Let's be honest. Most of us are collectors. We like to locate and amass together examples of certain sets or types of items, be it years of magazines, car parts, baseball cards-whatever. Mopar collector extraordinaire Steve Juliano of New York has used Indiana Jones-type detective work to seek out what are unquestionably the greatest Mopars on the planet. While he has a handful of production models, most of Juliano's cars are one-of-one prototypes, built by Chrysler as concept machines during the heyday of the supercar era.
Shown here is one of the most radical of these factory one-offs, an A-Body machine called the Daroo I. According to Juliano's extensive research on this particular Dodge, the car was created for display at major car shows during the '68 and '69 seasons, with Dodge's chief stylist, Bill Brownlie, laying the groundwork for its construction. The actual work was performed under contract to Chrysler by George Barris of North Hollywood, California, whose shop was considered one of the trendsetters in automotive modifications.
"We wanted to convey the feeling of a real dart in motion, even while the car was standing still," stated Brownlie in a formal press kit from the '68 season. "The intent was also to give a tough performance image compatible to the style concept."
Daroo I began life as a red '67 Dart GT convertible, one of the few built that year with the 383 Magnum for power. The engine was left unmodified, as was the stock 111-inch wheelbase. However, Barris added a 17-inch nose extension to the body and removed 10 inches from the rear for a new, overall length of 202 inches. The convertible top was removed, a lowered windshield was added, and the body's beltline was redesigned, giving the car an overall height of 42 inches. Suspension changes were limited to cutting the leaf springs at the axle and mounting a single coil above the 831/44 axle housing.
A V-configured body massaging that runs from the new nose of the car all the way to the rear spoiler was added to this package, blending the elements together to realize the pointed vision Brownlie had. Hidden headlights and carefully blended roadlights keep the nose of the car clean, while the windshield features deep tinting. Inside, the custom interior not only features functional gauges that are directed toward the driver, but also specially designed seats and other touches.
Of course, it didn't come completely together until deep coats of candy apple lacquer paints were applied, leaving Barris Kustom City in deep orange with black accents. The finished product featured a set of nonfunctional longhorn injectors and side pipes for show-floor savvy. The car began touring the major show circuit as part of the new-for-'68 Dodge Scat Pack.
The following year, another Daroo showed up-or did it? Actually, no. While there was a Daroo II (see the sidebar The Ugly Sister), the original Daroo received some changes for the '69 season. Chrysler repainted the car using candy apple green paint with gold accents, and the longhorn injectors were transformed into shorter, more realistic straight stacks. The car then resumed its tour. Mileage was very limited, since the car was only put on the show floor. Once the car retired from the show circuit, it was placed in storage until it was sold off by the company.
The car was in obscurity until Juliano and his pursuit of the most amazing Mopars on the planet happened upon it. The person who had bought the car from Chrysler still had it, and Juliano tells in his own words how he ended up owning it.
"By 1996 I had already found the three RTS show cars and the topless Supercharger. The Diamante (featured in Mopar Muscle last year) and the Swinger hadn't turned up yet, but while looking through my original auto show photo collection from 1968 and 1969, I saw an orange Daroo I from 1968 and a green Daroo I from 1969. I was confused until I obtained the press kits from the show circuit and discovered they were one and the same.