In 1960 Dodge reacted to an economic recession by introducing a smaller, more cost conscious choice for their buyers with the original Dodge Dart. Although it borrowed heavily from the sister Plymouth line, the new Dart found favor with the public desiring a smaller, more fuel efficient and cost-effective alternative to the full-sized Dodge and Chrysler offerings.
Fast-forward 53 years and a more powerful economic downturn has not only led to the re-introduction of the Dart, but also to the sale of Chrysler to the Fiat automotive conglomerate of Italy. In the same money crunch the Plymouth name plate has also died and the entire Chrysler Corporation has gone through a re-branding along with its Dodge, Dodge Trucks (RAM) and Jeep divisions. The new Dart, as was the original, is borrowed from another Fiat division, Alfa Romeo.
Sold globally as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the new Dart uses a modified Alfa platform incorporating all Giulietta running gear, suspension, electronics and other driveline components. History repeats itself as this was the genesis of the original Darts, utilizing the Plymouth new for 1960 uni-body and corporate driveline bits.
The Dart was a mixed bag in its early years, the body styles and chassis configurations changing every year from the 1960 model through 1962. Then in 1963 the classic Dart body style appeared and firmly entrenched the Dart in the compact class of cars, rather than a down-market version of a full/mid-sized car. Predominantly offered with 6-cylinder engines, the 273 cubic inch V-8 was available in the GT and convertible models only as the 2-door and 4-door sedans and wagons got a choice of the inline engines.
The 1967 model year saw a new Dart, with not only a more square body, but also some upgrades in the performance areas. Although 6-cylinder engines were available in all body styles, now only 2-door, 4-door and convertibles as the wagon disappeared, other engine options soon became available. The new GTS package could be had with the new 275 hp, 340 cu in V-8, eventually also adding the 300 hp, 383 cu in big block. 1968 and 1969 saw the optional 426 Hemi and 440 V-8s introduced to the line, although the Hemi installation was actually farmed-out to Hurst Corporation.
The square body style would last until the end of Dart production in 1976. However, in 1970 an additional 2-door coupe style with fastback styling was added to the line. The Dart Demon and Swinger variants were very popular with the Demon 340 performance package carrying the load for the enthusiasts looking for more speed and power. The 340 gave way to the 360 V-8 in 1974, but big block engine options were discontinued after the last of the 383 Darts in 1970.
Unfortunately, 1977 saw the end of the Dart, being replaced by the Aspen. Emissions, insurance rates and federal safety standards choked Chrysler, nearly causing its demise until the introduction of the K-cars, federal supports, mini-vans and Lee Iacocca saved the company. Now saved once again by Fiat, the Dart makes its return. Funny how history can repeat itself.
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