1958 Dodge sways to top in British hill climb

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John Harrison careens around a curve in his 1958 Dodge Coronet | Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb
John Harrison careens around a curve in his 1958 Dodge Coronet | Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb

Ordinarily, we would pass on publicizing the upcoming Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb, a competitive event May 4 in Worcester, England. But this photo, and the story behind it, is too good to ignore.

Among the vintage sports and race cars that will run up the historic hill course – along with up-to-date racers competing in the Midland Hill Climb Championship – we have John Harrison of Wareham, Dorset, who again will entertain the crowd by roaring to the top in his 1958 Dodge Coronet sedan.

With its mammoth weight, towering tailfins, pronounced body sway and two-speed automatic transmission, the Coronet most certainly is the least nimble entry. But according to Harrison, that’s the whole point.

“The challenge of hill climbing such a totally unsuitable but exciting car is what appeals to me,” Harrison said in a news release from the hill-climb organizers. “The car is completely unrestored and retains its original paint, interior and drive train, with no power steering or assisted brakes and is running on authentic cross-ply whitewall tires to provide a true 1950s driving experience.

“It will reach 60 mph in first,” Harrison said, “so I just keep it in that gear and hang on for dear life as it wallows along and smokes its tires around the corners.”

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

3 COMMENTS

  1. May the Dodge win and represent the true Yankee spirit. I will forgive U if you wish to convert to radial tires. Otherwise, full speed ahead!

  2. Everytime i blast around in my 57 Coronet-no power anything-like John’s i spill my drink i dont recommend anything louder than the tinkle of ice cubes.But if U really must, try station wagon torsion bars and brakes with DOT 5 fluid and run 35-40lbs front 36rear (play with it) radials if rules allow, and drill a 1.5inch hole near top of backing plates, if rules allow. Put battery over that smokin’ rear tire-U know which one-if U dont have a factory LSD axle (look for X on pumpkin on passenger side often found on station wagons) U should get one. And why not a heavy duty front sway bar? All of these should be rules legal as they were factory available or common mods. Run open element air cleaner and take the hubcaps off they’ll be easier to find later…..i LOVEmy57 it stomps monster on 36-hp VWs, Daf-o-dills (33’s only) and 4-door Citroens it is truly a hair-raising yet relaxing duty i wish u the best of luck-did i mention dual exhausts?

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