What would four grand get you back in 1969? If you were looking for a car that had the performance to back up its looks, that dollar figure put you in the budget muscle car market. Maybe you couldn't afford a loaded Dodge Charger R/T, Plymouth GTX, or Dodge Coronet R/T, but Ma Mopar had just the ticket for you-in both Dodge and Plymouth flavors.

The idea of a muscle car low on the frills and heavy on the power didn't come from the product planners in Highland Park, but they were the first to get the message that automotive journalist Brock Yates was pushing: Go heavy on the high-performance hardware and light on the trim, making it more affordable to more buyers. (By the way, that idea came from a 19-year-old wrench-spinner on Yates' SCCA Trans-Am Challenge race team).

Plymouth took the first shot at it and hit the target dead-on. They took their new-for-'68 Belvedere coupe body, added the four-barrel 383 and heavy-duty chassis bits from the cop car package, and made the A-833 four-speed standard. Add a horn and graphics made possible by a steal of a licensing deal with Warner Brothers-Seven Arts ($50,000 to use the Road Runner's image and sound-likely less than what Chrysler paid model-maker MPC to cut a new 1/25-scale '68 Coronet B-Body tool for promotional models and kits), and they had the Plymouth Road Runner, whose base price started below $3,000.

Dodge wasn't about to lose out to its divisional sibling, so at mid-year '68, the first Dodge Coronet Super Bee appeared. They used the same formula-a base-level coupe body, heavy-duty chassis, and a 383 with a four-speed as the standard powertrain. Just over 7,800 Bees (including 125 Hemi-powered ones) were built and sold in the second half of '68, with changes for the better coming for '69.

For '69, the Super Bee got a pillar-less two-door hardtop version, the second-year styling freshening that all Coronets got, plus the optional "Ramcharger" fresh-air induction setup that opened up the scoops on the Bee's standard steel hood. Ma Mopar wasn't done yet, especially not with the spring selling season approaching (which had always been a time of new colors, new features, and new option packages).

1969-and-a-half saw the addition of option code A12 to the Coronet Super Bee option list: the 440 Six Pack engine package. It replaced the 383 with a 440 treated to an aluminum Edelbrock intake topped by three Holley two-barrels, with a scooped, matte black, pin-on fiberglass hood with SIX PACK in big red letters on the scoop's sides. Out back was a 4.10-geared Dana 60 with Sure Grip optional, and transmission choices were the A-833 four-speed (the 18-spline Hemi version) or a heavy-duty 727 Torqueflite. Wheels were 15x6-inch black steelies from the cop car parts shelf, with chrome lug nuts and no covers.

On the sticker, the A12 option group cost just $462.80-about half what a Hemi cost.

One such A12 Super Bee hardtop was ordered by George Hyndman, a budget-minded, high-performance buyer at Martin B. Glauser Dodge in Vineland, New Jersey, in the spring of 1969. Along with the 440 Six Pack, he chose the Sure Grip differential ($42.35 extra), the max cooling package and torque-drive fan (which, together, added another $25.25), MusicMaster pushbutton AM radio ($61.55), a black vinyl top ($89.20), and a deluxe steering wheel ($5.45). Add all those to the Bee hardtop's $3,130 base price, and the sticker's bottom line came to $3,824.60, before the $78 destination charge was added.

That buyer got a lot for his $4,002.60 (plus tax, title, and license fees). A legitimate 13-second car on the quarter-mile, in bone stock trim.

A lot of that hardware and all of the sales paperwork was still with that number matching Bee when Bob Severino found it in the early '80s, one that had two prevous owners. "It had all the parts," he recalls, though they weren't all in their factory-installed locations, and it was stored outside. "The original engine was all apart, and the original transmission was in the trunk."