By on March 28, 2012

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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24 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner:1966 Coronet 426 Hemi 2 Door Hardtop – A Shoebox With A Big, Bad Attitude...”

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Had a mate who had the convertible version of this car whilst we were in college….same green color. His had a 383 and it was a very civilised ride….until he put his put into it….then it was like a a leopard in a gunny-sack screaming to get out….

    As I supposedly once said to Kim Cronin, a very zoftig girl in my 9th grade class…..”Thanks for the mammaries….”

  • avatar

    Sticker price?

  • avatar

    It’s got 32,000 miles on the original 1960s tires (and washer fluid…)?

    Then, a couple of sentences later, it has 2700 miles.

    Also, it has a 4:11 rear axle ratio?

    Seriously guys, does anyone edit these?? It’s like amateur year here.

  • avatar

    Not pretty, not stylish, not aero, but incredibly scary fast.

  • avatar

    Old man had one of these back in ’67 (bought right after getting back from Vietnam just after he married mom). He had alot of god stories about that car but the best was his commute between Fort Story, Fort Eustis, the HRBT and a state cop.

  • avatar

    My mom had a ’66 Monaco 2 dr hardtop w/a 383 4 barrel that was a stealth mobile, too. Driving back and forth from the lake, Mom would often find herself doing 100 mph without us even noticing. She always said that car was impossible to keep at 70 mph! It was a sweet ride.

  • avatar

    Jim, have you watched Jay Leno’s video of his ’66 Coronet Hemi? I enjoyed his retelling of putting his foot into it on Coldwater Canyon and ending up facing oncoming traffic.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Beautiful car, beautiful stories, but I couldn’t live with a drag strip only car. I’d have to change the rear gear to about 3.55 to be able to live with it.

  • avatar

    4.11 is neither going have much high end nor fuel economy.

    after a few wins in your bracket, arent u going to get bored?

    these cars in the 10-11 ish?

  • avatar

    the cars build in these era didnt really like to do too much turning, as long as u can keep her straight then she’s happy.

    • 0 avatar

      and try stopping. It was, as they say, a more spacious era.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually the B body mopars did fairly well in the braking dept. They had 11X3 inch drums, where GM’s midsizers all used 9X2.5 inchers. The chryslers also had a much stiffer body, GM used the flexible body on frame which had practically no torsional rigidity, and the suspension geometry on GM products was horrendous. The mopars handled very well with their stiff structure and torsion bars, although the weight of a hemi would diminish most of that advantage.

  • avatar

    I got a 67 coronet with a 440 magnum. Experience on the strip is that switching from 4.11 to a 3.91 didn’t do anything to the time, just that the 3.91 had a higher MPH at the end. 4.11 got off the line faster but topped out sooner. So he can ratchet down a little on the final drive and still be fast. Going to a 3.23 did see some slightly higher 1/4 mile times, but oh – so much nicer on the street. Well worth the swap for a primary street car.

    Plus with 4.11 and full throttle, no way to keep the damn thing pointing in the right direction. It’d fishtail all over the road.

    Notice the single reservoir on the brake master cylinder. One little leak and you’re all done. In 1967 they went to the dual reservoirs. Probably all drums, however.

  • avatar

    “like a drunk sticks to an open bar” It’s an honor to be mentioned in this fine article! Thank you!

  • avatar

    I completely disagree with the styling analysis. The 1966 Coronet 440 2-door hardtop was one of the best looking American cars. It is one of the few cars that could make me overlook their weaknesses and actually buy one. As for the handling and braking, it does require superior judgement in traffic, but a really talented driver can still make the car go around turns.

  • avatar

    Back in the mid to late sixties heyday of the musclecar, the manufacturers would supply cars to go out on Woodward Ave in Detroit and compare. None of them were dumb enough to drive and risk getting caught street racing, like Pontiac’s GTO ad-man Jim Wangers who let someone else drive while he rode shotgun.

    Likewise, Chrysler’s Tom ‘Father of the Hemi’ Hoover would simply loan out his car, which was supposedly very similiar to this Coronet (although Hoover’s car might have been a stripper 2-door sedan). Even the dark green color was chosen specifically because it would be harder for law enforcement to determine the color of the color if it was spotted involved in any illegal activities.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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