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).
Under that original air cleaner...
Under that original air cleaner is a rebuilt original '69 440, topped by an Edelbrock aluminum intake and the Holley two-barrels.
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.
Budget didn't mean bare bones...
Budget didn't mean bare bones in any Dodge-especially the Super Bee. Pleated vinyl seat trim was standard on the Bee, as was the Rallye gauge cluster. The Hurst shifter was standard on all four-speed Mopars back in the day. Front seat headrests were required on all cars built after January 1, 1969.
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.
5,000-rpm redline Tick Tock...
5,000-rpm redline Tick Tock Tach and 150-mph speedometer were included with the Rallye Gauge cluster.
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."
A school boy when the muscle car era was in full swing, Bob was one of the guys who, early on, realized what treasures these cars were-ones worth restoring. Back then, dealer parts inventories still had a lot of '68-'70 B-Body stuff-but it took a lot of time to find what he needed to restore his Bee. "It took six years, because I was tracking down a lot of the parts through the dealerships," he says of his searches that took him to dealers that still had the sheetmetal, chassis, engine and other parts he sought on their shelves, new-in-the-wrapper New Old Stock (N.O.S.). "I was able to go to a dealer and get some N.O.S. fenders," Bob adds, "and when I rebuilt the engine and the transmission, I put as many N.O.S. parts inside them as I could."
Bob also performed the interior and chassis restorations, plus all the needed pre-paint bodywork.
Once done, it was time to enjoy the Bee. "It's only got 21,158 original miles on it," Bob says, adding that he's only put 650.3 miles on it since finishing the restoration. "It's not a 10-point show car, but it's equal to what came out of the dealership."
He's taken it to cruise nights and events near home-the 4.10 rear gear limits the cruising range-including some all-Mopar ones. "We have a show in Collingswood, New Jersey, and shows in Turnersville and Cross Keys." He adds, "I get kind of nervous when people come around it with bicycles and baby strollers at the car shows."
What's this Six Pack-equipped Bee like to drive? Bob says, "It's a handful! Cars like this don't handle the way cars do today." For that, you can thank its non-power-assisted steering and skinny, 70-series tires. "It wants to dance all over the road on you when you step on it," he adds. "But once you get it going in a straight line, it doesn't stop pulling, that's for sure!"
Bob's preferred method of acceleration with it doesn't involve a standing start, but it does involve car preservation. "I like to nail it from a roll, because if you nail it from a stop sometimes without slicks, you break stuff." He also says that, once all of the torque the 440 Six Pack can deliver reaches the back tires, the Bee's back end wants to jump out sideways. "Just hang in there, and once it straightens out, it's a bear," he adds. "Especially looking over top of that hoodscoop."
If you're up to the challenge of restoring a Six Pack-equipped Bee that you've found, Bob has this advice. "It's no different than restoring a regular Super Bee, except for if you don't have the original hood or air cleaner. They're probably the two hardest things to get. There are aftermarket hoods and air cleaners, but they're not quite the same."
In a year when Dodge dealers moved about 202,000 Coronets of all kinds, nearly 28,000 of them-over ten percent of all Coronet sales-were Super Bees. Of those, 1,907 got the A12 440 Six Pack option package-1,487 hardtops (826 four-speeds and 661 Torqueflites) and 420 coupes (267 A-833s and 153 727s).
'69 was the high water mark for not just the 440 Six Pack option, but for the Super Bee overall. Only about 15,000 Bees-including 1,268 Six Packs-were sold in '70, and just over 5,000 Charger-based Super Bees in '71 (99 with 440 Six Packs), the last year the Super Bee name graced a Dodge before its 2007 revival.
Still, this Bee delivered a lot for four grand in 1969 money. That sum is equal to about $22,800 in today's money, by the way-and when was the last time you saw a Bee like this sell for that?
'69 Dodge Coronet Super Bee hardtop
Owned by Bob and Judy Severino
Deptford, New Jersey
- Engine: Bob restored the 440 Six Pack using N.O.S. parts as he could find them. The trio of Holley two-barrels and the Edelbrock aluminum intake are all originals.
- Transmission: Rebuilt original 18-spline A-833 four-speed, with factory Hurst shifter.
- Rearend: The original Dana 60, with Sure Grip and 4.10 gears
- Suspension: (Front) Restored original-heavy duty longitudinal torsion bars and tubular shocks with an anti-sway bar. (Rear) Restored original-heavy duty leaf springs with tubular shocks
- Brakes: Non-power-assisted drum and shoe brakes all around with 11-inch drums
- Wheels and Tires: G70-15 redline Goodyear tires on 15x6-inch black steel wheels, with chrome lug nuts, and no factory dog dishes or covers.
- Body: Original '69 Dodge B-Body hardtop unibody got an N.O.S. pair of front fenders before Bob got it ready for paint. (Previous two owners had kept the Bee away from road salt and collisions as much as they could.)
- Paint: Bahama Yellow, applied by Tracy Braun.
- Interior: Restored stock interior features the original deluxe steering wheel and Rallye gauge cluster, original front seat covers and a repro Legendary rear seat cover, and an AM/FM tuner in the stock AM radio's housing.