When you look at Neil Jenks' Dart, you see more than a mere car. What you see is the physical manifestation of what then-13-year-old Neil saw in his mind's eye when he first saved this '67 Dodge from a junkyard back in 1992 for $425. Family friend Jean Hertog found the car and brought it to Neil's attention, but Neil concedes that a Dart GT was not his first choice. His dream car was a '67 Barracuda fastback with a 273 Commando and a four-speed; still, the price on the Dodge was right. Working with his father, Dan, and with help from good friends, the once-discarded Dart that came into their possession as they returned from the Mopar Atlantic Nationals in New Jersey that year has been transformed into the fine ride you see here.
Though in the boneyard and showing some wear for its 100,000-plus miles, the car was far from worthless. The first step in the process of going from trash to treasure was to remove the interior and keep those pieces that would be reused. The stock black vinyl interior is original except for the carpet, repairs to the driver's seat, some upgraded dash pieces, and a buddy seat from a '67 Polara for comfort. The original console shift was replaced using all of the original brackets and hardware from a donor car, and a Hurst Competition Plus shifter now operates an A-833 four-speed transmission, which took over the shifting duties of the original automatic. With the interior completed to Neil's liking and Dan's approval, it was time to focus on the bodywork. Because of typical Northeast rust, new quarter-panels were ordered from Auto Body Specialties and, after removing the originals, the duo discovered areas that needed similar attention. The rear crossmember was rotted in half, and a hand-fabricated part replaced that since reproductions were not available. Once all the sheetmetal was installed, an all-night bodywork festival of cleaning up the other imperfections on the body ensued, and the car was then ready for the Cayman Blue polyurethane paint, which was applied by the Jenks as well.
While the bodywork was underway, the chassis and drivetrain were also undergoing a transfusion. The stock Slant Six was a rare one; it had blown up! In its place went a '84 318 truck motor, which carries the stock stroke and bore with cast pistons, giving an 8.7:1 compression ratio. The short-block is covered with a set of '77 318 heads, an iron intake from a '71 340, and a fat 800 cfm Carter ThermoQuad carb. To make sure all the fuel gets burned properly, Neil and his dad installed a Chrysler electronic ignition, and exhaust work is accomplished via a set of 151/48-inch Jet Hot-coated Dynomax headers with 3-inch collectors. That exhaust is then routed through a pair of 3-inch Flowmaster mufflers and 211/42-inch exhaust tailpipes. As mentioned, the stock 904 was replaced by a '64 Valiant A-833 that Neil and Dan upgraded to a slip-tail, while out back, power is routed to the back wheels using an 831/44 rear equipped with 3.23:1 gearing.
To make sure this Dart rides and handles like a gem, the front chassis was rebuilt with '71 340 Duster pieces, plus new PST polyurethane bushings and power steering. In the back, the SureGrip rear now is suspended by Super Stock-type spring packs. The rolling stock this Dart rides on is another tribute to how much Neil was determined to "work" for what he wanted. Since he was in high school as the process continued, he lacked the funds necessary to buy the 14x6 Rallye rims for the car, but he did have a little red wagon and ambition. If you've ever been to a large swap meet, you've seen some young guys who carry your just-bought hard parts to your vehicle for a small fee. That's how Neil got his rims. He made enough money carrying other peoples' parts to finally carry his own home! Once he had the rims, he applied Dunlop GT Radials, 205/70-R14 in the front and 215/70-R14 in the rear.
He admits there was no way he could have done it all on his own. Mike Oliver supplied much of the critical manual-transmission conversion equipment; his parents and brother Nathan gave up time, effort, and driveway space for the five-year project; and a big group of friends helped as needed. Neil, a Christian, is thankful for how God helped him persevere in getting the project done, despite the size of the job and a lack of resources.
Now 22, working at DaimlerChrysler, and married, Neil has since found the 'Cuda that he always wanted, but says the Dart is still his favorite and he doesn't plan to sell either one. Indeed, since this high school project has been completed, the Dart has won several First and Second place awards, one of them at Chryslers at Carlisle in 1998, and a Best of Class award. That is a perfect example of what can happen when one man finds his treasure, no matter where.
Neil Jenks' Dart GT was shown in the October 1998 Reader's Rides issue of Mopar Muscle prior to its reconstruction.