Posted by: Mark Polk | 2015

Project 426 Street Wedge – bringing the 65 Coronet 500 home

coronet on trailer rear viewDodge Coronets are one of my favorite cars. They reintroduced the Coronet name in 1965 and for most people the popular models were 67 through 70. I personally always liked the 65 Dodge Coronet 500, especially when it came came from the factory with a 426 wedge engine. Do not confuse this 426 CI engine with a max wedge or the notorious 426 hemi; I’m talking about what is commonly referred too as a 426 street wedge. It was a 2 year engine and Chrysler built the 426 wedge to be more “street friendly” than the max wedges, and to compete against Ford and GM’s engines and cars of the period. The 64 and 65 street wedge engines came equipped with a single four-barrel carburetor, hydraulic lifters, and a 10.3:1 compression ratio. The engine was rated at 365 horsepower at 4800 rpm, and 470 pounds/feet of torque at 3200 rpm. It was the largest displacement engine of its time.

I was finishing the 71 Dodge Power Wagon build so I started checking Craigslist and other sites for a muscle car project. It wasn’t long before I found an ad for a 65 Dodge Coronet 500 and it claimed to have a numbers matching 426 wedge engine, 727 transmission and 3.23:1 rear axle. It is nearly impossible to find a 50 plus year old car that still has the original running gear so I was a bit skeptical about the ad. After some research I discovered in 1965 Chrysler sold about 33,000 Dodge Coronet 500s and of those only 440 came with the 426 street wedge engine and 727 automatic transmission. Of the 440 built in 1965 I would venture to say there are only a handful in existence today with the original running gear.

As an added bonus this 65 Coronet was in North Carolina, about 5 hours from where I live. After numerous emails and phone calls I made arrangements to go look at the car, and my thoughts were if I could verify some numbers on the car it was coming home with me. When I got there the first thing I checked was the VIN plate. W=Coronet V8, 4=Coronet 500, 5=1965, 1=Lynch Rd. Michigan. If it was the actual VIN plate it was a 65 Dodge Coronet 500.

Next I verified the fender tag displayed an “80” engine code which means the car came from the factory with a 426 wedge engine. The “80” is under AB on the middle line of the fender tag. Other information from the tag let me know it was a Coronet 500, it had an automatic transmission, the original color was medium tan poly and the trim was black vinyl. The “SO” or Shipping Order number showed a scheduled production date of 03 February 65 for the car.

hidden numberIt was common for manufacturers to stamp the Shipping Order “SO” number found on the fender tag in hidden places on the car, so I started searching. Places to check are the radiator core support, the lip under the trunk seal and the panel behind the rear seat. I found the hidden matching number on the package tray located behind the back seat. If you look closely at the picture you will see 20308428 on the panel and the tag. These hidden numbers were put on cars to help identify fraud and it helps in situations like this when you want to verify a cars  provenance.

My final check was the engine ID pad located on the front of the engine next to the distributor. It was marked A426 HP 10 16. The “A” meant 1965 and it was a 426 CI engine.

At this point I knew the car was a 65 Coronet 500 that came from the factory with 426 street wedge engine, and it had a 426 wedge engine in it that was dated 1965. It would take more investigating to verify if it was in fact a “numbers matching” car but for the negotiated price we settled on the car was coming home with me either way.

In my next post I will expand on authenticating the car, engine and other components.

Mark Polk

Auto Education 101


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