- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

According to the Chrysler Registry, 519 1968 Dodge Coronet R/T convertibles were built to American specifications.

Automatic transmissions were in 431 cars, while the remaining 88 were equipped with four-speed manual transmissions. Even more rare is the floor-mounted console between the bucket seats and the Rallye instrument package.

One of these rare muscle cars left the St. Louis assembly plant wearing a coat of bright blue with white “bee” stripes stretched across the rear fenders and trunk lid. The initial part of the VIN was WS27L8G. The handsome convertible, with a white top and white interior was shipped to the Carbone dealership in Utica, N.Y. There, the window sticker showed a base price of $3,613, close to a dollar a pound for the 3,630-pound vehicle.

Historical details of this car remain a mystery for the next 30 years.

In the meantime, along about 1974 Kurt Ugone and his brother found a red 1968 Dodge Coronet R/T coupe on a used-car lot near their Vienna home. The mere fact that he didn’t possess a driver’s license wasn’t enough to dissuade the impetuous teenager. His father, however, was another matter.

By the time the brothers had convinced their father that the muscular Dodge was a good deal, the car had been sold.

“He probably saved me from myself,” Mr. Ugone now acknowledges. The combination of a novice driver and a 375-horsepower car can be a recipe for disaster.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ugone never forgot the Dodge R/T that got away.

In 2002 he saw a bright-blue 1968 Coronet R/T convertible with a white top and a white interior advertised for sale in Quebec. It had undergone a complete restoration including the replacement of both quarter panels. The first part of the VIN was WS27L8G.

Pictures were sent, a brief negotiating session passed and Mr. Ugone bought the car.

The seller delivered the car to the Canadian side of the border and Mr. Ugone had sent a roll-back truck to the U.S. side of the border. A registered importer was hired to actually take the Dodge across the border. After the 17.25-foot-long car was safely in Virginia and rolled off the truck, Mr. Ugone discovered that the odometer had registered about 89,000 miles.

Following a thorough examination he decided that his Dodge had received a very thorough restoration.

Mr. Ugone, owner of Falls Church Auto Body, had not been concerned about the body work because he could correct any defects himself. Happily, there was none to correct.

“It’s a pretty car,” he says admiringly.

Deciphering the VIN reveals:

• W=Dodge “B” body.

• S=Special.

• 27=Convertible.

• L=440 V-8, four-barrel carburetor, high performance.

• 8=1968 model.

• G=St. Louis, Mo., assembly plant.

Keeping the 440-cubic-inch engine operating properly requires 17 quarts of coolant and five quarts of oil.

Even with its 19-gallon gasoline tank, Mr. Ugone says, “You don’t go far.”

The 6-foot-wide muscle car rides on a 117-inch wheelbase. With some of the rear seat passenger space consumed by hinges for the convertible top, the rear seat still measures 4 feet in width.

Mr. Ugone was pleased to find his Dodge loaded with goodies including:

• Red-line tires.

• Power brakes.

• Power steering.

• Right-side mirror.

• Wheelwell molding.

• Rubber bumper guards.

• AM/8-track sound system.

• Fender-top signal indicators.

• Chrome Magnum 500 wheels.

As a bonus, all of the 1968 Dodges had, as standard equipment, front-door wing vents.

After only a couple of years of ownership, the odometer shows 92,000 miles.

“It does get driven,” Mr. Ugone reports.

“It’s a muscle car all the way,” he says, “with a Dana rear axle.”

With the enormous V-8 engine occupying most of the engine compartment, restricting peripheral space, Mr. Ugone says, “It takes a football field to turn it around.”

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