Basic transportation was the Dodge Dart’s forte, and the two-door Sport version promised a little bit more than that.
Government mandates for crashworthy bumpers and emissions controls were in full force, and keeping up with them required massive capital investments from all automakers. Meanwhile, the US economy was headed headlong into crippling stagflation.
Amid these unwelcoming conditions, there were still buyers who wanted practical wheels with a little extra style.
The Dart Sport was the platform for the Dart’s sportiest variant, the Dart 360 Sport. At 3,951 units, this performance flagship represented only 6% of the Dart Sport’s production total, which further pointed to the end of the muscle-car era.
In fact, the most popular Dart Sport spec included a Slant Six engine, in displacements measuring 198 or 225 cubic inches. Slant Sixes made up 63% of the Dart Sport’s production run. So while Dart Sport buyers were likely attracted by the styling, the majority of them still specified one of the Dart’s most economical hearts.
One of the more interesting aspects of junkyard cars is seeing the styling artifice degrade to show the unglamorous structure underneath. In this case, we see the sturdy box that framed the engine bay.
That ’70s bumper had the trendy center-V that was so trendy at the time, and that V needed extra-bulky rubber blocks to protect it.
The grille was a model of molded complexity, with an eggcrate pattern that seemed much more functional than fancy.
It’s likely that this Dart Sport’s rear panel was pushed in by whatever the yard’s caretakers used to pry open the trunk.
Modern rear panels are typically all-plastic, so the amount of metal in the Dart Sport’s bodywork really does seem to be from another time. It looks like the Dart Sport’s cousin, the Plymouth Duster, that was hit from behind in this “CHiPs Wrecks” post.
The laminated windshield also looks remarkably thick and bulky in its construction.
This Dart Sport’s interior was likely quite jaunty in its day, with red carpeting contrasting the beige surroundings.
Despite the Dart Sport’s basic nature, Dodge still managed to slip in as much fake wood as they could.
The Dart Sport’s wood trim on the panel sides is laughably fake, more like wallpaper than anything that came from a tree. Note the lighter portion to the rear, where the rear seat preserved the wood’s originally lighter hue.
This Dart Sport adjusted-for-2016 price of $14,071 sounds amazingly low, but there weren’t many standard features beyond the foot-operated windshield washers and wheel-lip moldings.
The Dart 360 Sport included the 360-cu.-in., two-barrel V8 hooked to a three-speed manual, along with power brakes, heavy-duty suspension and smaller items like bumper guards for an adjusted price of $16,232. That’s the one that strikes us as the screaming deal, and with so few produced, a minty Dart 360 Sport would likely command some major coin in today’s classic-car market.
Looking for a new or used Dodge Dart? Check out BestRide’s local search here.