If you're not a car guy or gal, you generally look at cars only as a mode of transportation. But, lucky for us, we're car guys. We look at a car and it takes on a character or personality of its own. Alan Clemens and his wife Rhonda have long been the kind of people who see cars in this way, and their lives together have circulated around Mopars for most of it. For recently retired Alan, this mindset drove him to build his Coronet in his free time at home.
The story about this Coronet started when Alan and Rhonda went on vacation in Cody, Wyoming. Alan noticed something rather unique about the area. "There were a lot of old cars driving around," he recalls, and this made him think about building a classic car of his own. Alan has a history of driving Mopars, including a '64 Polara 500 and a '69 Road Runner, so he knew that his pending car restoration project could be nothing other than a Mopar.
With that in mind, Alan set off to a local junkyard while still in Cody, to see what was available. Unfortunately, there wasn't anything that caught his eye. Discouraged, he went inside and spoke with the guys behind the counter and told them he was looking for a classic Mopar. "The junkyard gave me contact information for a guy in Riverton, Wyoming, that would possibly have some old Mopars," he says. When he called the man up, he told Alan that he had a '69 Coronet R/T Convertible that was in a bad wreck back in 1990. "I took the information down but didn't really consider it for a while," he admits.
This changed in 2007 when he received a copy of Mopar Milestones Collector Edition. There was an article on the Coronet R/T Convertible, depicting it as extremely rare, one of 317 built. By this time, Alan had retired and the idea to build a car had been stewing in his head since they left Wyoming-five years earlier. He made the call and, to his surprise, the car was still available. Alan and Rhonda made the trip to Riverton, Wyoming, to pick up the car, and were pleased to find the car had solid metal, aside from the repairs needed from the accident.
The couple took the car home, and Alan furthered his research about it. As it turned out, the car was even more rare than once believed. "It was a sales bank car that wasn't actually ordered by anyone, and came with the R6 red exterior, PRG red interior. Our car is in the Chrysler Registry as number 30 of 61."
With the car being so rare, it was always his plan to restore it as close to stock as he possibly could. Alan selected Doug Tigner from St. Helen, Michigan, to coax the Coronet body back into shape. A Stinger Fiberglass twin scoop from American Sports Car and sidescoops by Bent Rod are the only non-OEM reproduction pieces on the car. Once the body lines matched up, it was sprayed down in PPG R6 red and followed up with clear coat. For the interior, Doug and Alan worked together to restore it back into shape, ordering parts from Legendary Auto Interiors. The seats were recovered and a new convertible top was installed by Gary's Custom Pleat in Bay City, Michigan.
The original block couldn't be used so a '72 440 block was used as a base and sent over to Merlin Melrose in Prescott, Michigan. The bare block was taken to the machine shop and bored .030-inch over, and Mopar pistons, rods, and crankshaft were then used to complete the rotating assembly. To avoid any drivability issues, Alan ordered an Edelbrock 750-cfm, which he mounted to the original intake manifold. The remainder of the engine was rebuilt to stock specs to stay true to Alan's idea.
The rebuild took from July 2008 to July 2009. Within that year, a lot was accomplished by Alan, thanks to the help from Doug, Merlin, and the patience of his wife, Rhonda. He currently uses the car for cruising and taking it to car shows, where we bumped into him. The car is such an important vehicle to him that when he splits his time between Michigan and Ocala, Florida, he takes the car with him so he can enjoy it anywhere he goes. This rare convertible has a bright future in multiple climates, thanks to the homegrown rebuild that could easily take a trophy at any show.
'69 Dodge Coronet R/T Convertible
Alan and Rhonda Clemens
Rose City, Michigan
- Engine: Though not the original 440, the '72 block was built closely to the specs of a factory 440 Magnum it rolled off the line with in 1969. Merlin Melrose in Prescott, Michigan, performed the engine build. The block was cleaned up at .030-inch over and features Mopar cast flat-top pistons, stock rods, and a stock 3.750-inch crankshaft. A stock replacement flat-tappet hydraulic camshaft was used along with stock heads, rockers, and intake manifold. An Edelbrock electric choke 750-cfm carburetor is used and the ignition was converted to a Mopar electronic system. The oiling system is stock. The exhaust uses stock manifolds with a Flowmaster system using 40-series mufflers.
- Transmission: Alan had AAMCO rebuild the column-shifted 727 Torqueflite.
- Rearend: Original 8-3/4 rear with 3.23 gears and an open differential.
- Suspension: KYB Gas Adjust shocks at all corners. All bushings replaced with new PST Polygraphite bushings. All other components are factory.
- Brakes: Power disc and rear drums.
- Wheels/Tires: Front and rear Magnum 500 measuring 15x7 front and 15x8 rear. Alan runs BFGoodrich Silvertown Redline Radials in P215/70R15 front and P235/70R15 rear.
- Paint/Body: Doug Tigner from St. Helen, Michigan, was employed to repair the damage from the early '90s wreck and polished the job off with an immaculate application of PPG basecoat and clear. The scoops on the hood are from Stinger Fiberglass and the sidescoops are from Bent Rod.
- Interior: Alan and Doug stripped down the interior and restored it using parts from Legendary Auto Interiors and installed a Classic Auto Air system to make cruising more comfortable.
Alan used an Edelbrock carburetor for easy, trouble-free operation from the dramatic clima
Other than a later date block, the Coronet’s engine bay closely resembles factory fresh.