This article targets the third and fourth generation Dart, produced in the USA, respectively, from 1963 until 1966 and from 1967 throughout 1976 These Dart versions are originally offered as a compact on the Chrysler “A-body” platform. The nameplate however, first appears under the Dodge banner as a short wheel base full size automobile in the 1960 and 1961 model years, then again in 1962 as an intermediate sized vehicle for the one year only. The nameplate was recently revived as a compact based on the Fiat beginning in 2013 and the name is used in other Chrysler markets for cars manufactured outside of N. America as well,
Body styles offered throughout production were a two door sedan, four door sedan, two door hard top and two door convertible. The first generation also has a station wagon and a hardtop coupe available, but those two are dropped in G2, with a two door coupe added to the roster. Trim levels are the basic 170, intermediate 270 and the premium GT for a more uptown look, but the GT is available for a two door hardtop or the convertible only. The predecessor of the Dart was the compact Lancer, riding, on a 106 inch wheel base, while the Dart is on a slightly longer 111 inch (2,819 mm) wheel base and is marketed as a “senior compact”. The Dart wagons are different than the sedans and on a 106 inch (2,743 mm) wheel base-the same as the Valiant. The 1963 Dart has a 38.9 foot (11.9 m) turning radius. The suspension would remain the same from 1963 until the nameplate is retired in 1976. Axle ratios are standard at 2.93:1 for the base170 with either transmission and the automatics with the 225 engine, but the standard transmission for the 225 engine the axle ratio is 3.23:1. On the options sheet the 3.25:1 axle ratio is offered as well, but there is no record of how many units were equipped with this option..
Right from the beginning the Dart is a big seller and remains a top choice until the end in ‘76. The slant engine is basic equipment with two variations initially in 1963, one producing 101 hp and, the aluminum block 225 cu in (3.7 L) version that develops 145 hp (108 kW) as the power option for an extra fifty bucks. The aluminium block engine was dropped in the first few months of ’63. The 225 is replaced in ‘64 with the all new light weight 273 cu in (4.5 L) LA V8 engine developing 180 bhp (130 kW) and has a two barrel carburetor bolted to the intake. Either engine would be coupled to the three speed standard column shift as standard equipment. The ’63 and ’64 models are the last two years that the optional TorqueFlite automatic transmission would have the dash mounted push-button controls.
For the 1965 model year the same engines are available with the addition of a four barrel carburetor for the 273 allowing it to produce 235 hp (175 kW). This version has a racier camshaft with solid tappets and the compression is 10.5:1. This is also the first year for the Dodge Dart Charger. This is the premium GT hardtop Dart painted yellow with a black interior plus sporting all the Charger badging. The Commando 273 engine is under the hood, with mechanical upgrades and also includes a deluxe trim package. This is the first time the Charger name is used on a Chrysler product. In 1966 the Dart Charger is again on the option sheet, but it is now on the larger Dodge “B body”. The complete Dart line for ’65 have improved suspension and the rims are now 14 inches with disc brakes offered as an option for more stopping power. This year air conditioning is offered for the first time, with front seat lap belts installed as standard equipment on all units.
In 1967 the base engine remains the 170 cu in slant six although now putting out 115 bhp (86 kW) with a larger carburetor and an updated camshaft. In N. American made Darts have new basic power in 1970, when the 170 is replaced by the larger 198 cu in (3.2 L) slant six, based on the 225 block. The crankshaft for the new engine gives the pistons a 4.125 inch (104.8 mm) stroke; the stroke is the same as the 225 crank with shorter connecting rods. The 273 is no longer available in ’68, it has been replaced with the 318 cu in (5,2 L) delivering 230 bhp (170 kW) with the basic two barrel, but if you chose the four barrel version, then the 318 develops 235 bhp (170 kW). The Swinger is a performance oriented Dart, as is the GTS and both are available with the four barrel 275. The GTS was added to the roster in ’67. This is the quickest Dart and would come basically equipped with the 340 cu in (5.6 L) V8, producing 235 bhp (175 kW), but a 383 cu in (6.3 L) offering 300 hp (220 kW) is the ultimate power for any factory equipped Dart this year, but few were purchased, making it a rare find today.
There are design changes as well in ’67. All the Dart line have new sheet metal, with a better steering system and wider tracking in front. The frame rails are spaced differently and the K-members are reworked in order to hold a larger engine. There will be further cosmetic changes made to the sheet metal, front clip and then tail section, but the Dart undercarriage will remain essentially the same from ‘67 until the end of production in ’76.
The Dart cabin is unique in ’67 with the compound reverse curves on the rear window, but could collect snow and with the thick “C pillars” combined, reduce the driver’s field of vision. This is also the first year a Chrysler compact comes with curved side window glass. The wagon is dropped from the line-up and the 170 base is eliminated, in name only and the entry level model is referred to as the Dodge Dart.
The 270 and the GT are still the same in ’68 but the GTS performance is kicked up a notch with the base offer of a high output 340 cu in (5.6 L) V8, The braking is made much safer with the addition of a dual reservoir master cylinder to separate the front and rear hydraulics’. The dash now has a brake indicator to assure the operator the brakes are fully functional. Other new safety features incorporated include a collapsible steering column, heavier padding on the dash, sun visors and anchors for the installation of a shoulder harness for the two outside front seats. The windshield wipers in ’68 have a matt finish to reduce glare and emission controls are standard equipment, as mandated by a Federal Motor Vehicle standard through-out the USA. In ’68 the steering linkage is again revised and the rear axle ratio drops from 2.93 to 2.73. This year the basic transmission offer is the automatic and the customer would have had to order a standard. The TorqueFlite automatic also has a part-throttle downshift feature added to refine city driving on six cylinder vehicle for improved performance in city traffic with the revised axle ratio. The most exciting thing for a MCF in 1968 is the addition of the 426 Hurst-Hemi Dart. The 426 version was produced for drag racing only, and was solely available for this one year. The Hurst-Hemi is a light weight stripped down car with Spartan upholstery and no window winding mechanism installed. There were only only 50 units factory produced, all without paint-only primmer coated from the manufacturer. The 426 Hurst-Hemi also came with a no warrantee disclaimer as part of the package deal.
The Swinger for 1969 is now a two door hardtop replacing the two door sedan and is also available as the Swinger 340. Head rests are now in all the Dart family, but an option for this one year and mandatory by a law, effective January 01, 1969. The American Dart six cylinder borrows the carburetor de-icing system from its Canadian counter-part. The rear drum brakes have an improved automatic adjustment installed on all models. The pinnacle performance factory Dart in ’69 is the GTS with a 440 cu in V8 under the hood.
More cosmetic changes in 1970, although the most notable, is an enlarged passenger compartment, but the trunk space has been reduced by half compared to the previous year. The six cylinder base model has more power than last year and the V8 engines with an automatic are now have the part-throttle-down shift for improved city driving. Side marker lights with reflectors are now mandatory, as are the collapsible steering column and the ignition locking mechanism. The Swinger could be ordered with four doors, but it had few takers making this a very rare model today. The Dart convertible was not an option in 1970. The new Challenger is also introduced this year and to avoid competition with it, the largest engine available for the Dart is the 340 cu in V8 and, with the four barrel, will develop 275 bhp (205 kW). The Swinger 340 two door hardtop is so equipped, and comes with twin functional hood scoops and badging to announce its status. Front disc brakes are basic with the Swinger 340, as is the Rallye suspension package, the 3.23:1 rear axle ratio, fiberglass belted tires 14 inch steel rims and the bumblebee strip pack are also included. The ’70 Dart has bench seating, but all vinyl bucket seats with a center console are an option in 1970. Dual hood scoops painted flat black and come with hood pins are an option for most of the Dart line-up. Other choices that could have been made include a 6,000 rpm tachometer, power assist brakes, the Rallye wheels with the wire wheel covers. There is vinyl covered roof in either white or black that could also have been on a 1970 Dart if the box was checked on the order sheet. The Swinger is synonymise with performance in 1970 and is the only two door hard top coupe in the Dart line-up, but with a second basic version called the Swinger Special to compete with the Plymouth Duster.
A fast back version of the 1970 Plymouth Duster was very successful, so Dodge, as friendly competition for the popular Plymouth, plans on offering a similar unit that came very close to being called the Dodge Beaver, but the name was quickly changed to Dart Demon when someone in a high place realized that this was also a derogatory slang term for the most private part of the female anatomy. The Demon sales lagged far behind the Duster. Although it is the same vehicle with cosmetic changes in sheet metal and a few other minor changes. Any Chrysler product in 1970 could be equipped with a factory installed cassette recorder complete with a microphone for dictation and would be mounted either in the console or in a special case attached to the floor if the console was not wanted. In 1971 the Demon 340 is now the power option and could be had with the optional scoops mounted on the flat black hood. The Demon option also includes the Demon decal kit to stand out from the lesser versions. A long standing tradition of Chrysler was to have left hand thread bolts for the lug nuts on the left had side, but in 1971 the practice is abandoned all the wheel nuts are now a more conventional right hand thread.
For the 1972 model year the Demon creature decal used as a logo, has been replaced by Dodge and Dart emblems on the lower part of the trunk lid although the critter is still visible, but now in metal, is on the front fenders and can still be seen on some units as a decal on the pin stripping along the sides and in the rear. The dual hood scoops are replaced by a single scoop in 1972 and the Rallye wheel package now includes a new style center cap painted in a light silver color (argent), although this package is standard for the Demon Sizzler. The Demon was not a big seller, but, now, due to its rarity, is now a coveted collector item, particularly if there is a V8 engine under the hood.
Cosmetic changes in 1973 include a new front grill, the fenders are reworked, new style hood and large new impact absorbing bumpers fore and aft added to comply with federal regulations. Some other mandatory changes a bit less evident are side impact guard beams now in the doors and some new emission control equipment. The braking for 1972 is now done with single piston for each wheel cylinder, replacing the more intricate four piston variety used since 1965. Mechanical changes in 1973 include the new electronic ignition system as standard equipment on all Chrysler products, the starter motor on the Dart has been reworked to make the engine crank over quicker, the k frame now cradles a spool mounting to help limit engine roll to three degrees and the wheel bolt pattern is increased to 4.5 inch on units with disc brakes-the same as larger Chrysler vehicles. The drum brake equipped Dart units retain the smaller bolt pattern.
The basic rear axle remains the same in ‘73, but the optional heavy duty rear end is now 8 ¼ inch rather than the previous 8 ¾ inch version. The standard gear ratios in the rear end are 276:1 on the automatic and 3.23:1 for the standard transmission, but other ratios could have been chosen. There is a new “Quiet Pack” offered in ’73 which included extra greenhouse sound-proofing, better quality pipe hangers and an upgraded resonator for the exhaust system. The Demon nameplate is retired due to pressure from Christian complaints and the Dart Sport becomes the power option.
The 1974 Dart has even larger bumpers than last year to comply with the 5 mph (8 km/h) damage free impact regulation and the seat belt shoulder strap are now retractable with the Chrysler Unibelt replacing the unwieldy two piece belt used previously. The oil shortage in ’73 was caused by the Arab oil embargo but it was good news for the small car market and Dodge markets the new Dart SE which is a plush version to appeal to the uptown crowd that may now chose the compact Dart rather than a larger vehicle. The Dart Sport 340 model is retired and the Dart Sport 360 is introduced. The air conditioning system available for the Dart has an increase capacity and will make the passenger compartment temperature drop quicker and to a lower temperature than before.
In 1975 the Dart stays looking almost the same as last year, but all ’75 vehicles are required to pass a new roof crush test and to meet the demands heavier gauge metal is used on the “B” pillar and on the windshield supports as well as having thicker glass used in the windshield. All California and high altitude models are equipped with a catalytic converter allowing them to run on unleaded fuel, but all other Dart markets the model is without the converter and can still use leaded gasoline in 1975.This is also the year when new models are equipped with a system that prevents the car from starting until the front seat outboard riders have their seat belts fastened, but this system was trashed and vehicles so equipped could have the system disabled. The small slant six was dropped in ’75 and the base engine is the 225 only and this is the first year since 1965 that an American made six cylinder engine could be ordered with a four speed mounted on the floor. High gear is a 30% overdrive and also the first time a Chrysler vehicle had used an overdrive since 1969; this results in less engine wear, pleasing gas mileage and lower engine noise at high speed. The drive ratio for the fourth gear is 2.36:1 for the 225 Slant six units with the 3.23:1 rear axle and 2.15:1 for all the V8 engines with a 2.94:1 rear axle which adds to better mileage and less engine wear. The heating in the ’75 Dart is more efficient than ever before with 14% higher capacity plus a third speed added to the blower which provides 20% more air flow on high and the cabin insulation is also improved, which helps decrease road noise.
In 1976 the Dart rear view mirror is mounted on the windshield and the old style emergency brake with the “T” handle, used for the entire compact Dart production run is replaced with a foot operated style to conform to the latest brake performance requirements and all vehicles must now be equipped with front disc brakes. The new parking light are now behind a yellow lens rather than the previous yellow bulb behind a clear lens. The Dart Sport 360 equipped with the automatic transmission has a sticker price of around $3,370.00 in most dealerships at the time, but for an extra $376.00, you could option the 360 cu in (5.9 L) engine with a four barrel and dual exhaust, without the catalytic converter, if it was purchased in any jurisdiction except California where it is not for sale at all. A Car and Driver magazine test, with results published in the April ’76 issue, compares performance of the Trans-Am Firebird, Corvette and the Dart Sport 360. The Corvette turns in the highest top speed of 124.5 mph (200.4 km/h) with the Dart a close second, at 121.6 mph (195.7 km/h).