Convertibles, like the 1965 Dodge Coronet 500 Convertible, came in a wide selection of flavors back in the Sixties. One brand alone comprised the compact Dart 270 and fancier Dart GT, mid-size Coronet 440 and Coronet 500, plus the full-size Polara and Custom 880. Yes, Dodge offered no less than six different soft tops in its 1965 lineup.
Riding a 117-inch wheelbase were three mid-size Dodge series, reviving a name not used since 1959: Coronet, Coronet 440, and Coronet 500. Heading the class, the 500 V-8 carried a list price of $2894 in convertible form. Standard equipment included electric wipers, heater/defroster, and backup lights. Inside were air-foam front bucket seats, full carpeting, a center console, padded dashboard, sun visors, front/rear armrests, and all-vinyl upholstery. Factory literature described that interior -- with typical advertising abandon -- as "rich, supple saddle grain and tallow calf vinyl."
Under the 500's hood, the base 273.5-cid, 180-bhp V-8 was coupled to a three-speed manual shift and a 3.23:1 rear-axle ratio. Drivetrain options ranged from mild to wild, as buyers could choose among five other V-8s: 230-bhp 318, 265-bhp 361, and a 330-bhp 383. Next on the list was the 426 wedge, rated at 365 horses, and hailed as "Super/Sleeper of the year" by Motor Trend when coupled to a four-speed with Hurst shifter. If that wasn't enough, enthusiasts could go all out with the 426-cid Hemi-Charger. With dual Carter AFB four-barrel carbs and a 12.0:1 compression ratio, that famous hemispherical-head V-8 was conservatively rated at 425 bhp. Competition versions campaigned with great success at dragstrips across America.
Coronet 500s displayed straight-edge, squared-off styling with minimal trim. A full-length chrome strip ran along the beltline, while "Coronet 500" script appeared just behind the front wheel wells. Spinner-style wheel covers spotlighted the tires.
Dodge emphasized the twin virtues of value and sportiness in promoting the 500 in '65. Magazine ads proclaimed "Hot Dodge ... new lower price," and "a whale of a car for the cost." A sales brochure echoed that appeal: "The car that puts excitement back in driving without bending your budget." Just under 33,000 Coronet 500s (hardtops and convertibles) were built before the line was restyled for 1966.
The lovely Coronet 500 convertible seen here, finished in medium red metallic, belongs to Ray Banuls of Albany, New York. Purchased from a local junkyard for $75, the car was originally from Massachusetts and had rested in the boneyard with a blown engine since 1974. A total, ground-up restoration took two years, and was completed in 1989.
Ray did most of the work himself. Finding the correct interior materials was the biggest stumbling block. The pristine red pieces were finally located in a fabric shop in Oregon. Ray uses the car mainly for pleasure, but he also enters this fine 500 in an occasional local show.
Today's car-shoppers can choose from only a handful of ragtops. What a difference from the days when Dodge alone offered half a dozen.
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