autoevolution
 

1968 Dodge Coronet Born With a 440 4-Speed R/T Gets the HEMI Upgrade, No One Cares

The American Performance Generation of the mid-and-late-sixties and the (very) early seventies spawned a great many high-speed machines. Virtually all makers with a shadow of self-respect had at least one muscle offering for the hardcore enthusiasts. The bulk of the power freaks came – naturally – from the Big Three, who were in the middle of a rapacious frenzy of reaching new heights of road and track performance.
1968 Dodoge Coronet R/T HEMI 45 photos
Photo: primoclassicsllc.com
1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI
Chrysler Corporation took the “Road And Track” battlefield to heart. It released the R/T breed of Dodges to retaliate against General Motors’ and Ford’s mean machines. The Charger may be the superstar of the two-letter high-punching club of Mopars. Still, other cousins did exceptionally well in kicking competition's exhausts when adorned with the proper R/T armaments.

The Coronet is the perfect example – Dodge’s intermediate-platform sales workhorse received the blazon of muscle car-ness in 1967. One year later, it got a fresh styling – along with the rest of Dodge’s lineup – but retained the essential bits.

Engine, transmission, suspensions, brakes, rears – everything was still available for the second year of the Coronet. R/T was pretty restrictive in options for the power-makers: only two engines and two transmissions were on the table.

1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI
Photo: primoclassicsllc.com
But Chrysler cut no performance corners for its grunting Coronet R/Ts: the duo consisted of the standard 440-cubic-inch V8 (7.2 liters) Magnum or the smaller-displacing hemispherical-heads-wielding 426-CID (7.0-liter) Street HEMI alternative. Needless to say, the NASCAR-upsetting optional engine was the expensive choice (and the rare one, consequently).

The performance Coronet was offered either as a hardtop or convertible – no sedans with tire-smoking attitude (that was a 21st-century flick that the Charger was treated with, some decades later). In ’68, 10,280 Coronets with a sheet-metal roof rolled off the assembly lines wearing the R/T brand on their hinds.

The vast majority found its way to U.S. dealerships: 9,964 units - 7,751 equipped with the 440 Magnum engine and a heavy-duty TorqueFlite automatic three-speed box. Far less popular were the four-speeds, with just 1,983 vehicles carrying the clutch pedal to crack the whip on the biggest Chrysler engine available at the time.

1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI
Photo: primoclassicsllc.com
As for the illusive 426 CID HEMI, the numbers are rarer than cloudy skies in Yuma, Arizona: just 130 Dodge Coronet R/T carried the 425-hp (431 PS) HEMI powerplant – all automatics. The manual option wasn’t all that appealing for this HEMI Mopar – only 100 Dodges received the special four-on-the-floor treatment. (About that Yuma, Arizona, reference: the city is credited as being the sunniest place on Earth - a mean of 4,055 hours per year out of 4,456 possible).

One of those “mainstream” R/Ts with a 440 and a not-so-common manual tranny got special treatment. At this point, it would be an excellent question to ask, “How can one already-special car become even more special?” Put a HEMI in it – because there’s never enough horsepower in a muscle car, even a 55-year-old one.

1968 was a year of intense battles in Detroit: Ford sent out the 428 Cobra Jet Mustang, GM upped the ante with the 455-cube (7.5-liter) torque atrocity V8, and the wars were just starting. So Mopar was up against some serious competition, even with the HEMI ace up its sleeve.

1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI
Photo: primoclassicsllc.com
The car in our story was born as a true-blue 440 Magnum big-block with a four-speed and a SureGrip 3.55 rear. Initially, the Coronet wore a Bright Blue Metallic garment with a White-on-Blue interior (Sport Trim Grade) and vinyl bucket seats.

The original engine – the four-barrel 440 V8 – is gone, and there’s no word about it, but it has a more than worthy successor. A 426 HEMI with its eight-barrel, dual-carburetor architecture is linked to an A833 four-speed manual. A 4:10 `Posi-Traction` differential sits at the drivetrain's business end.

Before you unleash all of Satan’s archangels from the General Motors inferno on this last statement, take a moment and holster your keyboards so as not to shoot the messenger. This reporter shares the description the seller wrote, distinguished gearheads, and the confusion is no lesser than yours.

1968 Dodge Coronet R/T HEMI
Photo: primoclassicsllc.com
Perhaps this mishap fended buyers off a $81,500 purchase since the highest eBay bid - $66,700 – failed to meet that amount. What’s the world coming to if a restored – and upgraded – Coronet R/T is not deemed worthy of a new life?

After the renovation, the Coronet morphed into this Bright White with blue R/T tail stripes, Medium Blue buckets, and Chrome Magnum wheels wrapped in BF Goodrich Radial T/A tires. It retains the 150-mph speedometer and 8,000 RPM tach installed from the factory and the remote-operated driver’s side mirror.

The original AM Radio is gone – and there is no replacement for the entertainment option; quite a shame, considering that this Coronet also came with the rear seat speaker. 22,276 miles (35.842 km) reads the odometer – although the title bears the ‘mileage exempt’ stamp – and the seller doesn’t specify whether this is the actual road age of this Dodge or the HEMI’s post-restoration dowry.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram X (Twitter)
About the author: Razvan Calin
Razvan Calin profile photo

After nearly two decades in news television, Răzvan turned to a different medium. He’s been a field journalist, a TV producer, and a seafarer but found that he feels right at home among petrolheads.
Full profile

 

Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories