Mopar B-Body Fun: Taming a ’65 Dodge Coronet Drag Racer for Daily Use

The 1965 Dodge Coronet 500 might not be your average Mopar B-body enthusiast’s first choice, but the Wheeler Dealers, Mike Brewer and Ant Anstead, aren’t your average Mopar enthusiasts. Indeed, they’re clued in to something that some Chrysler-philes don’t get: It’s not all about Chargers and GTXs! The Coronet was cool, too, and it was one of Dodge’s annual best sellers year over year and also benefited from Mopar’s performance magic.

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Sure, most of the roughly 209,000 Coronets Dodge moved in 1965 were powered by the mundane slant-six, but a respectable 33,000 people ordered the Coronet 500 that same year, and that was no boring grocery-getter.

The 500 package on the Coronet included a base 273-cubic-inch V-8, fancy exterior trim and badging, bucket seats, a padded dashboard, and chrome trim on the center console, and was only available on the two-door sedan and convertible body styles. Plus, any of Mopar’s legendary V-8 engines were available as options, so a 440 Magnum could very well have provided the performance talk for the 500 package’s stylish walk.

1965 Dodge Coronet 500 Race Car Goes Pro Street

But Mike Brewer’s new-to-him Coronet 500 happens to have a built 440 yanked from a flat-bottomed boat installed—all the better for the drag-racing life this example once lived—and it’s good for something along the lines of 500 horsepower! The long-tube headers and X-pipe give this rust-free B-body an awesome sound to go along with that tire-shredding power, but Mike and Ant think it’s time this old Dodge drag racer hangs up its slicks.

The previous owners were of the same mind as our hosts, which is to say they intended to remove some drag-racing bits and re-fit some of the comfort-oriented parts—along with a few choice upgrades—so this strip-slayer would appeal to many more people as a daily drivable classic.

The first issue to be addressed was the heavy and dangerously wobbly steering. Muscle cars acquired said nickname from the strength found under the hoods, sure, but also because it took fortitude to operate 4,000-plus pounds of steel with power-assisted nothing, and this 440-powered B-body keeps that tradition alive. So, in goes a faster-ratio steering box and hydraulic steering pump, and now slop-free one-finger U-turns are a cinch.

Next on the list: brakes. The previous owner had already upgraded to disc brakes and four-piston calipers up front, but with no power-assist and that heavy 440 on the front tires, braking performance wasn’t exactly confidence-inspiring. Instead of going with a vacuum-operated brake booster, Ant is using an electrically driven hydraulic brake booster that will help the Coronet stop as well as it goes.

The previous owners had already done lots of work to make Coronet more livable by fitting the interior with all-new stock-style trim and seats, removing the roll cage and fuel cell, and bolting on modern wheels and tires. But the race-built Torqueflite 727 was still backing the Mopar 440, and even Mike (who can tolerate a lot) found it completely unlivable. It served its purpose on the drag strip, so Mr. Brewer called the experts at Mike’s Transmissions in Lancaster, California, to do the opposite of what they normally do: turn a race transmission into a street transmission. A traditional valve body and various other parts go into the 727 to drop shift rpm and revert the gearbox back to a fully automatic unit that doesn’t sound like rocks might be exploding inside the case.

A new hood replaces the booger-weld-patched hood that used to accommodate a tunnel-ram intake, a proper dash panel replaces the crudely fabricated gauge panel from the Mopar’s racing days, and the humorously small aftermarket steering wheel gets ditched for a stocker. Now this Coronet 500 is ready to bring miles of smiles to a discerning Mopar enthusiast.

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