Did you ever do something that made no rational sense, but you felt inspired, you felt good about it, and you did it anyway? Well, that’s what this is.
Now, I already have three classic cars, I like them, and I certainly didn’t need a fourth! But there was this ’60 Dart languishing unsold on Craigslist for about two months, and one day I got up in the morning and a voice said to me, “You should really look into that Dodge.”
So I pulled the trigger. What did I get? A gen-u-wine 1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix 4-door sedan, solid Pewter Iridescent, slant 6, Torqueflite, power steering & brakes, 71K. The seller stated that the car originally came from Virginia. It’s a survivor–it physically exists now in the year 2021. No, it wasn’t fed into a crusher in the fall of ’69 . . . or abandoned in the woods, turning into a pile of rusty mush and shot full of bullet holes. It’s intact and in running condition this very day!
There was this magnetic plaque on the dashboard, so I googled “Dalke’s Family Drive-In” and it’s located near Winchester, Virginia, out toward the West Virginia line. That may explain why this Dodge is largely rust-free–mild winters and rural roads which may not be salted.
A big thing about this car is the fact that a lot of work had already been done on it, including: gas tank, rebuilt carb., electric fuel pump, alternator, electronic ignition, top end of engine rebuilt, all-new brakes (4 wheels + modern master cyl. & booster), gauges rebuilt, new seats, headliner, seat belts, and more. So I was buying about $6000 of restoration work . . . and about $2000 worth of car!
With a lot of the expensive work already done, I could concentrate on small details and cosmetics. I cleaned the interior and isolated and eliminated a lot of rattles. Dome light now works. Replaced worn and missing door windlace. Had to replace brake shoes in parking brake because it wouldn’t hold (and you need it to hold, because the transmission has no PARK position!)
First thing was to compound the paint, which was weather-beaten and stained. I applied Meguiar’s Ultimate Compound mixed with Comet cleanser using an electric buffer. Then a couple coats of wax and polish. Made a big difference, as you can see! The car is now one or two steps darker. Still, the finish is far from perfect; I’ll call it “patina paint”. It won’t win any trophies, but I don’t care about trophies!
I consider this 1960 Dodge Dart to be one of the ultimate early ’60s “Space Age” Mopars. The Darts were intended to compete model-for-model with full-sized, low-priced cars using its three series hierarchy: Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix. So my Phoenix is like the equivalent of a Chevy Impala or Ford Galaxie.
This car is loaded with all kinds of fascinating jet-age Mid-Century Modern design motifs: parabolas, ovals, fins, jet tubes, sweep-spears, starbursts, bubble windows, and push-buttons galore! Observe:
When details of title, registration, and insurance were finalized, it was time to take it out on the road! What’s it like? Well, the car runs and drives very nicely. Torsion-Aire ride is remarkably smooth and level–has a “gliding feel”. This combined with the easy power steering makes for light and pleasant handling. Slant 6–feels a little sluggish off the line, but once you’re going it gets turbine-smooth, torque builds, and you’ll swear you’re driving a V-8! Guys who say “Mopar or no car”–I know what they mean! I also have a Chevy, a Ford, and a Cadillac from the same era, and they each have their own unique “driving personalities”, even though they’re all front-engine, rear drive full-size Detroit sedans from the same era. They each have their charms, and are satisfying to drive in their own way.
Here’s my “closing thought”: As the late philosopher Joseph Campbell once said, “Follow your bliss.” If you have an inspiration, a desire, a passion (and it is not hurtful or stupid), I think you should follow your inner voice and go for it–even if your rational mind objects; even if other people won’t understand or share your enthusiasm. This applies not just to cars but lots of other things in life. The universe is on your side, and you are part of the universe.
I have only had my Dart for two weeks, and it’s been a lot of fun fixing it up, making it better, driving it, and having enlightening personal interactions with other people as a result of it. Maybe it’s time for you to get a Curbside Classic of your very own . . . and see what happenz!!