Old School Dodge

I think Dave did a real good job on his research ; thought I'd share it with you. :read2:

1963 - 1966 Darts: The Little Imperials from Dodge

by Dave Duricy

When thinking of 1960s Dodges, one usually visualizes a sleek '66 or '67 Charger or a Super Bee. Rarely does the name Dart spring to mind.

Overshadowed by their glitzy and glamorous brethren, the '63-'66 Darts have been largely overlooked by the hobby, which is a shame, since these gemlike compacts were a hit when new and are still nifty today.
In 1963 the all-new Dart line appeared as a replacement for the not-so-successful Dodge Lancer of '61-'62. The Lancer was based on the contemporary Valiant and bore an extremely strong resemblance to it. This lack of individuality was perhaps the greatest single reason for the Lancer's underwhelming sales performance.
The Dart solved this problem. Though still a close cousin to the Valiant, the new Dart appeared distinctly Dodge and offered a bit more car, as one would expect from the marque.
The Dart's wheelbase was 111 inches, five more than Valiant's, though the wagons used the Valiant's 106-inch wheelbase. An overall length of 195.9 inches (wagons 190.2 inches) made the new Darts "big" compared to rival compacts. Their extra size was well utilized in the areas of cargo carrying ability, styling and driving comfort.
The new Darts boasted an impressive trunk volume of 30.2 cu. ft. and interiors with enough space to accommodate six passengers. A clever Dart ad from 1963 displayed two Dart sedans, one with six gentlemen inside, the other with six young ladies. The copy read: "Room for six of one or half a dozen of the other."
Dart styling, which varied little during Dart's four-year styling cycle, was quite good. Though not in league with the '55 Chrysler 300 or the LeBaron-bodied lmperials of the 1930s, it was a balanced, purposeful-looking and pleasing design.
The premier models wore prominent headlight bezels that protruded slightly from the fenders and grille, creating a look that resembled the face of the Chrysler Turbine Car. Body sides were clean and smooth, and rear styling was neat and tidy. However, perhaps the most striking styling element of the Dart was its distinguished roof line. The rear roof pillar was thick and nicely angled to give the car a decidedly formal air. This touch of class accompanied by remarkably high construction quality and comfort level, made the Darts, especially the top of the line Dart GT seem more like "little Imperials" than just compact Dodges.
The Dart's beauty was more than skin deep. Initially the Darts, offered in 170, 270 and GT trim levels, were all powered by the famous Slant Six. Standard was the 170 cid six, while the larger 225 cid unit was an option. Horsepower was 101 and 145 respectively.
These engines combined rugged dependability with excellent gas mileage (as high as 24 mpg with the 225 and optional TorqueFlite automatic transmission), and adequate go power.
So confident was Chrysler Corporation of the new Dart, it gave the car a five year, 50,000 mile warranty - one of Chrysler's more acclaimed creations. This warranty, plus the Dart's good overall design, caused sales to reach 153,992 cars, an excellent volume. Dodge ads proudly announced that sales of its compact models had risen 109 percent over previous totals.
A good portion of this volume was made up of the snappy Dart GTs. The line, comprised of a hardtop and a convertible, offered a spiffy bucket seat interior with better than average appointments. Though the GT offered no different drivetrain specifications from those of its lesser line mates (as its GT name would seem to indicate), it did provide a sporty environment in which the Dart's inherently good ride and handling could be appreciated.
The GT's 1963 sales of 34,227 indicated that the Dart series was successfully received by the buying public as an upper-market "large" compact.
Throughout its 1963-66 production run, the Dart experienced evolutionary changes rather than revolutionary ones. The most notable improvements were additional engine options, especially their application in the GT series.
For 1964 Dart got a shot in the arm. Newly available to the line was a 273.5 cid V-8 with wedge-shaped combustion chambers. The new engine offered 180 hp. and 0-60 times of 10 seconds. Though such performance wasn't earth shattering, the engine could be made to tool around rather snappily.
Accompanying the new engine were minor trim changes. Most notable was a new convex grille that resembled the blade guard of an electric razor. The public saw a good thing becoming even better, and Dart sales rose to 193,035. GTs accounted for 48,830 of this total.
Since Ford had trotted out the Mustang with its pretense of performance in 1964, Dodge modified the Dart's optional small block V-8 with a wilder cam and a four-barrel carburetor for '65. The GT could also now be had with a special heavy-duty suspension option and a four-speed, floor-shift manual transmission. With this new hopped-up engine the GT could really dart. Zero to sixty m.p.h. took only 8.2 seconds.
The fun continued with 1966's models. Dart styling was squared up with a new rectangular grille and rectangular headlamp bezels that did away with the vague resemblance to the Chrysler Turbine Car. Otherwise the car was left essentially alone.
Darts, especially the GT, had developed into truly superior transportation. However, production went down. Only 176,027 Darts were made, 30,041 of which were GTs.
Though the Darts and Dart GT arrived with completely new body structures and styling in 1967, they had lost something of the class that had characterized the pleasant '63-'66 versions. The new GT was a more brazen number that would use its new body structure to accept bigger power plants such as the 330-hp. 383-cid V-8 in 1968. It could be a much more muscular and potent machine than its predecessor.
The survival rate of the first generation Darts has been good. Occasionally a well worn example can be seen cruising down the highway. Though many Darts have seen mileage well over the hundred-thousand mark, this should not deter a hobbyist from considering a Dart for his collection.
All Darts were built with durability in mind, and engine parts are still widely available today. The Darts, especially the GTs, have a certain appeal that shines through even the roughest example. Cleaned up and sparkling, the Darts are down right enchanting, especially when compared to their 1960s Ford and General Motors compact contemporaries.
The Darts have a certain status and out against today's horde of collectible '64-'66 Mustangs. They're simply more car than either Falcons or comparable Chevrolets; plus they enjoy an excellent reputation, unlike the Corvair, whose "Unsafe At Any Speed" dark cloud still lingers.
The first generation compact Darts are worthy candidates for your attention and offer a driving pleasure that could only have come from Dodge.
D. Duricy, Copyright 1995
Author: admin