’72 Dodge Dart Swinger

After 6 years the Dart is finally actually usable! I purchased the car in October of 2014 about 230 miles north of my home in a little town called Afton, Wyoming. Afton lies just south of the Teton Mountains in southwestern Wyoming. That was the longest drive I have ever made in the Dart.

The 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger as she looks today.

I had found the car in an online ad. It was located at the Afton Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealer. Believe it or not, the previous owner had traded his 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger in for a new Dodge Durango SUV. That is something you don’t hear everyday – a classic muscle car traded in for a new SUV.

So, why did I buy this old car? Well, if you have followed my blog for awhile, you know I have a thing for high power cars. I wanted a classic muscle car to show. My car of choice was a 1968 to 1970 Chrysler B body, like a Dodge Charger, Dodge Coronet or a Plymouth Road Runner. Those were the big muscle cars. However, the budget got in the way of the dream.

The Chrysler A bodies, Dodge Darts or Plymouth Valiants, are still much more affordable although their values are climbing as well. The A bodies have very sleek clean lines with an absolutely cool, concave shaped rear window. They are simply quite attractive and timeless in my opinion. And when outfitted with the right engine, they were some of the fastest of the late ’60s to early ’70s American muscle cars.

Driver’s side view of the Dart after 6 years of time away from me.

My Swinger is what is known as a 2 door hardtop, rather than a coupe. What is the difference? There is no pillar behind the door on the 2 door hardtops. I think this contributes to those clean, sleek lines.

Back in the day, Dodge Darts were considered “compact” economy cars. The base Darts came with a 225 cubic inch slant 6 engine. It was a basic “grocery getter”; think Honda Civic. Now the Swinger model was more sporty. Mine had a 318 cubic inch V8 putting out — a whopping 140 horsepower! 😂

By 1972 the horsepower wars were really over, killed by insurance regulations and emission laws (all good by the way). Not that losing the horsepower per se was good, but we needed better safety and cleaner air.

Front view of my Dart showing it’s custom 1971 grille, highlighted air scoops and customized sleek front bumper.

However even 4 years prior in 1968, a Dart could be had with a 426 cubic inch Hemi V8 pumping out over 500 horsepower. Now these Darts weighed only around 3000 pounds, about the same as my Porsche Cayman. Just think about that for a moment – 500+ horses in a tad over 3000 pounds. That’s Porsche GT3RS type numbers! Over the years Dodge Darts have become very popular with the drag racing crowd as their engine bays could hold massive, high output engines, and they were so lightweight.

The Swinger’s previous owner had trashed the original 318 engine, and put in a high output 408 stroker. This engine is based upon a 360 cubic inch V8 (they use the same block as the 318). The 408 engines have been slightly bored out (larger diameter pistons) with a longer compression stroke. He had also put in a high performance camshaft.

This is how the Dart looked when I purchased it in October of 2014.

When I bought the car it was solid blue, but the original build sheet showed it came with a white vinyl roof. It still had it’s original 4 wheel drum brakes as well as the stock transmission and rear differential, which had only been designed to handle a 140 horsepower engine. Stopping the car took some serious effort, and it never stopped in a straight line.

So why has the Dart been out of commission for 6 years? When I purchased the car it wasn’t really capable of handling its power. The interior was kind of a design mess with a lot of clashing colors and shades of various blues. The dash was pretty worn out and some of the gauges were no longer functioning.

I fixed what I could, but soon I was in over my head. So I made a decision to take the car to what I had been led to believe was a top-notch restoration shop. In short, the place turned out to be a scam shop run by incompetent and crooked people.

The interior of the Dart when I bought it.

The owners of that original shop did have some good vision of what the car should look like. They did a pretty nice job on the new front suspension and disc brakes as well as putting on a new heavier duty 8-3/4 inch rear end with disc brakes capable of handling that 400 plus horsepower engine. And they eventually redid the interior according to their original design as well as putting back the white vinyl roof. But much of the mechanical work they did was unsafe, wrong or just plain lousy, non-functional junk. All of that took over 4 years!

The new interior with a cleaner look and some new gauges.

When I got the car back in January of 2019 it was not running right; the seat belts didn’t work; the windshield and rear window leaked water; the engine was overheating; the electrical system was messed up, and the new window trim I had purchased was installed incorrectly and damaged. This was after they had ruined the original metal window trim as well. This shop had put on an incorrect rear sway bar that didn’t even fit. The rear differential housing was smashed up against the floor pan. They had hot electrical lines running in the same channels as my fuel lines, and they had put on a fuel injection system that was not compatible with Chrysler electrical systems. The morons pulled off my engine mounted high-performance cooling fan and replaced it with two tiny electric fans that wouldn’t cool a 2 liter Mazda.

I finally managed to take the car to a show in West Valley City in July of 2019, only to have it massively overheat on the way there. (The show was about 30 miles from my house.) I was so upset and disgusted that I just put the car under a cover, and let it sit for a year as I was busy with other things.

Here is the interior looking at the rear seat and front buckets.

In mid summer this year I finally got the car up to another shop in Salt Lake, Tidwell Customs and Restorations. I had spoken to the owner last year, and know one of his key employees. Mike, the owner, was kind enough to take in my mess of a project. Being 2020, we had to wait on several key parts, but Mike kept plugging away on my Dart.

They had to rework almost all of the electrical system, the rear drive train, and installed new windshield and rear window seals and trim properly. Mike finally whipped the overheating issues as well after having to rework the entire engine drive belt assembly. I cannot even list everything Mike’s shop fixed, changed and reworked.

Here is the ’72 Dart Swinger from the passenger side. I think the white air scoops balance the vinyl roof and rear stripe.

But now for the first time in six years, I can drive car and finally begin to enjoy it. There are still some things to do, but I have confidence I can finally show the car like I originally intended.

Now you know a little bit more about that ’72 Dart that has occupied so much of my budget and so little of my time over the last six years.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I sincerely hope everyone will have a safe and wonderful New Year.

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