Jumping into someone else's project car is a lot like digging for gold. Sometimes, with a lot of long hours, hard labor, nearly going broke and borderline crazy, you might strike it rich. Other times, you just end up with a big hole. Clifton Mills thought he had himself one of those big, worthless holes when nothing he did seemed to spark life back into a '71 Dodge Swinger that he had purchased from another Mopar enthusiast at the All-Chrysler Carlisle show some years ago.

Clifton described his Dart as a "real fifty-footer," meaning the pretty paint job and shiny rims blinded him from the reality of wavy door panels, warped quarters, butchered floorboards, and a rat's nest of electrical and mechanical gremlins. having had a long love affair with high-performance Mopars from his early twenties during the mid-'70s, Clifton's heart ruled over his head when he laid eyes on this Dart. Wanting to get his hands on a race-ready quarter-mile machine, he snatched up the Swinger at the meet and attempted to drive it home. Clifton's hopes for a freshly built 440 and reverse-manual, valvebodied transmission-powered, NHRA-certifiable street-legal Dart were dashed when belts began to fling themselves every which way, the radiator bubbled over countless times as the engine spat and sputtered, dying midway through the trip home. He finally limped the A-Body home, but that was the last trip it made under its own power. The Dart became a trailer rider, having to be hauled everywhere it needed to go.

Having a musclecar that runs spoils you. His Super Bee, which he owned since 1977, has been a testament to the stoutness of the Mopar mark-strong, reliable, and fast as a scalded alley cat. The Dart, on the other hand, was worse than an ornery child. Fed up with the Swinger, he put it up for sale. The car brought a few interested prospects, but after seeing the dry-rotted L-60s and Swiss-cheese panels, the prospects walked, and the Dart remained untouched by anyone for over a year.

With another push to try to offload the Dart, Clifton took the Swinger to a local shop ran by another Mopar fanatic for a routine brake change. While there, it was decided to also tie in the framerails if the car was ever to be raced. What was scheduled to be a simple two-week job swelled into two years and well over the quoted $300 estimate. But the Dart arose a different animal all together.