In the world of automotive restoration, it's common to find cars that have been beaten on and then restored back to their original glory. Cars that were once weekend warriors with acid-dipped fenders and hacked suspensions retire from their racing days to return to the street. Street cars that have been through the excruciating torment of the daily commute and grocery store parking lots find refuge in a collector. These cars are usually rich with history and stories, as well as their fair share of blemishes.
Keith Hare of Elkins, West Virginia, picked up this Medium Gold Metallic '68 Dart GTS in August 1967 for $500. The powerplant had been removed, but the body was all in place. He had set his sights on building a street stomper and sought a worthy engine to achieve tire-dissolving power, so a 440 was taken out of a wrecked '67 R/T and transplanted into the GTS. This proved to be a poor marriage once Keith hit the streets. He soon realized that more power doesn't always make things better. The GTS became an unruly animal on street tires. Rather than try and tame the beast, he opted to find an alternative power supply and chose a 340. This engine would serve the Dart well until 1981 when the Dart was put aside for a while.
Finally in 1986, Keith was able to turn his attention back to the Dodge. This time around, he was inspired by the recent restoration craze that had taken over. The previous owner had attempted a '70s hot-rodding look by hiking the rear with oversized tires and extended air shocks (bolstered with pipes). Eventually, this poorly rigged setup came crumbling down and took out the rear quarter-panels. The car then underwent a full restoration that included rechroming the bumpers, new quarters, and paint.
This time period also saw the rise of yet another 340 mill between the fenders. With the car looking good and a smooth running engine under the hood, Keith enjoyed the car until 1991 when disaster struck<0x2014>he hit an electrical pole after going airborne. The inner fender looked like an accordion and was part of the unibody.
It looked like the end of the road for this spirited hardtop. Keith was set to send the GTS to be stripped and sent off to meet the crusher, but he was talked out of it by his friend, a former body repair man. His friend insisted there was life left in the twisted frame of the Dart and worked his magic on the car and brought it back to its former glory.
With salvation at hand, the restoration process took full stride. Keith fully rebuilt the 340 and filled it with performance goodies. The stock rods were attached to Federal Mogul flat-top pistons, and he ported the X cylinder heads. A spicy cam was added to add some zest, while an Edelbrock intake and carburetor feed it a steady diet of fuel and air. This was evacuated from the engine with a set of ceramic-coated headers into a set of 2.25-inch turbo mufflers. The Chrysler 8.75-inch rear had a Sure Grip limited-slip differential installed to get power to both tires. The four-speed transmission was strengthened with a fresh Mopar clutch and a No. 3300 pressure plate.
The suspension was fully rebuilt, and stock drum brakes were retained up front and out back. All the white-on-black interior pieces were ordered from YearOne. Keith tracked down the original center console from the original owner's ex-mother-in-law.
After owning the car for over 30 years, Keith enjoys the beauty that he built. It had seen a hard road, but that only put more character into the GTS. It just goes to show that a $500 beater can have limitless potential.