Has the styling of a car that you saw way back when stayed with you, and eventually influenced you to buy one?
Henry Walburger had that happen on Staten Island, New York, in the late '60s, and the memory is as strong today as it was then. He recalls, "I remember working in a Shell station as a kid, and I saw the back of a car, and I said, ‘That car is so hot!'"
Thanks to Legendary, Jimmy's Auto Tops, and LeBrecque Auto Service, the '68's cabin got th
That car was the new-for-'68 Dodge Coronet R/T hardtop--specifically, a black-over-silver/stripe delete one that cruised into his service station. Gone were the squared-off lines of the '66-'67 B-Bodies, replaced by new styling (by the crew in Bill Brownlie's Dodge exterior studio) with smooth curves, a more pronounced "Coke bottle" shape on the rear quarters, and a taillight panel that looked wicked with the R/T's blackout treatment. "[To me] it was one of those cars that gets you excited, and you always wanted, but could never afford or never find," Henry says.
It wasn't until years later that he found a project-ready '68 R/T hardtop. Its original 440 had been replaced by a 383 that wasn't running, and the years (and salt-coated winter roads) had taken their toll on the Coronet's body, but the R/T's OEM 18-spline A-833 four-speed and Dana 60 rear end were still there.
Once home, Henry looked to restore the '68. Unfortunately, he didn't have the time to do it himself, so he looked to an outside shop. Eventually, he found LaBrecque Auto Craft, and owner Mike LaBrecque agreed to take on the project.
One thing that resto wouldn't include: the worn 383 that came with the car. Instead of that engine, or another 440, Henry chose a Hemi--built by Ray Barton Racing Engines and good for 636 horsepower and 617 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel. Barton's also rebuilt the Dana 60, and had the A-833 rebuilt, before LeBrecque's re-installed them in the R/T.
The sheetmetal was another story. "Auto Metal Direct (AMD) wasn't making full quarter-panels for the '68 Coronet when I bought the car," says Henry. I had bought two quarter skins, and by the time they were ready to go on, AMD was manufacturing the (full) quarter-panels." He got what is believed to be the second ever set of complete '68 Coronet quarters from AMD, and they now grace his car's unibody.
Inside, the cabin's restoration was done thanks to Legendary Auto Interiors parts, which were installed by Jimmy's Auto Tops on Staten Island.
In all, it took nearly three years to bring the R/T back from a wrong-engined project to Hemi-powered screamer. Much of that time was spent looking for needed parts, whether N.O.S., used, or reproduction, to complete the job.
With patience, and luck like Henry had, you just might find a Mopar that brings back those long-ago memories...and creates plenty of new ones!
1968 Dodge Coronet R/T hardtop
Owned by: Henry Walburger, Staten Island, New York
- Engine: 528-inch Hemi was built by Ray Barton Race Engines with Edelbrock aluminum heads, MSD 6AL ignition, steel crank, H-beam rods, and a custom-grind hydraulic camshaft. Two Edelbrock 600s sit atop a Street Hemi single-plane intake, and tti headers (with electric cut-outs) flow into 3-inch pipes.
- Transmission: Ray Barton's had the original 18-spline A-833 4-speed restored, with a period-correct (for '68 1/2-onward, at least) Hurst shifter
- Rearend: The original Dana 60, which Ray Barton's restored with its original 3.54 rear gears.
- Suspension: Restored original '68 Coronet R/T: Repro heavy-duty torsion bars, front anti-sway bar and KYB shocks in front; super stock leaf springs and KYB shocks in rear
- Brakes: SSBC's 4-wheel discs replaced the original disc-and-drum hardware
- Wheels and Tires: 5-spoke Magnum 500s (15 x 7 in front, special-offset 15 x 10s in the rear) wear Mickey Thompson's all around (26x10.00R15 front, P295/55R15 rear)
- Body: Original '68 Coronet hardtop unibody was restored by LeBrecque Auto Craft, East Windsor, Connecticut. They also replaced the black vinyl top and added a black bumblebee stripes.
- Paint: LeBrecque Auto Craft sprayed on the two-stage Glasurit Silver Metallic paint, the modern version of the extra-cost AA1 Buffed Silver Metallic factory color choice.
- Interior: Thank Legendary Auto Interiors (repro upholstery and trim), Jimmy's Auto Tops on Staten Island (seat restoration) and LeBrecque Auto Craft (interior reassembly) for this one.