By 1968, the Dodge Dart had become an anomaly in the compact car market. While American Motors, Ford, and GM were trimming down the options based on dwindling consumer interest, the folks at Dodge were beefing up-and their efforts paid off. With four body options accompanied by a choice of six engines, the '68 Dart not only led in sales, but in power as well. With the new GTS model, Dart came in direct competition with the Nova SS, and took the crown when it came to true street performance with the never before seen 340.

Although the available 383 out-gunned the 340 in terms of displacement and horsepower, racers soon found that its heavy demeanor nearly canceled out the performance advantage. The 340, on the other hand, was light, spirited, and had more than enough spunk to dump the SS in the quarter-mile.

By the end of the '68 model year, Dodge sold 162,002 Darts. Of that number, 5,513 were 340 GTS two-door hardtops like the one pictured here.

This particular GTS was ordered from a Dodge dealership in Clewiston, Florida, in late 1967. The original owner titled it in March 1968, but due to a "conflict" occurring in a small country called Vietnam, the Dart was left behind. When the young man didn't return, the father titled it in his name and began driving the car himself. At this time, he welded a 1/2-inch-thick plate to the rear bumper for a hitch and used the car to pull a trailer around his yard to pick up sticks and such. The car spent most of its life in a garage until 1987, when it changed hands. This occurred several times over the next 11 years. Then in 1998, John Beyer of Lakeland, Florida, found it.

When John first saw the GTS, it was "complete and correct, but looked bad." It had been sitting in a garage for a little less than a decade and had received almost no attention in that time. Even though it only had 32,031 miles on the odometer and had all of the original parts, John didn't go through with the deal at first. It was too far gone.

John, however, couldn't get the GTS out of his mind, and a few months later he called to see if it was still for sale. It was. The asking price was still too much, so he made an offer. Two weeks later it was his. John knew he was in over his head with the restoration, but hey, it was an all-original '68 Dart GTS.

The '68 was John's first restoration, and it was 2 1/2 years before the project was completed. He says it took "a very patient wife, and a lot of sweat and tears" to complete the work, but he quickly adds, "All in all, I believe it was worth it."

Looking at the stunning GTS, we don't think anyone would disagree. Sporting the original shade of GG1 Forest Green paint, the Dart is an immediate treat to the eye. Under the hood, John kept the Dart somewhat stock, with the numbers-matching 340 engine sporting 10.5:1 pistons, 2.02 valves, Crane springs and lifters, a dual-point distributor, and an Edelbrock 600 cfm carb. Power transfers through the original four-speed to the 8 3/4 differential filled with a 3.23 geared Sure Grip. The Dart is well-suited riding on Rallye wheels with 205 70x14 tires up front and 235 60x14s out back. The interior also remains stock, with the exception of manual oil and tach instruments on the dash.

John uses the Dart mainly for weekend drives and shows. No word yet on whether he's put it up against any Nova SSs, but we're pretty sure what the outcome would be if he did. After all, this is the King of the Compacts.