Young Guns
After my first car, a '66 Slant Six Dart, was finally put to rest in the spring of 1999, I set out to find an A-Body with a little more attitude. Soon, I came across a '70 Dodge Dart for sale in the local newspaper and figured I would have a look. At first glance it was obvious the car needed major restification. It had a blown motor, no interior, and was four different colors, rust being the prominent hue. There was no denying the car was one filthy animal! But with a $500 price tag, it had what I was looking for-potential.

My initial plan was to get the car roadworthy and use it for daily transportation while attending college. I figured I'd get it running, slap on a $200 paint job, and install some heavy-duty rear springs so I could haul kegs to the frat house on Saturday night. But as time went on, I began to bond with the Swinger. I would stare at it for hours and try to picture what it could be. Actually, I never told anyone this before, but sometimes, late at night, I could hear the car calling out to me, "Build the ultimate Dart!" So, to appease the voices in my head, I set out on a quest for every part necessary to fulfill the vision.

While most guys my age build cars with dad's credit card, I did it the old fashioned way-digging through piles of junk. I wanted to load the car with every desirable option available on a '70 Swinger 340. With a limited budget, I scavenged parts from every salvage yard in the Northeast. Luckily, with the abundance of A-Bodies awaiting the crusher, I got my hands on most of the parts I needed for next to nothing. I pulled glass and trim from Darts, assorted interior pieces from Valiants, and a complete, ice-cold A/C system from a wrecked Demon.

The rest of the missing parts were gathered from Mopar swap meets over the last few years. With a little patience and a lot of haggling, I found plenty of bargains: $80 for an air-cleaner assembly; $75 for a complete Rallye dash; bucket seats for 50 big ones; and a $25 console. If you can believe this, I even scored a mint set of front marker lights from a 400-pound swap-meet vendor at the Atlantic Nationals in Englishtown, New Jersey (you know who you are) for the lofty sum of one large Coke! It was 95 degrees out that day and the man was sweating like Mike Tyson in a spelling bee!

Now, with more of the car in the spare bedroom than in the driveway, I realized I needed serious help. I turned to my older brother Dan, an ace mechanic and Mopar fanatic. With several of his own cars in various stages of restoration (including a '66 Hemi Charger, a '69 Barracuda Formula "S" convertible, and a '71 'Cuda 340 four-speed with a Shaker hood), he was eager to show me how to do the job right. Thanks Dan!

The first step was to straighten out the body, which certainly proved to be the most difficult and time-consuming task. The car required extensive metalwork in the lower quarter and rocker areas, so we cut out the rust and welded in hand-fabricated patch panels to fill the voids. Many late nights were spent sanding, aligning, and adjusting the body panels to get the Dart's sharp lines arrow straight. I was ready to quit on several frustrating occasions, but with my mother constantly encouraging us to "finish that thing already" the show went on. Love you Mom!