IMG_7707Happy Spring! Here we find ourselves at Spring Equinox of 2017. What better way to celebrate the brightening longer days at this seasonal balance point than a shiny red super stock Dodge? Today’s example is a little bit flashier than the one that The Little Old Lady From Pasadena bought however.

This Dart Convertible brought a sparkle to the compact field for its sophomore season with a bit more muscle under the metal to keep up with more potent players from different brands. What other refinements were added more to the smallest Dodge for ’64?

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Of course the biggest news was the new 273 cubic inch V8. While the larger 225 Slant Six was nearly competitive with smaller V8’s available from GM and Ford through 1963, 1964 saw more forceful options available in Falcons, Novas and the moribund Lark in the 283-289 cube department. With 180 horses on tap, and highway mileage still leveling off in the 20 mpg range, the new LA small block gave laser sharp accuracy to the Dart’s bullseye of being an all around great compact car.

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It would be the last year you’d be able to select gears of the ultra-refined Torqueflite automatic through Pushbuttons. All self shifting Mopar products had been equipped in this fashion since 1956. With pressures from consumer advocates for a more standardized shifting pattern, all Highland Park offerings got conventional levers for 1965. Styling refinements on the outside kept the Dart fresh and not as repetitive looking as competitors from Ford and Chevrolet. An updated grille and refined trim and taillights differed from the Turbine Car referencing 1963 version. Still fronting the face were tunneled headlamps matched with jet tube tail lights.

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Although always cheaper than the Pontiac Tempest, the Dart found itself with one fewer competitor this year as Pontiac decided to move their smaller version of the Tin Indian up to the intermediate size field. This left the Dart to face up against the Mercury Comet, now in Caliente compact luxury and Cyclone mini-muscle drag. The Dart didn’t go as far into either direction as its most direct rival, as the Comet would soon offer a Mustang grade 271 horse solid lifter version of the 289 for the Cyclone. However, despite those differences the two rivals had more in common than Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

IMG_7711Both sat on extended wheelbase platforms donated by humbler sisters (the Falcon for the Comet, the Valiant for the Dart). Both did remarkably well at going beyond badge engineering to make themselves out to be more substantial cars. However the Dart was the only one that stuck with the program long term, as the Comet moved upsize for 1966, leaving the Dart full claim of the goldilocks zone between bargain beginners sedans and mid sized marvels.

Where did this leave convertibles like our Aries Red Ram Dart Convertible? With drop tops in both the 270 and GT line, the Dart offered two spice levels and levels of accommodations for fun-in-the-sun times. GT versions offered bucket seats, all vinyl upholstery, wall to wall carpeting, front and rear armrests, deluxe wheel covers and a padded dash. At a starting price of $2,667, this GT V8 was one of 12,000 coupes and convertibles produced that year. Dodge would keep up the downstream droptop game longer than anyone else, right through the turn of the decade. Let that persistence towards goals that the Dodge Dart went after inform your decisions this Spring.

 

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