Everything old is new again
BY DR CLIVE FRASER
1959 Dodge Coronet
Anyone in the market for a new car these days would expect air conditioning, power windows and cruise control.
Electric seats and an auto-dimming rear vision mirror might also be welcome additions to any new car’s specifications.
But anyone thinking that these are new automotive technologies might be surprised to know that they were all available as options on the 1959 Dodge Coronet.
And back then the automatic transmission even had three speeds.
But the transmission’s push-button feature was a safety problem and a parking lock was added in 1960.
All of this technology was shown to me when a colleague proudly demonstrated the features of his recently purchased 1959 Dodge Coronet.
His vehicle sold for $5,300 USD when new and some of the options were expensive.
For example air conditioning added $2,200 to the original price, but working compressors for the Coronet now sell for upwards of $10,000.
The optional radio was an extra $600, but it did have an automatic station-seeking feature.
All of this technology was at the cutting edge in its day as it was only in 1956 that the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the development of the transistor.
With so many features available the Dodge Coronet would need to be roomy and at 5.52 metres long it still won’t fit into most garages.
My colleague’s car is powered by a 326 cubic inch Red Ram V8.
He assures me that it returns 25 mpg on the open road, but 14.9 mpg might be more realistic in daily driving.
This engine produced 190 kW of power and 475 Nm of torque propelling the car to 100 km/h in 10.1 seconds.
Dodge also offered a slightly more economical 230 cubic inch straight six with 101 kW and a leisurely 17.8 seconds to 100 km/h via a two speed automatic gearbox.
For serious acceleration there was a 383 cubic inch V8 that could catapult the Coronet to 100 km/h in 8.2 seconds.
Economy in this variant was down to 11.2 mpg.
Interior space in the Coronet is cavernous, particularly as my colleague’s car has no seats as they are being re-upholstered.
His car was originally a Texas Highway Patrol car and still has a Texas registration sticker.
Back in 1959 prospective officers were obliged to provide their own vehicles and Dodges were popular because they were robust.
There was a saying back then that said: “If you can’t afford a Dodge, dodge a Ford.”
After nearly 60 years everything on the old Coronet still works, including the air conditioning.
As I am approximately the same age as this car it did appear to me that the Coronet was in better condition than I am.
With the tender loving care that this Coronet receives I was sure that in another 60 years it will still be on the road.
Doctor Clive Fraser
Published: 14 Nov 2017