During the final days of 1966, James Howard was in the U.S. Marine Corps where he read about a new style Dodge Dart with a 275 horse 273ci engine and a four-speed. He fell in love with this car and decided to have his father order one so it would be waiting for him upon his discharge. James had the car and the options he wanted all picked out in his head, but during the ordering process his mother insisted that a white interior would cause problems in the future, so the dark blue was ordered. James tells us the 275hp engine was also changed for the 180hp version to calm his mother's fears that he would kill himself with all that power.
Jim's Dart was his daily transportation into the late '80s, but after being in several accidents, one so bad that Jim purchased it back from the insurance company, it was time to start restoring the A-Body. Jim started by doing small restoration jobs as money permitted, but it wasn't until he got married that his wife Dianna suggested the restoration get done correctly. That's when everything started to roll.
During a six-year period, the Dart's bodywork, chrome, and engine were all redone. The original engine was brought to Dick Rugh's Auto Parts & Engine Rebuilding in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to get rebuilt. Jim started by having the block milled .030-over with 9.25:1 compression TRW pistons. A Comp 282 Solid Cam with .495-inches lift was fitted as were angle-cut heads, a homemade oil pan, and an Offy single plane 360-degree intake with a 600 cfm Holley Double Pumper on top. Bill Leighliter, a close friend in the neighboring town, balanced and then rebalanced the engine to ensure a smooth ride. Jim added Blackjack headers and tells us that he now has close to 375 horsepower, more than the 275 horses he originally wanted with a few extras to spare.
The exterior received some new metal and a fresh coat of the original color, Midnight Blue Metallic in a basecoat, clearcoat finish. The original convertible top was still in great shape but there was evidence of some age, so Jim replaced it using a Chrysler Grain instead of the original Dodge Burlap. New '70 Rallye Wheels with billet centers were added to finish off the outside. Inside, the Dart remains all original with the exception of the Hurst Competition Shifter.
One of Jim's proudest moments was when the Dart reached its 30th birthday. Jim's wife had secretly written to Carlisle, sending pictures and explaining all the hard work Jim did to complete the car. This was done in an attempt to get his car into the by-invitation-only "T" building. Jim was awarded a spot. His Dart, with the 273, sat next to several other Chrysler cars.
Jim now drives his Dodge Dart as much as possible, but only on nice days and to all the local shows. For the larger shows, the family plans their vacations so they can attend and the Dart is trailered.
The next project Jim and Dianna hope to do will be Dianna's dream car, a '70 'Cuda. We hope this dream comes true soon.