Flashback: It was 1967, and at Dodge dealerships all across America, a press release from corporate headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, had just rolled across the desks of the general managers. It was a promotional pitch aimed toward sales of the new Hemi-powered Dart.
The press release began as follows: "Dodge is putting more zip in its Dart in hopes of hitting the bull's-eye in Class B Super Stock drag racing competition this year. The new vehicle, a lighter and quicker '68 Dart GTS hardtop, is featuring the Hemi-426 engine, with production to begin in March."
Some of the more prominent race car drivers of the day-Dick Landy, Gene Snow, Bill Flynn, and Shirley Shahan, among others-were touted as being part of the driving force. Confidence was high at Chrysler, as engineers stated optimistically that the '68 Hemi Dart would compete at "over 130 mph in less than 11 seconds" in the quarter-mile-not a frail statement from a corporate entity.
To keep the cost low, the Hemi came standard with cast-iron heads instead of aluminum. As one engineer explained, "For a thousand dollars less, the extra 70 pounds is not worth worrying about." The blocks were filled with 12.5:1 compression pistons, and fuel was ingested through a pair of Holley carburetors perched atop a lightweight magnesium intake. Special headers were utilized to help the Hemi breathe harder.
Weight was decreased through the use of fiberglass fenders and a hood with a scoop. Also, lightweight doors and side-window glass were employed. The business-coupe interior included only two bucket seats and a 135-amp battery mounted in the trunk. Heavy-duty rear shocks proved durable during initial testing at the Irwindale Dragstrip suspension-system tests.
What doesn't make sense is the press release's statement: "Front disc brakes with a 411/42-inch bolt circle provide added grip. The tires are 7.75x15--plenty to hold the rear end up and send the Dart on its way." Apparently, Chrysler realized a tire that small wouldn't send the Dart on its way, so larger rear tires were installed after the press release hit the dealerships. A heavy-duty radiator and seven-blade fan equipped with viscous drive helped keep the big Hemi cool on its short trips.
Other features included deep-groove pulleys, a high-capacity oil pump, and a roller timing chain that reduced stretch and allowed more consistent engine performance. A dual points-breaker distributor worked with a Prestolite transistorized ignition and dependable metal core wiring.