The downside to my six-car collection is that sometimes the cars can sit around for long periods of time while I tinker with the others, and the Dirty Dart is no exception. In fact, when I retrieved it from the storage barn last Tuesday, it still had some winter gas in the tank; therefore, the obvious thing to do was replace the differential with an unknown quality used one and leave for a 400-mile road trip “up north.” A few risks make life more rewarding, right?
Eric Clapton and Duane Allman’s awesome remake of “Key to the Highway” has been playing in my head for weeks, and it really sets the tone for a discussion regarding the benefits and drawbacks of hitting the road in a slant-six powered junkyard refugee. I love hitting the highway in an old car, having spent most of my formative years behind the wheel of a ’65 Mustang with an interstate stretching out before me. And although almost anything I own is a better choice than the Dirty Dart for a long trip, it carries a bike rack well, so it got the nod.
Before our departure for my mother-in-law’s northern retreat, my first order of business was to replace the howling differential. I first pounded out the old axles with an old 13-inch wheel and a sledgehammer (7.25 axles are glued in by some extraterrestrial slime, according to my experiences), replaced the axle seals, and then got to work on the pinion seal. It’s torqued to a Herculean 240 ft. lbs., so I punched a mark on the nut and pinion to make sure I torqued it the right amount without the use of the proper He-Man torque wrench. I reused the axles from the old rear end, because I had already replaced the bearings.
I also had to weld on a couple of brake line clips that I didn’t notice were missing until the last minute. Luckily, the Dirty Dart is so dirt and manure crusted underneath that a base-level cleaning of any part is all you need. There’s no reason for a Pebble Beach level of detailing for a car that probably has seen more fields than roads.
It only took a couple of hours to swap rear end housings and move on to the next project, but this picture is an opportunity to show the clean Idaho and Oregon by way of Arkansas subframes underneath the Dirty Dart. Somewhere under the bondo and rivets, alternatively, are some not so clean quarter panels, but who cares?
My next project was to disassemble the 1974-model electronic distributor and install this neat mechanical advance limiter plate. I’d never disassembled a Mopar distributor before, so I had a good time learning how to do it, and now I can set my initial advance way up to 13* and avoid the “too much total timing” trap. It’s a great part. The only downside is that I have a little high-gear slow-speed ping, so I’m bringing the vacuum advance in a little slower, a little at a time, via a small allen screw inside the canister: tweaking and tuning 101.
Next, I had to get inside the door and bend the lock lever that is actuated by the door handle button, because opening the passenger door was a two-thumbed test of strength and annoyance. It works much better now, although my new aftermarket weatherstripping seems to keep all the doors under too much tension when they’re closed, even two years after installation.
Before patching the door up, I used some drop cloths to replace parts of the tattered plastic splash shield. Yes, that’s duct tape you see — what of it?
With that, a spare orange box, fuel filter, ballast resistor, and a lot of tools, it was time to hit the highway. I made sure to drive about 25 local miles before leaving for our short trip, just to shake out any potential bugs.
The real reason for our taking the Dart was to carry our bikes on the back. The Cheboygan/Indian River area of northern Michigan has an extensive rail trail system that offered something for me to do, as I have a hard time sitting still and I get stir-crazy easily. We hung two of our less valuable bikes on the back in case they fell off: mine is a rare but home-painted by some guy 1962 Schwinn “Straight-Bar” Typhoon, and hers is a JCPenney three-speed, probably made by Huffy.
Much has been said here about how awesome the slant six is, and I’ve tempered that love a little by wishing the Dart had a small-block Mopar. Northern Michigan is hilly, and with 3.23 gears, the 225 is probably turning 3100 RPM at 70, and it takes some pedal to maintain that speed on long, steep inclines. I know you can make a slant go, go, go; but stock, it’s no great shakes. Sorry. All cars have a comfortable cruising speed, and the Dart’s is 65. I drove 70 the whole trip, but if I let my attention wander, I ended up at 65 again.
From this view, you can see the gas gauge that I haven’t fixed yet, and my unplugged temperature gauge (it pegs). My aftermarket temp gauge read 190-195 the whole trip, which is perfectly acceptable on a hot summer drive. The Dart mostly ran well and the differential was acceptably quiet, so we’ll call it money well spent for now.
For some reason, more people want to approach me to talk about the Dart than any other car I own other than my ’53 Special. The grins and thumbs up from other passengers were countless, and I talked to two groups of people at a rest area where I stopped to check the bike rack; in fact, I think the old bikes on the back added to the general ambiance of the scene. People just love this old beater.
Needless to say, we made it to our destination with little drama other than a little vapor lock. The next day, I drove the 25 mile round trip into Cheboygan and bought some fuel hose, steel line, and a tubing cutter, and installed a version of our own Daniel Stern’s fuel line modification. Beforehand, I could see fuel boiling in the plastic filter (sorry, I know it should have a metal one), and afterward, it didn’t. Thanks Dan!
Other than that, our trip was fun and uneventful, other than a little neck sunburn for me. Fittingly, as we pulled into the driveway, a piece of detritus must have made its way into the idle circuit and it died at the garage door. I had a good laugh out of that one, but it started back up after we unpacked and it ran fine.
The problems: First, fuel mileage is not awesome. I filled it up twice, once when we got to our destination and once when we got home, and it’s only getting 16 or 17 MPG, which is only as good as my V8 cars typically get on the highway. I think I’d push 20 MPG if I drove closer to 60 than 70. Second, it leaks and uses oil at high speeds. I think the rear main seal is a little leaky and my oil pan gaskets didn’t take when I swapped oil pans to fit this engine into the Dart. Slant sixes use a mix of rubber and cork gaskets to seal the oil pan, and I probably did not use enough (or the right kind) of sealer where they meet, because the front corner is where it’s leaking the worst.
Either way, it probably used a third of a quart on the way up and almost none on the way back; perhaps it found a level where it didn’t leak or burn. I probably shouldn’t expect much more from an engine I bought off the floor of a machine shop where it had been sitting for at least five years. On the plus side, I could still see cross hatching in the bores when I replaced the pan, so it’s not totally worn out.
These are minor problems, however, in the scheme of things. I’m in no hurry to crawl under this thing and replace a rear main seal, and long highway trips in the Dart are going to be few and far between. If Jason Shafer and I have done anything to sway your opinion of driving old cars long distances, put your tool box in the back and get out there. Driving with the windows down at 70 mph and hearing all the noises of the road is a more engaging way to see the world, and a sense of adventure keeps one from feeling too old.
You guys have totally been an inspiration, just last night I was on Craigslist with the only criteria being a manufacture year between 1960 and 1975 just to see what comes up. My main find would give both and Jason the horrors, a one-owner Honda N600, but there was plenty of other interesting (larger) iron on display as well.
Great update and it looks like a good time was had on the trip. Thanks.
Yes I’m cringing at that Honda due to parts a availability in places like Olney, Illinois. Some brands will simply be easier and at that age they will all.need a diet of them.
Tell you what…send me what you want to spend and I’ll find you something that you’ll love a long time. I promise you’ll like it.
Yes I’m cringing at that Honda due to parts availability
When I was in college in the 70s, a classmate spent his summers working in a Honda bike dealership. He said the guy from the Honda car dealership was always coming in for parts for AN600s. iirc, he said the AN600’s engine uses a lot of parts from the CB350
Pssh it’s a Honda. It will never need a part 🙂 Two cylinders, air cooled, how many parts could there even be?
I might take you up on that offer though. Your part of the country may be very fertile hunting grounds. And your local beer is delicious.
The vast majority of the cars I’ve written up were found within a two hour drive of me. Plus there are lots more.
Rust isn’t as big an issue around here as one might think.
Great story! I recall that my 71 Scamp was the same way on the highway, and even with slightly taller gears (and an automatic) 70 seemed a little over its comfort level. 60-65 was ideal – and in those days of the 55 mph speed limit, that worked just fine. If it makes you feel any better, my Miata is over 3k rpm at 70 too, and it has an OD 5th gear!
I have never understood Chrysler’s antipathy towards overdrive in its stick shift cars – your Dart would be a perfect application for it.
My F100 with the 240 six and OD turns 2250-2300 rpm at 70, and is quite happy at that speed, and even 75. Only the noise from the cab (wind and rattles) make it less than wonderful now (given my damaged ears). But before that became an issue, I used to enjoy the 560 mile trips between the Bay Area and Eugene with the windows open. Truckin’….
My 302 ’83 Ranger 4×4, with 3.70 axle gears, 31×10.50 tires and C4 turns about 3200 at 70. Not a issue for a small block Ford, and the only other sound beside that wonderful engine you hear is the fuel tank vent whistling… but… I could change the axle ratios, but I would lose the low end grunt. And it is fun, with the transfer case in low range, coupled with the low stall speed converter, I can idle pretty much anywhere. Truck weighs 4400 lbs with me in it.
Update, after just driving it, I was wrong. The Miata turns at over 3500 rpm at 70 – in 5th OD.
My ’12 Focus will turn over 3000 in 5th OD at 70, as well, yet it gets over 35 MPG…technology marches on, I guess.
My DD ’89 BMW 325i runs 3000 rpm at 70mph in 5th OD, 31-32 at normal CA cruising soeed (I generally run 73 mph in cruise control on more traffic’d days, and when the highways are empty at night after a gig, that number goes up to abt 78-82.). Not sure what that translates to in axle ratio but I’m assuming my car has a pretty aggressive rear end (ha) considering how it takes off the line, and it was equipped with a sports package from the factory. I’ve actually contacted gear before abt putting a Volvo laycock OD on the driveshaft but they basically laughed at the concept. I’ve seen as high as 28 mpg on flat roads using cruise control, but it generally averages to 18 mpg in Bay Area driving. Not great but hell, it’s reliable and was paid off twenty years ago, so I take it with a grain of salt. Funny that the 170 slant six and BMW M20 engines are almost twins in displacement and efficiency, even today, though my car has more overall horsepower and torque.
It is actually one of the things I kinda’ miss about driving old cars on trips: the added thrill of wondering “will I get there without something breaking?”
And most of the time having the tools in the trunk with a few strategically selected spares was enough to cover most contingencies. No help there when a gear thrown across the median of the highway punched four nice, evenly spaced square holes in my fuel tank. But being a old Chevelle a trip (by tow truck) to a nearby junkyard (Brunswick, GA, coming back to Ohio from Florida) yielded a replacement tank.
Sweet looking car. I’ve never seen a 65 Dodge Dart wagon before. I like everything about it except the aftermarket gauges. I could never stand for gauges underneath the dash, where one has to remove his/her eyes from the road for any longer than necessary.
As a new driver in the late 60’s I spent a lot of hours at the wheel of my mom’s 67 Plymouth Valiant with the indestructible 225 slant six and the bulletproof automatic. Admittedly I didn’t have a lot experience in other cars to compare it to in those days, but, to me anyhow, it handled better than my dad’s daily driver, a 69 Camaro with the 307. That torsion bar front suspension really worked well. We lived in hill country and the lazy straight-six torque made it easy to set up a good rhythm through the curves. I really liked that car and had fantasies of getting a Dart coupe and putting a Barracuda suspension kit on it, along with a four-speed, and of course the three two-barrel intake system on a 225.
As for indestructibility of the slant six – two quick personal anecdotes:
First, a high school friend tired of his 65 Dart and therefore, with impeccable logic, decided to blow up the engine by the time-honored method of putting a brick on the accelerator pedal. Two or three hours later, it ran out of gas. Admitting defeat, we put some gas in the tank and he drove it for another year.
Next, in college a friend had a Dart which had a perpetual low-oil light. After a month or two, I couldn’t be polite any more and mentioned it. “Yeah”, he said, “It’s the light. I put a quart in and nothing happened, so I quit worrying about it”. Okay then. However a few months later, I had to borrow his car for the day and following time-honored tradition, I filled the tank before I returned it. As long as I was at it, I checked the oil…bone dry dipstick. I put in more than four quarts of oil to hit the mark on the stick….and the damned oil light went out. The last time I saw him three years later, the car was still running fine.
Today you have to buy a BMW to get that effortless straight-six torque and solidity that any American used to be able to buy at Plymouth prices. Every now and then, I still muse about building that two-door dream Dart…
“the three two-barrel intake system on the 225”
Never heard of that one. Who makes it (the manifold)? Sound like a a lot of carb for a 225.
The Slant Six Pack!
Looks like my memory is slipping – apparently there was no multi-carb manifold for the slant-six – but there was indeed a factory ‘Hyper Pack’ long-runner manifold that put a four barrel carb on them, with excellent results. Guess I’ll have to settle for that.
That happens. 🙂
Yes; the Hyper Pak; we’ve covered that a few times here.
But yes, there were and are multi-carb intakes for the Slant-Six, and one of them was even offered as factory equipment (but you had to be in Argentina).
The first such intake was the Offenhauser № 5041, twin-1bbl intake designed to accept two stock-type 1bbl carbs. It was released in late 1961 or early ’62, to positive reviews. Alongside it was sold a linkage kit suitable for pre-’67 A-bodies (except ’65-’66 with factory A/C); all other applications require custom linkage. It bolts up to the stock exhaust manifold and has thoughtfully-done exhaust circulation passages to retain intake manifold heating, and a nicely engineered balance pipe between the front and rear plenums. There have even been clever customisations of the stock-type choke thermostat to operate both carbs’ chokes. The carb mounting pads are big enough to be easily modified to accept twin 2bbls. This intake and linkage kit are still available
The GT package available on Argentinian Valiants starting around ’65 had, amongst other goodies, a 2×1 intake similar to the Offy item.
There was also the minimally-fabled Mays twin-1bbl intake, which seems to have been the product of one of those, um, “eccentric” inventors found oftener in the UK than in the US. Shown in the pic.
There were numerous multi-carb intakes made in Australia for the Slant-6. There are intakes from Cain, Warneford, Lynx, and others for twin and triple SUs; there have also been triple-Weber setups, (see and hear one run here).
In South Africa there was some seriously perverted stuff: a nifty twin-downdraught-2bbl-Weber intake setup with long runners—not as long as the Hyper-Pak, but long nontheless, also a mindbending twin-downdraught-2bbl dual-plane intake and some other never-seen-heres.
And even if we disregard (which we shouldn’t) Richard’s sextuple-Mikuni setup and other homemades, I’m sure I’ve left some out.
I’ll just leave this one here…
What in the Screaming Yellow Zonkers is that?!
Looks like Hilborn style fuel injection to me, Dan. Pretty wild. Let’s see the whole car!
Hope the owner doesn’t mind having this posted. Intriguing.
A “Saltside Classic”. It had Bonneville decals on the windshield, including “150 mph”, dated late 70s, maybe 1980. Looked like it had been parked and untouched since then.
Wow! A Slant Six Studebaker Starliner powered Salt Flats Racer! That’s one you don’t see every day!
No triple deuces here, but Clifford makes all kinds of hop up stuff for the Leaning Tower of Power, including this sweet setup……
No, what Clifford makes is all kinds of promises they won’t and don’t keep. Sure, it’s fun to trawl through their catalogue. It’s a whole lot less fun to find you’ve been conned.
Sounds like you’ve had some personal experience with them that I admit I haven’t. Care to share the horror story, Dan?
Just click the “conned” link in my previous comment for details.
Wow, Dan. I had no idea they had such a bad reputation. Thanx!
I remember the infomercial for Slick50 twenty some years ago. They were in a salvage yard with a salvage yard engine on an engine stand running WOT. Claiming it had been treated with Slick50, they had the valve cover and oil pan removed while it was running. Even throwing sand on the exposed rockers while running. I believe they hand picked this particular motor because it was the Chrysler slant six.
Well, mostly they picked it because it had solid lifters so it would run without oil pressure.
The slant six is, by far, the best engine Chrysler ever built. Hell for stout, and does not make enough power in stock form to hurt itself, regardless of how little oil or coolant it might have. We had a forklift at work that had one. The slant six, along with the small block Chevy, are tied in my book as recipients of the “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while” Award
Thanks for taking us along for the ride!
I always use “300-mph tape,” not ‘duct’ (or ‘duck’) tape, in my doors… (c:
Do you know for sure you have the right dipstick in the engine? Too short and you’d be overfilling. Or you could have a plugged PCV valve that’s creating too much back pressure and causing oil to be blown out past the seals.
I actually modified the dipstick “holder” to match the correct length from the Dart’s original oil pan when I swapped engines, and verified the length when I filled the oil. At 4 quarts (not including filter), it’s at full.
The PCV valve works, too, but it might be worth another check.
I’ll probably just fill the engine to just above “add” from now on; it’s not going to hurt anything. 🙂
In all reality, at some point when I run out of projects before I go back to work, I’ll probably jack up the engine and replace all the lower seals. Blech. I’ve done that job a couple of times and it sucks, but just a little less than pulling the engine out.
Early Dart wagons are one of those cars where I’m struck by the difference between the very plain design of the front half of the car and the Exner-esque back half. Love the rear 3/4 view–very unusual details but very handsome. Nice dash also, especially given these were low-priced cars!
Glad you got to your destination and back without any drama–sounds like the car is a real conversation magnet too. Perhaps it seems more accessible since it’s a humble wagon, or maybe it reminds people of what was parked in their family’s driveway as a kid?
I always wonder whose idea it was to have that goofy little ‘dip’ in the roofline just behind the rear door. It really looks like hell and would have been so much better if the wagon’s side glass had been completely horizontal, both bottom ‘and’ top.
Otherwise, they’re a great ride, even more practical than the sedans. If only the A-bodies didn’t have that rear brake lock-up problem and the typical Chrysler tendency for the body to rust away rapidly (particularly in snow-belt states), they’d all still be on the road today.
The dip at the front of the third side window is intended to blend that additional station wagon side window with the window in the back door of the stock four door sedan doors.
I love going on trips in my air cooled Volkswagens. There’s an element of adventure that you don’t have in a modern car. I love the look of bewilderment from many people, “You’re driving THAT? To WHERE?!?!?”
I drove my air cooled VW’s for years for work and play. The one failure that required a tow (400 miles away from home in Parker, Az.) in 112 degree heat was when my ’66 Sundial camper Bus threw a connecting rod on it’s original engine in 1976. It still ran good enough to get us another 25 miles driving slowly on the shoulder to get into town and was still running when I installed the towbar and called a family member to tow us home. I found a used long block for $75.00 from a friend at work when I got home and she was good to go again. I had a generator fail on my ’65 Bus going to Bass Lake (before I left I changed the generator brushes, but was only a temp fix), but drove it to a parts store with the light on and changed it in the parking lot. I broke a generator belt on my ’64 VW Squareback, but made it to work on the battery since the fan is bolted to the crankshaft. Popped a wheel cylinder another time on the same car but made it to work once again using the handbrake and downshifting. Once broke a throttle cable on a Beetle and routed it outside to use by hand through the drivers window.
Not bad for many thousands of miles on old VW’s over 15 years.
As I recall (It’s been many years) since we had the ’74 225 3 on tree Duster, but I believe on the highway driving from LA to Portland it got low 20’s on the highway, driving 60-65. But it was brand new then.
I really think that a steady 62 or so would net pretty close to 20 MPG. I also jetted the carb up two sizes because it was surging when I accelerated.
I only averaged around 19 MPG in mixed driving in the ’66 bus with it’s 1500 cc single port engine.
It did have twin type 3 single barrel carbs and manifolds that I put on it, with the stock type 3 linkage mounted behind the fan housing, along with a little hammer modification to the ends of the housing to clear said linkage. Long air intake hoses and twin little cal custom air filters on top, really made the engine pull quite well and looked cool as well!
Nice trip, thanks for bringing us along. Dirty Dart articles are some of my favorites here.
Love this.Traveled back and forth across the country [Route 66, Donner Pass] as a kid in my parent’s 63 Dart 270 [with 3 speed manual].
Had to be towed to the dealership about a month from new because the linkage hung up on it and it wouldn’t shift. My 63 Signet did the same thing off and on for years until the ” Z Bar” was replaced with the stouter one from the 67 and up A Bodies.
Yes, 65 seems to be the Valiant’s comfort zone as well and mileage seems to be similar to yours, Aaron65. 16-17 solely around town. I have plans to take it to Bisbee and travel Route 66 once it finally gets back from my mechanic [and a total hip replacement coming in late summer and early fall].
I never have any qualms about traveling in it. Have never had in 35 years. And when it has died, it’s always done it at my door.
Happy you enjoyed your trip. There was an identical one for sale on another site. Of course there was the obligatory killjoy in the audience when one commentator questioned whether loading the family into one for a weekend camping trip was “unsafe” and a bad idea. Forget the millions that did just that for decades and survived.
Keep on motorvating Aaron.
A little late on this, but are you talking about the Dart for sale on Hemmings a couple of weeks ago? That was a nice wagon, but at least one person commenting on any given blog entry over there has to be a dork about stuff like that.
Good luck with the hip!
The Dirty Dart lives! I can’t remember when the freeway speed limit in Michigan changed from 65 to 70, but, at the time the Dart was built, the guys in Highland Park may well have optimized your car for a 65mph cruise.
Good story. Always fun to read about a road trip in an old/interesting car. Looking forward to your account of your educational experience.
Six cars; one for nearly every day of the week (on the seventh? bicycle it!)
(on the seventh? bicycle it!)
Then he has to choose between, what is it now, 18 bikes.
I have a seventh car, too, but it’s boring–a 2012 Focus. I don’t even count it in my total; it’s just for getting to work and driving during the salty months.
Sigh…yep, Steve, 18 bikes. Time to start selling a few again.
it’s boring–a 2012 Focus.
There’s some irony. I was on my way to Lansing to look at an 08 Rabbit as a beater candidate, to keep my 14 Jetta out of the salt, when I spotted the Ambassador.
The Rabbit wasn’t in the dealer’s lot on that trip, so I headed back toward Lansing on the 29th.
From the side, the Amby is so generic boxy mid 60s it didn’t register the first time I went past it.
Got a glimpse of the grill as I went past, and said “that’s a 66 Ambassador!”, but by the time the neuron fired I was a mile or two down the road and didn’t feel like turning around. Was looking for it on the 29th, so stopped and took a few pix. Posted them on an AMC group on Facebook in case someone would like to try to bring it back to the living.
And the Rabbit? It was in the dealer’s lot that time. In spite of the “clean” Carfax, the left rear quarter panel is buckled, so must have been bunted good and hard. Decided to pass as there were some other things that didn’t give me the warm fuzzies.
The interstate looks like north of Linwood Rd on I-75. On those sections, it’s still possible to cruise at 55mph.
It is, at least the picture nearer the end of the article. I have no qualms going under the speed limit, but that extra 15 MPH gets your where you’re going noticeably faster. 🙂
The folks in Lansing want to raise the speed limit to 75, so leisurely cruising will become even more intimidating.
iirc, my Jetta only turns a bit over 2,000 at 70, so it will be fine with 75.
That sounds like an awesome trip and I’m happy to not be alone in driving geriatric cars long distances.
The fuel mileage surprises me a bit but engine speed is a likely factor as you mentioned.
Glad I’m not the only one who has to add a bit of oil. Did you have to add any coolant?
Fifty year old cars didn’t have the sealing of modern cars, so oil consumption was a given. Car owners used to talk about “gas and oil consumption” all the time.
Now we are used to cars that use NO oil. In five and a half years, I have not added a drop to my Acura. My Fit also never needed an addition.
The Fit was the last car where I dutifully checked the oil when adding fuel; now I don’t do it anymore, since it is always full, either on my Rio or the Acura. In fact, I don’t think I have ever checked the oil in the Rio!
No coolant use to speak of…
Oil leaks are a nuisance I can never seem to lick. Of course, one has to weigh the cost/benefit ratio, with costs including “pain in the ass” factor. For example, pulling the Dynaflow in my ’53 is a HUGE pain in the ass, so I let it drip its 3 or 4 drops wherever I park it, even though it kind of drives me nuts. All 6 will leave at least a drop (or more) at some point or another.
As far as fuel mileage goes, the only one that truly does well by old car standards is my Corvair. It will pull at least 22 MPG on the highway, and I’ve gotten up to 25 MPG with it if I go a steady 60. Everything else is in that 17 MPG range on the highway except the Special, and I don’t usually even calculate that. Jason, be thankful for overdrive!
I’m appreciating my overdrive more everyday. It’s the only reason I got 21 mpg on my trip to Mississippi.
I run a British classic, it doesnt leak, it marks its spot.
HA! I tell people my ’49’er is a male because it marks it’s territory.
And yeah, Aaron. It would take a braver wrench than me to attempt to pull the tranny on any car with a torque tube. You Buick is a real peach, BTW.
Every Slant Six I have ever had always burned a little oil, around one litre per 1500 km or so. Even the rebuild Super Six in my Dart Swinger used oil, so I just added.
It seems to me most American cars of the era were designed for 65 mph. My dad’s 1979 Impala was most comfortable at that speed, and above it one could feel the car straining.
Here’s the original “Key to the Highway” by Little Walter:
Yeah, man! That’s the REAL stuff!
My credo when it comes to taking an older car on a long trip is always that if it runs OK around town it’ll do just fine at steady speed. I’m usually right. In fact I can honestly say that I’ve never broken down on a long distance drive, although I’ve had several hiccups while doing mundane in town errands. I’m hardly surprised that so many people want to get up close and personal with you when traveling in the Dirty Dart. It’s just a cute, friendly looking little car. The fact that it’s a wagon and is in such a jolly shade of blue/green just makes it (and by default its occupants) so approachable. It’s a lovable car. Hell, as much as I’d love to hop in that Firebird and head for the hills, in truth I’d be happier with a CC like the Dart. I’m constantly “Wish Shopping” (with a budget of a few thousand bucks, mind you), and as much as I’m jonesing for a Spitfire I’ve been really swayed by a few Pintos, Valiants, a sad little 79 Sunbird, etc. Thankfully I snap back into my senses before pulling the trigger on any of these, as I can’t even seem to keep a DD running right lately.
Nice car. Brings back memories of my 65 dart 170 sedan. Bought it in 96 for couple hundred. Dealer installed ac. Red cloth interior immaculate in every way. Slant six Ran like a champ. Otherwise a rustbucket. Tried a floor jack to raise the car and it went through the frame. Driving in the rain the front tires were throwing a spray of water up through the top of the rusted through fenders. (No inner fender shields on these, not even on my current 76 dart). Traded it in as it was quite unsafe.
I know that seeing an old car with old bikes and out-of-state plates rolling down the highway would put a smile on my face. It sound is if you delighted the vacationing public a little bit.
The Dart wagon may be the most relatable car you own because to many people it probably looks like an old version of a modern crossover. A tall for the times architecture, lots of glass and a wagon body – Dodge calls it the Journey today.
Maybe a revamped Journey should be the next Dart! Paint them aqua and sell ’em like hot cakes!
I use my old Hillman on highways and it does get the odd long trip usually only to the club AGM, our highway speed limit is only 62mph 100kmh which it loafs along at quite well getting 31mpg imp I had it to 85mph recently down a passing lane so the old girl can stretch her legs if required it was still accelerating but the slow moving Toyota I was passing was in the mirror already, Mostly though it gets driven between the twin cities of Hawkes Bay and not much further.
Great story Aaron. My first car was a ratbag ’63 Dart wagon (in 1970) with the 225 and three-on-the-tree that would make yours look Pebble Beach ready.
I ran my ’49’er up to a MoPar car show in Middlebury, Vermont last Father’s Day, a 252 mile round trip. This is the longest run I have made to date in the old bus and it was a real treat despite 90°+F temps for the ride home. The scenery was breathtaking and it always looks better through a “V” windshield.
Is the Dodge on the right yours? Kind of neat if it’s one of the “first-series” ’49s.
Yes it is and thanx. You’re right: it’s a First Series ’49 sold in February of that year.
Have you ever considered writing your ’49er up? There’s something great about a simple old flathead Mopar. I find myself drooling a bit sometimes over those big, goofy “coming or going” business coupes you occasionally run into.
It would be fun to hear about your car.
Yes I have and probably will if I ever get my act together. I posted a few photos of it and some roadside encounters on the Cohort last year that Paul picked up and ran with in case you haven’t seen them, but one of these days I’ll do a piece about my coupe and the immediate postwar scene in the U.S. Here’s one….
Can’t find the other ones.
Love long trips in classic cars, and as my cars are pretty much always classics, I take fairly lengthy trips in them on a regualr basis. Of course preventative maint. Is key to not ending up stranded in the middle of nowhere with an angry wife fuming in the passenger seat.
Took many road trips years ago in various slant six Mopars I’ve owned – 2 1972 Darts, 1973 Valiant (198 CI,) 1973 Scamp. All of them were driven in Michigan winters so alot of pavement was visible inside the trunk and thru the front fenders as they got older. The Valiant needed a chunk of bar stock welded between the rusted torsion bar mounts. Mechanically they never left me stranded.
I’m another Dirty Dart fan. Probably a lot of that, in addition to being a Chrysler A-Body fan to begin with, was my cousin’s 1965 Dart. He inherited it from his father who inherited it from HIS father-in-law. It was a 270-series wagon in the same metallic blue (or close) as the featured Dirty Dart, but it had a 273 V8 and Torqueflite. It ran many, MANY miles. We did a valve job on it somewhere in the six-figures of mileage (on the odometer, five figures with a “1” added in front) and had the lower end rebuilt later (with a “2” added in front). At over 20 years old the Dart got hit in the left rear quarter and the insurance company wanted to junk it (“can’t find parts”) but they sold it back to him after totaling it, for a few dollars this side of “zero” and I found a donor car in a wrecking yard in San Carlos, CA…also a 1965 Dart wagon but a 170-series. The body shop cut out the old quarter, welded in the new, and with a fresh coat of that same paint, the Dart wagon lived on, mismatched trim and all. It served to move my cousin twice after he got married but it all ended soon after that, as his prestige-minded wife thought it was too disreputable-looking (it really wasn’t, being straight and shiny…it was just old). So it was foisted off to a young friend who moved away but still had it and was driving it, last I heard. My cousin and his wife now drive BMWs that don’t have ten percent of the character of the Dart, and won’t last anywhere near half its age. Sad…
“For some reason, more people want to approach me to talk about the Dart than any other car I own other than my ’53 Special.”
That is no mystery, Your Dart is a uncommon car. It was a car that sold well back in the day but most have disappeared off the road. The wagon version especially as those were usually beat on pretty badly by the 2nd owner.
Your other cars (such as the Firebird and Mustang) while great cars are pretty common still(go to a car show there is probably ten of each in different colors etc) and a goodly number of them are still on the road(not to mention that Mustangs, Firebirds and Camaros seem to have most parts available for them(ether OEM or aftermarket) )
Indeed, although they sold a lot of ponycars back in the sixties, they sold a lot ‘more’ practical mainstream sedans and wagons that people relied upon to get them from point-A to point-B in the least dramatic manner. Those are the cars that many people recall the most fondly and, as stated, most of them got used up, discarded, and crushed, so fewer of them are left.
Therefore, when one of them resurfaces on the street (particularly as a daily driver), it’s no surprise that more people want to talk about it than the sporty cars. More often than not, they had some version at one time in their lives. Restored Mustangs are a dime a dozen. But a restored sixties’ Mopar A-body wagon in running condition? That’s something altogether different.
This is all understandable, but I also drive a Corvair convertible and a ’65 Skylark, which are not a dime a dozen on the road today, and FAR more people want to talk about the Dart than either of those. A few oddballs want to talk about the Corvair, and lots of people say “nice car” and all that, but people seem crazy about the Dart.
The 250 in my ’68 El Camino got 16 or 17. I wondered “why bother with a six” when a stock 307 will get the same with a little more power, but then I’d see how easy it was to work on and the ease of access to every part I’d need to every replace, which I pretty much did.
That would be my thought as well.
My ’74 Dart had a 318. That plus power brakes, power steering & AC will fill up an A body engine compartment pretty well.
It only got about 14mpg, which didn’t seem right, considering that my 383 powered Chrysler will do 11 or 12.
Nice article and car. I do think you should be getting a little higher mpg on the highway. And back then driving at 75 was normal for all kinds of cars, including the family 1958 cheap model six cylinder Chevy station wagon and the later ’63 Falcon wagon with the two speed Fordomatic and the bigger (170?) six.
Another thing about the mileage…
My tires are a half inch larger in diameter than stock, and my odometer is finally very nearly accurate, just a bit fast.
When I had near stock height tires on the back, the odometer was something like 8/10ths fast over 10 miles. How many people are computing mileage based on a fast odometer? If I would have calculated mileage based on my stock tires, I would have gotten close to 20 MPG.
I like how you mention how your car seems to want to run at a certain speed. My ’70 Mustang 250 six would cruise at an indicated 65 mph. at about 2,800 rpm. I could hold it at 70 mph. at a little over 3,000 rpm. If I wasn’t paying attention it would slow down to 55-60 mph where it felt most happy. I had radials on it and averaged about 15 mpg. at 65-70 mph. and a best of 17 mpg at a steady 55 mph. My ’96 Mustang GT automatic turns 2,200 rpm at 70 mph. and returns 25 mpg. I know it’s not about the mileage, it’s about the experience.
I’ve got a nice 65 Dart sedan here, almost all new parts, pulled it out of a salvage yard a few years ago. Drives nice, would make a trip like that with ease, as it has the Super Six two barrel carb/manifold set up that was rare here in California. Nice light blue color, as the wagon you have. Have driven it about 900 miles since most all mechanical parts were restored or refurbished. Going to probably let it go soon, as I’m now concentrated on my 1960 Power wagon job.
Nice writeup Aaron .
Clear fuel filters are NOT unsafe ! i won’t run the metal ones because I want to know if any dirt/air is in the system .
Clear fuel filters are unsafe. Either they’re shatterable glass or they’re meltable plastic, and given the disreputation for quality in the countries where many of today’s fuel filters are outsourced from, it’s a gamble not worth playing. Buy a good brand of fuel filter and there won’t be dirt in the system. As for air: Yes, there will be air visible in a clear fuel filter or invisible in an opaque one. So what?
I hope you went to an 8 3/4. The 7.25 on my 66 Dart GT went at 55,000 miles (the warrantee only went to 50,000)
“Clear fuel filters are unsafe”
They’re not , you’re wrong and don’t want to learn.
That’s O.K. .
By all means do whatever you will on your own car. Having seen more than one car-b-que disaster caused or worsened by a shattered or melted see-thru fuel filter, I’m not inclined to change my advice just because you say so.
It may help you to look at the question as a variant of Pascal’s Wager. If you’re right and clear plastic or glass fuel filters are perfectly safe, then the consequences of my being wrong are nil. If I’m right and clear plastic or glass fuel filters pose a potential and unnecessary threat of fire, then the consequences of your being wrong are…well, not nil!
Fair enough Mr. Stern ;
Of course , glass filters cannot possibly shatter unless hit hard with something , few do that (drive and whack their fuel filters with ball peen hammers) .
It’s possible that my decades of experience as a Journeyman mechanic means I have perhaps lifted a few more hoods than you have .
Certainly I’ve been installing clear plastic fuel filters on almost every engine I ever serviced and so far not a single engine fire .
I _have_ seen old and clearly ready to fail clear plastic filters but that’s the fault of poor mtce., not the filter .
I live where there’s more alcohol , MTBE and other folderol than in most states and even that hasn’t caused a single fire yet although the crap fuel destroys fuel hose and pump diaphragms a lot , this causes engine fires , not clear plastic filters .
Like I said , being unwilling to learn isn’t a crime , it’s just sad .
Nate, Please don’t accuse other people of being unwilling to learn. That’s just rude and condescending.
I don’t really want to get into this pissing match, but I’m asking you both to end it here.
You say Certainly I’ve been installing clear plastic fuel filters on almost every engine I ever serviced and so far not a single engine fire . Just because that’s your experience does not mean that you automatically win the argument.
Obviously, the risk of fire from a plastic filter is very small, hence the odds were in your favor. But that doesn’t mean that metal filters aren’t more safe than plastic ones. It’s a matter of degrees; to me, a metal filter clearly seems relatively safer. That seems quite logical. But how much exactly, I don’t know. But arguing against logic is generally not a good approach to arguing.
Mr. Stern has said he has witnessed more than once the results of a fire, supposedly the results of a shattered or melted filter. We’ll have to take his word on it. In any case, logic clearly favors his argument.
That doesn’t mean you can’t keep using plastic filters; I have used them too. And the odds you’ll never see the possible consequences. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the better choice.
Feel free to espouse your POV, but please do not impugn others for having a different one, and calling their unwillingness to espouse yours “sad”. It’s not.
Yes , Sir .