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By Karl Pippart III   Photos courtesy of the Classic Auto Research Service archives

Editor’s note: This is the second part of the Dodge Rebellion story from the September 2012 issue.  We jumped to the fourth part of Karl’s series in the November issue anxious to get to the 426 story which would have been more appropriate for this issue… but alas, hindsight is always 20-20 eh? It’s still an incredible story setting the stage for the 426 that would come seven years later and which dominates even today almost 50 years later…

The 1956 Dodges were unveiled on October 7th, 1955. The 1956’s smoothly integrated new tail fins into the 1955’s quarter panel design. The cars looked sharp. The PowerFlite controls now had push buttons. A new, 16 2/3 rpm record player, called the Highway Hi-Fi was an $80.80 option. Dual exhaust ($19.40) and chrome extensions ($5.40) were offered to dress up Coronets and Royals. The three model line-up again consisted of Coronet, Royal and Custom Royal, with the addition of three limited production, mid model year specials: Texan, La Femme (1955 carryover) and Golden Lancer.

For Coronet Eights, the base power plant was a 270 Poly-head V8 boasting 189 hp. For Royals and Custom Royals, the standard engine was a 315 cube Poly-head V8 known as the Super Red Ram, with 218 ponies on tap. The Super Powered Super Red Ram was optional on all series. It was a 4-barrel 315 Poly that made 230 hp. However, the 1956 Dodge muscle machine went by the name of D-500.

The D-500 model announcement for the Coronet 2-door sedan, (with the Coronet convertible added not long after), Custom Royal Lancer (2-door), CR 2-door sedan and CR convertible came on December 22nd, 1955. The Special Order D-500-1 announcement for the Coronet 2-door sedan and convertible occurred on January 12th, 1956.

According to factory paperwork dated January 29, 1956, the D-500 Series of December 22nd was referred to as the Heavy-Duty Series. The D-500-1’s were officially designated the Extra Heavy-Duty Series. The Heavy Duty Series had its availability, by special order only, expanded to include the 4-door sedan, 4-door Lancer hardtop and station wagon body styles (“D-500 Police Pursuits”) as of March 2nd, 1956.

Released as of March 9th for the Coronet, Royal and Custom Royals was the D-500 Special or Light-Duty Series. D-500 Specials could not be outfitted with the heavy-duty chassis and suspension components. Dodge Division GM Bert Carter emphatically stated in an interoffice memo dated December 21st, 1955, regarding the H-D Series that “FROM THIS LETTER YOU WILL NOTE THE UNITS ARE PRICED AS D-500 MODELS—COMPLETE AND NOT AS A PACKAGE OF EXTRA EQUIPMENT.”

The H-D, D-500 Series V8 was a 315 CID (3.63” bore x 3.80” stroke) , Hemi-head power plant, with 9.25:1 compression, a 252-252-30 degree cam, solid lifters, dual point distributor, WCFB Carter 4-barrel carburetor and 2” diameter exhaust pipes. The motor was rated at 260 hp@4,800 rpm and 330 lbs. ft. of torque@3,000 rpm. It was extra-cost on the D-500 Specials for $86 (Coronet), $63 (Royal) and $63 (Custom Royal).

An H-D, D-500 Dodge had a .812-inch diameter front anti-sway bar, .725-inch diameter front coil springs rated at 581 psi, 6-leaf rear springs rated at 110 psi , which helped to lower the body 1.5”, Oriflow shock absorbers at each corner, a power steering gear ratio of 20.1:1 or manual steering gear ratio of 27.1:1, 12-inch Center-Plane drum brakes with a total effective lining area of 251 square inches, redesigned steering knuckle (support) & steering arm, 2-speed PowerFlite with modified shift points (standard) an optional 3-speed manual synchromesh gear box with an 11-inch diameter Borg&Beck clutch assembly (effective lining area of 123.7 square inches and a plate pressure of 2,016 pounds), and a standard axle ratio of 3.73:1. Rolling stock consisted of 7.10”x15-inch tires mounted on 5.5”x15-inch K rims (5 lug and 4.5” bolt circle pattern, with .5” diameter x 20 studs) or optional 7.60”x15-inch tires affixed to 6.5”x15-inch L rims  (5 lug, 5.5” bolt circle pattern, with .5625” diameter x 18 NF studs).

A number of D-500-1 Dodges had been built by December 1955 in order to satisfy NASCAR’s production/homologation requirement. The 315 Hemi was basically a racing mill as it churned out 276 hp@5,000 rpm and 322 lbs. ft. of torque@3,600 rpm. The standard compression ratio was 9.25:1, but 10.0:1 compression heads with larger exhaust valves were approved for use in NASCAR in the spring of 1956. Additional equipment included an .875-inch diameter, front anti-sway bar, front coil springs rated at 619 psi, a choice of solid lifter camshafts, a low restriction dual exhaust system (2.5” diameter pipes), heavy-duty 8.25” differential, with a choice of gears ranging from 3.54 to 4.78) or an 8.75” rear, with a range of 3.07 to 5.83:1 gear ratios. You could have your choice of transmissions as long as it was a 3-speed crash box. CP

Bobby Allison, Tim DuPont, Dennis Kennedy, Mike Petersen, Rose Smiljanic, Charles Strang, Robert Valpey, Neil Vedder; Hemi: History of the Chrysler Hemi V-8 Engine by Anthony Young, 1994, Motorbooks International; Chrysler Engines: 1922-1998 by
Willem L. Weertman, 2007, SAE International; Forty Years of Stock Car Racing, The Beginning, 1949-1958 by Greg Fielden, 1992,CP Winter Issue The Galfield Press; research materials, articles and photographic images from the archives of C.A.R.S.

This entire article is available in our Winter issue of Chrysler Power Magazine. Order your copy while supplies last!

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