The year was 1968. Janis Joplin and "Cheap Thrills" supplemented the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel on the album charts, Hawaii Five-0 and The Mod Squad were on the tube, and Hubert Humphrey was nominated amid choas in Chicago to take on Richard Nixon for the U.S. Presidency. The times indeed were a'changing. The Dodge Division of Chrysler's auto-building enterprise was trying to sort it all through, at least in the performance side, with the introduction of the Scat Pack.
The Scat Pack was highlighted by two B-Bodies and an A-Body. The A-Body was the economy contender, using the Dart GTS with the just-released 340 LA-series engine, or, if one was so inclined, the 383 Magnum (at midyear, Mr. Norm would get a bunch of the latter converted to 440 power). The next step in the lineup was Charger R/T, with its new styling and two possible powerplants: the 440 Magnum and the 426 Hemi. This was the sporty model, the one that said, "Yo, baby, I'm home" as it rolled down the boulevard.
The final model was for the upscale crowd. The Coronet R/T made its debut in 1967, featuring a quadrant of center-mounted nonfunctional scoops at the rear of the hood. Like its sister the GTX and most of Chrysler performance offerings, the Coronet R/T featured specialized suspension and driveline components in addition to big-displacement engines (which were the 440-4bbl and Hemi). For 1968, the car got a minor redesign and featured a chrome-trimmed hood bubble, still non-functional. Scat Pack models would not get a fresh-air induction system until the Ramcharger layout debuted the following year. The success of the Plymouth Road Runner would lead to the Dodge Super Bee, a "budget" performance model based on the Coronet at midyear, but if you wanted to go fast and still blend in with the establishment, Coronet R/T was the way to do it.
In hindsight, the cars sold as well as could be expected. There were certainly young fathers and aspiring professionals who came into the dealership, saw and liked the R/T, yet left with an order for a 318 or 383 standard Coronet model. Today, these cars are hard to come by; convertibles with Hemi engines can be counted on two hands, and, like many musclecars, when the thrill wore off for the original purchasers, the subsequent owners had one intention-go fast. Examples that survive to this day make an occasional appearance at shows, but frankly, try to think of the last time you saw more that two or three on the same weekend.
This example is now owned by Jon and Melanie King of Lakewood, Colorado, the proprietors of King's Auto Restoration. The color is F1 Light Green and the 440-powered brawler has won Best of Show at three of the four shows where Jon and Melanie have displayed it. The car is one of the few powered by the Magnum (compared to the Hemi) to be restored to concours-level condition.
Although it still sports basically all original sheetmetal, like many other musclecars that fell from grace, the car was seriously thrashed in street races prior to the Kings' acquisition in 1995 for a huge investment of $300; it was pretty rough. Jon takes credit for the body and interior, which are now flawless, while the 440 went to The Block Shop for prep before Wolf Racing filled it with internals. Inside, it was decided that a little fortification wouldn't hurt; a set of shot-peened rods slinging KB hypereutectic slugs now ride on the crank, while the heads were treated for unleaded juice via flame-hardened chambers. The valves ride on a Crane OEM-spec cam, with MP 1.6 rockers doing the heavy lifting. A Hemi pan keeps everything slick and the stock points have gone into history, replaced by a "stealth"-mount Mopar orange box ignition system.
Wolf Racing also went through the 727, beefing it up while Jon decided an MP 11-inch converter was more to his liking than the stock unit. Out back, the Magnum 500s shod in 15x8 BFGoodrich rubber are turned via a 3.55 Sure Grip in the stock 8 3/4 rear. An identical pair of slightly smaller 15x7 tires are under the front now.
As we mentioned, the Coronet R/T was an upscale creation; inside are head-rest buckets, a console with shifter (now supporting an MP console-mount tach as well), shoulder belts both front and rear, and the AM/8-track. Outside, the car features front and rear bumper guards, fender-mounted turn signals, remote driver-side mirror, the new-for-1968 Scat stripe, and the paint-enhancing vinyl top. The car is outstanding from every angle.
As you can see from the photos we shot at the Mile High Mopar show at Bandimere Speedway last June, ol' Jon isn't afraid to get on that load pedal (you might remember that he is also the former owner of the notorious '6911/42 Super Bee we featured last November). All in all, however, the car remains a tribute to the factory's willingness to give even the bankers and brokers a real ride for their money back in 1968.