Charlie Ryer's 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T

A Coronet Fit for a King

Chris Holley

The Dodge Coronet nameplate can be traced all the way back to the late 1940s when Dodge introduced their first post-WWII vehicles. The Coronet name was a divergence from the Deluxe or Custom nameplates normally pinned to all their pre-war Dodge vehicles. The Coronet was the top of the line for the new 1949 Dodge models, which included the lower trim lines of the Wayfarer and the Meadowbrook. While the Coronet may have been the top of the line Dodge, it was the crown prince within the entire Chrysler Corporation, which included Chrysler, Desoto, Dodge, and Plymouth. Although an excellent means of transportation, the early Coronets with a 230 cubic inch displacement (CID) flathead under the hood would never be considered a performance vehicle. However, during the next decade, performance accomplishments were achieved when a Coronet earned a land speed record with an early version of the Hemi engine sporting 241 cubes in 1953, and the Dodge engineers continued to design bigger and bigger CID overhead valve engines that developed horsepower numbers steadily pushing upward toward 300hp by the late 1950s. The ‘50s version of the Coronet was not introduced in an era when performance was king, and the nameplate disappeared after the 1959 model year.

With the introduction of the 1964 Pontiac GTO, the muscle car era had arrived. The Coronet name resurfaced in 1965, and within a few years, a true performance version of the Coronet was developed. The new R/T, motivated by a 440 Magnum wedge or a special-ordered 426 Hemi, emerged at the top of the 1967 Coronet model line. For 1968, the Coronet’s appearance was all-new as it received the similar “Coke Bottle” styling as the Dodge Charger. This style was a larger and more flowing shape than the preceding year’s Coronet. The even more popular 1969 version of the Coronet R/T almost doubled the sales output of the 1968 version (18,697 sold in 1968 and 35,094 sold in 1969, Super Bees included in the totals for both years). The total Coronet sales far outreached the 1969 Charger (now a more popular collector car). The Coronet R/T was one of the special vehicles in the Dodge Scat Pack, and the Coronet R/T was a key player in the “Dodge Fever” advertisement program of the late 1960s.

In 1968, Charlie Ryer of York, PA, was nearing the end of his six-year naval service, and he was yearning to pick up a new set of wheels. While in the Navy, first in Rhode Island and then with the McMurdo Fire Department in the Antarctic, a youthful Charlie and his fellow mariners would pass their free time by trading car magazines and kicking around ideas about which of the Big-Three manufacturer’s vehicles they would like to have when they completed their service duties. Most of the seafarers, including Charlie, seemed to agree that the Dodge and Plymouth offerings were among the best bang for the buck. While many of the Mopar interiors looked a bit sparse, the car mags represented the engines and the drivetrains of these vehicles to be very powerful with bulletproof performance potential while also being efficient and dependable.

The Kelsey-Hayes wheels are one of the most beautiful wheel designs ever to be included as an option for a Chrysler product. The Kelsey-Hayes wheels were recalled because the lug nuts would loosen as the car was driven. This in turn allowed the wheel to move around and wobble on the hub. The wheel would eventually crack, or in a worst case scenario, the center of the wheel would break free from the wheel resulting in an unsafe condition and possibly damage to the car or property.