- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

In 1965 newlywed Robert Wright was a mechanic working at Kirby Dodge at 10th Street and Fairfax Drive in Arlington, Va.

He and his bride, Shirley, had been discussing a new car, but talk is as far as they had progressed. At work Mr. Wright had seen a picture of the new 1966 Dodge and decided he liked the 1965 model better.

With that decision made, the couple settled on a 1965 Dodge Coronet 440 two-door hardtop, ruby red with a white stripe within the chrome trim on the rear fenders. He insisted on the 426-cubic-inch “wedge” V-8 engine that produces a whopping 365 horsepower while Mrs. Wright, who was going to be the principal driver, was just as adamant that the transmission be automatic.

The 17-foot-long Dodge, which weighs 3,180 pounds, came dressed with a white headliner. Everything else in the cabin was a maroon color regardless of the type of material — vinyl, fabric or carpet.

The chrome-plated windshield frame and 360-degree horn ring add sparkle to the interior.

A set of 8.25x14-inch Goodyear Power Cushion tires mounted on a 117-inch wheelbase support the powerful Dodge.

Optional equipment on the car includes:

• AM radio.

• Undercoating.

• Full wheel covers.

• Tinted windshield.

• Windshield washers.

• Suregrip differential

• Retractable seat belts.

• Reverberator speaker.

• Variable speed wipers.

• Automatic transmission.

• 426-cubic-inch V-8 engine.

• 8.25x14-inch white sidewall tires. All of these accessories boosted the total price paid to $2,919.14.

With the various packages ordered, the car was equipped with 11-inch brakes along with a heavy-duty sway bar, an extra large radiator and a performance-enhancing heavier torsion bar suspension.

The Wrights discovered a bonus in owning a Dodge that is a spacious 75.6-inches wide and 55.8-inches high. With the rear seat cushion removed, he reports, a Port-a-crib could be set up behind the front seat, which provided a place to play for their son, Doug, while traveling. There was no thought in those days of child restraints or safety baby seats.

The sporty Dodge served the family well, doing all the typical family errands and in turn received excellent care. Only once was it abused.

Mr. Wright recalls that in 1971, while he was stopped at a traffic light in Falls Church, the car was rear-ended. Fortunately the damage was minor and readily repaired.

Mr. Wright says it takes five quarts of oil and 20 quarts of coolant to keep the big V-8 engine running happily. He says the single four-barrel carburetor drawing fuel from the 19-gallon gasoline tank can deliver up to 19 or 20 miles per gallon on the highway — “If you’re careful.”

When the ruby red Dodge with dual exhausts was delivered to the dealership in late December 1965, Mr. Wright took one satisfied look and happily thought, “That’s the car for me.” He hasn’t changed his opinion of the car in the intervening four decades.

Now almost 40 years later with the odometer on the pampered car approaching 55,500 miles, he says, “Everything is original except for the battery and tires.”

He never thought that he would have his Dodge this long, but acknowledges he is happy that he didn’t order a padded dashboard or power windows, typical high-maintenance items on classic cars.

Spoken as a truly satisfied owner, Mr. Wright says, “This car is so much fun to drive, it kind of leads you to have more fun.”

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