Words and Photos: Cameron Leggett
It was a Sunday morning not long after lockdown at Cars & Coffee Taranaki where this blue mean machine caught Cameron’s eye. With its huge hood scoop, black bonnet and vinyl roof over its blue patinated paint, it had a look that really appealed to him. After further investigation, he started chatting to the car’s owner, Corey Munyard.
Corey’s car addiction began with his love of the famous blue rally cars of the ’90s as driven by Possum Bourne and Colin McRae, so looking back through the history of rally cars he couldn’t resist acquiring a 1979 Ford Escort MkII, which he worked on during his years as a mechanic in the RNZAF. Subsequently, he owned a number of Japanese rally cars before he finally got to own and build his dream Subaru WRX that, as they say, was ‘too fast to race’. After scaring Corey on a number of occasions he made the decision, with a little help from his wife, to sell the WRX and look for something a little more relaxing to drive.
It was on Corey’s first visit to the Americarna car show in New Plymouth that he discovered an appreciation for American cars – big cruisers with a lot of style, and you didn’t have to go flat-out like a rally driver to get the most pleasure out of them. In the RNZAF he’d had some experience working on US aircraft so it was a no-brainer, and his journey into American muscle began.
After owning a 1984 C10 Chevrolet Silverado, he discovered our featured Coronet on the internet. It was a car he’d not seen before and, after looking at many images of the Dodge’s body shape, especially the rear tail-light design, it had Corey hooked.
Orange County Express
This 1967 Dodge Coronet 440’s New Zealand adventure began in 2007, when it arrived on our shores fresh from Orange County in California. The Dodge’s first owner, a Kiwi based in Levin, had done exactly what you’re not supposed to do, buying the car off eBay at a cost of only US$5000 without having it inspected. However, once the car was in New Zealand, the new owner found that the only thing needed was a replacement left front wheel bearing, after which it sailed through the VIN inspection. The owner was a mechanic by trade and he tackled an engine rebuild on the car but, with the choice of driving racecars or the Coronet, and after owning the car for a number of years, he sold it to a guy in Hastings. This new owner kept the Dodge for only a year before moving on to a Ford Galaxy, and so the Coronet was up for sale again. It was at this point that Corey entered the picture, travelling out to Hastings for an inspection, and after some good old Kiwi negotiating he became the proud new owner of the Dodge Coronet.
On the trip home to Taranaki, the Dodge’s V8 didn’t run all that well. As an aside, it should be noted that the Coronet’s 440 designation isn’t an indicator of engine capacity, and this model is actually fitted with a 383ci (6.3-litre V8). The previous owner informed Corey that the engine’s poor running could be down to incorrect ignition timing due to the conversion from traditional points to electronic ignition. However, on further investigation, Corey discovered that the problem was actually the fuel pump push rod, which had worn down to the point where the mechanical fuel pump was pulsing and wasn’t delivering enough fuel. After that was fixed the car was running perfectly. One unusual discovery was a ½-inch socket jammed inside the rear brakes – it’s quite possible this hidden socket travelled with the car all the way from the US!
Straight and Tidy
With the V8 now running properly, next up Corey addressed any rust issues with the car. The first step was to pull off the old vinyl covering the Coronet’s roof and remove the windscreen and rear window in order to reveal areas of rust that needed attention. John Reumers at Reumers Trim & Upholstery in Waitara started on the new vinyl for the roof. He first installed the correct OE specification ‘White Hat Special’ vinyl roof covering, this being a special option for these cars. However, the installation didn’t quite go to plan: with creases appearing and with John being very fussy, he didn’t want the car to leave his workshop in that condition. The white vinyl was stripped off and a more normal black vinyl was used – this did the trick and really suits the car’s original body colour.
The only other area of rust that needed attention was a little on the passenger door; the body had proved to be fairly straight and tidy.
Corey will treat the Dodge to a complete body respray at a later date and is prepared for any hidden issues that may lie beneath, but with his philosophy of doing what needs to be done – and doing it right – you can be assured that this Coronet will be given the very best treatment.
In the engine department, the 383 Chrysler B series V8 was fitted with an Offenhauser intake manifold that didn’t help in getting the Coronet off the line smartly, so it was swapped out for an Edelbrock dual-plane CH4B intake manifold that, apart from its shiny finish, looks more original and runs more smoothly, while providing better low-end torque and seamless power up to a higher rpm – although without delivering as much high-end power as the Offenhauser. However, this didn’t concern Corey as he doesn’t pull high revs very often. The Dodge’s carburettor was also replaced with a 600 CFM four-barrel Holley with vacuum secondaries. After many hours of tinkering, Corey couldn’t quite get the carb running right so he dropped the Coronet off to Steve Hildred at Hildred Motors in New Plymouth, who expertly tuned it on the dyno.
When Corey returned later that day to collect his car, Steve said “take it for a blat around the corner and tell me what you think”. With that, Corey took the Coronet out onto the road. As he rounded the first roundabout the rear tyres lit up with ease, something that the car had never done before. As you can imagine, Corey returned to the workshop with a grin from ear to ear.
“How was that?” asked Steve.
Corey replied, “Yep, it’s good!”
As he said to me, “You can fiddle for hours with carburettors in the shed at home, but adjusting them can be very difficult to master. So taking the car to a professional tuner for me is money well spent – the difference is like night and day.”
Steve also mentioned that the engine was in a healthy condition, so Corey was happy with that as well.
Apart from general maintenance, the only other problem to fix was a radiator leak – everything else was working as it should.
Urenui Street Outlaw
The Coronet bears a few tasteful body modifications that Corey has added for a personal touch. He had intended to keep the car all original as a ‘White Hat Special’ but, since the ‘white hat’ had gone to black, he decided on adding Dodge decals on the rear panels along with a Hemi hood scoop that he chose in order to pay homage to the street drag cars of that Coronet’s era. Not wanting to cut a hole in the original hood, Corey put it away for safekeeping and commissioned Robin Barnes at Koop de Glass in Stratford to make a new fibreglass hood. Robin was more than happy to handle the job, being a Mopar fan himself, and wanted to do it right by taking outer and inner moulds of the original hood skins, then moulding in the Hemi scoop to make it all one piece. The finished item looks like a genuine factory option. The only other cosmetic changes made to complete the package were a set of 15 x 7-inch front and 15 x 8-inch rear five-spoke Barzetta America wheels. Wrapped in HP4000 Hercules tyres, these are the icing on the cake with regard to the Coronet’s drag racing heritage appearance.
If you’re wondering about the number plate, FOPAR was chosen by Corey as a play on words with Mopar – this is fitting if you’re aware of the ‘Dodge Rebellion’ advertising campaign of 1966–1967, and when watching these ads on YouTube you can see why.
Corey’s Coronet is driven often and he enjoys socialising on weekend cruises with his mates, the Urenui Street Outlaws. Corey intends to keep the Coronet for quite some time and would hope to someday own a collection of fifth generation Coronets, so it does seem that this particular one has bonded to its owner very well indeed.
1967 Dodge Coronet 440 Hardtop Coupe
Engine Chrysler B series V8
Capacity 383ci (6277cc)
Bore/Stroke 107.95 x 85.72mm
Comp Ratio 10.1:1
Max. Power 201.5kW @ 4400rpm
Max. Torque 529Nm @ 2800rpm
Fuel System four-barrel 600 CFM Holley (as fitted)
Transmission Chrysler 727 with B&M shift kit
Suspension F/R Torsion bars, anti-roll bar/leaf springs
Wheels F/R 15 x 7-inch/15 x 8-inch five-spoke Barzetta America Tyres F/R 245/60R15/255/60R15 HP4000 Hercules
Track F/R 1511/1486mm
Overall Length 5156mm
Max. Speed 196kph (122mph)
0–100kph 7.5 secs
Standing ¼ mile 15.4 secs
Economy 22.8l/100km (average)