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.

"I didn't trust the old gauges with the new engine, so I gutted them out," Bruce says. "The temperature [gauge] was erratic, and the gas was not right." He measured a piece of sheetmetal, marked where the gauges should go, and took it to a friend, who cut the holes and welded studs that allowed Bruce to bolt his new Auto Meter gauges right in. For the wiring, he turned to Gary Anderson, a street-lighting foreman for the city, who also performed the wiring on Carmel's '55 Chevy. "I knew engines pretty well, but I needed help with the other things," Bruce says. "Joe Chivaro helped with mechanical advice and some hand welding, and Dave O'Conner is a wizard with fabrication."

While the Dart is not a daily driver anymore, it does see plenty of street duty, and the Wilsons don't even own a trailer. "I try to work on the car in the spring, and usually, from around April through November, we have good weather here," says Bruce, who now lives in Elk Grove, just outside Sacramento. "Now that I'm retired, I structure my days differently." What could be better for a different kind of lifestyle than a car that is truly different?

Love Is In Her Eyes
The colors on this Dart are from the imagination of Carmel Wilson, Bruce's wife. "She has got the eye," Bruce says. "When she picked out two-tone blue [Toyota] colors for her '55 Chevy, I was not sold on it at all. But it turned out great."

Carmel says, "I saw the blue on a Toyota truck and gold/beige on a Camry, and I thought the two would go well together [on the Chevy]. I showed them to [Bruce] and he said, 'Yeah, right.' The painters weren't even sure they wanted to paint the car. But as soon as it was finished, they asked if they could buy it from me."

When Bruce saw a dark-over-light, two-tone Nova, he knew that's what he wanted for the Dart, and the Wilsons went to a new car lot to scope out colors. They knew they wanted green, and Carmel picked the Toyota-over-Ford combination. Bruce was still unsure.

"He always gives me his 'I don't know if that will work,' " Carmel says.

"I just couldn't see it," Bruce added.

But when he did see the finished product on the Dart body, he loved it.

"Men just aren't as good at color coordination as women," Carmel says. "I can pick out a blouse at the store, and I know whether it matches a pair of slacks I have at home without having to have them in front of me. Once, when we were driving, I pointed out our [Ford green] color on a Nissan van. Bruce said, 'That's not our color-it's on a Nissan.' But I insisted it was. When we went to pick up some [touch-up paint], we asked for the Ford color, and the man said, 'It's a Ford color, but you'll see it on Nissans, too.' "

Carmel believes if a car is not being restored to pure-stock specs, contemporary colors are the way to go. "There are a lot of nice-looking colors out there on new cars," she says. "Just pick one you like. We drive our cars, and with newer paint, you don't have to worry about being able to find the exact color. Touch-ups are easy. Both [the Chevy and the Dart] have been painted several times, and we will continue to paint them, so we need something replaceable."

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