Curbside Outtake: Dodge Dart, Plymouth Savoy and Plymouth Duster – There Were These Three Older Gentlemen Sitting at a Bar…

For those that have a little (or a lot) of military background, you’re no doubt familiar with the VFW. For those that aren’t, VFW stands for Veterans of Foreign Wars, an organization that assists and supports Vets. One thing it also does is run establishments (bars and pubs) outside most US military installations – even those overseas. I came across these three old MOPAR vets on a recent Sunday walk here in suburban Tokyo; on the left is a 64-66 Dodge Dart, in the middle a 62 Plymouth Savoy, and on the right an early 70’s Plymouth Duster. Seeing them lined up like this, my first thought was “three old timers, all a little more worse for wear, sitting at the bar in the VFW bending an elbow and sharing war stories.”

Actually, these three are sitting outside “Kennie’s MOPAR Service”, a small garage that specializes in helping Japanese owners of Highland Park’s finest. My guess is Kennie’s real name is Kenji, but as the place was closed, I couldn’t ask. I’ll definitely be back because I’d like to hear the backstory on how these three made it into his care – and what plans he has for them. It also happens that I have a “six degrees of separation” link with two of these three.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500

1966 Dodge Dart GT

1966 Ford Mustang  

(Pictures are representative examples found on the Internet)

My first car, in 1972, was a 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 4 door with a 260 cu in 2 bbl V8 and a Fordomatic. One of my High School buds had a ’66 Dodge Dart GT, with the 273 4 bbl and Torqueflight. Another best bud had a ’66 Mustang Coupe with a 289 4 bbl A Code and Cruiseomatic. As you can imagine, I was routinely the loser at our stoplight Grand Prix’s, but what was also fairly consistent was the Dart walking away from the Mustang. They both made similar amounts of horsepower on-paper (235 for Chrysler, 225 for Ford) but the 273 was just stronger throughout the rev range. I was a Ford guy back then, but I admired that Dart and the 273 – it was a tough little engine.

I never had any association with a 62 Plymouth, other than having a burning desire to own one. Yes, the styling was polarizing – but it was pure Virgil Exner, and more importantly, could be had with the 413 cu in Max Wedge engine, which dominated the drag strip that year. Here was Chrysler showcasing its engineering prowess…quite different from my experience with the remaining product of this trio.

In 1976, the significant other at the time, having secured her first full-time job, bought a new Plymouth Duster – baby blue, with only a radio and Torqueflight as options. I remember two things clearly about that car, first; after only two weeks of ownership the ECM module fried and it had to be towed back to the dealer. Second, the first time I drove it I remember wrapping my hands around the cheap plastic steering wheel and encountering excess casting flash around the entire inner portion. At red lights, I’d kill time by peeling it off. That pretty accurately describes Chrysler quality control in the ‘70’s.

I’m glad I stumbled across Kennie’s – I feel a real kinship with these three old-timers – likely because I’m also a Vet, a lot worse for wear, and always up for hoisting a few cold ones while swapping old war stories…