When the 1962 Dart hit the scene, it was initially shunned by car buyers, thanks to a corporate screw-up that shrank the "standard-size" Plymouth and Dodge cars, one year after the 1962 designs were finalized, and a year into their tooling-up process. Dodge dealers hated it, with a dozen quitting on the spot when it was revealed to them in the summer of 1961. The dealers even threatened mass action if a "big Dodge" wasn't in the 1962 line-up ASAP.
Still, what we now know and love as the B-Body was a spectacular performer from the get-go. Equipped with the 305 horsepower 361, the lean, new breed of Dodges—and Plymouths—raised eyebrows on the street, especially in bucket-seated Polara 500 and Sport Fury trim. Richard Petty drove his blue 43 Plymouth to eight wins, 25 Top 5 finishes, and 39 Top 10s, en route to second place in NASCAR's 1962 Grand National points.
Then there were the "Maximum Performance" engines—the 413-inch RBs that went into 50 Dodges and 50 Plymouths. Shorter and lighter than their Blue Oval, Bowtie and Pontiac competition, these "Golden Commando" and "Ramcharger"-powered cars began ruling the Stock and Super Stock classes at dragstrips around the country.
Based on that, it can be argued the 1962 B-Bodies were the first of the classic muscle cars, whose performance proved it. The 413 Max Wedge ran e.t.'s near what a modern-day Viper runs. That puts these Darts in very fast company by today's standards, but in 1962 they were the fast company!
In the early 1960s there was an expression at the drags: "Nothing beats a 'button' off the line except another 'button,'" referring to the pushbutton TorqueFlite. Until then, you needed a four-speed to win drag races, but "buttons" changed that.
Someone who knows all about these cars is Bob Beaudin, who grew up in the epicenter of muscle car history, just west of Detroit back in the 1960s. He's the happy owner of the 1962 Dart seen here. It's definitely not his first big-block Mopar from that era, as he bought a black 440-powered 1962 Dart that was the local terror on the streets on that side of Detroit, and whose reputation had spread far and wide.
By sheer good luck for Bob, the black car had passed through a couple owners when he found it in 1968. As it happened, he was hoarding a few different RB intakes, including one that accommodated three carburetors that went on the black 1962 right after he bought it.
Aside from a Grant steering wheel, AutoMeter gauges, and an aftermarket radio/tape player,
At that time, he drove his car everywhere. But, as time passed, Bob dealt with other elements of life, like an Air Force career, college and family, so he sold the black 1962. Fortunately, he also had a 1969 440-powered Charger that kept him connected to the muscle car lifestyle.
In 1994, Bob found another 1962 Dart two-door sedan. Once Bob got it home, he replaced its original 318 Poly with a period-correct 413 Max Wedge, bored out to 426 inches, wearing Stage III heads and intake, and a pair of Carter four-barrels.
Exhaust chores are handled by those beautiful upswept cast-iron factory manifolds, which are no doubt the best looking OEM exhaust system in the history of muscle cars. Their upswept design allows them to fit between the inner fenders and the heads, and Mopar lovers are grateful for the engineers' work.
To maintain its heritage, "Uncle Max" (named for Bob's Chrysler-driving uncle, as well as for the max-performance RB) uses a Mopar 83⁄4 rear with a 4.10 gear set. Adjustable drag shocks up front, and Super Stock rear springs controlled by air shocks, are used on the rear. In 2011, Bob gave his 1962 a cosmetic restoration with new carpets, paint and freshened trim inside and out.
Over the years, Bob's Dodge earned a lot of accolades at car shows, while delivering mid-12-second performance just for the asking—and for the sheer fun of it. This Dart doesn't have to take Bob back to those fantastic days of muscle car history, because he never stopped living them in the first place. That means our fondest memories are his daily reality.
1962 Dodge Dart 330 two-door sedan
Owned by: Bob Beaudin, Lilburn, Georgia
Say hello to "Uncle Max’s" Max Wedge—a ’62 Stage I block with Stage III heads and intake.
Engine: 1962-vintage 413 Max Wedge block wears Stage III heads and cross-ram intake, topped by a pair of Carter 3705 four barrels. Inside, a Mopar Performance solid-lifter 550 camshaft operates Max Wedge-style adjustable rockers. Outside, cast-iron factory exhaust manifolds combine with electric cut-outs and Flowmaster mufflers. A Mopar Performance ignition package coordinates the fire and brimstone.
Transmission: A race-ready 727, with factory pushbuttons on the dash—just like the SS/Automatic pilots used to win automatically way back when.
Rear: Just like the original 1962 Max Wedges, there's a 4.10-geared 83⁄4 rear.
Suspension: Restored early B-Body (Front); torsion bars with adjustable drag shocks (Rear); Super Stock leaf springs with air-adjustable rear shocks.
Brakes: Restored OEM 1962 B-Body drum-and-shoe, with no power assist.
Wheels/Tires: Cragar Street Stars wear 205/75R15 Cornell 1000 radials in front and P275/60R15Uniroyal Tiger Paws in back
Paint/Body: Original unibody was restored by a previous owner, but Bob had it freshened with a new coat of PPG two-stage Medium Blue paint, plus he had the chrome—what there is of it—restored.
Interior: Except for AutoMeter gauges, a grant steering wheel and an in-dash AM/FM cassette player, it looks just like it did when it rolled out of Hamtramck Assembly. SMS re-did the door panels, while the seats got a non-1962-Dodge-upholstery treatment.