Black is sometimes thought of as the worst color for an old car, not because the color doesn't look good (which is anything but the truth, as black musclecars look more intimidating than a 6'4", 300-pound, tattooed bouncer with a shaved head), but because it's a bear to deal with. Black shows every imperfection in the body, every ripple, wave, and blemish left during preparation. It shows every sandpaper scratch mark, every swirl, and every heavy pass made with the paint gun. Black needs to be clear-coated several times to keep that rich, mile-deep look. It doesn't hide dust and dirt, and is the toughest judged color at car shows. But since black is one of the best-looking colors applicable to a classic Mopar, it's worth all the effort. George Cayea of West Palm Beach, Florida, has a beautiful black Dart GTS and all the labor, effort, and time dedicated to making it perfect before the inky hue was applied truly shows.
Amid the frenzy of competitive big-inch engines, the LA 340 snuck behind the velvet ropes and took most of its heftier brethren by surprise. High-revving and torquey, the 340 proved to be one of the most providential power combinations in the late '60s and early '70s. There was no beating the near 300hp output of the small-block in a lightweight, compact platform. And best of all, you couldn't beat the price. Super Bees and Road Runners were low-buck econo-racers, but it was the Barracudas and Darts that owned the streets. Many hardcore enthusiasts knew the heavier street Hemis couldn't jump to a sprint like the small-blocks, requiring far more revolutions to effectively utilize their superior chamber design than the factory 2,200-stall converters or stock clutches could dish out. The larger cubic-inch 440s fared better at the stoplights and drive-in parking lots, but their near 4,000-pound bodies weighed them down while nimble A-Bodies zipped past.
Before it was ever dressed in PPG Concept single-stage black, this particular GTS rolled off the factory floor in R6 Red with a black tail stripe and interior, which made for a striking combination rolling down the neighborhood streets.
This is no mere restored LA 340 small-block. This potent powerplant offers more punch than
It would take several decades before the Dart wound up in the hands of Jeff, a coworker of George's. Jeff commenced to restore the car, but met with financial troubles; he was forced to sell the GTS to his brother-in-law, Kevin Sparks. Kevin, a rabid Mopar fanatic, relished the deal and picked up where Jeff had left off in 2001. Unfortunately, due to a persistent personal illness, Kevin wouldn't have the Dart long and eventually sold it to George. George took the car to Richard Romanelli, who was hired to tackle the complete restoration of the A-Body.
It wasn't until Richard stripped the Dart down to the bare metal did the brunt of the job reveal itself. Extensive metalwork was required to return the Dart back to factory specifications. It was during this process the decision to recoat the Dart in black, rather than its original red, was made. Knowing the difficulty of making black look right, extra effort was exuded into making the Dart's body perfect.
During this process, George contacted both Jeff and Kevin, along with a mutual friend, Rick Wheelihan, to help rebuild the drivetrain. George wanted to get as much power as he could out of the little 340 without turning it into a full-blown race plant. The block was bored .060-inch over and filled with 10.75:1 compression TRW pistons. A Crane hydraulic cam with .528-inch of lift was slid into place, while the newly ported and polished factory iron heads were fitted with Ferrea valves, Crane springs, and Harland Sharp roller rockers. A Mopar Performance M1 intake tops the small-block with an Edelbrock 750 carburetor. Big tti headers run the gases through Dynomax mufflers and finally through 211/42-inch tubes.
Photographer Jarrod Pilone took some creative liberties with his "fish eye" lens. The resu
George contacted Doug's Transmissions of West Palm Beach, Florida, to build the TorqueFlite using a Turbo Action 2,800-rpm stall converter with a Turbo Action shift kit. George ramped up the performance profile with stout 3.91 gears bolted to a Sure Grip spinning the stock 831/44 axles. The guys also felt the Dart could do with some added suspension upgrades and opted to update the suspension bushings with polyurethane pieces, Addco front and rear sway bars, and new Chrysler heavy-duty leaf springs. A Flaming River manual steering box was bolted-on, controlling the direction that the Magnum 500s wrapped in BFG rubber turn. George says that all the "upgrades" they gave the Dart are fully reversible, allowing the GTS to return back to stock trim with little effort. But it wasn't until a Gear Vendors' under/overdrive was bolted to the cone of the 727 did the Dart take on a totally new personality. Not only could it handle, accelerate, and snap around the corners, it could cruise with the best of them on the highways without pinning the tachometer.
After Richard painted the GTS with the PPG single-stage black paint, he proceeded to lay down the black Year One carpet, replace the vinyl seat covers, and install a black headliner. He kept the factory steering wheel and AM radio, along with the original console and shifter, adhering to George's request to keep the GTS as close to stock appearing as possible.
It was Richard's suggestion to apply a black tail stripe around the quarters. The black-on-black combination is subtle, yet impressive, and makes for a nice detail.