Dodge Dart Redo – Part I

Most of you who have followed my blog for a while know I am really into cars.  I just love everything about them.  In October of 2014 I purchased a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger from a Dodge dealership in Afton, Wyoming.  The previous owner had traded it in on a new Dodge Durango.  Can you believe that?

dart profile wp
This is the beast as she appeared when I purchased her in October of 2014.  The Swingers were a sporty edition, and this body is known as a two-door hard top.

So, just how did I, an investment advisor with over 27 years experience, end up making this decision to purchase a classic car?  Well, let’s find out.  I had been going to car shows for a couple of years, showing my 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT.  It didn’t take me long to realize that the cars that were winning the awards were all classics — at least in our little local car shows and cruise nights.  Being a Mopar fan, I started thinking about trying to find an early 1970’s or later 1960’s muscle car, preferably a Chrysler product.  (Mopar is the parts and performance accessories division of Chrysler Corporation, so for many years now, Chrysler product fans are known as Mopar fans.)

I have a couple of friends who I do a lot of car stuff with who happen to be brothers, so I called Dave who is an absolute genius at finding great car deals.  Between the two of us we had been doing some research, and I had to finally admit that I just wasn’t going to be able to afford a Charger, Challenger, or a ‘Cuda that was in show shape.  But Dave had texted me and mentioned that he found a promising looking candidate up in Afton, Wyoming — about 140 miles north of here.  He sent me the web link, and I took a pretty thorough look.  The car was a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger with a custom-built 408 “stroker” engine.  Hmm…

So, after checking out the website, I called the dealer that had it the next day and asked more questions.  This was beginning to sound interesting, and the car was in my price range.  I asked Dave if he could possibly go with me to Afton the following Saturday to help me look at the car, and then if I bought it, to drive home with me with one of us in my truck and the other in the Dart.

Long story short, off we went to Afton, Wyoming bright and early one October Saturday morning in 2014.  After much examination and a few test drives, I purchased the car.  Now let’s get a little more background here before I go any farther.  First, I had not driven a 1970’s car since the 1970’s.  Dave reminded me about the old drum brakes.  “Tap them a few times to see which way the car is going to pull, and then steer in the other direction.”  ???  What had I gotten myself into here?  As we were about to pull away from the dealership, I realized that the radio didn’t work — a long, lonely drive home.  However, this car had a custom-built high performance engine with an extremely aggressive racing cam, so it idled really loudly, and as I would learn after a few miles, it was really loud at highway speeds.  Ah, the sweet sound of a high performance V-8.

Wyoming can be chilly in October, and I soon found out that the heater didn’t work either.  Not a good omen.  After a few more miles, I also learned the little beast was rather brake and steering challenged.  Going through the mountain pass out of Afton was quite an experience — turning right to brake through a sweeping left hand curve.  (OK, go ahead and laugh now!)

The car was so excessively loud that we traded off who was driving the Dart every 30 to 40 miles.  When Dave was going to get in to drive, I told him about the radio and the heater.  He yelled over the exhaust, “It doesn’t matter; you couldn’t hear it anyway!”  We both busted up laughing.  About 2/3 of the way home we made a pit stop in Evanston, Wyoming for fuel and a break.  Our ears needed some quiet time.  Dave called his brother, Ken, to tell him about our purchase, and then he hands me the phone.  I hear, “You bought a blue Dart?”  Then Ken is just laughing like crazy in the phone.  I am like, “What’s so funny about the blue Dart?”

Evidently, “blue dart” is American Midwestern slang for passing gas.  In Evanston, I found out that the doors didn’t really lock when you locked them using the interior button.  Oh boy!

Finally, after 240 miles of excruciatingly loud exhaust drone we were home.  Now the fun began.  Over the winter I tackled many of the little problems we encountered, and ended up repairing the heating system and the door locks.  The radio was, well just dead.  But the car had some other problems too.  While it was pretty good looking outside, the interior was a mish-mash of blues — all tones and hues.  And those brakes needed to go.

original dart interior
This was how the interior of the Dart looked when I purchased it.  The lighting is not good in the photo, but the blues just didn’t really work well together.
original dart interior 2
The backseat and more of the interior.  This shot gives a better feel for the various hues of blue that adorned the car’s interior.

In the spring of 2015, I made the decision to take the Dart to a restoration and rebuild shop to have the interior done up properly as well as to have the braked changed over to discs.  This is where the fun (not so much at all) really began.

I am going to pick up my car on Friday, January 25, 2019 — three and a half years after I took it to be redone!  When I get her back, and get the new photos taken, I will post the second part of this story with more details about the journey I been through with this project.  But in the meantime, I thought I would share a few of the “work-in-process” photos with you.

So, here’s my financial advise about buying an old car to restore — Don’t!  It’s cheaper to buy a new one.  But, they are fun, and well, cars are just cool.  And, then there’s that high performance Mopar V-8.

dart new dash step 1wp
This is the beginning of the new dash and instrument cluster.
wheel detail wp
We ditched those old Chrome Cragar wheels  for a new retro looking 5 spoke alloy with a little lower profile tire.
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Another view of the new wheels and tires.
dart front view
The new look front end.  The bumpers have been cut down and more fitted to the car, and we got rid of those old vertical bumper guards.  Also, she has a more sleek looking grille.  Notice the massive front sway bar underneath the front end.  The car now has 4-wheel disc brakes (power) with fully functioning ram air hood scoops.
new interior 1
Sorry about the mess, but I had just taken a load of stuff to Mat for the final ending push to completion.  However, this should give you a little preview of the interior scheme now.

Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out my little Dart story.




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