Reader & Craigslist Classic: 1974 Dodge Coronet – A Tall Glass Of Water

Recently I posed a Question Of The Day about what car(s) everyone would like to see in the wild during 2019.  The top of my list was a fuselage Dodge Coronet from the 1971 to 1974 model years.  As always a commenter delivered, Chas in this case, providing a picture of not just any ordinary fuselage Coronet, but this baby blue one-year wonder Coronet of 1974.

But this story quickly evolves.

Two nights after that QOTD ran, in my Coronet longing-induced stupor, I did a quickie craigslist search for “Dodge Coronet”.  So what to my incredulous eyes should appear, but a ’74 Coronet with freakin’ big wheels!!!

Craig’s map showed it as being near East St. Louis.  Close, but not too close.

Frankly, I had been so focused on finding any Coronet from that era, an example of car I haven’t seen since around the time Burt Reynolds divorced Loni Anderson, the thought of finding that ever so elusive 1974 model was simply wishful thinking atop weird hankerings.  But here it is in all its Frosty Green Metallic glory – if this is indeed the original color, but Frosty Green was (shockingly) the only green available for the Coronet that year.

Here’s proof!

So what exactly is it about the 1974 Dodge Coronet that makes it so unique, so scintillating, allowing it to be catapulted into the stratosphere apart from all those other, ordinary boiler plate Coronets?

The beak.  Changed from the loop bumpers of 1971 to 1973, the Coronet would sport a different schnoz again for the next two years.  This is a one-year wonder.  And it’s wonderful.

I’m uploading pictures as I write this love-filled online soliloquy and I have to admit to sitting here and staring at this front in a raptured amazement for about three hours now.  It’s so familiar yet so exotic all at the same time.  It looks like something Chrysler would have developed for the Australian market.  It’s awesome!  The only way this could be better is if this guy had two of them for sale!

Not that I’m interesting in buying.  This whole fuselage Coronet fixation is strictly voyeuristic.  Hmm; that sentence sounds rather creepy.  Let’s just say I’m simply window shopping.

But if shopping, one needs to know what they are shopping for.  So what exactly is a coronet?

The potential knee-jerk reaction would be to think of a musical instrument.  Wrong; you are thinking cornet.  We need a coronet.  O, what a difference.

A coronet is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

1: a small or lesser crown usually signifying a rank below that of a sovereign

2: a wreath or band for the head usually for wear by women on formal occasions

3: the lower part of a horse’s pastern where the horn terminates in skin

Here’s a better visual thanks to the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  There’s nothing quite like the instant gratification gained from a Duck-Duck-Go image search.

As for Dodge, they co-opted the name “Coronet” way back in 1949, the year the first VW Beetle was sold in the United States and the average price of a home was $7,450.  At that time the Coronet was the top-of-the-line Dodge and Dodge made no bones about it either.  Just compare the 1953 Coronet convertible in the lower left to the exciting as tap water 1953 Meadowbrook in the upper right.  Which one has the tanned, smiling, shirtless alpha-male surrounded by bikini-clad babes, two of which appear to be going home with him?  Which has the matronly looking woman ignoring the suited male driver?  She’s probably spying on convertible guy and experiencing twinges of desire.

In the finest of Detroit customs, Dodge built a brand around the name Coronet.  It held firm in its mission, occupying the top of the Dodge line for many years.  It was so firmly established and branded, when anybody in North America said “Coronet” everybody knew exactly what was being talked about.  It was the example Toyota and Honda mimicked decades later with the Corolla and Civic, respectively.

Yeah, right.

Rather, in true Detroit fashion, the Coronet was demoted to being mid-level, in favor of the Royal, for 1954.  The Coronet was demoted a second time, to entry level, for 1955 as Royal and the new Custom Royal were above it.  Is this the quickest a model name was ever dumped down the outhouse pit?  If not it’s likely a contender.

Of all the talents demonstrated by Detroit’s automotive executives, they were stunningly brilliant at name debasement.

To atone for their sin of squandering name recognition, Dodge gave the Coronet name a sabbatical from 1960 through 1964.  The name reappeared as the midsize Dodge B-body in 1965, a place it kept until being kicked to the curb again at the end of 1976.  The “Coronet” name is still moldering in the gutter.

Wheelbases for the reincarnated Coronet were 117″, a length it would maintain until 1971.

These midsize Coronets were darn good looking cars, too.  My second craigslist search for Coronets rewarded me with this amazing 42,000 mile 1968 Coronet which is also in the St. Louis area.  It looked so good, in such a vibrant and a likely definitive color, I momentarily lost focus and had to ask myself what I had been looking for.

No, it wasn’t any sort of preview into a senior moment.  Nor did the crack-pipe $21,000 asking price distract me.  My distraction was a combination of this blue beauty combined with the surprise under that opened hood.

Drum roll, please….

When one sees 3/4 of what they anticipate, it surprises a person.  Then I got to wondering how many slant six, two-door Coronets are still floating around.  My wife expressed her affinity for this color, which is not something she typically does, which prompted me to daydream about having this Coronet parked downstairs in the garage instead of a certain old Ford.  This would be a fine cruiser although that slant six would make for rather leisurely cruising.

The possibilities abounded….oh, wait.  What was I writing about here?  Oh yeah.

Dodge graciously provided the market with a new generation of Coronet for 1971.  A loop bumpered beauty of epic good looks and seductive charm, its wheelbase grew an entire inch while weight was roughly the same.

There was also a lot of model cleanup as the 1970 Coronet had sub-models of Coronet Deluxe, Coronet 440, Coronet Super Bee, Coronet 500, and Coronet R/T.  For 1971 it was base Coronet and Coronet Custom.

However, like many things in life, it wasn’t that simple.  If you read the verbiage in the 1971 brochure (picture above the ’70 Coronet), it does a good job of summing the situation up by stating the Coronet was designed and built as a four-door, meaning there were no two-door Coronets for 1971.

Those were now the domain of the Charger line, meaning a taxi cab spec Charger that was as blah as unsweetened, room temperature Earl Grey tea was now on the roster.  The fancier 500, Super Bee, and R/T models were still around but also wearing a Charger nameplate.

Any pretense of performance or sportiness was now gone from the Coronet.  Or was it?

The 1972 Coronet brochure expresses the availability of a four-speed manual on a four-door Coronet equipped with the 400 cubic inch, 6.6 liter, V8 (a 4-4-400?).  Given the Coronet and Charger were identical under the skin, offering this was no big whoopee.

Coronets remained physically unchanged for 1973 although brochures touted the abundance of sound deadening now being used, making it much more like the “Big Dodge”.  While Chrysler had their issues, they weren’t completely tone deaf; Chrysler saw the writing on the wall about how isolation chambers would be all the rage in the far-out 1970s.

All of this leads us to 1974.

While I’ve been guilty of literary drooling about the front end, this wasn’t the only physical change to the Coronet for 1974.

The tail lights were also changed.  Still inset in the bumper, as had been the case since 1971, the bumper itself was now meatier to meet federal regulations prompting the tail lights to be reshaped and more prominent.

These B-body Dodges would keep this basic rear-end treatment until the end in 1978.  As one who typically finds bumper mounted tail lights to be off-putting, these are the sole exception.  Dodge hit a home run with these; this tail light treatment is one of my favorite aspects of this entire car.  If that sentiment puts me in the minority, so be it; I’m fine with that.

Chrysler did a relatively amazing job with bumper regulations during this time.  These bumpers weren’t dainty little things but Chrysler did attempt to make them cohesive with the body.  That wasn’t a universal thing, just ask Henry Ford II.

The seller has offered an abundance of really good pictures, so let’s explore his offering.

That chrome strip on the c-pillar make me think this Dodge was born with a vinyl toupee.  Now gone, it’s easy to see what happens to a vinyl capped roof over the course of 45 years – or likely much less.

Right now the headliner is gone, so making any repairs to the roof should be somewhat more straightforward.  It still won’t be easy but everything is already accessible.

Straightforward would also describe what appears to be Chrysler’s effervescent 318.  Did they ever make a more robust, benign to abuse V8?

On the off-chance it’s wearing out, a person could quite creative with alternatives.  A Magnum 5.2 or 5.9 from a 1994 to 2001 model pickup.  A 5.7 Hemi from a late model Charger or Challenger.  Or, just for giggles, a Pentastar 3.6.

We won’t talk about the ease of making it all work.

While the color does not facilitate anything other than depression, the condition of the interior doesn’t look horrible for its age.  All it needs is a seat cover and better lumbar support.  License plates bend rather easily.

Yes, I did entertain the idea of inquiring about this Dodge – for about 2.7 seconds.  The timing just isn’t there as my papoose just got braces on her teeth.

Since I haven’t (yet) driven one, youtube is there to help fill in the blanks, be it auto crossing or…

Simply cutting a few doughnuts.

Has this sated my Coronet hunger?  No, this is the glass of water you drink to fill your stomach; that’s a reprieve and the need for sustenance is still there.  The Great Coronet Hunt continues.  But these have certainly helped hold me over until I can eat.

Related Reading:

1975 Dodge Coronet – Missed Opportunities by JS

COAL:  1972 Dodge Coronet