I was curious to see what a sports-car oriented magazine like R&T would say about a classic American muscle car like the Coronet R/T, and not just because they share the same initials, especially since the review was done by their European Editor, Henry Manney. Having just returned from a lengthy season in Europe, he certainly had plenty of points of comparison to the state of European cars at the time.
His conclusions are not surprising: In 1967, America’s best performance cars like the R/T offered gobs of value, reliability and performance for the money. The R/T acquitted itself very well, although its straight-line performance was not all that impressive, given its orientation towards the track, which was undoubtedly implied to mean the drag strip.
Manney points out that although many Europeans looked down their noses at American cars, they often bought them when they could afford them, despite their limitations in the quite different road conditions and driving styles on the continent.
The Coronet R/T, with its stiffer suspension, front disc brakes (optional), and of course its big 440 CID V8 provided a level of roadworthiness not commonly seen in Yank Tanks. There were of course a few shortcomings, the most serious ones related to driveabilty issues, such as the decided tendency of the engine to die upon the engagement of a gear from the Torqueflite automatic with the engine cold, a phenomena I experienced to my peril on a number of occasions in my Dodge Chinook. Chrysler sudden death syndrome; most unwelcome when pulling out into a busy two lane highway.
Manney drove the Dodge up to Monterey and back from Orange County, via 101 on the way up and on the very twisty Hwy 1 on the return trip, a road of the kind that European cars were designed for, not American ones. The R/T acquitted itself quite well, with its moderate understeer easily compensated for by use of the throttle. The brakes worked well for that occasion, but suffered the typical loss of control from overly aggressive boost, especially at the rear end.
That issue combined with the hard and narrow tires made the car a deadly weapon in the rain. I remember how scary cars and pickups could be back then in the rain, having struggled to control more than one new 1971 Ford sedan or pickup when I was a car jockey at the time. Seeing a traffic light turn red on a 40 mph or so arterial, especially on a downhill, was a frightening situation that is utterly absent from modern cars.
As to the “Track” aspect of the R/T, its acceleration numbers were none too impressive: 0-60 in 8.6 seconds, and the 1/4 mile in 16.6 @83mph. R&T’s testing was as objective as it got back then, but it puts these cars in perspective, as those are numbers that even the cheapest cars today equal or exceed. And they don’t gulp 10-14 mpg in the process either.