Talk about a survivor! My son and I stumbled across this 1962 Dart Wagon at the Jefferson, Wisconsin car show a few years back. And happy to say, we just saw it again this past September, still driven to the show and still looking as rough as ever.
Even back in 1962, this wagon wasn’t popular, with only 24,050 Dodge Dart wagons (including just 7,488 V8-powered Dart 330 Wagons like our featured relic) finding homes. Given their utilitarian mission, even the homes they found weren’t likely to coddle them. Wagons were seen as nothing more than workhorses and family haulers, and the vast majority were used up and thrown away. Ugly duckling wagons were probably even less beloved than most.
But not this one. Some way, somehow this old beast managed to survive until the present owner bought it. This Dodge wagon’s current keeper is very friendly and delights in the Dart’s rough ‘n ready shape, proudly noting that it can still drive just fine on the road and doesn’t need to be preciously hauled to events like so many of the trailer queens that frequent old car shows.
Part of the 55-year longevity for this oddball is the fact that it undoubtedly spent most of its years in a relatively benign climate. Based on these old, faded bumper stickers, this Dart made its way to some of Georgia’s tourist attractions.
The Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park opened in 1967 in the Atlanta suburbs. Perhaps this Dart’s family visited the park soon after it opened.
A few years before that, in 1965, Stone Mountain Park opened in the Atlanta area, replete with a railway and family friendly activities. So we can guess that, at least for its early years, this Dodge was a Southern family hauler.
To commemorate that likelihood, the present owner added a vintage Alabama front plate to augment the period appeal of the car. In all probability, this old Dart wouldn’t exist at all if it had been exposed to the ravages of road salt that claimed virtually all daily drivers north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
And most of the parts and pieces on the old Dodge are still working, like the exterior rear-window crank handle: the owner loves to show it off as being “good as new!”
Also in this shot you can see some subtle styling details that are often overlooked, like the ribbed indentations running down the center of the roof. Little styling flourishes like this were Virgil Exner trademarks.
In fact, seeing the deteriorated Dart calls to mind a decrepit Victorian house. While the original design may have been “too much” for most folks, somehow the ravages of time soften the impression and highlight some of the intricacies of the shapes and detailing.
Even the disintegration of the interior can’t hide the attractiveness of Dodge’s 1962 instrument panel. All this almost makes you want to jump behind the wheel of the old Dart and fire her up! May the ancient 318 keep running strong!
Hopefully this Dart Wagon will return for another viewing at Jefferson. I know my son and I will be looking for it. And maybe Joe Dennis can join us to work his camera magic and better capture the unlikely beauty in this rolling display of decay.