The saying goes, a smart man knows when he's outgunned. Many times, cars come into the hands of car enthusiasts, who are willing, but lack the appropriate know-how and bank book to really turn their dream into a reality. When Gary Lees picked up this '71 Dodge Dart Swinger, he knew it was going to take more than just himself, a good set of tools, and a whole lot of weekends to put it together in the way he wanted. That was when Gary started pulling strings, calling in favors, and pleading with family and friends to join him in bringing this Mopar to life.

Turning a "reasonably straight" Swinger into this street and strip contender would require more than Gary could offer. The car was dissembled earlier and given a full makeover by Trini, a long-time friend. He did all the welding repairs to the rockers, floors, and wherever else the little Dart required it. After the patchwork was completed, Trini treated the panels, spaced the gaps, and set the lines, and prepped it for paint. Coated in several layers of Lemon Chrome Yellow, the Swinger became its own airstrip landing light, nearly unapproachable in the mid-day sun. Trying to retain a little of the nostalgic stock appearance, Trini also applied a white bumblebee stripe around the rear quarters, as well as dual sport stripes down the length of the twin-scooped hood.

The interior received just enough modification to modernize it from original. The look remained the same with the original white vinyl bench seats, dash pad, and sporty white accents throughout the cab, broken with restored faux woodgrain trim. Full Auto Gauge instrumentation reads off the vital oil pressure, water temp, fuel, alternator, tachometer, and speed. A Mopar GT steering wheel bolted nicely into place, and a modern Pioneer head unit replaced the old eight-track unit.

Gary sent the small-block for some serious surgery to his father, Gary Sr., the owner of Duncan's Machine Shop in Riverside, California. The 318 was bored .030 over, line honed, decked, and balanced with a venerable package some would say too good for a measly 318. But do not be fooled, this little V-8 runs a complete TRW reciprocating assembly (sans crank), severely massaged 360 iron J-heads with all Crower parts, all topped by a Holley 750 double pumper. The transmission was outsourced to another friend at Reds Transmission where it received a Damco 1800 stall converter and a Transgo High Performance shift kit. A custom shortened and balanced driveshaft from Dan's Driveline was installed after old time friends, Carl and John, installed the running gear, having just finished the suspension refurbishing, replacing all the bushings with polyurethane pieces.

John also helped Gary rewire the entire car. initially, they only wanted to put the battery in the trunk to open up the engine compartment, but the final outcome was a completely customized wiring harness and setup tucked neatly away in the fenders and firewall, thus eliminating the tangled mess that a stock or even slightly modified harness can be in an engine compartment.

With ported, ceramic-coated stock manifolds and Dynomax mufflers, the exhaust note is reasonably calm until Gary puts his foot into it. The little Swinger then erupts in a blue haze of evaporated rubber, leaving their mark in the asphalt.

Gary and his wife, Bonnie, take the Dart to all the shows they can and love the attention the polished and shined A-Body draws. Gary is the first to admit if it weren't for several pairs of hands working together, this Dodge Swinger never would have turned out the way it has.