Debuting for 1960 initially as a full-size model, the Dodge Dart was subsequently downsized to a midsize model in 1962, and then again in 1963 to a compact model where it would find its greatest success. Sold as a compact from the 1963 through the 1976 model years over two generations, the Dodge Dart built a solid reputation and legacy as an honest-to-goodness affordable and reliable workhorse. While it did offer buyers specialty models over the years like the performance-oriented Demon and the luxury-oriented Special Edition, the Dart was by and large sold as a humble, no frills vehicle… a car of few words.
Although rarely the case for me when it comes to any given car, words are in fact what I find myself struggling to conjure when it comes to discussing this particular Dodge Dart. For starters, it is a 1976, the “classic” Dart’s final year of sales that saw it overlap with its much-touted Aspen successor. It’s a base model 4-door sedan and it’s green… I believe Deep Sherwood Metallic, if we’re being official.
While it’s hard to decipher exactly what options and packages it has from the 1976 Dart brochure, it does feature optional cloth-and-vinyl upholstery. Although simulated woodgrain trim adorns the gauge cluster and steering wheel, it does not extend entirely across the dashboard nor on the door panels, meaning this Dart lacks the available Interior Decor Group.
It likely does include the Easy Order Package, among whose features included a 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission, power steering, deluxe steering wheel, AM radio, cigarette lighter, bumper guards, deluxe wheel covers, and full-vinyl roof. Beyond that, this Dart might have a few more extra-cost options, but overall it’s relatively basic, as were most production Darts.
It’s also worth noting that by 1976, the Dart and its Plymouth Valiant were quite elderly, receiving their last complete redesigns back in 1967. Yet consistent and meaningful updates and upgrades through the years kept them just fresh enough, as it’s worth noting the duo were achieving combined sales of over 700,000 units as late as 1974. While far from special or exciting, the Dart and Valiant’s tried-and-true mechanics and proven reliability made for a venerable force that helped keep Chrysler’s reputation afloat as much as their sales helped keep paying its bills, for the automaker’s fortunes became more dire with each new year of the 1970s.
Now as for these updates, the Dart’s last significant refresh came in 1972, though for its second-to-final model year of 1975, it received one final minor update, bringing further refinement and enhancements to Dodge’s faithful steed. Alas, what more can I really say?
I took these pictures way back in 2013, when I was but a lonely, lost, and uncertain business school student trying to find my place in the world and working part-time as a check-out clerk at a grocery store. Although I have tried to write-up this car numerous times, I’ve always strayed, making little progress. They’ve just sat in my photo library, always there but rarely crossing my mind. Well, therein lies the point I think I’ve been struggling to find these past six years… the Dodge Dart was a part of many people’s lives, always there but rarely crossing his or her minds. It was in fact my own mother’s first car, one she shared with her siblings, and it is a car owned by many similarly-aged people I’ve talked to over the years, often being their first car too.
Just like my photos of it, the Dodge Dart truly was a car that was simply there with many people through the years, rarely crossing their mind as anything beyond basic transportation. Without boring you all of the details of my life, when I think about all that’s happened in my own life these past six years, where I was then and where I am now, it’s nothing short of astonishing. Through it all, these photos I took of this 1976 Dodge Dart have always been just a few clicks and swipes away from me in my phone.
Photographed in Hanson, Massachusetts – September 2013