Hooniverse Weekend, Reader Submission Edition – A 1973 Dodge Dart Found in Seattle

Welcome to another Hooniverse Weekend Edition, and I thought I would start this weekend with a reader submission. This comes our way from Bret (Thanks Man!), who is one of the members of the legendary 24 Hours of LeMons teams, the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys. He has been writing about cool iron in and around the Seattle area, and wanted to share this with the hoons at Hooniverse. Take it away Bret….

This is a handsome car, even with the underbite

Seattle is blessed with relatively mild winters. The occasional paralytic light dusting of snow we get completely shuts down the city. The average Seattleite will only venture onto the road cloaked in airbags, traction control, antilock brakes, and all wheel drive, peering from the precariously fall-overy commanding view of their SUV. This makes today’s feature car stand out even more! I spotted this lovely brown Dodge Dart on a sleet-filled trip to the video store.
Such a spankably clean posterior


From the battering ram 5mph front bumper and the tight chrome panty of a rear bumper, I’m betting this is a 1973 Dodge Dart. You’ll notice this impeccably kept survivor has a Michigan plate. Has it migrated west for a rust free retirement?

This car is 'just right', not too small, not too big


This is an honest, standard car; the sort we don’t see anymore. Purposefully capable with no overt pretense of luxury. Gold kit Accord, I’m looking at you…

Custom, one of just 62,626


This is a Dodge Dart Custom, a mid-level model in the Dart range. The vinyl roof “Vinyl Roof Topper” in Mopar-ese was a dealer installed accessory.

Look at all that comfy sidewall!


My suspicion is the full wheel covers come with the Custom package, rather than the dog dish hub caps that would probably be seen on a base model car.

Bench seats: the cure for separation anxiety


Also part of the Custom package was the snazzy vinyl and cloth bench seating. The cloth seating surface makes this a great winter car. There is no way to make a person more uncomfortably chilled than by forcing them to plop onto a freezing cold leather seat.
This Dart was born with the legendary slant six backed by a Torqueflight automatic. In 1973 it made 95 horsepower from its 198 cubic inches (that’s 3.2 seriously unstressed liters). This car is so original looking that I bet that same slant six is still living under hood. This car looks new, I’d love to know its story. Is it a survivor? Has it been restored? Is it a Hemi-packing Q-ship?
Regardless of its back story, this is a very cool car to see being used – especially on a day that chased most drivers into hiding.

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  1. tonyola Avatar

    Yup, that's a '73. It has the pointed post-'72 nose but the taillights were still located in the bumper. They were moved above the bumper for '74. The slant six could be a 198 or 225, or there might be a 318 lurking under that hood too. P.J. O'Rourke once wrote in Car and Driver that Darts and Valiants were the sort of cars that refused to die no matter how badly their owners wanted them to. I've put in my A-car time having once owned a '75 Duster 360 for six years. I'm glad I had it but I wouldn't want another. While these A's were incredibly tough and sturdy cars, they were also somewhat crude and slapdash in some respects and also fairly rust-prone.

    1. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

      This is another one of those cars that's benefited from time and nostalgia. These were well before my time, but my dad is still perplexed why anybody went out of their way to buy these cars. Yeah, the drivetrain was bulletproof, but they were also shoddy, junky and dishwater dull…"a high school principal's car." They certainly weren't for people who enjoyed driving or cared much about their appearance. Of course, my father's beige base-model Camry is in many ways the modern embodiment of this car; To each his own.
      But me? While I think Pintos and Monzas and all the other subcompact Detroit dreck deserved to be blown up like a Marina on Top Gear and the bloated, Baroque look of '70s fullsizers and "personal luxury coupes" is downright repulsive, I really dig the A-car. It's right-sized, simple and honest. And as dowdy as this car was when it was new, it's certainly got more character than today's econoboxes.
      I'm not saying I'd rush out and buy one. But it still amazes me how many of these cars still see daily driver duty, even in the Midwest. And as cheap and uncollectable as these cars are, an old Dart like this wouldn't be a bad beater to have around. I'd probably feel very different if I experienced one back in the '70s, though.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        The main issues I had about the Duster were rust, road noise, a hardish ride, and interior assembly that was downright shoddy. The A-cars handled better than other American compacts because of their torsion bar in the front. The Duster was quite fast in a straight line but the good low-speed handling got a little scary much above 80 mph. I would rank the Mopars above the Ford, GM, and AMC compacts of the era in desirability. They're worthy cars for a beater, but a period Datsun or Toyota would still embarrass them in quality.

  2. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Wow, that Dart looks precisely the same as one my neighbor friends had. And this one looks about as good as new. It seems that everything about it has held up exceptionally well. Tougher that a cockroach, this car might live forever.

  3. west-coaster Avatar

    That’s pretty much the exact same car that seemingly every other one of my teachers drove, from elementary school in the early ’70s right up through high school. Even the dung brown color is correct! (The other popular hues were forest green and a mild gold.)
    I heard years later that Chrysler offered educators some kind of discount plan, so it then made sense.

  4. Maymar Avatar

    We're less far removed from the era of the honest standard car than you'd think. I'd like to propose these as modern equivalents to this Dart.
    <img src="http://i.ss.lv/images/2011-02-04/208014/VX0BHElhRF8=/hyundai-sonata-1.800.jpg&quot; width="500" img="">
    <img src="http://1.photos4.ebizautos.com/used-2006-chevrolet-malibu-4drsdnltw2ltsedan-8452-6740509-1-400.jpg&quot; /img>

    1. Bret Avatar

      True, but these cars try to mask being econoboxes to a certain extent with standard features that drive up the price. The marketing material for the Dart promoted its economy aspects and compact stature. It just seems a little more honest to me; more like you're deciding to buy a cheap car with the Dart rather than trying to guild the econo-penalty-box into being less of a compromise.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        Is it a compromise, or limitations of the modern market? Ultimately to the manufacturers, what's the point in spending hundreds of thousands engineering parts such as crank windows that almost no one will want?
        Although, if you want pure, simple, and cheap, the Nissan dealer's got a $9995 Versa that's probably almost as roomy as this.

        1. Bret Avatar

          You know, you're right. These days crank windows equal penalty box. The cost per unit for power windows probably isn't much more than crank windows especially when they add in the manufacturing simplicity of only having to make it one way.
          I do find it fun to see the look on folks' faces when they see the crank windows in my Miata.

  5. CBQ_241 Avatar

    Ah what memories! I learned to drive in my moms '76 dart "special edition" , blue metallic, ivory vinyl top, ivory vinyl interior, factory bucket seats and a mileage minder light on the drivers fender that glowed when engine vaccum dropped. Had my first car sex in the "blue goose".

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    Huh. I drive past the Maple Leaf Ace Hardware every day on my way to work. I don't think I've seen this particular Dart, although there are a few in the area. I've always assumed the concave rear glass is somehow behind the secret to their immortality, but don't think it's worth the price.

  7. Bret Avatar

    Woo Hoo! They published my Street Parked Dart article! I've not seen this car at all in the two weeks or so since I shot it. It was a real time warp car.

    1. RevPiper Avatar

      Nice picts and article,congrads.

    2. longrooffan Avatar

      Hey Bret…I know the feeling. Hell, this olelongrooffan is still around. But it's not "they" published it. There is no We/Them here in the Hooniverse. While the Hooniverse Overlord moniker has been thrown around it is not all that constrictive. My fellow Hoons, share an excellent write up such as this on pretty much anything all of we Hoons might be interested in and it is very likely to be published. But seriously Bret, thanks for sharing it with us. Very nice write up, I especially loved the analogy about the rear bumper, and now this olelongroofan is following you! Great work in LeMons and good luck in your future endeavors.

  8. RevPiper Avatar

    A buddy of mine recently bought a two door. It has the slant six and I love the body lines. The rear spoiler and graphics are a neat too.
    <img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5172/5521269240_9d866d2b55_b.jpg&quot; width="500">

    1. Bret Avatar

      That's a great looking hardtop! I love the spoiler and graphics. That one deserves some preservation.

  9. Jason Carpp Avatar
    Jason Carpp

    Sweet looking car. I've always liked Dodge Darts and Plymouth Valiants of this vintage.