In 1968, Dodge put musclecar styling to the forefront with the introduction of the Dart GTS. The GTS Dart shared the up-market interior and appointments of the GT, but emphasized a performance image like never before in an A-Body. With the distinctive bumblebee tail-stripe treatment, stylized power bulge hood, fat exhaust tips, and most importantly a hot 340 or 383 engine under the hood, there was no questioning the intention. The fabulous 340 powerplant was a new engine for '68, and output with the 383 big-block was upgraded from the previous year's 280 hp to 300. The '68 was fat city for Dart performance-the capper being the unleashing of a select few Hurst-built 426 Hemi-equipped Dart SuperStock drag cars. Never before or since has a more brutal package been greenlighted by an automaker.
The '69 model year brought a minor grille restyling, and detail changes such as the round sidemarker lamps were replaced by rectangular reflectors. Engine choices for '69 were expanded to include a limited number of 440 Darts, and the 383 was again uprated in output to 330 hp. The big news was the introduction of the lower-cost Dart Swinger-a sporty version of the Dart which was more Spartanly appointed than the GT or GTS, but packing the stout 340 drivetrain. While the Swingers and GTS models stole the show, any of the Dart hardtops shared the same sheetmetal and squared-off good looks, and serve equally well if a performance build is the objective.
What We Like: The classic slab-sided squared-off Mopar musclecar styling of the '60s with that trademark Mopar hardtop roofline. A mini Super Bee or Road Runner, if you will.
What We Hate: The low-line cars used to be a dime a dozen for builders not so many years ago. Now finding a deal on even a Slant Six example takes some searching.
The Factory Dream Combo: We'll take a '68 Hurst Hemi car, in out-the-door partial primer, as the cars were originally delivered. For the street, a '69 GTS ragtop with a 340 and an 833 stick. Definitely one of Chrysler's A-Bodies worth coveting.
Our "Build It" Dream Combo: Take one mint survivor 270 Dart for $700, add uprated springs and torsion bars, factory 12-inch Cordoba discs and 11x211/42-inch drums, a 477hp solid-cammed 340 churning an overdrive 833 stick, then bolt-in custom sway bars all around. Customize it with a GTS stripe, Six-Pack glass hood, and flip-top fuel cap. Add Halibrand-style wheels with fat rubber all around, and back it up with 125 hp worth of nitrous for a hair over 600 ponies-then drive the wheels off it. Oh, we've already done this one.
Valiant '67-'69An often-overlooked body type, the Plymouth Valiant for 1967-'69 was overshadowed by the Barracuda. Available only in two- or four-door sedan body types, the Valiants were conservatively styled and neglected as performance cars. In 1967, the 273 V8 could be purchased-sold as a separate series, though, not as an option. For '68 the 318-2V became available as the top Valiant engine, and powerplant choices were unchanged for the mildly restyled '69 models.
The Valiants were never more than utilitarian low-line economy sedans. With no frills and minimal appointments, the Valiant sedans were popular as fleet service vehicles where low-cost, economical operation and reliability were the chief concerns. The sedan body style is arguably more rigid than its hardtop counterpart, and the stripped-down lightweight A-Bodies make a sound basis for a modified build.
What We Like: Lightweight, overlooked, and different with a sleeper look, but capable of accepting any of the performance hardware that make the more showy A-Bodies perform.
What We Hate: The idea that some Mopar guys will always see a Valiant sedan as a low-line grocery getter.
The Factory Dream Combo: Any of the V8 cars, if only because it already has the engine mounts.