The Darts were built on a 111-inch wheelbase, as opposed to the Valiant's 106 inches. Similar to the Dodge GT trim level, the top-of-the-line Valiant Signet was offered only as a two-door hardtop or convertible. Engine options matched that of the Dart for each model year, with the exception of the special D-Dart engine package. This generation marked the last time the A-Body platform was offered as a station wagon.

As the basis for performance cars, these A-Bodies lack the real estate to fit big-block engines and large slicks, but as all-around road cars they are nimble performers. Earlier cars were decidedly light duty in their chassis underpinnings, but by 1965 heavier duty suspensions, tires, shocks, and brakes became available. These Valiants and Darts remain largely overlooked by the mainstream Mopar fans.

What We Like: Nicely styled, largely overlooked. The Plymouth version had the smallest wheelbase available in an A-Body, at 106 inches.

What We Hate: The light-duty suspension, spindly brakes, and rear in the earlier cars; that push-button trannies went away for '65.

The Factory Dream Combo: D-Dart. Who else but Chrysler would sell you a drag- class car with the headers in the trunk?

Our "Build It" Dream Combo: Consider a Valiant Signet two-door hard top, High Impact color (InViolet?) over those beautifully understated lines. Radiused rear-wheel openings, fat Alloy Cragars all around, and a hot small-block (intercooled Vortec blown 360?) under the hood coupled to a Richmond six-gear. Finish the job with a complete autocross-style suspension and brake upgrades. High buck? Yes, but if we weren't stacked up with projects, we'd be building it ourselves.

Barracuda '64-'66The first generation Barracuda-a "glass back" coupe, derived from the Valiant by adapting a freshly styled roof, deck, rear window, and trim-hit the market in April 1964. The overall effect was a good-looking and unmistakably sporty car. Initially, Barracudas had no bite, sharing the Valiant's engine options. The 180hp 273 two-barrel was top dog in 1964. Things improved in 1965 with the Formula S package sporting a hot 235hp 273 and improved suspension and tires-all of which made for respectable performance in a sports compact. The Formula S was carried over for 1966, with the Barracuda given a mild styling change, most notably revised front sheetmetal. With the wagon-like wide-open cargo area, fold-down rear seat, and large rear glass, the early Barracuda was a nice car to be in.

What We Like: The Barracuda, like the '63-'66 Valiants, were the most compact of the A-Body cars, with a nimble 106-inch wheelbase. The more familiar you become with the glass-back fish, the more its unique looks grow on you.

What We Hate: The engine bay is too cramped to readily bolt in a big-block, but that would probably ruin the car anyway.

The Factory Dream Combo: A '65-'66 Formula S, 273 Commando-all the good chassis stuff that came with the package.

Our "Build It" Dream Combo: Take one Formula S, stock body and interior resto, four-wheel discs, five-speed, MiniLite wheels with modern rubber, rebuilt stock suspension with uprated sway bars front and rear. Build a high-winding short duration solid-cammed Edelbrock-head 318 or 340 and aim for the open road. We'll take ours in Spinnaker White with a stock-style over-the-roof rally stripe in blue.

Dart '67-'69Newly restyled for 1967, the Dart line retained its 111-inch wheelbase, but substantial changes were made to the basic platform. The front track was widened, making room in the engine bay for the model's first big-block powerplant. Dodge didn't hold back, offering the high-performance 383 engine for the first time in a factory A-Body. The two-door hardtop and convertible body styles were retained as GT offerings.