The story is a familiar one. In this case, one W.E. Richards from Diamond, Ohio, buys a brand new, triple black, 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 from Ravenna, Ohio’s Martin Motors and transforms it into a weekend warrior. Of course, the fun (a 1/4-mile at a time) lasts just as long as the 10.3:1 compression, Code H/381 B-426/425-HP, dual quad, street Hemi engine, which is capable of turning 12.40s at 117.00 while competing in the NHRA B/Stock class. However, those E-ticket rides came to a screeching halt once the street Hemi (with just 11,026 miles on the odometer) spun a rod bearing. In the end, the ’66 got parked, and it was eventually forgotten.
Three decades later, along comes muscle car collector Ron Slobe, who immediately recognizes both the intrinsic and monetary value of this once proud Mopar street machine, and rescues (read: buys) the car. It’s the temporary fix to a bad situation, but the happy ending is still a long time coming.
After being stored inside a barn for close to 10 years, health problems and pressing business matters preempted the intended restoration. In 2005, Slobe put the Coronet up for sale, and that’s where the heroes of this story, Skip, Scott and Mel Ewing from Phalin, California’s S&S Mopar Muscle, come in. Of course, the Ewing’s are renowned for saving collectible Mopar muscle cars, and they have a long list of satisfied clients and trophies to prove it.
“The car was originally assembled at Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge’s (CPD) St. Louis, Missouri, Assembly Plant on April 12, 1966,” said Skip Ewing. “The body was very clean, and the car had very little collision damage or signs of rust. We quickly came to the realization that due to it being a low-mileage, unmolested, triple black Hemi car, it needed a ground-up restoration. It would have been sheer sacrilege to have contemplated otherwise!”
The Coronet was completely dismantled, and the Code WH23 Dodge Coronet 440 two-door hardtop body was handed over to resident body man Marcos Guzman.
“All the sheet metal is original, that means the hood, the doors, the fenders, the trunk pan — you name it. About the only thing we had to repair were the inner fender wells where someone had cut away the sheet metal in order to install a set of aftermarket fender well headers!”
Once Guzman had worked his metal magic, he sprayed the Coronet in the correct Code B PPG single-stage black. With the new paint job buffed to perfection, Guzman and John Hutton (who performed all the ‘66’s final assembly) installed an NOS Code H4X black vinyl top.
While all that was going on, the Ewings shipped the original date code H/381 B-426 street Hemi engine to Ontario, California’s Vrbancic Brothers Racing, where the block was bored .030-inch. Then the brothers installed a set of Diamond Elkins forged-aluminum pistons, along with the original Hemi crank and a set of resized street Hemi connecting rods. The camshaft is also a street Hemi model as is the remainder of the valve train. Bolted up top are the original street Hemi cast-iron heads, which feature stock street Hemi valves, valve springs, keepers, and rocker arms topped off with a set of black wrinkle finish street Hemi valve covers.
Bolted in between the lifter valley you will find the OE street Hemi cast-iron 2 x 4 intake featuring a set of matching number, date coded 625-CFM Carter AFBs prepared by Ontario, California’s The Carburetor Shop. In keeping with the 100-percent stock theme, the Mopar also uses the correct Presto-Lite dual point ignition system, correct date coded Champion spark plugs, and correct date coded cast-iron street Hemi headers.
Backing all of this up is a Bob’s Transmissions-prepared (Hesperia, California) Code 396 five-band heavy duty 727 Chrysler Torque Flite equipped with a Convertor Shop (TCS) 2,700-stall speed torque converter, transmitting the power back to a Code 404 3.23:1-geared 8.75-inch posi-traction live rear axle.
The crew at S&S also rebuilt the Mopar’s suspension using all new/old stock Mopar parts. That included rebuilding the 11 x 2.5-inch front and 11 x 3-inch rear drum brakes, which are certainly not up to the performance level of a 425-HP street Hemi. Back in those days, people seemed to be more interested in brutal acceleration than in stopping. Part of this combination also includes a set of 15 x 5 1/2-inch, two-piece stamped-steel wheels (which are indicative to the street Hemi) wrapped with a set of Hemi-Only, Code 448 7.75 1/4-inch BF Goodrich Silvertown bias ply rubber; and man, can you (or photo feature driver Tim Briley) ever get those babies to smoke!
Inside, S&S commissioned Victorville, California’s Robbins Upholstery to install the Legendary Interiors Code H4X reproduction black vinyl upholstery and headliner. Out back in that cavernous trunk, you’ll find the spare, the original jack and a new rubber floor mat.
Completed last year, the ’66 was recently purchased by a Northern California Hemi collector who would like to remain anonymous. So MCP readers, enjoy these photos while you can, because once again, this awesome street Hemi will be silent. But it’s good to know should the occasion arise it can bark and rumble with the best of the big dogs.
“This is the original street sleeper grocery getter,” says Scott Ewing.
Of course that is if you happen to make your living street racing!