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The A-Team

In this issue, we’ve got a story on a very nice Dodge Dart Swinger. There are a lot of us who have owned Darts and Scamps and Dusters and Demons; these were the true Mopars for the masses, and the factory made LOTS of them. No, those little A-body boxes don’t have the curb appeal of those sexy E-bodies, the racy heritage of the wing cars, or the brutish lines of many of the B-bodies of yore. However, the little A-bombs still offer a lot of bang for the buck, even today, and frankly are the one place left where you can still get a pretty good deal in the current market. Of course, from the start, Plymouth’s Barracuda was a fairly racy-appearing package, and its cousin, the Valiant, was never produced as a performance model off the assembly line. Since Dodge had no Barracuda, the Dart, pedestrian vehicle that it was, got pressed into sport duty under the GT tag.

A new Hurst Hemi Dart campaigned by Shirley Shahan cranking off a run at Indy in 1968. Photo by Ray Mann. From the www.quartermilestones.com library.

In fact, Dodge made ample use of the Dart as a performance model between 1964 and 1970. In 1964, the car could be had in a special GT combination with the new 273” LA-series V8 engine; a small batch of California-sold versions actually had the name Charger associated with them in 1965, the year prior to the B-Body Charger’s formal introduction. In 1966, the 273” got some factory hot rod parts and began racing in the SCCA’s new Trans-Am series; called the D-Dart, Bob Tullius won the opening event at Sebring and was a high finisher at several other venues that season. Factory engineer Al Adam still has a D-Dart that was notorious in the Detroit region; D-Darts are now among the rarest A-bombers ever released.

In 1967, the redesign of the A-body platform made shoehorning a big-block into the car possible, and the GT got some stones. Thanks to Mr. Norm and an exhaust manifold designed by Arlen Vanke, a batch of 383 versions made the scene that year, followed by a batch of special 440 street versions the following year (and you thought those Yenko 427 conversions were nasty). That same year, 1968, also saw the debut of the 340 in the GTS model, considered to be one of the finest small-blocks of any manufacturer by the media back in the day. Of course, that was also the year that Hurst put together several dozen Darts and Barracudas with 426 race Hemi power for Super Stock. The year 1969 saw the 340, 383, and a handful of 440 versions unleashed again one last time on the streets of America.

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