My family and I found the car one day while looking through an auto "for sale" paper. It was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, approximately two hours from our home. The guy we bought the car from had two '68 GTS 383 four-speed Darts for sale. One had undergone a restoration, but the one we settled on needed a little love. The car we chose was a decent driver, sitting in a pole barn with faded black paint and the vinyl top removed. The body had the typical surface rust, and the rear quarters needed replacing. The interior was complete but needed some help.
I drove the car home, and it sounded good with the 509 purple shaft cam, headers, Torker intake, and Holley 750 carb. I drove the car a couple times before we decided the restoration should begin. We chose to do a stock restoration as close to original as our wallets would allow. The body was relieved of everything that bolted on, and the stripped shell went to Rick Dennis at Rick's Custom Automotive Refinishing and Body. The old quarters were cut out and new ones welded on. The driver-side floor pan needed to be replaced, as well. The rest of the car was in decent shape, except for small amounts of rust and bumps and bruises that accumulated throughout the years. Rick used Dupont Chroma-Base paint and urethane clearcoat. Gary Galloway at Galloway Trim and Upholstery in Kokomo, Indiana then installed the new black vinyl top and carpeting as well as the new headliner.
When we started on the engine, we ran into a typical situation: The engine wasn't as fresh as I was told. We ended up doing a complete engine overhaul. Randy Lowe at Lowe's Speed Shop in Kokomo did all the machine work. After tearing the engine apart, we found out the cylinders needed a little cleaning up. Randy bored the block .030 over and filled the fresh holes with new .030-over pistons. The rods were reconditioned, and the crank was cleaned and polished. The heads were cleaned, Magna-fluxed, and given a three-angle valve job. The rotating assembly was also balanced. After that, the engine went to Tedlock Engines, also in Kokomo, for assembly. I chose a camshaft from Hughes Engines that was pretty close to original, and put a new Carter carb under the pie-pan air cleaner.
The 3:55 Sure Grip rear looked to be in good shape, but I replaced all the bearings to be safe. Now it was time to focus on the four-speed. I had never even seen the inside of a four-speed tranny before, so this was left to Roger Blankenbeckler at Blankenbeckler Brothers Garage in Veedersburg, Indiana. Roger went through the box, replacing all the bearings and any part that looked suspicious. Then a coat of Eastwood Detail Grey paint was applied.
The frontend was rebuilt using all polyurethane replacement parts from PST, and the brakes and hardware were replaced on all four corners. While this was being done, Damean at Metal Finishing in Indianapolis was putting the shine on all the chrome, including the bumpers, shifter, taillight bezels, console-mounted tach, valve covers, and any other pieces I could find. Chrome work appears to be another art that is taken for granted.
During this process, I needed the rare '68 trunk finish panel-the final piece to go on the GTS. The one that came with the car was unable to be restored, so I purchased two more. Finally, the third panel looked good enough to be restored. It was given to Special T's Unlimited Mopar Restoration, in Chicago, where Bill Petrow did a beautiful job.
Joe Miranda, a resident of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, also has a '68 GTS 383 four-speed. I met Joe on the Internet, and he helped me with parts, actually giving me several leftover items from his project. I bought parts from several states and even found rear wheel moldings in Hawaii. When I restored the car, the rear wheel moldings were not available as reproduced pieces.
The GTS rolls on Michelin whitewall tires, but I dyed the whitewalls red to give them the look of redline tires. Steel wheels painted gray support the tires, and dog-dish hubcaps finish the look.
When the car came home from the paint shop, it was time to put the silver GTS back together. Kelly Tedlock started by installing the fresh 383 and the four-speed. After hooking up the engine, the car was taken to Fas-Lube Underbody in Kokomo, where the correct-style exhaust was bent and installed. After three years of hard work, a lot of money, and a lot of luck, it sounded good.
This has been a major challenge, but the rewards have been tenfold. It was nice being at the Nats for a second year, having people see the car, remembering it from the year before, telling me they've been looking for me. I've also had guys tell me they went home and searched for a GTS to restore after falling in love with ours.
The GTS has been a great car for us. I have no intentions of selling it. My wife and son both enjoy it as much as I do.