Curbside Classic: 1963 Dodge Dart Pickup – Do All Caterpillars Become Butterflies?

Dart ute

(first posted 11/25/2014)    Some of the more popular hunting seasons are upon us.  As I write this, deer season will be starting tomorrow, and anytime you hunt larger game a pickup provides a high degree of practicality in your endeavor.  Hauling larger bagged game in (or on) an Accord or Camry is far from impossible but can be highly problematic in a number of ways.

There are those people who are simply not enchanted with the size of pickups these days.  Modern pickups can do a lot and are capable of many things, but doing so with a minimum amount of physical space isn’t their forte.  A smaller pickup is just the ticket for some, although in the United States the number of products from which to choose has dwindled the last few years.  The recent re-introduction of the Chevrolet Colorado / GMC Canyon twins has them in competition with the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier for the small pickup market.

1929 Cadillacwrecker

image source:

The need for pickups, regardless of size, has always existed.  Back in the days of yore, it was quite common to convert cars, particularly luxury brands that had a few years of age, into pickups and tow trucks, such as this 1928 or 1929 Cadillac.

It was a smart idea.  You already had a stout chassis powered by an engine with abundant torque.  Since the vehicle was a few years old, nobody was clamoring for it so it could be acquired rather inexpensively.


As time went on, and regular pickups became available, the need for such conversions was certainly lower.  Sure, there continued to be the professionally built pickups used by funeral homes, but these were specialty pieces.

Porsche pickup rennlistdotcom

image source:

For a long time, many of the conversions of a car into a pickup were a novelty creation.  Google searches reveal a multitude of one-off creations, with such examples as first generation Mustangs, all manner of Rolls-Royce, and late model Volkswagens.  The quality of these examples ranges from outstanding to what one would expect from a beer fueled chainsaw operator.


So what could one derive from this Dart pickup?  No, Chrysler never made any in the United States; perhaps they should have jumped onto the Ranchero and El Camino bandwagon.  A few extra sales can make a difference between using red or black ink on your bottom line.

Upon first seeing this Dart while driving down the road, my level of intrigue was sky high.  Let’s face it; this Dart is much more memorable than the W-body Impala parked next to it.


image source:

Our example is left-hand drive, dashing any fleeting hopes and curiosities about it being Australian in origin.  The concept of a Dart (or Valiant) based pickup isn’t some abstract concept, as evidenced by this Chrysler Valiant AP6 ute which was released in March 1965.  However, this ute has a frontal appearance similar to that of the American Plymouth Valiant, also from 1965, making it newer than our two-tone Dart.

1960 Dodge Dart-02-03

The Dart had been on a downward spiral in size since the name was introduced in 1960.  In its first two years, the Dart was a full-sized and lower priced companion to Dodge, all in three series of Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix sitting on a 118″ wheelbase.

1962 Dodge Dart amp Lancer-03

1962 was a year for a major blunder by Chrysler when the full-sized cars shrank and styling was memorable for all the wrong reasons.  This would mark the last time when the Dart was a derivative of Dodge rather than a model.

1963 Dodge Dart-06

Dart’s were placed on a 111″ wheelbase for 1963, and it was now the compact Dodge.  Every Dart for 1963, regardless of series, was powered by a slant six of either 170 or 225 cubic inches.  That would change for 1964.


This Dart likely started life as a sedan and, like a caterpillar, underwent a significant transformation sometime in its life.  The quality of this conversation is quite good; this is no malt liquor and saws-all conversion.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, various google searches reveal nothing about any commercial Dodge Dart conversions.


Identification of model year for this Dart wasn’t easy for my untrained eye.  The grille differs from original, likely to make room for the fog lights.  Going by the shape of the front bumper is what derived the 1963 model year designation, although this buggy has had quite a bit of alteration.  However, I can say with certainty it has a three-speed manual transmission and white shag upholstery.


Using the shag upholstery, combined with this opera window (or maybe porthole is more apt?) I would wager a guess this was converted sometime in the 1970s.  Apart from the paint begging to be buffed, this Dart is in terrific shape and it was likely driven to where it is currently parked.


It even has an empty bed floor awaiting your deer, plywood, mulch, or whatever else you can throw in it.  In a country where full-size pickups reign supreme, a little Dodge Dart pickup like this can truly demonstrate how much fun it can be to plow your own path.