Curb appeal. You've either got it or you don't. What does it take? That depends. A set of black steel wheels on a Six Pack Bee has it in droves. On the other hand, black wheels without caps on an Aspen look like you're slummin'. Mother Mopar was hip to curb appeal. Scoops and styled hoods, rallye or stylized steel wheels, stripes and decals ranging from the subtle to absolutely wild, flip-top fuel fillers, exhaust tips, hood pins, wings, and the list goes on; it was all there to convey the message of power. These were the things that outwardly separated the plain-Jane Darts, Coronets, and Satellites from the heavy hitters and visually backed up the power lurking within. Hey, if you've got it, why not flaunt it?

My '69 Dart Custom, with its bread-and-butter status within the Dart line, came with none of those factory appearance goodies. While the Swingers and GTSs had the stylized performance hoods, tail stripes, and optional wheel packages, this Dart was nothing but an average transportation car in its day. It had performance and chassis upgrades from stem to stern, but still looked like the regular old Dodge Dart your schoolteacher used to drive. There were the 15x7-inch cop wheels and the large OE-style dual exhaust tips, but to the average observer the suggestion of performance was lost. Want proof? As I waited in the crowd at the valet station at the end of last year's SEMA show, the Dart loped up with its distinctive cam-and-headers sound, trailing a procession of late-model rentals and SUVs. Tossing my bag into the trunk, I overheard, "Is that a six-cylinder?"

While the sleeper look has its rewards, it was time for a change. A clone of a GTS or a Swinger would work, but since this Dart would never be the real thing, we decided to take a mild custom approach to upgrading the appearance. Borrowing from both the factory themes and the drag racing style of yesterday, our plan wasn't overly ambitious: just a few changes for achieving the traditional modified musclecar look. A fresh 'glass Six Pack hood from AAR Fiberglass, a GTS tail stripe from Performance Car Graphics, the new vintage-drag style "Cruzer" wheel from Wheel Vintiques, and a flip-up gas cap from a '67 Barracuda would give us a little respect. Drop us a line and tell us what you think.

Most musclecar fans seem fixated on stuffing as large a tire into the wheelwell as possible, and why not? Mopar musclecars are big and brawny, and look so right with serious meats tucking underneath. One of the trickiest parts of ordering a new wheel and tire combo is judging how much tire can be run before clearance problems spoil the fun. It isn't easy to know for sure without trying the tires and wheels for fit-something some custom wheel shops are willing to do to make a sale. On the other hand, if your new wheels are coming to the door via that nice man in the big brown van, you're on your own as far as determining the fit. One way is to look around at combos others are running on identical cars and follow their lead. Sometimes the only alternative is to break out the jackstands, crawl under the car, and do some guesstimating.