1968 Dodge Coronet R/T Hardtop
Rebuilding A Lawn Ornament Into A Car
From the April, 2010 issue of Mopar Muscle
By Scott Ross
Photography by Randy Bolig
The Dodge Boys had reason to smile when they got their first look at their 1968 model lineup.
Along with a newly-restyled Charger, and freshened versions of the compact Dart and full-size Polaras and Monacos, they had an updated mid-size line that was the equal, or better, than anything The General or the Blue Oval guys could offer. That included the high-performance mid-size Dodges, the Coronet R/Ts-a member of the new-for-'68 "Scat Pack," along with the Charger R/T and Dart GTS.
Introduced as a series in 1967, the Coronet R/T was back for 1968 with all-new sheetmetal for its hardtop and convertible bodies from Elwood Engel's stylists. That included a new roof that all two-door B-Bodies used, plus a more-pronounced "Coke bottle" shape to the rear quarters, wrapped around their top-trim-level interiors and anything-but-mushy powertrains and chassis. The 440 Magnum returned as the standard R/T engine, with only the 426 Hemi optional. Transmission choices were either the standard 727 TorqueFlite or the optional A-833 four-speed-which regained its factory-installed Hurst shifter at mid-year after a 2 1/2-year substitution of the sometimes-balky Inland Steel "toilet flusher." Intended to have a reverse-lockout feature like some "other" four-speed, the Inland-supplied OEM shifter proved to be less reliable than a Hurst-which was Ma Mopar's OEM four-speed shifter from '63-'65. Mopar guys usually replaced it with a Hurst "Competition Plus" shifter soon after their purchase, or they had their dealer install one before delivery.
Roger was aided by his buddy...
Roger was aided by his buddy Herb McCandless on the powertrain, including this.....
That's one thing that happened with the Bright Blue Metallic '68 Coronet R/T hardtop of Roger Moricle's that you see here, a change that Roger approves of. "I don't like that raggedy Inland shifter they put in 'em," he says from his Burlington, North Carolina, home.
Roger's R/T is one of those early-production '68s, with an October 13, 1967, build date at St. Louis Assembly on its fender tag. He says there are some other early-'68 details on it, too. "The vent knobs are round, and not rectangular with 'VENT' on them, and the ashtray doors slide up and down, instead of folding out."
There are plenty of other original items on Roger's R/T, which are explained by the car's mileage-just 28,000 when he bought it back in the fall of 2000, and he's put maybe a few thousand more on it since its completion in August 2005. Much of the interior is original, as are the A-833 and Dana 60 rear end. The 440 that was in the car was a correct '68 engine, but its casting codes showed that it didn't come with this car.
.....Edelbrock-head-equipped 440. Note the McCandless-brand plug wires.
This isn't Roger's first '68 B-Body, as his high school ride was a four-speed-equipped Road Runner. Like many Mopar guys, he got the urge to get another one as time went by. "I'd been married a while and had a couple kids and all-you know how you get that middle-age urge to fix up sometthing again," he says. "A buddy of mine said he knew where a Road Runner was, not too far from here in a little community called Whitsett. This R/T was sitting there, and the guy who had the car had owned it for ten years and it never left his yard."
A car that old needs some attention, even with that few miles on it, so Roger built a rotisserie for it, and then used it to hold the unibody in place while it was taken apart. He had a lot of help from his friends on this project, especially one whose name is well known to Mopar Muscle readers: Herb McCandless. "Herb has helped me a tremendous amount on the car," Roger says, taking special note of Herb's work on the drivetrain. He also gives a shout-out to a couple other friends whose help was vauable. "I used Donnie Fogelman's shop to work out of, and that's where I spent the whole time I was putting it together. Another friend of mine, Mike Santini, helped me with the upholstery."
But that 440 had some special touches done to it, thanks to Herb and Roger. "It has 8.27:1 compression, I run a full 12 degrees of initial timing, it runs on regular gas-and it never detonates," he says. "It flies!" What else is in and on that RB? Roger explains, "If you notice in the pictures, it has a set of McCandless Performance plug wires on it," he says. "It also has a set of 88cc open-chamber Edelbrock aluminum heads and a Comp Hi-Energy camshaft that was originally a single-bolt cam. It has a Milodon 100-position double-roller timing set in it, a Milodon oil pan and pickup, a Hays street/strip clutch, and a Mopar Performance distributor with a 505 orange control box on.
This R/T was a low-option...
This R/T was a low-option car, so no console was ever installed. Just Dashes re-did the top dashpad, Legendary provided the new seat covers, while the door panels are original.
Downstream of the Edelbrock heads is a full-on tti exhaust system, which Roger said he wanted when Herb asked what type of exhaust system he wanted to run. "He then called Sam Davis at tti, and Sam asked, 'Do you want an H-pipe or an X-pipe?' I didn't even know they made X-pipes, so I got one of the first ones." There's also a pair of tti exhaust tips on it, which Roger used instead of a NOS Chrysler tips set.
As for the A-833 and Dana 60, they have interesting stories behind them. Says Roger of the Dana: "A friend of Herb's and mine, Robert May, owned this car in the late '70s, and it sat in his shop for three years with the Dana 60 out of it because they were using it in his Challenger to drag race. Robert had put 4.10 gears in it, but Herb put the original 3.54 gears back in it." And, according to Roger, the transmission was one key to determining that those 28,000 miles on the odometer was its original mileage. "We had just finished the rear end, and Herb asked, 'How many miles does this car have on it?' I said it was showing 28-and-change on the odometer, but I had no way to prove it. He said, 'I'm telling you, I've worked on these transmissions from the time they were first created, brand-new out of the box, and that's how many miles that car has on it.' I said 'Why?' and he said, 'This has the best-looking set of brass blocking rings I've ever seen.' He had a new set that he was going to put in, and he said you can't tell them apart."
Roger's A-833 is stirred by...
Roger's A-833 is stirred by this Hurst "Competition Plus" shifter, which replaced a lot of OEM inland shifters back then.
Likewise, the body, glass, and interior were made up of barely-worn originals plus new items (including Legendary seat covers, seat foam, and headliner), which went back on when it was time to re-assemble it. Even so, it was a thrash to get it ready for the Mopar Nationals in 2005. "Herb, Donnie, Mike, and I finished it up about 11 o'clock on a Wednesday night," Roger realls. "Thursday morning we loaded it up [on a trailer]-because I hadn't driven it yet-drove up to Columbus, unloaded it at the Best Western on Brice Road, fired it up, and drove it around the parking lot. First thing Friday morning, we hit the ramp on I-77 heading toward National Trail Raceway, and we buzzed it up to 100 mph. There were three of us in the car, and that's how it started out."
And it finished good, too-much like Ma Mopar's sales in 1968. That was a big year for Ma Mopar overall, and for the Coronet lineup, sales were up across the board from 1967, with nearly 200,000 mid-size Dodges sold. That included nearly 11,000 R/Ts, of which nearly 2,000 were 440 Magnum/four-speed equipped like Roger's.
If you've got a similar mid-life (or sooner) urge to build a Mopar like one that you had years ago, Roger has this advice: "Don't get in a hurry. Take your time. When you get mad, walk away, then come back to it."
A couple of unique-to-'68...
A couple of unique-to-'68 exterior items include the taillights (shared with the Coronet 500 series) and the round side marker lights shared with all other Mopars that year.
'68 Dodge Coronet R/T hardtop
Owned by: Roger Moricle, Burlington, North Carolina
- Engine: A later-than-the-original '68 440 was built by Roger and Herb McCandless with a .030-inch overbore, Edelbrock heads, 8.27:1 compression, Holley 750 carburetor (prepared by AED Competition Carburetors, Richmond, VA), Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, a Comp Cams Extreme Energy camshaft, Mopar Performance distributor, McCandless Performance plug wires, Milodon's double-roller timing set and their oil pan and pickup, Powermaster alternator, March pulleys, and a full tti 2 1/2-inch exhaust system.
- Transmission: The original A-833, rebuilt by Herb with a Hays clutch and Hurst "Competition Plus" shifter
- Rearend: After seeing race duty in a Challenger, the OEM 3.54-geared Dana 60 was rebuilt and put back in service.
- Suspension: (Front) Original HD torsion bars with Monroe shocks (Rear) Original HD leaf springs, which were cleaned up, and put back together by Roge, who added new monroe shocks in abc, too.
- Brakes: Rebuilt original 11-inch drum brakes, non-power-assisted
- Wheels and Tires: Cragar S/S 5-spokes (15 x 6 inches in front, 15 x 8 inches in back wearing BFGoodrich Radial TAs,215/70R15 in front, 275/60R15 in back.
- Body: Original '68 Dodge Coronet two-door unibody cleaned up by Roger on a rotisserie. No sheetmetal needed replacing-and no stripes did either. (Car is an original stripe-delete R/T.)
- Paint: PPG Deltron UU1 Bright Blue Metallic basecoat (with a PPG clear), sprayed on by Tom Young at Young's Auto Body in Elon, North Carolina
- Interior: A combination of original and resto pieces. Just Dashes refinished the top dashpad, and the seats and headliner are re-skinned with Legendary materials. Door panels, arm rests, MusicMaster AM radio, and the bottom dash pad are all original, while J.C. Auto Restorations re-did the gauges and Auto Custom Carpets supplied the new carpets.