What Is It?

Last week’s photo showed a 1959 Dodge. As a clue to help you distinguish it from other cars from Chrysler, we offered the hint: It might help you avoid the draft. Of course, we hoped you would associate that with “draft dodger” and “Dodge.”


Chosen randomly from the correct entries was Jim Muraski, of Martinez, who told us: “This week’s vehicle is a 1959 Dodge Coronet police vehicle.”

He wins a prize from The Augusta Chronicle. Other readers identifying the vehicle were:

AUGUSTA: Dalton Brannen: “The auto is a 1959 Dodge. It was an example what Chrysler Corp. called its ‘forward look’ styling genre during that period. The cars were distinctive as compared to Ford and GM at that time, especially in the two-tone paint schemes and colors.

“As to your hint, draft dodgers were not really in the American lexicon until later in the 1960s.”

Lowell Fritsche: “You’ve got a 1959 Dodge there. I would say that it’s a Coronet because of the little snippet of trim in the center of the grille. The Custom Royal was a little bit fancier than that. But it could possibly be a Custom Royal, too.

“Those were the beautiful years of Chrysler. I had a 1955 Dodge, then a ’58 Dodge just like this one, but my ’58 Dodge was a D-500. It was quite a car. The late 1950s were, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful cars that Chrysler bought out. And then the early ’60s is when they really went off the deep end and really underlined the word ‘ugly’ on cars.

“I had a 1961 Dodge that was a really fast, hot car, but only a mother could love it. And the ’64s and ’65s were equally as bad, but Chrysler was sort of in trouble then. But they’ve put out some really nice cars.”

Gary Engen: “It’s a 1959 Dodge Coronet, one of the three Dodge models in 1959. These Dodges were face-lifted to gain a heavy, drooping look with hooded head lamps as shown in your photo. Since the car in the photo appears to be black, it could very well be a picture of a Dodge Coronet police vehicle.

“It seems I remember seeing some of these California Highway Patrol vehicles cruising the highway (or hiding at speed traps) during trips I took visiting relatives near L.A. in the late ’50s and early ‘60s.”

Tom Wall said it might be a 1958 Chevrolet Bel-Air.

BLYTHE: Jo Ann Holbert said it was a 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer.

CANTON, GA.: David Anderson: “First off, I guess I need to pay closer attention to those clues you provide! My instinct when identifying what is obviously a Mopar product is to first look at DeSoto. I figure you’re trying to trip us up by straying away from the obvious Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge brands. Avoid the draft, indeed!

“Chrysler was no exception in this era with its over-the-top styling, inside and out. Some of the most gorgeous and complex instrument panels you will ever see in a car reside in Chrysler products of the late ’50s and early ’60s. They were the leader in jet age styling influence and making you feel like you were gripping the yoke in a fighter jet cockpit rather than a steering wheel in a car. From their transmission push buttons to all of that gleaming chrome, these panels are as much an engineering marvel as they are a style and design pinnacle.

“Of course, the 1959 Dodge has fins, but unlike the finned beauties over at GM, they appear to be a styling after-thought. Stylistically set apart atop the rear quarters and further set apart in the two-tone color schemes they seem to be saying, ‘Hey look at me, I have fins, too!’ Don’t get me wrong; I love the looks and presentation of these cars. For this era, you just can’t go wrong with fins or wings!

“Mopars had virtually no presence in my family save for an uncle’s 1970 Chrysler wagon that hung around for only a few months. The car had performance and drivability issues that just could not be resolved, and after spending most of our Labor Day weekend getaway that year in a local Gatlinburg auto garage, it was finally traded for a 1970 Buick Estate Wagon.

“Two other notables were a 1964 Chrysler Imperial and 1967 Dodge Polara owned by the parents of two of my friends. With the unmistakable high-pitch whine of their reduction gear starters, you could not miss it when their dads where off to work each morning.”

EVANS: Jim Williamson said the droopy fenders showed it to be a 1959 Dodge: “The 1959 Dodge is when they put in the swivel seat; you’d open the door and the seat would swivel.”

Paul Perdue: “This week’s automobile is a 1959 Dodge. Unfortunately, I didn’t own one of these cars to avoid the draft, but I joined for three years from 1970 to 1973. I spent 2½ years in San Francisco, which was better than the alternative.”

Jerry Paul said: “This week my guess is a 1959 Dodge Royal Lancer.”

Larry Heath wrote: “The 1959 Dodge was available in various trim levels as well as sedan, hardtop and convertible form. A new 383-cubic-inch engine was introduced in 1959 in Dodge and other Chrysler cars. This was in addition to the previously available 361-cubic-inch engine from past years. The 383 could be fitted with two-four-barrel carbs and placed Dodge near the top of the performance ladder.

“The push-button automatic was another popular option during this era. The 383 engine would go on to fame in the ’60s for use in Chrysler muscle cars, including the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner and Dodge Super Bee.”

Wayne Wilke wrote: “The What Is It? car is a 1959 Dodge. The models that year were Coronet, Royal and Custom Royal. The most powerful engine offered was a twin-four-barrel-carb 383-cubic-inch V-8 with 345 horsepower. An interesting new option was swivel seats – kind of a semi-bucket seat that rotated out towards the front door to ease entry and exit.”

Bill Harding said: “Virgil Exner, the man who styled last week’s What Is It? (1947 Studebaker), gave Chrysler Corp. cars the ‘Forward Look’ starting in the mid-1950s. The performance king of the Dodge line was the D-500, which was also quite a formidable police interceptor. Chrysler’s cars of the late ’50s were great-handling vehicles, because of their Torsion-Aire front suspensions permitting a lower center of gravity.

“The corporation’s engineering team created a wide selection of engine choices, ranging from a 230-cubic-inch L-head six up to a 345-horsepower, dual-quad, 383-cubic-inch V-8. The excellent TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission topped off the performance package. The one negative to all of this good stuff was the shoddy quality control. The cars were prone to water leaks, electrical malfunctions, and severe rust on cars sold where road salt was used.”

GIRARD, GA.: Henry Glisson said 1959 Dodge Coronet or Royal: “After 1959, Dodge would get smaller with less fins.”

GROVETOWN: Jack Williams thought it might be a 1958 DeSoto: “It was a big car, a pretty car. It had a big motor and it was really fast. I had a friend back then who had one.”

HARLEM: Robert Powell said it was a 1959 Dodge Coronet.

Nathan Hayes guessed 1959 Dodge.

KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner said identifying it as a 1959 Dodge automobile was the easy part: “How it would avoid the draft, I don’t know. Being classified 4-F, married, in college, National Guard or an influential parent would, I suppose, A lot of us didn’t, and wouldn’t have taken the easy way out if we could. We wanted a little excitement, starting at Fort Jackson.”

LOUISVILLE, GA.: Bob Holbert said: “This week’s car is a 1959 Dodge Coronet, one of biggest Dodges ever built. It was built on a DeSoto platform because it looked so similar to DeSoto. The hint was a dead giveaway.”

Also, Jimmy Marsh

MARTINEZ: Cheryl Cook said: “Wow! More entries than ever before last week! Whole bunch of smarty pants out here! And, with that hint you gave this week, could it happen again?

“I told my hubby he was probably the only one who didn’t get the hint about ‘draft dodging.’ But he did know immediately that it was a Dodge. It is, in fact, a 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer.

“You’re going soft on us, dude! I love a challenge!”

Christopher March Sr. said: “This week’s automobile is a 1959 Dodge. There was one called a Viscount, but this one is a Custom Royal, a fourth-generation made from 1957 to 1959.

“The standard engine was the Super Ram Fire 361 that produced 305 horsepower. Things got even better from there. The new D-500 383 V-8 with single four-barrel offered 320 horsepower, while the coveted Super D-500 with a two four-barrels generated a righteous 345 horsepower.

“Other items were Torsion-Aire front suspension and rear leaf spring, TorqueFlite automatic transmission and swivel front seats.”

Kurt Breitinger said: “I’m taking a guess based on your hint. I think this car is a 1959 Dodge Coronet hearse. I figured with your hint that it would either be an ambulance or a hearse. However, since it looks black, I’m guessing it’s a hearse.”

Lloyd B. Schnuck said 1959 Dodge Coronet. “The company was founded in 1900 as the Dodge Brothers Co., making parts for other automakers but began their own automobile company in 1915. After their deaths in 1920, the company was sold to an investment bank, then to Chrysler in 1928. Chrysler went through multiple owners and currently owned by Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobil Torino, founded in 1899).

“The ’59 was the fourth-generation (1957-59) Dodge Coronet; the first was the post-war 1949. Offered multiple body styles and two engines, the 230-cubic-inch straight six or the 325-cubic-inch ‘Red Ram’ V-8.

“In college, I had a very basic (heater was the only option) 1966 Dodge Coronet – the ‘Slant Six’ – simple and economical.”


PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson said: “The car is a 1959 Dodge Custom Royal. The 1959 Dodges were slightly restyled with the rocketship-type tail fins, with the largest change once again being under the hood. The big-block ‘Wedge’ V-8s grew to a choice of 361 or 383 cubic inches with up to 345 horsepower, the 383 with two four-barrels.

“You could special-order a 413 with 405 horsepower. Inside the car was a new elliptical steering wheel and the option of swivel front bucket seats, which aided entry and egress. The cheapest Royal was a $2,934 four-door, while a Custom Royal convertible carried a price of $3,422.”

WAYNESBORO, GA.: Ray Keefer said: “My dad had one.”

NO CITY LISTED: Donnie Reid thought it might be a 1958 Chevrolet Impala or Bel-Air.

John Williams said it was a 1957 DeSoto Saratoga.

Benjamin Young said 1959 Chevrolet.


Can you tell us the year and make of this vehicle? (Please look at it carefully before you decide.) If you know, e-mail glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com or leave a message at (706) 823-3419.

Please tell us your name, telephone number and city. If you call, please spell your name clearly.

You have until midnight Tuesday to send in your answer. A winner will be chosen randomly. Entries may be edited for space, style and content.

Thank you.

– Glynn Moore,

staff writer