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Hiding in Plain Sight

Stop me before I do it again. I was wandering around my temporary digs here in Pasadena, California the other day when I stumbled onto two drool worthy Mopars just waiting to be plucked. Yes, I already have too many cars and yes, I might be living out of my suitcase here in Pasadena while working on a TV project that’ll wrap up in late August. But I’m already scheming ways to buy and transport one – or both – of these collectible Dodges 3,200 miles east to my new place in rural Massachusetts.

I spotted the first of these jewels parked on a busy street just off Colorado Blvd. during a bike ride. At first glance, it appeared to be a well used – but solid – 1965 Dart GT. Interesting, but I’ve already got a ’63 Dart to scratch my early A-body itch. Then I caught a glimpse of the single over-sized square exhaust tip and resonator. While it isn’t uncommon to spot a cheap parts store exhaust tip on an early Dart – the Slant Six guys seem to do this a lot, owning a 1967 E-code Dart gave me the tip… on this exhaust tip.

What’s an E-code? In case you’re new to the Mopar numbers game, the fifth character of any 1966-up Chrysler Corp. passenger car VIN identifies the engine option. In 1965 a special 235-horsepower version of the 273 was introduced to keep pace with Ford’s 225-horse A-code (289 4-barrel) Mustang - Falcon and Chevy’s 220-horse 283 Nova compact car perk-up options. The 273 four-barrel package was installed on several thousand Darts, Valiants and Barracudas between 1965 and 1967 and included specific 10.5:1 pistons, a Carter AFB, a hot mechanical cam and…a high performance 2-1/2 inch diameter single exhaust system with a unique resonator poking out beneath the rear bumper on the driver-side of the car.

When it comes to my 1967 Dart 270 Sedan, it’s an original E-code 273-four barrel I bought back in 1992 for $800. Galen Govier says its one of 29 two-door post-sedans built with the 904 Torqueflite (column shifted on mine). All of the original four barrel goodies were still present under the hood but the unique exhaust resonator was missing. Missing that is, until I scored one at Carlisle in the summer of 1994 for something like $180 (on a $200 ask). It was a fortune at the time for a 70-percent solid (i.e. 30-percent raunchy) piece with rust holes starting to break through the crimps and body of the two-foot long assembly. But the integrally welded sawed off stainless steel tip was in great shape with no curb rash or tweaks. Though I defiled this particular Dart with a 520-cube Stage V Hemi Conversion engine swap, that single resonator and the fender mounted 273 Four Barrel emblems are still in place for sleeper points. The experience of owning this car also permanently tuned me into the whole 273-four barrel/A-body resonator mindset.

Okay, getting back to the ’65 Dart GT under discussion here, while 1965 Mopars do not have the handy fifth-digit engine code of 1966-up models, the presence of the original looking resonator identifies it as a probable first-year 273-four barrel car! Without getting too close for absolute verification - its current tags and active duty condition suggest its owner might not appreciate my close scrutiny – I did manage to note that it’s a 904 console automatic car with a 7-1/4 rear axle. And while the front fenders do not show off the unique chrome 273 Four Barrel emblems you need to see on a factory original four barrel Dart, I did note that the entire front clip had been replaced. The gold paint was a full shade off from the rest of the body. So the original emblems were likely lost when the clip was replaced. Check the picture and you’ll agree.

Out of respect for the fact this was somebody else’s car, I resisted strong urges to open the hood so I could check for the four barrel-specific 22-inch heavy duty radiator, crackle black valve covers with finned appliques, dual-point distributor, AFB carb and intake, small round chrome air cleaner and 5-blade fan. Man, I sure was tempted though. But with no For Sale sign on the car and no owner present, I was in strictly hands-off mode. Heck, I’d flip if I caught some stranger groping my wheels. Bet you would too. As I rode away on my bike I puzzled over how that original resonator could have survived all these years without rotting away. Then again, California cars often confound me with their peculiar survival patterns.

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