Muscle Cars

1969 Dodge Dart: A Not So Obvious Classic.

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By Mark Weisseg

Here is a car that has gone through what seems to be a zillion changes. In the very early 60’s it was bigger and was nearly axed for good.

But as time marched on the Dart found its footing. Most of the Darts came with a 225 Slant six engine and that had to be the most reliable engine Chrysler ever had. Why is it called a slant six? Well, open the hood and you will see a small six cylinder engine, ( all cylinders right in a row) and the engine sat on a slight slant. Now, you are an expert.

But the Dart could also have a 318 V8, a 340, and up. I recall being a teenager and someone squeezed a 440 in the car which was for sale.
The usual begging of my Father resumed because this little Dart with that 440, was a rocket. The problem was the car was so light and especially in this case the rear end of the car, that traction was an issue. I lost my case as Dad knew it would take me less than a week to kill myself, but I never forgot that car. Vinyl bench seats, automatic transmission on the column, AM radio, and not much more.

The Dart gets lost or forgotten when it comes to fast muscle cars as it was never really advertised as such. Yes, the 340 engine made this light weight car very fast, but as we all know it was not fast enough.
Hence, the 360, 383, 426, and the 440 were stuffed in by the real gear heads. I had the Plymouth version back in the day and loved the car. It had a weird emergency brake set up, in that it was next to the drivers left leg and you pulled out the handle and it clicked its way out.
To release it you turned the handle to the right and down and the rod went back toward the dash.

These cars today are classics as they have a long history of being a very good car with many options. For some reason I liked that mine had a light on each front fender so when you used your turn signals the little bulb blinked to remind you that the turn signals were working and to remind you not to drive 26 miles with the turn signal on! We all have seen that one and cannot imagine how the driver could be so clueless.

I want to see more of the older Darts out there being restored. Mine was truly a four seater but Chrysler claims six could fit in. Three in front and three in the rear. We tried that more than once and it it does not really work in the real world.
When I cruise web sites they are loaded with the standards such as Roadrunners, Chargers, Challengers, and the Cuda. I just do not see many Darts and I hope that changes quickly.

Imagine my horror when a few years ago FCA reintroduced the Dart. It’s ugly, weird looking and the sales were bad. It’s a shame to defame the Dart name for those of us who remember its heritage. To give you an idea how things change I will relate a story that just happened. I was in Las Vegas walking into the Caesars Palace and there was a big sign with pictures of Elton John, Celline Dion, and Rod Stewart. One of the youngsters with us( a guy 21 years old) asked who Rod Stewart was. The young crowd barely knew the impact of the Beatles or Elvis. They really thought the new Dodge Dart was new.
It is up to us old folks to educate the people who do not know the history of the Dart. I hope the new Dart fails and fails quickly, so we can forget this mega disaster and focus on the real Dodge Dart of the past.

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