Woodgrain Wickedness: John Gaddy’s Hellcat-Powered 1969 Dodge Coronet Wagon

When Dodge and SRT announced the Hellcat Challenger and Charger models over five years ago, we knew it wouldn’t be long before people started wrecking them and that monster 6.2L supercharged Hemi with 707 horsepower would be plucked out and find its way into a classic Mopar, as was such the case with the 5.7L, 6.1L and 6.4L Hemi engines.

Since its release, the Hellcat Hemi powerplant has found its way into a wide variety of vehicles. While most swaps have been with classic Mopars, we’ve seen a few unique creations such as a Hellcat powered Jeep Wrangler, a Hellcat powered AMC Gremlin and even a Hellcat powered Toyota Prius! Yes, you read that right; 707 horsepower of supercharged Hemi crammed into a Prius.

We aren’t surprised though as the Hellcat Hemi engine is an incredible work of art, both performance wise and visually speaking. With its Hemi Orange engine block, “Supercharged Hemi” scripted injector covers and giant bright silver supercharger on top, the engine looks truly wicked in any engine bay. The engine isn’t just a beauty queen though as you’ll quickly realize the second you fire it up. The instant you hear the exhaust note and that supercharger whine, it’ll have you hooked.

For Wisconsin-native John Gaddy, he’s proud to say that supercharger whine has him hooked! Over the years, John has owned a fleet of high performance Mopars, which included a factory 1968 M-Code Dart, 1967 Dart GT, 1999 Dakota R/T, Procharged 2009 Challenger R/T, 2012 Challenger SRT8 and a 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat. It’s safe to say John loves his horsepower!

While cars have come and gone over the years, one that has stayed close to John’s heart and remained a staple in his garage is his 1968 Plymouth GTX that he purchased back in 1992 at the age of 16. Over the years, he would continue to bump up the horsepower on his GTX, eventually running a Procharger on the built 440 engine. Even with the Procharger on it, it still wasn’t enough power for John.

Around 2017, Mopar announced their basically plug-n-play “Hellcrate” kit. The kit included everything needed to bolt a Hellcat 6.2L Supercharged Hemi into practically whatever you wanted. Having owned a Challenger Hellcat, John knew the power plant had plenty of punch. When John heard about the release of the Hellcrate, he ordered one right away for the GTX.

Over the next while, John worked hard installing the Hellcrate into his GTX and the results were absolutely jaw-dropping. With the GTX done and on the road, John eventually decided that he was ready for his next project car and knew three things: it had to be a Mopar, had to have a Hellcrate and it had to be unique.

John started searching for a project car and his search eventually led him to a 1969 Dodge Coronet 500 station wagon that was for sale on Facebook Marketplace in Minnesota. Originally from Alabama, the Coronet was in incredibly original shape with its original R6 Red paint and woodgrain panel décor on the sides. While it was originally equipped as a 318 automatic car with A/C, the drivetrain had been swapped out for a 440.

Upon looking at the car, he knew he had found his next project so it was purchased and brought home. From there, he ordered another Hellcrate from Mopar along with the engine controller package for it.

Over the years, the exterior of the car had taken a beating and were extremely faded so John treated it to a fresh coat of factory R6 Red that he painted himself, just like he did with his GTX. Rather than leave the woodgrain décor off like most would, John replicated the original woodgrain using 3M’s Di-Noc woodgrain pattern which came out beautiful. We have to really commend John for putting the woodgrain back on as it really adds to the overall coolness of the car! For an added touch, he also installed a N96 Ramcharger hood for good measure and some added aggressiveness to the overall look.

With the body and paint work complete, John got to work installing the Hellcat Hemi engine between the inner fenders; a task that he has mastered now! For exhaust, he decided to go with the same proven system he has on his GTX; TTI headers that run into a full 3-inch X-pipe system with Dynomax Super Turbo mufflers.

For the Coronet, he decided to keep it a column-shift automatic rather than a manual transmission like the GTX, another choice we think was the right one! Backing the Hemi is a GM 4L80-E automatic transmission built by Jakes Performance out of Texas. It uses a Reid conversion bellhousing and is controlled by a Compushift transmission controller from HGM Electronics. It also features a 2600 rpm stall converter.

Out back is a Moser-built Dana 60 rear differential fitted with a Detroit Tru-Trac, 35-spline axles and 3.73 gearing. Underneath, John retained the factory style suspension but upgraded it with .980 torsion bars, a Hotchkis front sway bar, Bilstein shocks and a US Car Tool Stage 2 stiffening kit.

The steering has been upgraded with one of Borgeson’s stellar steering boxes and braking is done by four-wheel disc brakes from Wilwood with four-piston calipers and 12-inch rotors. The car rides on staggered 15×6-inch and 15×8-inch body color-matched steel wheels from Wheel Vintiques. They are wrapped in BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires (225/70R15 out front and 275/60R15 out back) that were converted into custom redline tires by Diamondback Tires. For an added touch, John installs custom A12 Six-Pack Super Bee style front wheel discs for car shows.

On the interior, John converted the car from a front bench seat to black buckets with a buddy seat and restored them using a Legendary seat upholstery kit. The back seat is also wrapped in a Legendary kit however the third-row seat is NOS (New Old Stock). The carpet kit came from ACC and the gauge cluster is a RTX cluster from Dakota Digital.

John tells us the project took him around 11 months to complete and he extends a heart filled thank you to his wife, Heather and daughters Stella and Olive for their continuous support. Since completing it, John’s fielded multiple inquiries to sell the wagon (some being rather generous) but he’s declined them all saying, “I can’t get myself to sell it. It’s just too damn fun.” And we can’t blame him one bit.

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Cody Krueger

Car Feature Editor – cody.krueger@shawgroupmedia.com Since the age of 4, Cody has been obsessed with everything Mopar. On Christmas of 1998, Cody's parents gave him a rusty '69 Charger shell that his father saved from a field. Cody's garage still features that '69 Charger as well as the additions of a '71 Charger R/T, '71 Super Bee, '73 Duster, '08 Challenger SRT8 and a '13 Ram 3500. Cody can truly and proudly say that he is a true Mopar nut in love with all types of Mopars!

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