The Story of the 1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi Sedan, Mopar's Four-Door Unicorn

1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan 10 photos
Photo: Barrett-Jackson
1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica
When Dodge revived the iconic Charger nameplate as a four-door sedan in 2006, hardcore Mopar enthusiasts weren't happy. Some 15 years later and the four-door Charger is a popular muscle sedan with Hemi power. But I bet you didn't know Dodge built something similar in the 1960s, albeit in very limited numbers.
Chrysler introduced its first V8 with a hemispherical combustion chamber back in 1950. By 1958, the 392-cubic-inch (6.4-liter) version of the FirePower mill was good for 345 horsepower, while the fuel-injected Electrojector option increased oomph to 390 horses.

This mill is mostly famous for its use in the Chrysler 300C and 300D, both two-door models, but Mopar also offered it in the New Yorker and Imperial Custom, both available in four-door body styles.

So the muscle sedan concept goes back to the late 1950s, but it wasn't until the mid-1960s that Chrysler took the idea to new, almost extreme heights.

1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan
Photo: Barrett-Jackson
Discontinued after 1958, the hemispherical engine returned in 1964. Now displacing 426 cubic inches (7.0 liters), the second-gen mill was the first to officially wear the "Hemi" badge. But unlike its predecessor, the 426 was produced for use in NASCAR and was not initially available to the general public.

Chrysler eventually introduced a street-spec Hemi V8 in 1966. The mill debuted in the Dodge Charger but quickly found its way in the Coronet and the Plymouth Satellite, and Belvedere.

Availability expanded to five more nameplates by 1968. Dodge offered it in the Super Bee and Dart, while Plymouth sold it as an option for the GTX, Barracuda, and Road Runner.

In 1969, both the Dodge Charger and the Charger Daytona joined the Hemi lineup, as did the Plymouth Superbird and Dodge Challenger in 1970. The Hemi was retired after the 1971 model year when the oil crisis and new emission regulations forced automakers to reduce compression ratios.

1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan
Photo: Barrett-Jackson
One of the most powerful engines of its era, the Hemi 426 was officially rated at 425 horsepower and 490 pound-feet (664 Nm) of torque throughout its entire life on the market.

Chrysler fitted about 11,000 cars with the Hemi 426, a rather small figure given its seven-year production cycle. The majority of them were ordered with two-door coupes.

Less than 200 went into convertibles, which are hard to find nowadays, but Chrysler also built a four-door unicorn with this race-spec mill.

It happened in 1966 when Dodge took the wild decision to drop the Hemi into the Coronet sedan. How many of them were built remains a mystery, but most sources agree that only five left the assembly plant with the optional 426. This figure places the Coronet Hemi sedan among the rarest Mopars ever built.

1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan
Photo: Barrett-Jackson
And the list of Hemi cars that are more difficult to find includes the 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T convertible (two built), 1967 Coronet R/T drop-top (three), 1970 Plymouth Road Runner convertible (three), and the 1970 Dodge Super Bee (four).

One was shipped outside North America, one was sold in Canada, and three were delivered in the U.S. Two of the U.S. car were reportedly special orders for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

On top of the dual-quad Hemi engine, all cars were fitted with Torqueflite automatic transmissions and Sure-Grip 8 3/4 rear ends with 3.23 gears. They also featured a front sway bar, a station wagon radiator shroud, and a heavy-duty battery.

Like all Hemi cars, they didn't have A/C, but the sedans were also devoid of power steering, power brakes, and power windows despite their more comfort-oriented four-door body styles.

1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica
Photo: Mecum Auctions
The whereabouts of the export Coronets remain unknown, but amazingly enough, all three U.S. examples have survived to this day. One car is in Minnesota, while the second one is spending its retirement at the Don Garlits Museum.

The third car, painted red, made a public appearance in 2007 when it was auctioned off by Barrett-Jackson. The Hemi-powered sedan changed hands for a whopping $660,000.

While that's only a fraction of the million-dollar sticker you'll find on some Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertibles, it's at least three times more than the average Hemi-powered coupe.

I guess four-door sedans with powerful engines will never be as desirable as full-blown muscle cars, but this family car deserves a place under the brightest Mopar spotlight.

1966 Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica
Photo: Mecum Auctions
Unfortunately, the car doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. Photos of the four-door Coronet Hemi are as scarce as they get, and video footage is basically impossible to find. A true unicorn and one of the most mysterious Mopars out there.

In the absence of proper footage with the four-door Hemi, here's Jay Leno enjoying his Coronet 426 coupe.

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Editor's note: Photo gallery includes photos of a white Dodge Coronet Hemi sedan replica built by Don Garlits

About the author: Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea profile photo

Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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