Howard Staples has been the owner of a 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T for the past 26 years and takes pride in its originality because his Mopar muscle car is true to its factory roots-with a few subtle changes that make the R/T even better than factory.
A first-gen Dodge Coronet R/T was an untamed beast of a car that only came with two engine choices: Chrysler’s famous 426 Hemi big block and its monstrous 440 cubic inch big block under the hood. R/T was short for ‘Road and Track’–and it was not simply a Mopar marketing ploy because a 1969 Dodge Coronet R/T looked at home both on the street and the strip.
Howard’s search for his dream car led him to an opportunity to become the third owner of the ’69 R/T in 1997. The most important part of the equation was to get a car that retained its factory history and gave Howard a solid foundation for an R/T.
The car gave Howard the solid base he sought for his perfect ’69 Coronet R/T and an opportunity to tinker with it–without destroying its originality. For example, Howard put an aftermarket four-barrel carb on the car so he could maximize the car’s Ramcharger air induction system that pushed plenty of oxygen down the 440’s throat into the carb.
Howard added that he kept the engine’s original carb just in case he wants to make a return to complete factory standards. He also added the stylish rear quarter air vents to his R/T even though the 36-dollar option was not on the original list for his R/T, along with a passenger side mirror for safety reasons and symmetry, according to Howard.
Another improvement was a bigger exhaust pipe (3-inches) diameter to help the car breathe even better than factory, as well as an electronic ignition to the 440.
Howard chose to retain the R/T’s factory wheel rims and its stylish Rallye full instrument package that has a 150-mph speedometer and Tick Tock Tach. He refurbished the interior in its original format but was able to keep the original factory material on his door panels.
The car required some body work, including both quarter panels, the trunk floor and one floor panel during the process. Howard told MyStarCollectorCar, “I know every inch of the car over the past 26 years”.
His knowledge also includes research into the odd location of the rear bumperettes after he noticed they were not in the same location as the car in the sales brochure, an oddity Howard attributes to a “factory screw-up”, in his words.
Howard also fields questions about the fact his R/T has no center front console and explains it is a factory six-passenger sedan with extra seatbelts for the middle passengers.
Howard uses the car as a summer cruiser and told MyStarCollectorCar he averages about “12 tanks per year” in terms of fuel consumption, with only one annual car show appearance during a summer season.
He likes to drive rather than trailer the R/T and says it “loves 90 km/h (55 mph) on the highway”, a pace that a 1969 Dodge muscle car can easily handle on the road.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.