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!

With the car's shell primed and smoothed to perfection, it was time to lay down some paint. My friends suggested the more popular High Impact Mopar colors, but I figure if you're going to "build the ultimate Dart" you've got to go with Petty Blue. After spraying the car (and most of my parents' garage) with multiple layers of single-stage Sikkins Urethane, I turned the car over to the professionals at John's Body Shop in Yonkers, New York, for a final coat, wet-sanding, and buffing. Hey Dad, sorry about all the overspray in the garage. Now the old man mows the lawn on a Petty Blue Toro!

With the body looking sweet, we focused our efforts on the nonexistent interior. New seat covers, headliner, and a rug from Year One were ordered and installed. The Rallye dash and console were hooked up along with a salvage-yard dashpad and door panels that I dyed to match. Even the vintage Suntach was a junkyard gem. I knew the stock radio was not going to cut it, so I installed an aftermarket CD player, amp, and speakers. (Sorry purists . . . I just can't listen to AM radio!) But the crowning touch has to be the restored Rim-Blo steering wheel that I glommed from my brother's 'Cuda project when he wasn't looking.

(glommed: (glah'md) v. 1. New York slang. 2. To acquire without permission or formal payment. 3. See "stole")

With the car being all show and no go, a clean 340 block was honed and filled with a forged crank, stock rods, TRW 10.5:1 pistons, and a mild .441-inch lift cam. A rebuilt set of "J" heads, an Edelbrock LD340 intake, and a Carter 625 carb round out this streetable mill. Spent gases enter stock manifolds and exit through stainless exhaust tips in back. The original 727 TorqueFlite was treated to a manual valve body and 3,000-stall converter. An 831/44 rear filled with a Sure Grip and 3.23 gears twist the axles. A set of BFGoodrich Radial T/As on 14-inch Ralley wheels put the power to the pavement.

I'm proud on cruise nights to tell people I only have $1,000 under the hood. And with the car's total budget coming in at just under $9,000, it goes to show that you don't need a fat wallet to make your Mopar dream ride come true.

Danny and I never lost sight of the vision, and more importantly, he never gave up on his personal quest to make my addiction to Mopar as strong as his. Thanks for all your help, Dan. After three years of hard work, it's a great feeling to jump in the car, stomp the pedal, and tear up the streets of Wappingers Falls, New York. Let me add that future plans do not call for trailers and trophies . . . I drive it every day!

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