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The Dodge Coronet: father of the Super Bee

by David Zatz

The 1949 Coronet was, with the Wayfarer and Meadowbrook, one of the first Dodges with distinctive names. There was really just one Dodge car at the time, wearing three names to show which trim level buyers had chosen. The Coronet, as one may expect (a coronet is a small crown worn by royals and aristocrats), was the top of the line.

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The Coronet differed from the Dodge Wayfarer and Meadowbrook in trim, options, and minor styling changes; all three used the same flat-head six cylinder engine, with 103 gross horsepower at 3,600 rpm, solid lifters, and a Stromberg single-barrel carburetor, a powertrain it kept through 1953.

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The engine continued unchanged through 1953, when the Coronet gained an optional 241 cubic inch V-8 engine, the first of the Hemis, producing 140 gross horsepower at 4,400 rpm with a two-barrel Stromberg carburetor. The Hemi-powered Coronet set over one hundred land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

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The 1954 Royal was slotted in above the Coronet, taking away the first-place status; the Royal came with a standard Hemi ("double-rocker") V8. The 1954 Coronet Six went up to 110 horsepower, through tuning changes.

There was good and bad news for the 1955 Dodge Coronet buyer. On the one hand, a two-barrel Stromberg carb pushed six-cylinder power up to 123 hp. On the other, neither the Wayfarer nor the Meadowbrook had made it past 1954, and the top Dodge was not the Coronet, not even the Royal, but the new "Custom Royal." Status-conscious 1953 Coronet buyers could not have been happy about this!.

New buyers, though, must have appreciated the engines choices: the polyspherical-head Red Ram and hemi-head Super Red Ram, pushing out 175 and 183 gross horsepower respectively. The Super Red Ram's optional power package - four barrel carburetor, dual exhaust - put it well ahead of the Red Ram in terms of power.

The Coronet station wagon was also renamed, to Coronet Suburban, and the hardtop coupe was dubbed the Coronet Lancer.

A new car: the 1955 Dodge Coronets

The 1955 Dodge cars were new, with a 120 inch wheelbase, wraparound windshield, and clean lines; they were 212 inches long, 6.6 inches longer than the 1954s. The V8 engines were 270 cubic inches, with a poly and a Hemi for two different price and power classes (the 230 six remained). Buyers could get the cars in two-door and four-door sedan form, with V8 two-door hardtops, wagons, convertibles, and four door wagons. The La Femme was added mid-year.

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Coronet wagons were badged "Suburban" rather than"Coronet." The hardtops were Coronet Lancers, but had Coronet badges.

Mike Peterson wrote: (From the Walter P. Chrysler Club magazine - first printed 1980. Reprinted by permission.)

There were three transmissions available in 1955: three speed manual, three speed manual with overdrive, and two speed automatic PowerFlite. ... All of these transmissions have a tailshaft parking brake which simplifies the rear brakes. 1955 was the only year for the automatic transmission lever mounted on the dash.

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The 1955 Dodge suspension had leaf springs in the rear and coil springs/king pins in the front. (King pins are like ball joints that can only rotate in one plane... it is like having an elbow where your shoulder goes.) The V8 cars have an idler arm that is parallel to the steering gear arm for complete steering linkage symmetry. There are 21 grease fittings, 23 if you count the plugs in the rear axle for wheel bearings. ... Even with the eighteen inch diameter steering wheel there is noticeable effort involved in pointing the Dodge in the desired direction of travel at low speeds. Power steering uses a 16:1 ratio and is truly a small step away from being effortless.

The 1955 Dodge is representative of the fifties. It was the last year for a six volt electrical system and the next to the last year for king pins and fifteen inch wheels. It was the first year for three-tone colors and the last year for bolt-on chrome fins. Six adults can ride in the car in comfort with all of the luggage in the trunk. The 20 quart cooling system and six quart oil capacity (sixes as well as V8s) are some of the over-engineered aspects of the car which helps to ensure trouble-free driving. All of the engines love low octane gas.
The Inside Dodge Main page tells what had to be done to make the 1955 Dodges.

1957 and later Coronets

In 1957, Forward Look styling was added, with a longer wheelbase and fully modernized styling. A hot new D-500 version was added as a separate model/engine option. The base six pushed out 138 horsepower; the Red Ram V8, 245 hp; and the D-500, 285-310 hp. Significantly, this was the first year of Chrysler's dual torsion bar front suspension used through the last of the classic rear wheel drive cars.

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1959 was the Coronet's last year as Dodge's entry level vehicle; it was dropped, along with Royal and Custom Royal, as a new naming scheme appeared, with the new models called Dart Seneca, Dart Pioneer, Dart Phoenix, Matador, and Polara.

The Coronet showed up again in 1965, in a much different Dodge; gone was the tradition of "one basic car per brand." The Coronet was now above the Valiant-based Darts, and below the Polara, Custom 880, and Monaco. Coronet was sold in a base model, 440, and 500 series; the base engine was the slant six, with the 273 V8 optional (it was standard on the 440 and 500, and in wagons). Though Chrysler would make a 440 engine, it did not make one in 1965, so the Coronet 440 name was perhaps misleading but not yet as confusing as it could be.

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The Coronet was still new, but got a facelift in 1966, moving to the Elwood Engel trademark straight lines and edges. A two-door hardtop model would appear in 1966 under its own name, Dodge Charger - and would quickly take away the limelight from the Coronet, albeit without taking many sales away. (1966 Coronet sales were about 170,000. Charger sales were 37,300.) The 440 and 500 series names would remain for some years; the Deluxe was added in 1966, the R/T in 1967.

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Using the new Coke-bottle styling and a larger, redesigned body, the 1968 Coronet R/T was as hot as the first Hemi Coronet back in 1954, with a 375 horsepower 440 cubic inch engine (in mid-1969, supplemented by a 390 horsepower Six-Pak model that had triple two-barrel carburetors, and by the infamous 426 Hemi). Despite the Charger, the Coronet itself was available as a two-door hardtop, as well as in convertible and four door sedan form. Coronet sales still easily trounced Charger sales, even in the Charger's best years; the Charger would only have its revenge years later, as resale prices turned out to be insanely high.

<a name="superbee"></a>Dodge Coronet Super Bee and more: 1968-74

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Even with the Charger and Coronet R/T, Dodge added the Coronet Super Bee, a frank theft of the Plymouth Road Runner idea, midyear in 1968; it had a standard 383 with 335 horsepower, and not much else other than a heavy-duty suspension. The name was a clever play on the B-body chassis ("Super B.") The Coronet R/T had a bigger engine, but with numerous comfort-and-convenience features it also weighed more and cost considerably more. Super Bee page.

List price for the Coronet R/T two-door hardtop was $3,442. That included the Magnum 440 engine (with four barrel carburetor), automatic, Red Streak tires, heavy duty suspension with sway bar, drum breaks, various interior lights, "Rumblebee" stripes, pedal dress-up, dual horns, vinyl trim with front air-foam seat cushions in the bucket seats, and rear armrests.

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Some options included the Super Track Pak package ($256), Rallye cluster (shown in the photo below) for $90, center console (again, shown below, $54), four-speed manual (no-cost option), bigger alternator, tinted glass (for windshield only, for for all windows), right-side mirror ($7), rear defogger ($22), three-speed wipers ($5), ramcharger air scoop ($73), AM radio ($62), power steering ($100), and "sports" steering wheel (also shown below, $27). The cars came with a side stripe (taped) but that could be deleted.

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Dodge made a stupendous 196,242 Coronets, including taxis, Super Bees, base models, and all other forms and trim-lines, in 1968. For 1969, Super Bee information was tracked separately, with fewer than 28,000 made - compared with over 84,000 Road Runners! But Coronet sales remained high otherwise.

Annual styling changes continued with changes to the grille and rear in 1969 and 1970.

1970Coronet R/T Hemi
Max track, width59.7, 76.7 Hip room, f/r60.6 / 60.6
Height53 Gas tank19 gallons
Wheelbase, length117, 209.7 Front brakes11 x 3 drums
Headroom, f/r37.3 / 36.7 Rear brakes11 x 2.5 drums
Legroom, f/r41.8 / 31.1 Wheels/tires14.0 x 6 F70
Shoulder room, f/r58.1 / 58.1

1970 engines included a hot 383 and an even hotter 426 Hemi. Compare those power ratings with the original Coronet:

Engine383426 Hemi
Horsepower (gross)335 @ 5200425 @ 5,000
Torque425 @ 3400490 @ 4,000
Dual 4-barrel
Intake duration268°284°
Exhaust duration 284° 284°
Base transmission3-spd floor-shift manual3-spd TorqueFlite auto
Gears2.55, 1.49, 1:12.45, 1.45, 1:1

In 1970, the base Coronet was dropped and the Coronet Deluxe took over as the bottom of the line, without the Deluxe name on the outside. The other series - 440, 500, R/T, and Super Bee - continued. Sales dived for this year despite the "Scat Pack" advertising campaign, featuring Dick Landy.

In 1971, a new Coronet was introduced, with a much simpler grille, a new 118 inch wheelbase, more rounded styling, and a more subtle Coke bottle side styling. The Coronet, though, remained very popular with taxi fleets, and can be seen in the introduction to the original Odd Couple TV series. The mainstay was the Coronet 440, selling over 66,000 units, over double the next best Coronet; the R/T moved under 3,000 units.

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The coupe was no longer available, leaving the four door sedan and wagon, in Custom and Brougham series for sedans and Custom and Crestwood series for wagons; the confusing 440 designation and the 500 and R/T were dropped, and the Super Bee moved over to the Charger line.

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We have a large 1971 Coronet and Polara squad-car section.

For 1972, the Coronet had only a minor restyling; various option packages were changed. The Brougham and Super Bee had both disappeared, though the Crestwood remained.

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Major changes were made to the sound insulation and suspension for 1973, giving the Coronet a much smoother ride and a quieter interior (Dodge called the overall change package "Torsion-Quiet.") The interior was updated, and the exterior received more minor changes.

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Sales of the Coronet were now quite low, with fewer than 90,000 produced - a far lower number than in years past, the result not just of the fuel crisis but also of a decline that had begun years earlier.

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Dodge claimed "Imagine, if you can, a car designed around your family. That's just what Dodge did before it built Coronet - a car designed to be a four-door sedan and nothing else." That was a bit of a stretch, since there had been two-door Coronets for some time, and the Coronet was available as a wagon.

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Other design changes for the Coronet included more accessible headlamp adjustment screws, and a better wiper blade design. Standard equipment included two-speed concealed wipers, armrests, seat spacers for height and angle adjustment, dual horns, and moldings including a drip rail.

Standard engines were the slant six and 318, but the 400 V8 was available with a two or four barrel carburetor (to get air conditioning, buyers had to get the V8). Transmissions were the TorqueFlite and a three speed manual; for the Coronet wagon, which could hold a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood, the sole engine was the 318. The Crestwood was the only car to come with a split vinyl bench seat with a center armrest, rather than a pure bench seat.

The next substantial restyling was in 1974, accompanied again by a drop in sales to fewer than 60,000. Only around 52,000 Coronets were sold in 1975, despite the resurrection of the Brougham trim level and yet another restyling, this one bringing a much more imposing appearance to the front end. The Plymouth and Dodge versions grew closer in appearance.

1975-1976 Dodge Coronet

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In 1975, Chrysler Corporation altered its construction to increase front crash protection and improve two-door styling. The company used a separate front wheelhouse (rather than welded-in fender side shields); windshield pillars and front-door hinge pillars reinforced at the roof, belt line, and base of the pillar; steel reinforcements inside the body sills; steel box sections from the front door hinge pillar; heavier engine-bay lower side rails; and heavier box-section members. The cars were also updated to pass a new Federal roof crush test.

The 1975 Coronet was sold as a four door sedan, two-door hardtop, and wagon, in base, Custom, and either Brougham (sedans/hardtops) or Crestwood (wagons) trim. The visible features of each grade above base were:

  • Custom hardtop and sedan: bright body-side, deck, and belt moldings, and bright deck lock cover (sedan also got wheel opening moldings, bright drip rail molding, and better sound insulation)
  • Brougham hardtop: hood ornament, rear roof pillar crest, body-side vinyl insert, wheel covers, V8
  • Custom sedan with Brougham package: same as hardtop, plus trunk carpet and upgraded interior.

Vinyl roofs were optional; on some models it was more extensive than others, and colors were black, white, parchment, gold, dark red, and green.

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The slant six and 318 were standard, with optional 360 or 400 cubic inch V8s, all engines had electronic ignition and single exhaust, except 360 four-barrel and 400, which got dual exhausts. Fuel filters were both in the tank and before the carburetor. Tires and wheels were matched to engine, body style, and air conditioning, with 14 inch wheels standard, 15 inch optional.

The base transmission was a column-shift, fully synchronized three-speed manual with a 3.08:1 low gear; it was not available with power steering, any engine above the 318, or wagons. The automatic was the three-speed TorqueFlite, column or console mounted.

A new air conditioner had a larger condenser, higher capacity four-speed blower, and larger air ducts for 22% more air flow than in 1974. Fresh air ventilation was installed on cars without air conditioning, using a three-speed blower.

Buyers could get a metal sun roof on two-door cars. Other options included a rear window defroster with 100-amp alternator. The optional console on Brougham and Custom hardtops was redesigned. Buyers could still get a heavy duty suspension.

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A six-way power seat adjuster was a new option with front bench seats, and for the driver's seat in hardtops with bucket seats. A new AM/FM stereo radio was built by Chrysler's Huntsville Electronics Division had four speakers, with an 8-track tape player optional. Remote control mirrors on both sides and a "fuel pacer" (based on manifold vacuum) were both optional; the latter used the fender mounted turn signal lights.

The instrument panel was more driver-centered and redesigned for easier reading, and the rear view mirror, bonded to the glass, was larger than in the prior year. Coronets came with a 25.5 gallon tank (21 gallons on wagons, 20.5 on dual-exhaust cars). A new front window crank system took less effort.

Alternators had 41-50 amps (100 with the rear window defroster).
The front suspension used torsion bars, .94" diameter except for wagons (.98"), with a .94" diameter front sway bar (1.0" on wagons). In the rear, 57 1/4 inch leaf springs (58" on wagons) were used, 2.5" wide, with five leaves (six on wagons).

Axle ratios for the slant six were 3.2:1 with manual transmission or Sure-Grip, 2.94:1 with automatic and no Sure-Grip. For the V8s, the standard axle ratio was 2.71:1, with an optional 2.45:1 or 3.2:1 ratio - except with Sure-Grip, which used either a 2.71:1 or 3.2:1 ratio.









117 .5"


117 .5"









Track (max)




Headroom, F/R




Legroom, F/R




Hip room, F/R




Shoulder room, F/R




Weight (approx)




Brakes were front disc, rear drum.
Closed-circuit crankcase ventilation was standard.

1976 Dodge Coronet

Changes for 1976 were minimal: the two-door hardtop and 400 engine were gone, and a velour and vinyl front seat were added to Brougham along with a unique hood ornament. Speedometers were calibrated in both miles and kilometers per hour, and tilt steering was added.

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The company sold a meager 31,809 Coronets (excluding 3,850 squads), fewer than the Charger SE. The most popular model was the Brougham, followed closely by the base sedan. The Coronet ranged from $3,700 to $5,156 - with Crestwood wagons selling for far more than the best-equipped sedans.

The 1976 Dodge Coronet would be the last one, with the Dodge Monaco taking over its body style; in short, the Coronet lived (briefly), but as the Monaco. Sales increased, hitting 63,684 sales - plus 4,963 squad cars. The actual Monaco remained on sale, called the Royal Monaco, just over 29,000 sales. The Royal Monaco achieved some fame as police cars in Hill Street Blues and The Blues Brothers.

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The Coronet name was used later, but only in South America, for their version of the Dodge Diplomat. It had started at the top, moved to the bottom, and re-appeared in the middle, giving birth along the way to one of the most popular icons of Chrysler Corporation' s history.

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