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Home Car Culture My Classic Car My Classic Car: His 1967 Dodge Coronet gets totaled

My Classic Car: His 1967 Dodge Coronet gets totaled

Owner reminisces on getting and letting go of his first car, a shiny red Mopar

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One evening in June 1977, my next-door neighbor Conrad introduced me to a friend of his who worked for Bally Shoes. He asked me if I was interested in coming with him on Friday to work at the warehouse in Manhattan to help do inventory. He told me if the manager liked me, he would offer me a job for the summer.

I landed the job and got paid twice as much as I expected. This was perfect because I was determined to start my senior year in high school owning my own car.

I knew I wanted a Mopar. I found a 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 with a 318-cubic-inch V8, bucket seats and a console. It was faded red with a red interior and had a valve tap in the engine. The guy was asking $300 but would take $250.

I wanted that car, but my dad suggested I keep looking because he felt I could find something better. I checked the paper every night and finally found a 1967 Dodge Coronet 500 with shiny red paint, a black interior and vinyl top, A/C, and bucket seats. Instead of a console, it had a buddy seat. It also had a quiet engine; the guy wanted $200.

I decided I couldn’t live without the console, so I told my dad I was going for the ’66 Coronet. The thing was, I needed to borrow a few bucks from my parents, so the decision was made that the ’67 Coronet would be financed, the ’66 Dodge would not. I wasn’t too happy, but when my dad explained his reasoning, he was right.

The tradeoff for the console was getting a car that didn’t need engine work and a re-paint, plus it had A/C. It was also $50 less, which was a considerable sum in 1977 for a teenager, so we went to go get the car.

Ten years earlier, Mr. Okulewicz had bought the Coronet new from Memoly Motors. We arrived to see the car sitting in his yard with no plates and all the DMV paperwork neatly typed.

We drove the old Dodge home and I had my first of many Mopars. I spent the summer working on the car doing brakes and front-end work and installed a new set of Goodyear Power Cushion tires. I tuned it to run like new.

I also detailed the car and really had it shining. I had the money I borrowed all paid back by the end of the summer and ended up driving to my first day of senior year in my really cool Dodge.

After my job at Bally Shoes was done, I found a job as a stock boy at Schonfeld Decorators. It was half the money, but it would keep me on the road. I spent the day after Thanksgiving using the boss’s 1976 Dodge Coronet Crestwood station wagon moving items between the Staten Island and Brooklyn stores. There was a lot of stuff and I had to make about four trips.

I thought about what would happen if I wrecked the bosses’ car. Fortunately, all went well, but I got rear ended and pushed into the car in front of me on the way home from work. My shiny Dodge was totaled.

I drove it with the trunk tied shut until I settled with the insurance company. I had almost $600 in the car and came out with $234. I sold the car as it was for $100.

My mom said no more V8 cars! So I replaced that Dodge with a 1968 Pontiac Tempest. It was a bare-bones car with an OHC6 engine. It had an automatic transmission and a limited-slip rear. I paid $200 for it, and it ran really well. I didn’t do much to it, and after graduating high school, my parents gave me my mom’s 1971 Pontiac Le Mans, so I sold the Tempest.

I have since owned mostly Chrysler and General Motors cars and a few Fords. Back in those days, all you needed was $200 to get a really nice car. Oh, how times have changed.

— Michael Gorgia, Staten Island NY

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I spent $300 on a 62 Plymouth Fury 4 door with 318 engine in 1978. 3 college buddies and I drove it to Mardi Gras in 1979 round trip from Boston. Had to change a water pump in Mississippi, but that was all that went wrong on the whole trip. Drove the car to Toronto in 1980 to a New Wave rock concert (also round trip from Boston). I subsequently traded the car to a buddy for his 1966 Dodge Dart 2 door, as he didn’t trust it to make it back to where he was going to college and new of my Plymouth’s legendary long trips. He then proceeded to drive my 62 to Fairbanks, Alaska along the AlCan Highway. Once back at school, he used the car a while longer before selling it to a guy who was employed working on the Alaskan pipeline as a daily driver. For all I know, the invincible car might still be driving somewhere! 😉

  2. In 1984 I bought a 1967 Satellite for $100.00, I was 14. It was midnight blue, with dark blue interior with headrests and a buddy seat. Found a mint console for $50.00 so I changed it over. Still want one.

  3. My first car was a ’48 Lincoln Continental, medium green, green leather interior. My Mom owned it, but was willing to sell it to me (not give) for $1,000, which was a fortune at the time; I put a 430 Lincoln V8 in it, and it worked well. Not good on gas…about 10 MPG, but in those days we didn’t worry about gas mileage. Car recently sold for $75,000.

  4. Oh, this hurts. First car was a ’67 Impala SS, 327 4bbl Quadrabog/PowerGlide. Honduras or Madeira Maroon, depends on who you believe. Black bucket seat/console SS interior, regrettable black vinyl top, Chevy Rally wheels with the ’67 flat center caps. Front fender corner marker lamps, fender skirts in the factory bag in the trunk. Mom then daughter owned, daughter came home, ah, under the influence. Dad/Mom did the parent thing, I got the SS showing 109k for $210 and replace the fuel pump drive rod to take it away.
    Traded for a faster Mopar (’69 Charger) my junior year. Moved on through military service, Japanese and European cars. Now own a winter Tahoe and an Aussie made ’04 GTO with the 6spd Tremec crunch box.
    Miss the ’67 Impala. My opinion, the ’67 fastback was the very best looking Impala ever designed. The ’68 Custom, with the severely vertical back glass and acreage of deck lid would be my second choice, particularly if given the ’70’s airshock rake.
    Where does the time go?

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