Bruce and Carmel Wilson's '72 Dart Swinger is one of those cars you just have to look at for a while. Immediately, you notice the body is smooth and seamless, but it takes a little longer to figure out why. You won't find the colors in any Dodge manuals, and you may not even guess them correctly upon first glance; it depends on the light. It is, indeed, exactly what Bruce wanted it to be: different.

Around 1989, the Wilsons were looking for a high school driver for their son, Keith. Bruce is a retired fire captain for the City of Sacramento, and two of his colleagues operated an auto shop on the side. One of them alerted Bruce to the '72 Dart owned by an elderly lady in town. He and his wife went out to see it and ended up putting down $1,000 to get the car. "There were 62,000 original miles on it," Bruce says. "It had a rack on the back for one of those mobilized carts, and big, nasty springs to handle the extra weight. When we were [test-driving] it, the lady turned to my wife and said, 'You're the first person who's ever ridden in the back seat.' "

Bruce removed the rack and substituted Mopar Performance SS springs. As it was, the Dart was in good enough shape, with a little tuning, to serve as Keith's ride throughout high school and college. But when he got himself into a Mazda MX3, he decided to give the keys to the old car back to his dad.

All the years of daily-driver duty left the Dart in need of a facelift. But what began as a simple sprucing up turned into a full-blown restoration. The exterior is two-tone green, with Toyota Light Forest Green over Ford Evergreen Frost. "I told [Carmel] what I wanted, and she picked out the colors," Bruce said. Both shades have a hint of gold flake in them, so the gold pinstripe that separates them was a natural, as was the choice for the interior color.

The new paint was not the only modification to the exterior. When the door handles came off for painting, Bruce decided they would stay that way. "I had solenoids put into the doors, so I can operate them with a remote key," he says. "But I do have a way of opening them if I ever lose my keys or lock them inside." Bruce also deleted the trunk keyhole and replaced the gas cap with a gas door off a Ford Probe. He dechromed the bumpers and welded over where the jack slots used to be. The mirrors and side markers were removed. Bruce also added a third brake light in the rear window. "The [third] brake light matches the shape of the window so well, some people ask if it's stock," Bruce says, laughing. "I wanted a smooth look, and I knew some things were going to have to come off [the car] if I was going to get it."

Bruce drove the Dart with the new interior and exterior for about six months before he decided it was time for the old 318 mill to hang it up. He was looking for a fuel-injected 360, but another friend at the fire department dropped a more interesting proposition in his lap. "His brother had passed away and was a big Mopar nut," Bruce says. "I ended up buying from him enough for a complete 440 plus parts."

A little while later, a complete 448ci engine showed up in the local paper for $3,500. "I told [Carmel] I couldn't build [the 440] for less than that," Bruce says. "So I bought that engine and sold off what I had." The block is bored .040 over, with TRW forged pistons that yield a compression ratio of 9.7:1. The cast 915 heads are pocket-ported and bowl-blended. Other features include an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake, 750 Carter carb, and a Mopar Performance electronic ignition. Bruce purchased the 727 automatic complete from Performance Transmission in Sacramento. There was just one thing left to do.