The Fascinating History of the Dodge Coronet

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The Dodge Coronet, a nameplate with a storied past, is a vivid representation of American automotive history, spanning an array of body styles and performance levels over the years. From its inception as a post-war family sedan to its renaissance as a muscle car icon, the Coronet has captured the hearts of car enthusiasts with its adaptability and resilience.

The Coronet was one of Dodge’s most popular models and had a total of eight generations released between 1949 and 1980. However, there are some particular models in the line that is considered as some of the rarest cars in the world, and one of them is the 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T Convertible. What made this specific model so rare? And what made it different from the other Coronet models? Let us find out the answers as we take a dive into the fascinating history of the Dodge Coronet.

First generation (1949–1952)

1950 Dodge Coronet Club Coupe
1950 Dodge Coronet Club Coupe

The first generation of the Coronet was introduced in 1949 as a full-sized model for the company but with lesser trim lines. The first Dodge Coronet features an oblong design that makes it look rounded and egg-shaped, and it also has a 230-cubic-inch flat-head straight-six cylinder engine that produces approximately 103 horsepower. There was a limited edition of the first Coronet that features a limousine body that has four doors and can accommodate eight passengers. The first generation of the Coronet was manufactured from 1949 to 1952.

Second Generation (1953–1954)

By 1953, the Coronet received a big overhaul in terms of its design. It featured a more streamlined design with a bit more edges, but one of its most noticeable new features is the “Red Ram” 241-cubic-inch Hemi V8 engine. The said engine allows the vehicle to have 140 horsepower, and it was able to set more than 100 land speed records when it was driven at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. The Coronet would then receive upgrades in a few years after 1953, such as the 315-cubic-inch Hemi V8 in the 1956 model and the 354-cubic-inch Hemi V8 in the 1957 model.

Third Generation (1955–1956)

The third-generation Coronet underwent a dramatic restyling to keep pace with the aesthetic changes sweeping the automotive industry. Sporting tail fins and a more aggressive front grille, the 1955 Coronet was positioned as a stylish yet affordable option in the market. This generation saw an expansion in engine options, including the introduction of the legendary Hemi V8 engines, which significantly enhanced the Coronet’s performance credentials.

Fourth Generation (1957–1959)

The fourth-generation Coronet received yet another bold restyle, with even larger tail fins and a more pronounced grille. It was during this era that the Coronet cemented its reputation for performance, especially with the D-500 model that housed a 325 cubic inch V8 under the hood. The 1957 model year was particularly significant, as it introduced a new chassis and body design that was both lower and wider—a look that would define Dodge’s aesthetic for years to come.

Fifth Generation (1965–1970)

The Coronet line was discontinued in 1959, as Dodge planned to release several new lines like the Matador, Polara, and the three Dart models named the Seneca, Phoenix, and Pioneer. However, the Coronet line would soon be revived in 1965, but only as a mid-size model instead of the original full-size. In this revival, the Dodge Coronet looks nothing like its previous iterations, as it now features a sleeker body that makes it look like a muscle car, which is the type of vehicle that was popular in the late 60s and the early 70s. One year later, Dodge offered the Coronet in two different engines, namely the 440-cubic-inch V8 and the 425-cubic-inch V8 engines.  The iconic Dodge Coronet Super Bee was also introduced.

1968 Dodge Coronet 500
1968 Dodge Coronet 500

The Coronet’s journey continued into the 1970s, but as with many muscle cars of the time, it faced challenges due to changing emissions regulations and a fuel crisis. The Coronet nameplate was eventually retired after the 1976 model year, marking the end of an era for Dodge’s versatile and enduring model.

1973 Dodge Coronet Custom sedan
1973 Dodge Coronet Custom sedan

The 1970 Dodge Coronet is considered the rarest vehicle in the line, specifically the R/T model that was only produced with 2,615 units. The Dodge Coronet R/T features a 440 Magnum V8 engine, which is regarded as a powerful engine during that time. In terms of its aesthetics, the R/T includes dummy rear-fender scoops, distinct stripes that are found in the R/T’s rear deck and quarter panels, and vinyl bucket seats at the front of the interior. Even though the R/T has a stunning appearance and incredible performance, it was not as popular as the previous models in the Coronet line. Because there was not a lot of people who ordered the R/T, Dodge only manufacture 2.615 Coronet R/T vehicles in 1970. Out of the 2,615, there were only 296 convertibles, thus making the convertible version not only the rarest in the Coronet line but also the rarest muscle car in the world.

Dodge Coronet engine

While the Coronet continued to be manufactured after the release of the R/T, the line was officially discontinued in 1976 after the seventh generation. However, the Coronet name was revived when it was used as the alternative named for the Dodge Diplomat in Colombia. Some car enthusiasts are saying that the Diplomat is the eighth generation of the Coronet line, but the Diplomat is considered a different line from the Coronet in the United States.

Iconic Convertibles

The Dodge Coronet Super Bee, introduced in 1968 as a member of the muscle car family, quickly cemented its legacy as an icon of American automotive power and design. Born from the Coronet lineup, the Super Bee was Dodge’s answer to the demand for high-performance, low-cost muscle cars, featuring a robust design characterized by a bold, bumblebee stripe wrapping the rear. Under the hood, it boasted powerful engine options, including the famed 426 Hemi and the 440 Magnum, delivering exhilarating performance that could rival any of its contemporaries. With its distinctive styling, aggressive stance, and formidable powertrain, the Dodge Coronet Super Bee became a symbol of the muscle car era’s golden age, cherished by enthusiasts and collectors for its raw power and unique presence on the road.

There are two specific convertible Coronet cars that exist today that are regarded as the most beautiful. The first one is painted in sublime green that has a black Bumblebee stripe. In addition, the green R/T convertible has Magnum 500 wheels, power front disc brakes, and a floor console made of wood. Like most R/T cars, the green convertible also has vinyl front seats.

The second beautiful R/T convertible is painted in a unique dark tan metallic color and has a white Bumblebee stripe at the back. To match the white stripe, this R/T convertible has a white convertible top. Furthermore, the dark tan convertible has 15-inch Rallye wheels, a chrome passenger side mirror, a Hurst pistol grip shifter, power disc brakes at the front, and front buckets seats made of vinyl.

Although the Coronet R/T convertible was not popular when it was released in 1970, it slowly gained a cult following in recent years, allowing it to have a high resell value in the vintage car market. A unit of the Coronet R/T convertible version can costs collectors up to $1.5 million, hence the reason why it is one of the most expensive vintage cars in history.

Conclusion

1949 Dodge Coronet station wagon
1949 Dodge Coronet station wagon

Today, the Dodge Coronet is revered among classic car enthusiasts, collectors, and muscle car aficionados. Its history is celebrated at car shows and drag strips across the country, where vintage Coronets are displayed with pride. The Coronet serves as a reminder of a bygone era when horsepower was king and style was paramount.

The Dodge Coronet’s journey from a family sedan to a high-octane muscle car and back to its practical origins is a reflection of the changing tides in automotive design and consumer preferences. It stands as a testament to Dodge’s ability to adapt and innovate. For many, the Coronet is not just a car; it’s a piece of American history on four wheels, a mechanical embodiment of the nation’s postwar prosperity, its love affair with speed, and the shifting cultural landscapes that define each passing decade.

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