The Durable Dodge Dart
If you were a young driver looking for an inexpensive used car in the late 1970s, your elders were invariably going to recommend that you try to find yourself an old Dodge Dart. Now these sixties-vintage Darts were not going to turn many heads or have any cheerleaders asking you for a ride home, but they were reliable, durable, economical, and easy to repair.
The Dodge Dart made its debut for the 1960 model year, and this year marked somewhat of a turning point within the industry. During the 1950s fuel economy and point-of-sale affordability were of little concern, but as the sixties rolled around the compact car with the low price tag began to emerge. Chevrolet began to offer its first compact car, the rear-engine Corvair for 1960; Ford unveiled their new compact, the Falcon, that same year; and Plymouth followed suit with the Valiant for 1960 as well.
The first wave of Dodge Darts were considered to be full-size cars, but they were smaller than typical full-size vehicles, powered by the 225 cubic inch slant-six engine as standard equipment. As the rest of the industry continued a trend toward downsizing, Dodge followed suit with the Dart. By 1962 the Dart was a mid-size, and the following year, they made the Dart a compact offered as either a four-door sedan, a four-door wagon, a two-door hardtop coupe, or a two-door convertible.
In what turned out to be a hint of things to come, in 1965 Dodge offered the Dodge Dart Charger, equipped with a four-barrel carburetor, the Commando 273 engine, and appearance upgrades. In 1966 a performance model was offered within the Dart series, called the D-Dart which came with a modified version of the 273 ci V8 that utilized an enhanced carburetor to increase the horsepower rating to 275.
The Dodge Dart Swinger 340 was introduced in 1969, and it was the only true performance version of the Dart as the decade of the 70s began. It was replaced by the Dart Demon in 1971, though a handful of 1971 Swinger 340s were said to have been made for a couple of Canadian dealerships. So, if you locate a 1971 Swinger 340, you have found yourself a rarity.
The Dodge Dart remained in production through the 1976 model year when it was ultimately discontinued and replaced with the Aspen. The Dart is a memorable vehicle that was, for the most part, short on panache but long on reliability. Indeed, many a Dart has been driven past a junkyard that was full of flashier cars.