The early 60s are often overlooked when musclecars are thought of. Certainly, there were a few Max Wedge machines that made it out onto the streets, but most of the time they were too finicky for such antics. The 426 Hemi and the 440 street wedge had yet to make their debuts, and the top-of-the-line Chrysler products had long ram intakes that worked best below 5,000 rpm. From a styling standpoint, it was a transitional period between the fins of the 50s and the sleek sophistication of the 60s.
So how would a typical Mopar custom street car of the era look? This 62 Dodge Dart 330 owned by Orville Hensley of Tazewell, Tennessee, might be a prime example of such a car. Of course, Orville has made a few changes to the package in an effort to make it more comfortable and user-friendly since buying it in 1993. He had a good reason to buy the car when it became available: its the same make and model he bought new almost 40 years ago! Once acquired, the formulated plan was to create a custom car similar to those from the old days.
Take the interior, for instance. The original accoutrements have been upgraded by a custom diamond-pleat design executed by Kustom Interiors in Middlesboro, Kentucky. While this is not an oft-seen modification in the late 90s, it fits this project perfectly. A Sun tach and a Daytona steering wheel round out the cockpit details.
When Orville found the solid body in 1993, it still had a poly 318 engine under the hood. That came out and in its place went a 360 worked up by Bobs Garage, also in Tazewell. Into the short-block went parts from Arias (pistons), Mopar Performance (camshaft), and heavy-duty factory pieces. On top are a pair of 340 heads fed fuel by a trio of Holleys on an Edelbrock Six Pack intake (hey, Ford and Pontiac were both using Tri-Power by that point; its a back to the future mod!). Hooker headers move the exhaust from the motor to the mufflers, with a pair of chrome scavenger-type exhaust tips putting it behind the bumper.
One item not available back in the old days was electronic ignition; Orville has upgraded to this, using parts from Mopar Performance.
Behind the engine is a beefed 727 TorqueFlite, put together by B&M and using a Fairbanks converter. As in the old days, the typewriter keys on the dashboard still move it through the gears. Because the car is built for cruisin, a high 3.23 ring is in the 8¾-inch rearend right now.
The body needed some minor prep work, then it went to Jack Richardson in Lexington, Kentucky, who applied a great sheen of jet black lacquer paint to the vintage sheetmetal. Offset by the large amount of chrome installed at the factory, it really stands out. A set of 81 Cordoba rims, also black and chrome and shod with Cooper tires, completes the custom look of the machine.
At 57, Orville proves youre never too old to cruise. He credits his wife, Evelyn, and brother, Bob (who, incidentally, owns the aforementioned Bobs Garage), for helping bring the car to fruition. In a sea of Chargers and Dusters, Road Runners and Barracudas, the vintage Dart stands out quite well. Orville gets a lot of comments regarding the vintage Mopar, and most onlookers are pleasantly surprised when they see how much effort has gone into the car.
Just as it might have done at a local drive-in burger shop in the old days, this doo-wopera Dodge gets attention.