The Dart was Dodge’s entrance to mid-sized car market, that started as shortened full-sized in 1960, mid-sized for 1962 and finally compact between 1963 – 1976. The first Darts wee introduced in order to replace Plymouth as low-priced car in Dodge’s dealer network. It was based on Plymouth’s platform, but had shorter wheelbase than standart Dodges and had 3 trim levels: Seneca [basic], Pioneer [mid-range] and premium Phoenix. Later this lineup was enriched with Demon, Swinger, Sport and famous Dart GTS. The Dart came with all new standart 225 cubic [3.7 liter] slant-6 engine. 318 [5.2 liter, 230-255 HP], 361 [5.9 liter, 310 HP] V8s were also available with 2 or 4 barrel carb.
Darts soon gain high popularity, good sales. The 225 slant-6 was extremely popular as taxicab. The sales in 1960 were so good, that Dodge had to cut some mid-priced lines.
The tail lights crisis…
In 1961 Dodge made a mistake – Dart had its reverse fins, rear fender, grille and tail lights restyled. This restyle was so unpopular in both looks and inconvenience, that sales dropped a half. 1962 was famous for Ramcharger engine – the 413 cubic [6.8 liter] V8 with 415 HP. This beast soon started to break drag race records. The only interesting thing in 1965 was the Charger badge firstly used in Dodge’s history – the next year the real Charger showed up together with Dart GT [aka D-Dart – 273 cubic V8 with 275 HP].
1967 was a year of significant redesign and technical updates – better steering, larger engines. Dart GTS and Swinger joined the trim family. One of the best ever drag cars – 1968 Hurst Hemi Dart – was introduced with 426 cubic [7 liter] Hemi V8 with much lighter body. This helped Hurst Dart and its sister Hurst Hemi Barracuda dominate in Super Stock for decades. One of Dodges dealers, the Grand Spalding Dodge, managed to fit 440 cubic [7.2 liter] Magnum engine into same selected GTSs that were renamed to Grand Spalding Special – the GSS model.
The last redesigns were made during last Dart’s generation in 1970-1976. Dart Demon 340 was renamed to Dart Sport due to Christian groups’ complains so Sport 340 represented Dart’s high performance vehicles. Dart led the American compact car market during early 70s together with its clone made Plymouth Valiant/Duster.
During 13 years of Dart production a reputation of reliable car was earned. This caused strong owner loyalty towards Darts. Ultimately, A-body Dart was replaced with F-body Dodge Aspen – new compact Chrysler’s series.