually striking, contoured flanks was the same, save for the twin, faux scoops on the leading end of the rear fenders that replaced the previous year’s quad inserts.
The interior of the ’67 Coronet varied across the trim levels, but was fairly well appointed and at least on par with the competition. Options including bucket seats, seating surfaces, consoles, radios, air conditioning, tinted glass, and the like were available.
Under the hood, a legion of powerplants could be had, depending on trim level. The base engine was the 170 cubic-inch straight-six that produced an underwhelming 101 horsepower. Next up was the 225 cubic-inch straight six, good for 145 ponies.
The entry-level V8 was the two-barrel version of the 273, which upped the power stakes to 180. The venerable 318 was next with its 230 ponies. A four-barrel version of the 273 was the next step, producing 235 horses.
Then came the big blocks. 383 two-barrel buyers could enjoy 270 horses, while the four-barrel version provided a spirited 335 horsepower. Topping off the lineup was the previously mentioned 440 Magnum followed by the range-topping 426 Hemi “elephant motor,” seriously underrated at 425 ponies.
Backing these lumps were a choice of a three-speed manual, the robust A-833 four-speed, or Chrysler’s A-727 TorqueFlite slushbox. Power was sent to the ground via a trio of differentials ranging from an 8 ¼-inch unit to the beefy 9 ¾-inch Dana 60. Final drive ratios were legion, and depended on the engine/transmission combination.
Suspension was standard Chrysler fare of the day, consisting of unequal-length control arms with torsion bars and tubular shock absorbers up front, with a solid axle on semi-elliptical leaf springs and telescoping shocks in the rear. Most Coronets had 10-inch manual drums at all four corners and rolled on 14-inch steelies with bias-ply rubber, but there were available options on both depending on trim level.
For those who wanted a large dose of performance in their mid-sized Dodge, potential buyers needed to look no further than the Coronet R/T line. Combining all the top mechanicals the company had on offer, along with added equipment and trim not available on other Coronets, the R/T was a true apex predator.
Beginning with the R/T’s exterior, a bespoke, chromed, “electric shaver” style front grille replaced the one on standard models (the Coronet 440 had a similar, but different grille.) In the back, the theme was continued, with a similarly styled, louvered trim panel stretching from fender to fender, covering the taillights and the center panel.
The hood was adorned with a set of plastic louvered scoops with metal ornamentation. Die-cast metal R/T badging was everywhere on the exterior, with one offset on the left side of the grille, one on the tail panel, and a pair on the rear fenders behind the faux scoops.
A fine body-side pinstripe, available in black, white, blue, or red was present to emphasize the car’s Coke-bottle sides, and could, and commonly was, deleted at the time of order.
Dodge was definitely shooting for a sleeper look, because that’s all there was to let potential street racer opponents from knowing that this wasn’t grandma’s Coronet.
Inside, full-foam, vinyl bucket seats, carpeting, and a 150 mph speedometer were standard, and a choice of black, white, red, blue, gold, and copper interiors were available depending on exterior color. Popular options included a center console or a fixed center cushion with a pulldown armrest.
Powering the R/T was a choice of Chrysler’s two top motors – the 440 Magnum and the Hemi – with the 440 being the standard powerplant. In 1967 Coronet R/T duty, the 440 received new heads with 2.08-inch intake valves, larger ports, new low-restriction exhaust manifolds, an aggressive camshaft, and a Carter AVS four-barrel.
If the 440’s 375 horsepower wasn’t enough, the Hemi – a pricey $908 option – would definitely do the trick. Featuring twin Carter four-barrel carbs, cast iron heads with 2.25/1.90-inch intake and exhaust valves, a 10.25:1 compression ratio, and a free-flowing dual exhaust, the Hemi was one of the most powerful engines of the era.
Two transmissions were available. A standard A-727 TorqueFlite shifted via the steering column had four clutches in 440 duty and five if your R/T was Hemi-equipped. Shifting moved to the car’s floor if the console was optioned. The A-833 four-speed manual was a no-cost option and featured a heavy-duty 11-inch clutch.
R/Ts equipped with 440s and TorqueFlites were fitted with an 8 ¾-inch rear containing 2.94:1 gears. 3.23:1 gearing was an available option. In Hemi automatics, the latter ratio was mandatory. Likewise, if the car was equipped with the Sure-Grip limited slip package, 3.23 was the lone gearset. Four-speed cars came with the Dana 60, housing a 3.54:1 ratio. Opting to row your own gears mandated heavy-duty axles and the Sure-Grip LSD.
The R/T’s suspension was beefed up quite a bit from its lesser Coronet brethren. Deemed the Police Handling Package in Dodge parlance, it consisted of heavy-duty .92-inch torsion bars, ball joints, one-inch shock absorbers, a .94-inch anti-sway bar up front, and six-leaf extra-heavy-duty springs in the rear.
For slowing down, R/T cars came equipped with manually operated 11 x 3-inch drums in front, and 11 x 2.50-inch ones in the rear. Both vacuum power assist and 10.4-inch front discs were available for an upcharge.
Standard wheels and tires for the R/T were 7.75 x 14 red-streak tires on 5.5-inch steel wheels with basic hubcaps. Mag-style covers were available, as were the 5.5 x 14-inch Magnum 500 wheels.
Options on the R/T were numerous and included equipment as varied as power windows, power steering, remote driver’s mirror, vinyl tops, a tachometer, and more. Hemi engine aside though, no option was more expensive than the convertible top.
$240 bought you a black or white vinyl convertible top actuated by a dash mounted switch. Also included in that price were body modifications for stiffening and stowing the top when down.
All in, an R/T Hemi convertible with choice options such as the power front discs and the Sure-Grip LSD would set you back well over $4000 – big money for 1967.
Having spent that though, you had one of the most potent muscle cars on the streets and boulevards of America; one that was capable of five-second 0-60 bursts, and quarter-miles falling by the wayside in 13.5 seconds at 98 mph.
A paltry 628 Coronet R/T convertibles left the factory in 1967. Of those, only three – yes, three – were equipped with the 426 Hemi. Two of the cars were four-speeds and were painted QQ1 Dark Red Metallic and GG1 green, and only one, in WW1 White, was outfitted with the TorqueFlite.
All three of the Hemi convertibles have survived, and owing to their rarity and extreme performance, these cars are now highly treasured examples of a bygone era in Mopar performance. Very rarely do they change hands, but when they do, they fetch serious coin.
Such was the case when the Dark Red car sold at the 2019 Mecum Auction in Indianapolis for $230,000 plus commission.
Expensive? For sure, but understandable for one of the world’s great Rare Rides.