Late in 1965 I or a 1966 Dodge Coronet 500 383 4 speed. This car was used as an everyday driver and in 1976 it started to show its age as it had seen 10 MN winters. By chance I spotted a 1966 Coronet 440 in the Mpls Newspaper. It happens to be in our area so on a cold January afternoon we went and checked it out. Turns out it was in pieces as the owners were in the process on making a race car out of it. The good news is that it had never been driven in the winter and only had 19000 miles on it.
The best part was they accepted our offer of $350.00 for the car and misc parts. There was no engine or transmission bit the body was solid and I thought it would be a perfect replacement body for our deteriorating Coronet 500. We loaded up the fenders and hood and hooked a tow bar to the car and brought it home.
After getting the car home and looking it over the thought of just using the body did not seem like the right thing to do. By chance a fellow worker had a 68 Plymouth Satellite which had a run in with his boat and the insurance company totaled it out. He and I worked with the insurance company and I bought the car for a few hundred dollars.
I transferred the running gear, Brake lines Etc to the Coronet and as we were working on the car I noticed some differences (Gusseting in the spring mtg area) between it and my Coronet 500. I wrote a letter to the National Hemi Owners with my observations and the VIN. Now this was 1976 with no interned and Muscle Cars were just old cars and not in much demand.
I received a letter back from the NHOA stating that it was indeed a Hemi car. I started looking for a Hemi for the car. Pulled the 68 318 eng & trans, detailed the engine compartment and front suspension and checked out several Hemi Engines. The problem was that the engines were always way more than we were willing to pay. The one I thought long and hard about was a 66 engine with a fresh rebuild, Carb to oil pan for a little over $3000.00. That was what I paid for my 66 Coronet 500.
The car sat in the corner of the garage for many years then I thought maybe we should sell it. A friend just blew up his charger and I made a deal to buy his 4 speed and related parts. Janet and I painted the car, installed the engine and 4 speed (this was an original 4 speed car), put a set of Crager’s on it and thought we would take it to a few shows and find a buyer as Hemi cars were now becoming quite desirable.
Our first show was Midwest Mopars Mopars in the Park “A local show”. The car ran great and was so much tighter than our Coronet 500 which now had over 300’000 miles on it. Next it was to a Mopar Show in Detroit Lakes MN about 200 miles one way. The trip was great and we got over 20MPG.
Janet really liked the car so it became “HER 66” and a month later we were off to Grand Junction CO for their Magic Mopar Weekend. The rest is history as we are still driving both Coronets. Her 66 now has almost 100,000 miles on it and “HIS 66” has over 600,000 miles on it.
We have also become friends with the second owner and got the rest of the story. The car was bought new by a employee of the St Paul Ford plant for the purpose of Drag Racing. The second owner also had it as a race car which is why it had never seen MN salty roads. He blew up the original Hemi and sold it to the person we bought it from so we are the 4th owner.
A side note Janet’s car came with the Hemi flywheel housing and we ended up selling it to a friend for his Hemi car and got $350.00 for it. We had less than $2500 invested in Janet’s car when we put it back on the road.
A special thanks to Hagerty for making it possible for us to enjoy our Coronets all these years
For more on His & Her 66 Coronets check out http://www.wwnboa.org/curtlawson.htm If you would like more photos let me know as we have way more than you could ever use.
Thank You Curt & Janet Lawson
The following is a story that was written in 2005. The car is still used regularly and we still attend Mopar Shows around the USA throughout the summer as well as many local shows and cruise nights.
Her 66 Coronet
This car was purchased for JANET as a replacement for the 1966 DODGE CORONET 500 I bought new and has been our daily driver year round and had over 150,000 miles on it at that time.
We purchased this car in Jan 1976 in pieces. The previous owners had stripped the car of all unnecessary parts, cut up the K-frame for a bigger oil pan, painted the engine compartment black, re-routed the brake & fuel lines, installed a ford 9 in rear end, modified the rear wheel openings (for large slicks) and misc. other modifications to make it into a race car.
The two owners were working on the car in a rented garage and the property had been sold so with no place to store or work on the car it had to be sold.
The car still had the factory paint, no rust and they said it had only been driven 1 winter then put into storage. The odometer showed 19,000 miles and the car looked clean. There was a HEMI sitting in the garage that was to be their race motor which I tried to make part of the deal but the partner had a street rod to put the engine in so it was not for sale.
This was the time of GAS SHORTAGES and RISING GAS PRICES so the engine was not that important. My offer of $350.00 was accepted for the car so we took our basket case home.
As I started assembling the car I noticed some differences between this car and our other CORONET and at the same time I saw an ad for a HEMI CLUB. So I wrote to them with our V.I.N. Shortly after we received a letter confirming that this was an ORIGINAL HEMI CAR, but with gas prices on the rise and long lines at the pumps a HEMI was NO BIG DEAL.
While working on the car a co-worker was involved in an accident with his 1969 PLYMOUTH SATELLITE and it was totaled out by his insurance co and I was able to purchase the car with 60,000 miles on it. We then installed the running gear in the CORONET so it would be ready to go when my CORONET 500 would give out.
Shortly after that we sold our house and moved to a place with a small 2 car garage and no place to store the car so it went up north to a friend’s grandfathers farm where it sat for many years.
A garage/workshop addition was completed and finally we brought the CORONET back home. My CORONET 500 was still going strong (still our daily driver with 300,000 miles on her) and the fact that MOPARS had started to gain recognition & value we decided to restore the car.
The original paint had a lot of scratches on the roof (from the hood being set up there?) and the fenders (working on the engine?) from the previous owners along with the damage to the rear wheel openings necessitated new paint.
So in 1990 we pulled the car apart and started our restoration. Not being able to find a HEMI at a reasonable price the car sat in the corner of our garage complete but HEMI-LESS for over 2 years. We had built up a 383 to put in her but because of other projects and the high cost of HEMI PARTS we decided to put the CORONET up for sale hoping someone would put a HEMI back in her.
About this time a friend’s 340 motor let go while racing so he had a small block 4 speed set up for sale. So I decided to put a 318 engine I had pulled from our van (270,000 miles on it) in the car so we could take it to a few events to sell.
My CORONET 500 has had AMERICAN TORQ-THRUST wheels on it since it was new. Janet did not like them as well as CRAGER SS wheels. So we ordered a set of wheels and tires to put on the car until it was sold then we would put them on the CORONET 500. The wheels arrived 2 days before MOPARS IN THE PARK 1996. I mounted & balanced the tires that night. Put them on and got the car cleaned up for the show.
When Janet saw the car her first words were I DO NOT WANT TO SELL THAT CAR so at that point it became HER CORONET.
This is a great highway car getting 20 MPG on regular gas and runs through the ROCKY MOUNTANS with ease. With a total investment of just over $2000 and the fun we have had and the friend’s we have met we think we made the right decision not to sell.
ALL WORK WAS DONE BY OUR FAMILY IN OUR GARAGE.
Our road trips (THE CAR IS DRIVEN) have been, 1996 MOPARS AT THE LAKES – DETROIT LAKES MN, MOPAR MAGIC WEEKEND – GRAND JUNCTION CO, MOPAR NATS – INDIANAPOLIS IN, PACIFIC NATS – LAS VEGAS NV, MOPARAMA SIOUX FALLS SD. 1997 MOPARS AT THE LAKES –DETROIT LAKES MN, MOPARS AT THE RED BARN – HICKORY CORNERS MI, MOPAR NATS –INDIANAPOLIS IN, MOPARS ON THE MISSISSIPPI – DUBEQUE IA, MOPARAMA - SIOUX FALLS SD, 1998 MOPARS IN THE VALLY -FARGO ND, MOPAR MAGIC WEEKEND GRAND JUNCTION CO, MOPAR NATS COLUMBUS OH, MOPARS ON THE MISSISSIPPI DUBUQUE IA, MOPARAMA – SIOUX FALLS SD, MUSIC CITY MOPARS – NASHVILLE TN, AS WELL AS MANY LOCAL SHOWS.