Car Collector's Corner:1966 Coronet 426 Hemi 2 Door Hardtop - A Shoebox With A Big, Bad Attitude

J Sutherland
by J Sutherland
car collector s corner 1966 coronet 426 hemi 2 door hardtop a shoebox with a big

1966 Dodge Coronets never were the most aerodynamic vehicles ever built. The nickname “shoebox” stuck to them like a drunk sticks to an open bar.

These Dodge Coronets were sensible vehicles that Dad drove because they were functional, practical and affordable. Every adjective that kids hated when it came to cars.

Then Chrysler stuck a NASCAR 426 Hemi in the shoebox and the magic began on the streets. The “Street Hemis” turned the shoeboxes into blunt trauma missiles.

Pete Englemen has been a Mopar guy since his first lucid thought-that’s when this first edition of the 2nd generation Hemi hit his radar. Pete found the perfect car in this documented 32,000 original mile Coronet. Every piece of paper related to this car came with it and more. This car still had the factory Blue Streak tires and the factory windshield washer fluid.

The Hemi Dodge was driven sparingly since its purchase in Cincinnati back in 1966. The owner drove it the old fashioned way… a ¼ mile at a time in the 1970s. The car changed hands in 1976. It was stored until 2002 when it was rebuilt mechanically and the paint was touched-up from the beltline on down.

The Dodge was sold again and since then it had only accumulated 2700 miles until 2010 when Pete took delivery of this classic Mopar.

Pete is very realistic about his car, he accepts some of its limitations. The Hemi will never be confused with a Prius. Pete lives with the fact that 2/3 of a full tank will disappear in under 100 miles.

Part of that mileage deficiency stems from the 4:11 rear end – a vestige of the Coronet’s racing career. As Pete explained, “ at 110 mph that’s enough” but getting there is worth every penny because “at 70-80 mph it’s like a wild animal if you keep your foot in it”.

Pete’s biggest thrill with this car is that it’s so unassuming, yet so dangerous. He likes the shoebox Dodge for its mild-mannered reporter looks that mask its Superman heart. Just like in 1966, in 2011 this car would barely merit a glance, other than it’s clearly a conservative old car.

Until that Hemi lights up. Then all hell breaks loose and the ambush is sprung. Pete basks in the stealth side of the car so the only giveaway is the little 426 Hemi badge on the fender. Everything else is undercover from the dog dish hubcaps to the thin whitewall tires.

Pete and the car are going to be life partners. He knew what he wanted and he found the best.

The scariest shoebox on the planet.

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3 of 24 comments
  • Tiredoldmechanic Tiredoldmechanic on Mar 28, 2012

    Dead stock, mid to high 13s, Slicks, traction bars, headers and a decent shifter will get you well into the 12s. After that it's a question of how much you can afford and how much driveability you can sacrifice. Nothing had more potential than the 426 Hemi, but getting into the 10-11 second range was a pretty serious commitment.

  • Bluemaxwedge64 Bluemaxwedge64 on Jun 20, 2015

    1966 Wow! What a year, I was a freshman in college and dad bought a new '66 Coronet 440 2-dr hardtop, equipped with a 383, 4-speed, sure grip and AM radio. I'll never forget taking the car home - and dad let me drive. I could hardly wait to pick up my girlfriend that Sat. night and go cruising. Well, half a century later, I just purchased a nice, solid original Coronet 440 with 318 engine. This winter, I plan on doing restoration work on the the sheet metal, new white paint and refinishing the bright work. AND, the car will be receiving a different engine. 426 HEMI. I want to do an accurate recreation and hope to have the project finished by early spring.

  • Teddyc73 A resounding NO. This has "Democrat" "Socialism" "liberalism" "Progressivism" and "Communism" written all over it.
  • Jeffrey An all electric entry level vehicle is needed and as a second car I'm interested. Though I will wait for it to be manufactured in the states with US components eligible for the EV credit.
  • Bob65688581 Small by American standards, this car is just right for Europe, and probably China, although I don't really know, there. Upscale small cars don't exist in the US because Americans associate size and luxury, so it will have a tough time in the States... but again Europe is used to such cars. Audi has been making "small, upscale" since forever. As usual, Americans will miss an opportunity. I'll buy one, though!Contrary to your text, the EX30 has nothing whatsoever to do with the XC40 or C40, being built on a dedicated chassis.
  • Tassos Chinese owned Vollvo-Geely must have the best PR department of all automakers. A TINY maker with only 0.5-0.8% market share in the US, it is in the news every day.I have lost count how many different models Volvo has, and it is shocking how FEW of each miserable one it sells in the US market.Approximately, it sells as many units (TOTAL) as is the total number of loser models it offers.
  • ToolGuy Seems pretty reasonable to me. (Sorry)