Over the generations, Dodge's Dart has meant different things to different people. From basic, stripped-down entry-level car, to family commuter, to full-on dragstrip terror, this compact has done it all. It's one of those workhorse platforms in the Mopar family that has been a part of just about every Mopar enthusiast's life at some point. Think about it: You either had or know someone who had a Dart.

Though the vast majority of Darts were tame Slant Six cars or modest 273 and 318 V-8s that purred along getting people to work and kids to school, the presence of a Chrysler V-8 in a small, light package was bound to attract hot rodders. When the 340 and 383 Darts debuted in 1968, heads really turned toward their direction. Those mills offered 275 and 300 hp respectively, but what the engine hot rodder really wanted was the 375hp 440.

Though technically Dodge never turned out any 440-equipped Darts, if you had the extra cash you could get a pseudo-factory–built one. Dodge had their eye on NHRA's Factory Super Stock class, and they knew the easy way to beat up on the competition was to drop a big engine in a tiny platform. To homologize them as "factory," they had to build 50 examples, so they turned to Mr. Norm and his gearheads at Grand Spaulding Dodge in Chicago to figure out the minutiae. Those first 50 came out so well that Dodge wanted more for 1969. Grand Spaulding again handled the conversion parts list, but with a much higher volume of 590 cars in mind, Dodge shipped 383-spec Dart rolling shells along with factory-prepped 375hp 440 engines to Hurst-Campbell Inc. Hurst-Campbell dropped in the tall-deck RB and performed all the necessary modifications, including modifying the K-member, swapping the motor mounts, exhaust manifold, and eliminating power steering since it would not fit. Afterward, Dodge reps inspected it, and the cars were shipped to be sold via Grand Spaulding. They were factory approved for consumer sale and had legit VIN numbers, but were not covered by any factory warranty. Dodge knew good and well what buyers of those Darts had in mind.

So yeah, there were 440 Darts, but they were all dealer order, special construction cars with additional money required. Plus, when you fast-forward to the 21st century, there are only 30 known examples of original 440-powered Darts known to exist. The prices are correspondingly high, and we'd bet they don't spend much time on the dragstrip anymore. Wouldn't it be cool if a 440 was a standard engine option? And what if there was an R/T package with all of the hallmarks of Road/Track like better suspension, tires, brakes, and more power, but no frills? Maybe something along the lines of the back-to-basic first-gen Road Runner ethos, but squeezed into a smaller, lighter package. Yeah, we like the sound of that too.

When Jim Marino first went on the hunt for just the right straight, clean '68 Dart, he actually had an even bigger package in mind: Hemi power. As an avid Mopar restorer, collector, and drag racer for over 42 years now, a street/strip version of Mr. Norm's even more radical 426-powered Hemi Darts really appealed. Jim's first pass down the track came the same year he got his license at 16, and he's 58 years young now. You could say he has a handle on how to get a Mopar muscle car down the track. He's even immersed into hot rodding in his professional life; currently he owns and operates Wes-Coast Marketing, which reps many automotive aftermarket companies. Before that, he was involved with Direct Connection, and even brought Dick Landy on board as a reseller. I guess we all owe him a "thank you" for that.

When Jim ran across a very straight Seafoam '68 at the Pomona Swap Meet in Pomona, California, it looked like he had found just the right car. He struck a deal and it came home with him. The Dart was a nicely restored car as-is, but to get it up to Jim's standards, and to prep it for his plans, he ended up pulling it apart and going through it end to end. He re-chromed the bumpers, polished the trim, replaced the interior, swapped out the rearend for a built 9-inch, prepped the suspension for better launching, and yanked the engine to make room for the planned elephant. Then something unexpected happened: a near perfect '68 Dart already packing a Hemi came up for sale. Though he was a bit conflicted at first, Jim decided to pick up the Hemi car for himself, and change plans for the first '68 project. He'd keep all the alterations in place, but he'd prep it as a 440-powered street/strip car with a TorqueFlite for his daughter, Nicohl, to learn to race. Dad of the year right here, folks.