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'60s icons flex their muscles for sellers

February 27, 2005

BY DAN JEDLICKA Auto Reporter Advertisement

There's been a dramatic surge in prices of 1960s muscle cars, and they need not be iconic models such as a 1965 Pontiac GTO. For instance, owners of Dodge muscle cars from the 1960s such as the 1968-69 Coronet R/T (Road/Track) and Super Bee can cash in on them with the upswing in prices.

Dodge was one of the most desirable producers of affordable muscle cars by the late 1960s. The stage was set for it being Chrysler Corp.'s hot car division much earlier -- when a 1954 Dodge Royal 500 convertible was the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 race that year.

The D-500 high-performance package for 1956-59 Dodge models further enhanced the automaker's power reputation near the dawn of the 1960s, when Dodge built a bunch of high-horsepower models.

The 1968-69 Coronet came with a variety of engines and cost approximately $2,500 to $3,600, although a very potent 425-horsepower "Hemi'' V-8 added $604.75 to the list price. The Hemi had power-producing hemispherical shaped combustion chambers and essentially was a race engine.

The Coronet coupe from those years with the especially desirable Hemi V-8 in excellent shape now is valued at an eye-opening $96,875 by the Cars of Particular Interest price guide. Even a Coronet R/T coupe with a powerful-but-conventional 440-cubic-inch, 375-horsepower "Magnum'' V-8 is worth $29,575 if in top shape, with the convertible version powered by that engine at $38,200.

The 1969 Super Bee coupe initially was a "budget-priced'' Coronet muscle car, but is far from budget priced in the current muscle car market; it's worth $91,800 with a Hemi V-8. One with a 440-cubic-inch Magnum V-8 "six-pack'' trio of two-barrel carburetors is valued at $45,625.

The 1969 Dodge Charger is perhaps the best known 1960s Dodge muscle car, partly because it was featured in the popular "Dukes of Hazzard'' television show, but Dodge sold a good number of Coronets.

The mid-size 1968-69 Cornet was offered as a two door coupe or convertible, and many came with lower-horsepower V-8 engines, such as the 230-horsepower V-8 in the 1969 Coronet 500.

The 1967 Coronet hardtop was the first to get the R/T designation with a 440-cubic-inch, 375-horsepower V-8, sport suspension, wide tires, oversized brakes, hood scoop and "racing'' stripes. You could order it with the 425-horsepower Hemi V-8, which also had been optional for a 1965 Coronet.

Slick styling has always helped sell lots of cars, and the 1968 Coronet became the best-looking mid-size Dodge of the 1960s. It was long and low, with rounded "fuselage'' styling and simple grilles and again came only as a coupe and convertible. It got the "R/T'' designation and a standard 440-cubic-inch Magnum V-8, with the Hemi V-8 an option. Dodge wasn't about to let the GTO and other muscle cars move ahead in the market.

With other member models of Dodge's high-performance "Scat Pack,'' the R/T carried "bumblebee'' stripes on its tail, unless a buyer wanted them deleted.

The 440 Magnum V-8 came with Dodge's excellent Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission, but you could get the Hemi V-8 with a four-speed manual gearbox. The R/T again had a sport suspension and dual exhausts. It also was equipped with larger brakes than other Coronets, but front disc brakes were an extra $73. A tachometer and other special instruments cost $90.

Car Life magazine found that the Coronet R/T 440 Magnum V-8 effortlessly did 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is fairly quick by today's standards -- especially considering that even the widest 1968 tires had a hard time transferring all that V-8 power to the road.

The 1969 R/T had minor styling revisions, including a revised split grille and different taillights. Equipment for the R/T included a Power Bulge hood, simulated woodgrain instrument panel, "Rallye'' sport suspension and special wide Red Line tires.

Some prospective 1968 Coronet R/T buyers thought prices of the $3,379 coupe and $3,613 convertible were too high, so Dodge added the budget-priced $3,027 Super Bee coupe in 1968. The no-frills Super Bee was Dodge's response to Chrysler Corp.'s popular $2,896-$3,034 Plymouth Road Runner muscle car coupe, which was priced low because it had a stark interior and not much equipment.

The Super Bee came as two coupe models and had a standard 383-cubic-inch V-8. It was derived from the mighty 440 Magnum V-8 and produced 335 horsepower. A vinyl front bench seat replaced the R/T's bucket seats to help keep costs down, and the stark interior almost could have come from a taxicab. One of the Super Bee coupes had flip-open rear windows, instead of roll-down windows for additional cost savings. A four-speed manual transmission was standard, with the TorqueFlite automatic optional.

The 1969 Super Bee had a new Ramcharger Air Induction System that forced outside air through the carburetor for better performance; it cost $73, but was standard if you ordered the Hemi V-8. The 440 Magnum V-8 was made available for the 1969 Super Bee and was offered with the desirable "Six Pack'' carburetor option; it raised horsepower to 390 and was tucked under a flat-black fiberglass hood.

Most of the 10,849 Coronet R/Ts built in 1968 had the 440 Magnum V-8. In fact, only 230 R/Ts had the now highly desirable Hemi V-8, which essentially was an expensive race engine.

Fewer than half as many Hemi V-8s were put in 1969 R/Ts, which found 7,238 buyers -- as many muscle car fans opted for the sleek Dodge Charger, which also came with a Hemi. Of the nearly 28,000 Super Bees built for 1969, only 166 had a Hemi V-8.

The Coronet R/T and Super Bee were built through 1970, although they continued to be overshadowed by the wildly popular Dodge Charger. They could be used for mild family transportation, but turned into tigers if a driver pushed hard on the gas pedal.
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