Coronet R/T finds its way home

BY Larry D'ArgiS. Jun 30 03:00 am

By 1967, the muscle car wars were in high gear. The popularity of the intermediate-size Pontiac GTO was beginning to wane, largely because of new offerings from other manufacturers. In the Dodge camp the Coronet 500 needed a little more outward excitement. To solve the dilemma, Dodge introduced the Coronet R/T.

Advertising beckoned, “Dodge Rebellion — Enlist Now! — Operation ‘67.” Standing for Road and Track, the R/T was billed as Dodge’s first comprehensively packaged muscle car. With a Charger-inspired grill, heavy-duty suspension, R/T badges, bucket seats and sports slat hood, the look was far from run-of-the-mill. Under the hood, standard power was derived from a 375 horsepower, 440-cubic-inch Magnum V-8. For those wanting more, the optional and mighty 426 Hemi was also offered.

Fast forward to 1969 and the Coronet R/T is amidst a plethora of mid-size muscle cars. The Road Runner and GTX on the Plymouth side and its lower-priced Dodge sibling the Super Bee were really kicking the higher-priced R/T to the curb in sales. Now in today’s muscle car parlance, poor sales don’t equate to being poor cars. Those higher-priced models were rare and this has been a contributing factor in gauging value.

For Eric Bueckert of Winnipeg, his ’69 Coronet R/T hardtop is simply a long-lost cousin. Originally sold by his father, Peter Bueckert, at Bueckert Motors in Gretna in late 1968, it’s a find you wouldn’t expect to just drop in his lap in 1984.

When the original owner wanted to purchase a new vehicle from the dealership, Eric learned he still had the Coronet R/T his father sold him and he purchased it in a side deal.

The car hadn’t been beaten up too badly. Aside from one repaint, newer slotted mag wheels, a trailer hitch and air-shock absorbers to keep the rear of the car up, it was still in very good condition. Bueckert used the car sparingly and put it aside until 2001, when he turned it over to Harvey Bergen in Altona for a full rotisserie restoration.

The car was repainted in the correct Y2 yellow, with a new black vinyl top and Jewel Black interior upholstery kit with new headliner and carpet. The 440-cubic-inch, Magnum V-8 engine was completely rebuilt by Ken Murray at Ken’s Kustom Auto Machine in Winnipeg and fitted with a Pertronix Ignitor electronic ignition module. There’s also a full-flow dual exhaust system with crossover and performance mufflers. Backed by the Chrysler A-833 new process four-speed manual transmission and Dana 60 with 3.54:1 gear sure-grip rear axle, it had all the right components for a muscle car. Bumpers were re-chromed at the Chrome Pit in Winnipeg and the rolling stock had been replaced with 15-inch Magnum style road wheels and 70-series radial tires.

Being an early order from 1968, the car has standard bucket seats without optional head rests, centre console, light package, deluxe push-button AM radio, fender-mounted turn signal indicators and tinted glass. Without the “Ramchargers” dual air inlet option, the hood is the standard Coronet R/T and Super Bee hood, with centre chrome-trimmed bulge. Since the restoration, the Coronet R/T continues to be used sparingly as a summer driver and has only logged about 1,200 miles since its completion and it remains a part of the Bueckert family.

Listed at $4,181 including the five per cent Manitoba provincial sales tax it was priced on the high end of what most muscle cars sold for. Total Coronet production for 1969 was 197,004 units, with 27,846 of those being Super Bees and only 7,238 Coronet R/T models.

The R/T designation for Dodge has been in use over the years in one form or another and is now in its 50th year. Dodge and Mopar clubs are celebrating its inception as part of the muscle car movement.

For the Manitoba Mopar Association, their local appreciation day will be held tomorrow when the club hosts its annual Mopar and Friends Canada Day show in the Rainbow Stage parking lot at Kildonan Park. Open to all makes and models, show registration opens at 10 a.m. and runs from noon to 4 p.m. with net proceeds going to the Movement Centre of Manitoba. Get out and celebrate the 50th year for the R/T model and Canada’s 150th birthday as a nation!

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