While by no means a pocket rocket, the very name of the Dodge Dart is a nod to it’s compact and speedy nature, and signalled a shift away from the Plymouths.
The titans of the American muscle car industry featured the usual suspects, such as models released by Ford and Pontiac. In an effort to keep up, Dodge muscle cars arrived on the market in 1964. While Dodge already had a long history in the production of powerful, sophisticated engines and transmissions, they were sitting on a stockpile of ‘old man cars’. However, this image was well and truly shaken off with the release of models such as the Charger, Coronet and Super Bee, which were embraced by revheads who were looking for performance on a budget.
However, not every American was on the hunt for a monster engine that could be heard from three streets away. Dodge dealers had been selling Plymouths since 1930, but divisional restructuring took the Plymouth brand away from the Dodge dealer network. A new staple was required – one that met the needs of the modern American as a mid level and modestly priced option to replace the Plymouths. Enter, the Dodge Dart.
The Origins Of The Dodge Dart
The original Chrysler Corporation was founded in 1925 by Walter Chrysler from the remains of what was the Maxwell Motor Company. After Chrysler’s interception, Mr Chrysler then went on to deploy the same brand diversification and hierarchy strategy used by General Motors, which he had become familiar with during a tenure at Buick. In 2021, Chrysler is now just one of the brands under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (formerly FCA, now Stellantis), and includes subsidiary companies such as Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Maserati and Fiat that were ‘collected’ under the Chrysler banner over the last few decades.
Needless to say, Dodge as a brand is now much more independent from Chrysler than it once was. Dodge project planners initially floated the name Dart, only to have Chrysler executives insist on an extensive – and expensive – research program that resulted in the name “Zipp”. However, this was promptly rejected, and the Dodge Dart name emerged as the victor.
The Dodge Dart name first appeared as a radically aerodynamic show car in 1956, but it didn’t return to the market until four years later as a downsized regular production vehicle. While the first generation Dodge Dart of 1960 was pretty much just a small ‘full size’ car, and wasn’t regarded as a true compact vehicle until it’s ‘rebirth’ in 1963.
The original Dodge Dart was available in three model series: Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix. Based on the Plymouth floor pan, at 210.5 inches overall (216.5 inches, wagon) on a 118.0-inch wheelbase, the first Dodge Dart series was smaller than the Polara and Matador, but larger than the new, compact Lancer (188.8 inches on a 106.5-inch wheelbase). Engine options were 318 and 361-cu-in V-8s, along with the famed 30-degree, 225-cu-in slant six. All three models were available with Dodge’s D500 performance option, which included the 361 cid V8 with a new ram-induction setup with featured twin four-barrels on long, individual-runner intake manifolds, otherwise known as the ‘supercharger effect’.
Needless to say, the first generation Dodge Dart models were a hit. As the Dart’s sales climbed, Plymouth’s sales dropped. While Chrysler officials were somewhat uncomfortable with the fact that 87% of Dodge’s volume suddenly consisted of the low-profit Dart line, as the competition heated up, little was done to stop the infighting between Chrysler divisions. It would seem that the humble Dart emerged victorious though, as it went on to receive four generations of production in under twenty years, before Chrysler began the transition to the new Aspen compact models.
Get To Know Your Local Classic Car Expert
Finding a fellow vintage auto enthusiast can feel a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but rest assured that Wayne’s Garage understands the thrill more than most. Having spent forty years collecting anything and everything from matchbox cars to hub caps, he’s successfully followed his passion to source, collect and stock beautiful and low mileage classic automobiles from around the world. With extensive experience in the automotive industry, it was only a matter of time before Wayne expanded on his love of vintage, iconic vehicles to share his knowledge and passion with the public.
Although his passion is for automobiles built before 1978, with a particular love for Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Oldsmobiles and even Fords, Wayne is just as passionate about the stories of the owners. Just like the cars, he has found that his fellow classic car enthusiasts all have wildly different attractions and logic behind their passion or hobby, and this often translates into how the car is presented. If it’s even remotely different, rare or just plain unusual, Wayne will overcome the relevant logistical and geographical challenges of bringing the cars to his showroom in Australia.
Wayne’s Garage is a showroom conveniently located at Seventeen Mile Rocks, that specialises in the restoration and sales of vintage automobiles. If you’re on the hunt for Brisbane classic cars – quite simply, Wayne is your man. If you would like to arrange a viewing or inspect any other of our classic vehicles, please get in touch with us today.