When I was in high school during the 1970s, I couldn’t wait until I turned 17 so I could get my driver’s license. Of course, I dreamed about the car that I would buy when I was old enough to hit the road.
There were the cars that would get the girls, but like a lot of teenagers, I had champagne tastes but a bare-bones beer budget. My family was trying to keep me grounded with regard to what I could afford, and they harped on reliability. I was, of course, wanting something at least a little bit sexy.
When I talked to my mechanically inclined friends about cars, they would always mention the Dodge Dart. It wasn’t sexy, but walking away from a broken down car wasn’t sexy either. It was the perfect car for kids like us, they said. You can get one on the cheap, they got good gas mileage, and the body would rot before the engine would go bad on you. They raved about the Slant-6 that powered the Dart.
For the record, I didn’t get one. My first car was a 1970 Chevy Impala convertible, but I was sold on the virtues of the Dart.
Dodge introduced the Dart for the 1960 model year. (Incidentally, I was introduced for the 1960 model year as well.) It was a full-size car when it was first released, but it was downsized over the years. The standard engine in the Dart during the initial model year was the aforementioned Slant-6, a 225 cubic inch version.
They also offered more powerful options. You could get the Dart with either a 318 or 361cubic inch V8, and they had two-barrel and four-barrel carb options. The car was offered as a sedan, a hard top, and a wagon in both two and four door varieties.
The Dodge Dart was very popular from its inception. It was an economical car that had all the qualities that everyday working people valued. Budget conscious consumers gobbled them up during the 60s. The remnants trickled down to those of us who were buying cheap used cars in the 70s.
The Dart lasted as a Dodge stalwart through the 1976 model year, but there were countless Darts still on the road for many years after they discontinued production.
I rented a car a few months ago, and, lo and behold, it was a new Dodge Dart. The company resurrected the nameplate for the 2013 model year. It was certainly a far cry from the Dart of my memories, but it was cool enough. Is the new Dart a good car? I’ll let you know in about 20 years when I see how many 2013 Darts are still on the road.