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1968-1970 Dodge Coronet R/T

1970 Dodge Coronet R/T

Into the third year of use for the ’68 shell, Dodge planners loosened the purse strings to pay for more ambitious styling changes for the 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T, springing for a complete front and rear redo. Compared with the $5.5 million tooling bill for ’69, the more ambitiously facelifted ’70 Coronet and Dodge Charger generated $12.2 million in unique tooling. The changes also resulted in an overall length of 209.7 inches, a 3.1-inch increase.

1970 Dodge Coronet R/T
The complete redesign of the 1970 Dodge
Coronet R/T included a polarizing front end.

The new rear bumper was no longer flat, but was refashioned into a shallow “W” in plan view, with related changes to the decklid and quarter-panel end caps. Delta taillights returned; on 500s and R/Ts they were shaped in triple tapering rectangles much as in ’68, but more exaggerated and with the back-up lamps cleverly concealed between the inner and middle boxes. The R/T’s back panel was once again blacked out.

The add-on bodyside scoop on the rear quarter was changed to a single large simulated vent with an R/T medallion recessed into the surface. In concept, the design of this part was closely tied with a similar scoop on the fore part of the ’70 Charger R/T door. The bumblebee stripe was simplified, becoming almost identical to that used on the ’67 Chevy Camaro SS.

The new front end selected for the 1970 Coronet -- with its distinctive dual-loop bumpers -- has become highly controversial over the years. It was designed by Diran Yazejian, who joined Chrysler in 1959 fresh out of Art Center College of Design in Southern California. As seen in a green-and-black sketch dated March 8, 1967, the design was originally based around two body-color “nostrils” swept back in plan view, each with chrome-lined “throats,” with a crisply contoured chrome bumper floating beneath. For additional cooling, the wide area between the nostrils (which resembled the center section of the hood on the ’71 Oldsmobile Toronado) was pierced by horizontal louvers on either side of the peaked centerline.

But by early August, the design had been altered so that the body-color nostrils became far less dramatic -- flat in plan view instead of being swept back, and closer together -- with small vertical louvers flanking the insides of the loops and everything above a conventional bumper. The whole workout looked pasted on, a mere suggestion of the original idea. (This was typical of the styling process in which the execs would pick a sketch for its dramatic design statement, only to see it progressively watered down to meet manufacturing-cost targets.)

Fortunately for Yazejian’s design, another sketch dated September 19, 1967, reveals that the design had been reinvigorated by transforming the twin nostril concept into a loop bumper. Thus the design went from radical to conventional to radical, a surprising and quite exceptional progression.

Within the corporation, loop bumpers had debuted on the 1969 “fuselage” Chryslers and Imperials, and were attractively incorporated into the facelifted C-body Plymouth Fury and Dodge Polara/Monaco in 1970.

The only other cars in the corporate lineup that year with loop bumpers were the B-body Dodges, the Charger and the Coronet. Dodge planners and stylists felt that the loop bumper was an effective way of distinguishing their products from rival Plymouth, whose B-body still employed a conventional bumper.

The Charger’s loop bumper was straightforward. The first few inches of the 1968-69 sheetmetal were recast in chrome bumper stock running continuously around the grille and headlights. This concept was, of course, more expensive to make than a regular bumper. Not only was more bumper material required (the middle was thrown away), but a more-elaborate and sturdier bumper-mounting system was needed, with lower and upper body mounts.

All of the loop bumpers cited above were carwide rectangles. Not so the loop bumper on the Coronet, which was much trickier. Styled to look like independent tapering wedges, the design was actually one piece, with a recessed area in the center connecting the loops.

“When we were working out the design on the full-size clay model,” Yazejian recalls, “I originally tapered the loops around an imaginary horizontal line bisecting the dual headlights, so each loop tapered in two directions -- up and down. But this didn’t look right, so instead, I kept the bottom line of the loops horizontal -- like my original green-and-black sketch -- and restricted the tapering to the upper half of the loops. This made the design ‘read right.’” Yazejian admits that the idea behind the design was to reprise his signature delta taillights into a new way of looking at a Dodge front-end theme.

Recessed inside each loop were dual headlamps flanked by vertical plastic grille bars that were blacked out on the 500, Super Bee, and R/T, and outlined by a red accent line. A studio photograph dated February 7, 1968, indicates that concealed headlights were considered, but in the end these were confined to the Charger.

One neat finishing touch on most of the two-door Coronets was a body-color vinyl appliqué that covered the bumper’s recessed center section, cleverly making the twin loops look like freestanding units. (Sedans and wagons lacked this appliqué because preproduction surveys indicated that their buyers preferred more chrome.)

The new bumper mandated a new hood, which sported a raised “boattail” plateau that faded as it moved toward the windshield. At the center, a peak-line ridge rose up the waterfall and then back to the windshield. Bisecting this peak, the R/T medallion was mounted to the hood just above the hood/bumper cutline.

To this, R/Ts and Super Bees added a new-style power bulge featuring forward-facing simulated hood scoops that were artfully faired into the hood surface. The Ramcharger option once more relied on twin scoops, with hood tie-down pins optional.

The ’70 front-end design still stirs de­bate, with the word “odd” often used to describe the appearance. But the new nose job on the Coronet had one clear advantage over the more-conventional ’70 Belvedere front end: The Coro­net was more aerodynamic.

As reported by Edwin Sanow and John Bellah in their book Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler Police Cars, 1956-1978, “Car magazines eventually found this silver lining by running drag tests on equally equipped Coronet Super Bees and Belvedere Road Runners. The oval nose of the Coronet cut through the air better at the end of the strip, and consistently produced better speeds through the traps.” So there!

Under the hood on four-barrel cars, the intake manifold was new, and the driver’s exhaust manifold incorporated a heated air inlet to the air cleaner. An electronic voltage regulator was now fitted. The 440 Six Pack, with its 10.5:1 compression ratio and 390 horsepower, had been introduced in mid 1969 for the Super Bee and Road Runner, but in 1970, it became available on virtually all Chrysler Corporation high-performance cars, including the Coronet R/T.

Aside from its triple two-pot Holley carbs, the 440 Six Pack’s heavier pistons with four valve pockets were unique to the engine, as was a forged crankshaft with shot-peened journal fillets and a roller timing chain. Stage III Hemi engines received hydraulic tappets, but just 13 Hemi-powered Coronet R/T hardtops were built, plus one Hemi R/T ragtop (which has, fortunately, survived).

One of the new trick options was the Rim Blow steering wheel in which the horn was activated by a ring integrated into the steering-wheel rim. To blow the horn, you simply squeezed a thin, black rubber “tube” that protruded slightly from the inside rim surface. (It was easy to inadvertently blow the horn, but it was excessive warranty costs that eventually killed the option.)

Despite all that was new, assemblies of Coronet R/Ts for 1970 fell dramatically to a mere 2,408 units. This looked paltry even considering the reduced output of 14,254 Super Bees and 9,509 Charger R/Ts on the Dodge side, and 39,110 Road Runners and 7202 GTXs from Plymouth.

Nineteen seventy was the high-water mark for Chrysler Corporation muscle cars. The year was highlighted by the intro­duction of the all-new Dodge Chal­lenger and next-generation Plymouth Barra­cuda, E-body “ponycars” built with the more-substantial B-body underpinnings. The Dodge-Plymouth sibling rivalry elevated a notch with the introduction of Plymouth’s “Rap­id Transit System,” an unabashed imi­tation of Dodge’s successful Scat Pack concept.

Like some once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the planets, everything was in place: the big engines; the sexy styling; the trick graphics combined with vivid colors like Plum Crazy, Go-Mango, Hemi Orange, and Top Banana; the spirited advertising. It was all there to be savored by anyone willing to hand over his hard-earned money to the friendly neighborhood Dodge or Plymouth salesman. The party would continue one more year, but without the Coronet R/T.

For 1971, product planners rearranged the Dodge and Plymouth midsize lineups by splitting off the sportier two-door cars from the utilitarian four-door vehicles. Dodge’s two-door intermediate continued the Charger name with a curvaceous new Yazejian-styled body, while the Cor­onet badge was reserved for sedans and station wagons.

The Super Bee made the tran­sition from Coronet to Charger (where there was already an R/T). The glamorous Charger and the brash Super Bee had finally triumphed over the more staid Coronet R/T. But their victory was short-lived: 1971 was the last year for the Super Bee and R/T; they were replaced in 1972 by the Charger Rallye, which offered increasingly detuned engines.

Still, it was great fun while it lasted. What’s left today are some highly collectible vehicles with a virtual cult of collectors, enthusiasts, and even magazines devoted to them. In this milieu, however, Coronet R/Ts seem almost neglected in favor of the more charismatic Chargers, Super Bees, and Road Run­ners, just as they were by customers back in 1968-70.

The one collectible advantage possessed by the Coronet R/T is that unlike its B-body siblings, it was always offered both as a hardtop and a convertible. Remember, during 1968-70, there were never any Super Bee or Charger soft tops, no Plymouth GTX convertible in 1970, and no Road Runner ragtops in 1968. Hopefully, when collectors realize this, we may see more Coronet R/Ts -- especially of the open variety -- at the various shows.

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