Taking a walk, for me, is a multi-sensory experience. Depending on how far I’ve chosen to venture on foot away from my home, which is subject to change once I’m further into my trek, I’ll usually have my earbuds in as I play my music, but at a medium volume so I can hear a little bit of what’s going on in my environment. The wind feels great on my face, even if I may (or may not) be breathing through a face mask, depending on where I am. The sun warms my skin. I feel physically invigorated by the act of putting one foot in front of the other at a brisk pace. It’s during such long walks that I can become lost in my own thoughts, surroundings, and music library. I also often have my Canon camera strapped over one shoulder in the event something catches my attention.
One of the reasons I’ve been able to photograph so many moving vehicles on the fly is because I have my camera with me so much of the time, and also because I’ve mastered the sequence of motor skills to un-shoulder the strap, remove the lens cap, focus, pan slowly, and click away. Probably just as often, though, I’ve missed photographic opportunities because I was down some other train of thought, photographing something else, or simply not present. Fortunately, this was not the case when this Glacier Blue ’61 Dodge Dart Phoenix convertible came southbound on Sheridan Road next to Calvary Catholic Cemetery near the border of Chicago and Evanston. I might have missed this Dodge droptop if I wasn’t paying attention, as it seemed to come and go in a matter of mere seconds.
At the time I took these photos toward the end of Memorial Day Weekend last year, I had only started by then to relax a little bit more following the shellshock of 2020 and everything related to the pandemic. One thing I had learned during that trying year was that I still had to find ways to live and enjoy life. It wasn’t going to be enough for me to simply put everything on “pause” and refuse to be happy because I wasn’t able to (safely) do everything and anything I wanted, pretty much any time I had wanted to as I was able to do before. Taking longs walks was, and continues to be, one way I have reclaimed some of the simple joys of living where I do. Like the Shakers sing, ’tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free. I can dig it.
The Dart was a new model in 1960, and unlike the vast majority of Dodges that bear this nameplate, the first ones were big cars and not compacts. For ’60 and ’61, the Dart rode on the junior full-size 118-inch wheelbase, while the “senior” Polara (and Matador, for ’60) rode on a longer 122″ wheelbase that was common to the wagon versions of all models. The Dart was available in three trim series, Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix, in ascending order, in myriad body styles, including two- and four-door pillared sedans and hardtops, wagons, and convertibles, the latter of which was exclusive to Phoenix.
Total Dart sales for ’61, the model year of our featured car, reached over 183,500 units, though this represented a sharp, 43% drop from the year before. One source listed ’61 Dart Phoenix convertible production at 3,878 units. Standard power for the Phoenix convertible came from a 230-horsepower, 318-cubic inch V8; Starting weight was around 3,600 pounds.
The Dart would be downsized for ’62, and sales would fall further to only around 140,900 cars. Surprisingly, the ’62 Dart doesn’t appear to have been properly profiled here at Curbside Classic, though this excellent article appeared some years back about the related ’62 Plymouth Fury. Suffice it to say that the downsized, full-size cars from Chrysler Corporation were not popular with buyers upon their introduction.
With that said, and referencing the Dart’s continued sales slide between 1960 and ’62, just remember that however you felt about your 2021 (and I’m thankful for mine), things could always get worse… or better. Make an effort to enjoy what’s good about your “right now”. Take walks outside, even during winter months. Be ready and willing for great things like classic Dodge convertible sightings to happen to you, and have your mind’s proverbial “camera” ready to capture these moments. If you’re not present, good things may pass you by without you so much as noticing.
Sunday, May 30, 2021.
Memorial Day weekend.
The brochure photo was sourced from www.oldcarbrochures.org.