(first posted 8/19/2013) The year 1960 was a fairly significant one for the automotive industry. It marked, among many things, the final year of the doomed Edsel, the beginning of the end for tail fins, and most significantly, was the year the Big Three introduced their compact cars to the marketplace. Whether it was due to the still-recovering economy, growing families needing a second car, or an increasing number of female drivers–or most likely, to the combination of all three–the Corvair, Falcon, and Valiant certainly were the right cars at the right time. But what about Dodge? Surely, Chrysler’s mid-priced division would not be left behind in changing times: Enter the 1960 Dodge Dart.
Economic factors certainly were a factor in the conception of the Dodge Dart; even so, Chrysler’s restructuring of its dealer network was probably the main reason Dodge needed a lower-price model. Historically, Dodge dealers had also sold Plymouths, but under the new plan, Chrysler Corporation created newly separate Chrysler-Plymouth dealerships and standalone Dodge dealerships. The Dart would be Dodge’s compensation for the Plymouths that would no longer be sold in their showrooms.
Riding on Plymouth’s 118-inch wheelbase, these “smaller” Dodges were approximately seven inches shorter in length than the standard-size Polara and Matador. Station wagons rode on the same 122-inch wheelbase as the Polara wagons.
Like most cars of the era, the 1960 Dart was highly configurable. Available in four body styles (two-door hardtop, two-door sedan, four-door sedan and four-door wagon), three trim levels (Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix), and three engines (a 225 CID Slant Six and 318 and 361 CID V8s), the Dart was an instant hit, becoming Dodge’s best selling line of cars for 1960.
The 1960 Dart is among my favorite Dodges of all time. It has great styling, proportions and trim, without looking as overwrought as the more expensive Polara. The trapezoidal grille and front bumper comprise my favorite styling feature. Sadly, things would change for 1961, when styling took a turn for the worse.
Another thing I’ve always liked about these 1960 Darts is the trim level names: Seneca, Pioneer and Phoenix are great car names. Our featured car is a 1960 Seneca wagon, photographed and posted to the Cohort by KiwiBryce in his native New Zealand. Now, Chrysler did not sell the Dodge Dart line in Australia or New Zealand, which likely makes this one an export model with right-hand drive.
Chrysler of Australia did, however, sell the Dodge Phoenix, an Australian-assembled version of the American Dart available only as a four-door sedan. Our feature Seneca does not appear to wear any “Dart” badging, so it’s very possible that it was sold simply as a “Dodge Seneca”.