Category Archives: Dodge Dart

Catching up with Great Autos of Yesteryear’s Casual Concours

We’ve made a point out of not covering car shows or auctions.. cars in that circumstance are curated and not feral as we choose to define the term. Our focus is veteran cars of note found alive in the wild.  Nonetheless, we felt a tip of the Feral Cars kufi, fedora, boater, derby, skid lid, etc. was in order for Great Autos of Yesteryear’s tenth annual Palm Springs Casual Concours.  Great cars, fun people and for a very worthy cause (Sanctuary Palm Springs providing teens in foster care an environment of health and kindness) so we figured it would be OK to break format and display some of the “goods.”

Palm Springs has long been a haven for old cars and their owners. The traffic, for Southern California, is bearable and the weather – except in the oppressively hot summer – is tepid, conducive to round-the-clock top-down motoring. The Desert Princess Resort there was where Great Autos of Yesteryear, the largest LBGT car club on the west coast and with that acronym there’s nothing not “out” about this group of enthusiasts.  Casual Concours is the unofficial start of the Palm Springs “season” that runs through May; it took place back in October so apologies for not posting this earlier. Dubbed “the desert’s most fabulous midcentury car show,” Casual Concours is, in fact and indisputably, fabulous. It’s a truly brilliant showcase for the owners and their cars, running the gamut from full boat luxury to quirky JDM curios. We had a chance to peruse the cars, schmooze with their owners and, as the Flintstones theme intones, “have a gay old time” while celebrating automotive diversity.

Some of the highlights..

“Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it..
No one wants to be defeated..”

Scott King and Sandy Edelstein’s 1991 Honda Beat won in the Best Foreign Open category. It’s a Japan domestic market Kei-class (under 650 cc) mid-engine roadster that bears the slogan “MIDSHIP AMUSEMENT” on its rear flanks. Isn’t that what happens when an aircraft carrier docks in Yokohama? One can’t really grasp how tiny it is in a photo but suffice it to note that it weights just 1,675 lbs.

Orange you glad to see this?

Accessories (and we don’t mean the J.C. Whitney kind or a string of pearls) are always in evidence at the Casual Concours: the owner of this ’73 Volvo P1800 found a set of period Samsonite luggage matching the color of his shooting brake from Gothenburg. The Porsche 356A sports a hat box mounted on a luggage rack over the boxer motor. Hatbox, boxer: get it?

Air cooled hat box

There’s a Rolls-only class at the Concours and, wouldn’t you just know it, the Best of Show was one of those selfsame Rollers. It’s Bill Stewart and Joe Gyori’s 1965 Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe by Mulliner Park Ward. It’s just one of 101 built of which 52 were left hand drive. The presence this car has is astounding, even in a field of astounding cars. David Hemmings drove one to all kinds of rich hippie psychedelic mischief in the film Blow Up, some RR-oriented highlights of which are here.

Dennis Duca and Dean Peck’s ’75 “Hang Ten” Dodge Dart (don’t you dare call it a Duster) took top honors in the 1970 – 1979 Closed Car category. Yes, the shorty surfboard came with the Hang Ten trim option. No one is quite sure how many were sold over just two model years but it’s a safe bet most were wiped out by the crusher.

It’s not clear what the story is behind the bloody “Jerry Mahoney” ventriloquist dummy resting in the back seat of a 1957 Ford DelRio, FoMoCo’s too little/too late response to Chevy’s Nomad. Actually, we don’t really want to know that story but can assure you that the jaunty green and white two-door wagon is otherwise non-creepy.

Brick, the little dog who put the “boss” in Boston Terrier, seemed enamored of this fantastic 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire done up for a mid-century camping trip. The fact that the rear portion of the roof slides forward so one can transport a refrigerator upright seems not to have affected its eligibility as it went on win in the 1960-1964 closed category.

Doggone clever idea from South Bend

Here’s a clip of a commercial highlighting the Wagonaire from the Studebaker-sponsored Mr. Ed TV series.  Yes, Studebaker spent the first part of the 20th century trying to disassociate itself from the equine realms in light of its history as American’s preeminent builder of horse-drawn vehicles. Towards the end of its corporate existence, Studebaker made it possible for a horse to come into your living room. Go figure.

Wood is good! There is always a fair representation of wood-sided (real and otherwise) station wagons at Casual Concours and the winner in the 1980 – 1995 category — open to any car built during those peak malaise years — was, in fact, a woody. It’s a 1980 Chrysler Le Baron Town & Country with glorious fake wire wheels and tufted upholstery that would be the envy of Little Miss Muffett.

Timber!!

The plate on this 1952 Packard 400 Patrician reads SDNFEAR, an homage to the woman-in-distress film noir classic that starred Joan Crawford and Jack Palance. Sudden Fear, for which Crawford was nominated for an Academy Award, was set in San Francisco but Bagdad by the Bay’s steep grades were no match for Packard’s 327 cubic inch straight 8.

You oughta be in pictures..

Here’s a clip from Sudden Fear in which the Patrician is featured gobbling up a Frisco incline and disgorging Palance with no problem.

While the focus of Casual Concours is elegance and originality at least one overt muscle car was present. And, of course, it was a Rambler muscle car, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a wild 1969 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler, utilizing the Pontiac GTO formula: stuff the biggest motor you have — in this case a 390 cubic, inch V8 — into the lightest body: a Rambler American. Sprinkle some Hurst <<ahem>> fairy dust on it and you’ve got a neck snapping factory-built drag racer. The bold graphic arrow, indicating the motor’s displacement, pointing to the over the top air intake recalls the slogan, “nothing succeeds like excess.”

Mke mine Scrambler’d

Heavy breather

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[photo of AMC SC/Rambler]

 

 

 

Life imitates Dart

Whitey bulbous

Whitey bulbous

Remember when hipsters were called slackers? It was back in the early ’90s and those groovy layabouts, stavting artist, no-visible-means-of-support, Big Lebowski types tended to drive first generation domestic compact cars, usually Ford Falcons, Plymouth Valiants or Dodge Darts.  Over the years, the Chrysler-built compacts earned a reputation for enduring reliability thanks, in no small measure, to the legendarily unbreakable “Slant Six” motor that propelled most of them.  Even those equipped with MoPar’s small block V8 seemed preternaturally durable.

Dodge 'em

Dodge ’em

Dart and Valiant, “A body” cars in MoParlance, were mechanical twins but Dodge’s compact had added flair.  Dart styling was just a bit more accomplished, reflective of the look of its larger corporate siblings. Darts was far less generic looking than the efficient appliances that followed in later years.  Compact Darts were built from 1962 through 1976 and are warmly remembered. So much so that Fiat, Chrysler’s current corporate overlord, saw fit to revive the name in 2013 and applied it to the current entry level Dodge.

We canvas the world to find these beauties

We canvas the world to find these beauties

Our gallery includes a well preserved but unrestored ’65 Dart GT in white.  The GT model was Dodge’s top of the line Dart offering with bucket seats and three mock “ventiports” slapped on the lower front fenders.  We’re thinking that a refugee from Buick moved over to Dodge around that time and brought along this idea.

Rag and roll

Rag and roll

Of the same vintage is this nice convertible that does a pretty good job of mimicking the hardtop’s roof line in fabric.  That huge plastic back window really let’s the sunshine in, no?

White flight

White flight

We found another convertible, this one a GT, stashed away in an underground garage. It’s a ’69 and underscores how Dart wears its big car looks so convincingly.

Gold standard

Gold standard

What about this just about perfect ’73 Dart Custom four door sedan that’s somebody’s daily driver?   Showroom fresh after 43 years!

Almost the end of the line

Almost the end of the line

We would be remiss if we didn’t make mention of the Dart’s swinger model designation introduced in — yes! — ’69.  It was a refresh of the basic 2 door body style and energized sales to no end.  (Here’s where the key party joke goes.)

Yikes! Stripes!

Swing-a-ding-ding!

There are still quite a few Darts in service these days though despite the fact that hipsters have moved on to bike sharing, smart phone-summoned livery services, not to mention artisanal pogo sticks.  Hey man, the Dart abides.

What goes around..

What goes around..

We found this very presentable ’64 convertible for sale in nearby Freeport, ME.  It’s priced at under $11K and it’s the last model year with push button gear selection.  What are you waiting for??

Check out this commercial for the ’64 Dart, “the new kind of compact in the large economy size.”

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Red gets to choose her Halloween ride to Grandma’s

Not your grandmother's Oldsmobile

Not your grandmother’s Oldsmobile

Feral Cars friend and fan Amy got in touch with her inner Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween.  Before setting out for Grandma’s she had to choose between a slick ’64 Oldsmobile Starfire and and sensible ’74 Dodge Dart Custom.  The Olds was fielded at the time of the “personal luxury” explosion, an analog to Pontiac’s Grand Prix, though it was far less popular with just over 15,000 sold that year.

Dodge that Big Bad Wolf!

Dodge that Big Bad Wolf!

The Dart  was long in the tooth by the ’74 model year as it was, for the most part, an update on a car that had been introduced eleven years earlier.  Energy absorbing bumpers were fitted to comply with new federal safety standards but locomotion was provided by Chrysler’s fabled “Slant Six” motor that kept going, zombie style, long after it could have been declared dead.

Room for a whole pack of wolves

Room for a whole pack of wolves

Ultimately, “Red” chose the Olds in light of its 345 hp motor that helped her race away from the clutches of the Big Bad Wolf.  Then again, that “means business” look on her face has us convinced that she clobbered ol’ Wolfie and stuffed him in the Starfire’s very commodious trunk.

Speaking of scary stuff, check out this commercial for the ’64 Starfire in which the car is used to tow an intrepid hang glider.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  Equally scary is the asking price for this ’67 Dart GTS convertible.  Yes, it’s just one of five made and has just 37 miles (!!) on the odometer but $109,900 still seems frightening to us.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.