The Dodge Dart started as a full-size car in 1960 and 1961, shifting down to a mid-size in 1962, and in 1963 to 1976 it was a compact car, with a touch of muscle car in the late 1960s and 1970s.
The name is to be reborn in 2013, this time on a compact sedan, a variation on the Alfa Romeo Guilietta.
From the very beginning the car was known as the Dart, however Dodge executives decided to commission a consumer survey to help name the car. The results of the survey would have seen the car called the Dodge Zipp. Marketing sanity prevailed, and the car stayed with the name Dart.
The 1961 and 1962 Dodge Darts were downsized large cars, made in Ontario, Canada, and designed to replace the replace Chysler’s Plymouth marque as a low-price car. The Dart sat upon the Plymouth wheelbase, and was available to buyers in three trim types: the base model Seneca, the mid-range Pioneer, and the premium Phoenix. The standard engine was the 225 cu in (3.7 L) Slant-6, a second option being the 361 cu in (5.9 L) V8 engine. The slant six engine provided four advantages according to the press material of the time:
- The center of gravity is kept much lower than in upright engines
- A low, stylish hood is made possible
- Engine accessories are more accessible
- The water pump can be moved to the side of the engine to reduce the engine's overall length
All up there were 20 variations of the Dart available - the Seneca, Pioneer and Phoenix trim types, plus sedan, station wagon, hardtop and convertible body types. In press releases of the time, Dodge pushed the Dart as the ideal ‘every car’:
“This means more driving pleasure -- and greater value for more years -- which will please men. And women particularly, will love the roomy interior and comfortable seat heights, especially in the rear passenger area.”
A driver-friendly touch was the thought that went into getting in and out of the car. The door wide as a standard feature, but there was also an option to add automatic swivel seats - as the driver opened the door the bucket seat would swivel slightly, both when getting in and out of the car.
"This new economy car is aimed at the heart of the automobile buying market -- the 60 percent of the American families who want family-sized transportation at popular prices," said M. C. Patterson, the vice president of Chrysler Corporation and general manager of the Dodge Division.
Sales for the 1961 Dodge Dart - in the region of 266,700.
For the 1962 Dodge Dart, the three trim types were retained, and engine choices were the 225 cu in (3.7 L) Slant-6, and the 318 cu in (5.2 L) and 361 cu in (5.9 L) V8. Virgil Exner redesigned the car, but it was unpopular with the public, and sales fell by almost 46% on the previous year, to 142,000.
1963 - 1966: The Dart goes compact
In a change of role, for the 1963 model the Dart switched to a true compact size - a 111-inch wheelbase - to replace the Dodge Lancer. Over this run the Dart was available as a 2-door sedan, 4-door sedan, 4-door wagon, 2-door hardtop coupe, and 2-door convertible.
Engine choices for the 1963 model were restricted to six-cylinder - the 170 I6 rated at 101 bhp, and the 225 I6, 145 bhp. Things picked up for the 1964 Dodge Dart, with the 273 V8 180 bhp added to the two six-cylinder engines options from the previous year. Sales for 1963 - 34,227.
The Dart went with more power in 1964, with two six-cylinder and two V-8 engines to choose from: the 170 I6 101 bhp, 225 I6 145 bhp, 273 V8 180 bhp, and the 273 V8 235 bhp. Sales for 1964 were 37,660 x six-cylinder, and 12,170 V-8, a total of 49,830.
The trend to more power continued in 1965 and 1966. For both years there were again two six- and two eight-cylinder choices: 170 I6 101 bhp, 225 I6 145 bhp, 273 V8 180 bhp, 273 V8 235 bhp. Sales in 1965 was 35,000 six-cylinder and 10,000 eight-cylinder, in 1966 the sales figures dropped to 20,000 six-cylinder, while the V-8 remained at 10,000.
Dodge also made something of a special edition car, the Dodge Dart Charger. The Dodge Dart Charger was a 2-door hardtop, resplendent, and noticeable, with its yellow Dart GT exterior, black interior, and Charger badging. It had the Commando 273 engine, along with higher-spec mechanicals and trim. This was Dodge's first use of Charger, a name it would re-use in 1970.
1967 -1976 - the Dodge Dart as muscle car
Engine choices over this period were:
- 170 cu in (2.8 L) Slant-6
- 198 cu in (3.2 L) Slant-6
- 225 cu in (3.7 L) Slant-6
- 273 cu in (4.5 L) LA V8
- 318 cu in (5.2 L) LA V8
- 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA V8
- 360 cu in (5.9 L) LA V8 383 cu in (6.3 L) RB V8
- 440 cu in (7.2 L) RB V8
- 426 cu in (7.0 L) 2G Hemi V8 (1968 S/S)
- 440 cu in (7.2 L) RB V8
For the year 1967, the Dodge Dart had a major re-style, and would retain much the same sort of look through to 1976. As well as a new look, the body types were reduced. Gone was the station wagon, leaving only the 2-door coupe, 4-door coupe, hardtop and convertible. The Dart GTS was added to the lineup, continued in 1968 and given the 340 cu V8 engine. Hurst also built 50 higher-spec cars, dubbed the Hemi Dart, built specifically for drag racing, and along with the sibling Plymouth Hemi Barracuda, remains the quickest, mass-produced production car. Just in case the racing specificity was not clear, each Hemo Dart was issued with a sticker, saying "This vehicle was not manufactured for use on Public Streets, Roads or Highways, and does not conform to Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.”
In 1969 the 2-door sedan was dropped from the range, and replaced with the Dart Swinger, a 2-door hardtop. Dropped in 1970 was the convertible, and the most poswerful engine on offer was the 275 bhp (205 kW) 340 4-barrel V8. The highest performance Dart on offer was the Swinger 340, a 2-door hardtop. All 1970 Dodge Darts were - again - made in Canada, in Windsor.
In 1970 a new name entered the Dart family, the Dodge Demon. This car was based on the Plymouth Duster, a wheelbase 3 inches shorter than other Darts. There were two version of the Demon available - standard with a 198 cu inline 6-cylinder, and the Demon 340, with the 340 cu in (5.6 L) LA V8. Needless to say, the naming of this model upset some religious groups, and use of the Demon label was dropped in 1973.
From the ashes of the Demon rose the Dodge Dart Sport in 1973, running the 340 V8 and its 240 bhp. Cut to 1974 and on, and tighter emission controls saw the power of the Dart’s engines progressively drop, along with sales.
Dodge Dart 2013
The Dart name has risen again, after its showing at the North American International Auto Show in January 2012. A compact 4-door sedan, it will be on sale at end of June 2012.
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