Thanks to Paul: His Father bought one of the original D/Darts in 1966
During the 65' season in NHRA, the Mustang 289/271 Hi-Po was doing a number in the junior stock class. Right out of the showroom these cars were running high 14.90's. With some tweaking (gears and slicks, to go along with the Tri-Y
headers) the Ford guys could get them into 13.80's. The Mustang Fastback was light at 2873 lbs., and fell right into the low weight/break position 10.60 lbs./HP of D/Stock.
Chrysler had to compete against the Mustang somehow, it wasn't going to win the war of car purchases, as the Mustang had the look. Chrysler figured that maybe it could beat the Mustang at the track. The Barracuda wasn't in the plans, as the
car was too heavy at 3002 lbs., plus the Plymouth was more of a sports car.
That's were the Dart GT fit in. With it's weight of 2945 lbs. and some typical performance body lightening, Dodge figured it could compete with the Mustang at the track, and also stir up some more customer interest in the Dart GT, as the car did have lagging sales.
Dodge had attempted to stir up sales in the Dart in 1965, with the introduction of the Dart "Charger 273". It was a yellow car with a black top, and a high performance 273 Commando. The car was equipped with Cragar chrome 5-spoke
S/S steel wheels (13" x 6" size). The car was built out in the "LA Plant", and Dodge had plans to build 1000 of them. When a lack of interest in the car was evident, plans to build 400 were put forth. In truth, only 180 of these cars ever made it to the consumer. Nobody was crazy about a yellow performance car that could only turn 16.30's in the quarter. So goes the lack of interest in the Dart.
The Chrysler guys, with an idea about getting into the Stock class (pony car competition) figured that the Dart was light enough to compete in a lower class, plus offering the car has a Super Stock Package would help increase car sales. Plans were to attack the Mustang, so the conception of the Dart was to put in a motor that would get into that class, so goes the
D-Dart (obviously meaning D/Stock). D-Dart sounded strong and powerful.
To fall into the NHRA D/Stock classification (10.50 to 10.99 lbs./HP) the 2945 lb. Dart would need a minimum of 270 HP and a maximum of 280 HP. So 275 HP would fit and sound just right for the 273 motor. Now Chrysler had to get there.
the right and smart way would have been to build something like a mini max-wedge, like using higher compression pistons TRW 11.5 to 1 over the stock 10.5 to 1 slug. Bigger port heads with larger intake valves (1.90 size over the
stock 1.75 units), and notch the block for valve reliefs, just like the 413 engine blocks had when using the max-wedge heads. Use an improved oiling system, like a high volume oil pump with a deep pan or windage tray or baffle unit. Pop in a medium high lift solid lifter cam with an improved valve train. Incorporate an improved intake system, by using an Offenhauser dual-plane high-rise with a Carter 625 AFB or Holley 715 CFM (used on the Shelby/Mustangs). Just claim 275 horsepower, and let the chips fall. Chrysler should have offered the car with a dual exhaust system, and let the buyers of these cars pop in their own headers units, as most of the early guys liked to utilize fenderwell headers for the race cars (easier to work with and some had larger primaries 1 5/8", and 3" collectors, like Hooker Headers). The Weber clutch set-up, Hurst shifter and 4.86 gears were really off-the-shelf bolt on units, so these additions were really not specialty Chrysler engineering secrets.
After the introduction of the 66' Dart (late November 65'), there was some motivation to get a performance unit out there probably in January or February of 66'. Unlike the early Max-wedge cars, 65' Super Stock cars and later the
Hemi Cuda's and Hemi Darts, Chrylser did not have plans to run a test-mule car.
Instead, a few of the Performance Group factory guys (possibly headed by Tom Hoover), put together a quick and fast project together. Though they wanted the Dart to perform well at the track, the last thing they wanted was this
little "LA Engine" to really crank, hence putting a hurt on the Hemi and big-block wedge engines. Nobody really wanted this car to run in the 13's let alone in the 12's. Remember, Chrysler built Hemi's for the track, and the Wedges to rule the street. Just imagine working in the Performance group at Chrylser, working on Hemi's and Wedges, and then being told that now you are going to work on a 273.
Obviously a better clutch package would be required, to replace the horrible 9 1/4" Auburn unit used on the Commando motors.
Thankfully, Weber put together a good package with heavy-rated springs for the pressure plate and clutch disc. They were still only 9 1/4" diameter components, not 10.5" (like the 340 motors to come out later) that some people assume.
The heavy steel bell-housing was used (thing weighed about 40 lbs.) Chrysler could have utilized an aluminum bell-housing (like the eventual 340 units), that weighed about 8 lbs. to save weight. Aluminum units were allowed in Stock class at that time. But no, the heavy one was used. It was a pain to lift whenever you had to swap out a clutch, and there were many with that small 9 1/4" unit.
All D-darts came with the #624 HD Suspension package (Firm-ride shocks, 10" brakes, HD 6-leaf rear springs, HD torsion bars and Front sway-bar.
Smartly, Chrysler did go for the bucks (about $75) and spring for a Hurst 4-speed shift unit.
Unfortunately, a tach was not offered with the car. I do not remember a tach being mounted in my fathers car.
For gears, there is some debate on just exactly how they decided on 4.86 units, instead of 4.56's or 5.12's. Some Chrylser buffs (I read somewhere along time ago) said that Chrysler had a bunch of extra sets of the 4.86 units. Since they were on some sort of budget, and wanted to keep the car below $2900, they used the 4.86 units. Also, no one wanted to take the risk of putting in 5.12's or 5.38's, allowing the motor to over rev in the traps, which may cause damage to the internal engine components. No one wanted the motor to rev over 6500 RPM anyway.
Basic 6.95 x 14" 2-ply tires were used, mounted on 4.5" wide steel wheels, with the 5-bolt 4" bolt pattern (commonly called the A-body wheels). The Chrysler guys figured that the car purchasers would automatically pop on slotted mags, or Cragar S/S 5-spoke steel wheels. The factory didn't even offer the famed Torque Thrust wheels for the car, because no one bothered to make 4" bolt pattern wheels for a limited few cars. My father ordered his 14" x 6" wheels from Cragar, and had to wait 3 months to get his, because they didn't have any. The only Cragar S/S wheels they had were 13" x 6" units with the 4" bolt pattern, probably units left over from the failed 65' Dart "Charger 273" campaign.
Part of the completion of the car was the exterior and interior, typical white paint (WW1) and red (PP4) interior, simple enough.
Now weigh the car. The advertised weight was 2945 for the Dart GT, but in reality the car weighed in at 3056. (That's what my fathers weighed in at). Nearly 200 lbs. heavier than the Mustang.
The D-Dart was advertised (said by the Chrysler Performance Group) to be a Factory-prepared Super Stock car. They advertised the car with the S.C. 364 Super Stock 66 Drag Package. Nobody actually knew what that was (Chrysler
was very secret about not letting this stuff get out there). Most educated racers knew (from the past) that a Factory Super Stock Package meant, massaged motors with better heads, cross-ram intakes with Holley carbs or bigger CFM Carter AFB's, tuned headers, Sure-grip posi-rears, S/S leaf springs (like the 65' Super Stock cars), trick automatic transmissions with manual-only/reverse pattern valve bodies, high-stall converters and last but not least, lightened cars.
What did we get with the D-Dart, Item #554, the rear seat belt delete package.
WOW! saved about 5 lbs. in weight, and saved Chrylser about $12 in cost.
The D-Dart did have (2) un-needed items removed from the car. (1) The radio, and (2) the center console unit that was typical on the Dart GT's.
The car did come with the heater installed, and the inlet and outlet hoses were connected to their ports, mounted on the passenger side of the firewall. Most racers just disconnected the hoses, and several (if not 80%) removed the heater unit (about 18 lbs. of weight) from the car.
When my father asked the Dodge dealership in Mahopac, NY about performance, he was told that there was no information available, and that it would be forth coming. Nobody had any actual elapsed time performance of this car, let alone top speed in quarter. Chrysler would not reveal anything. My father even called Chrysler Performance and somebody in the head of Chrysler Specialty Parts Unit (forerunner to Direct Connection). No informatuion was available, only that the car would run in D/Stock, and that Dick Landy (if true or not?) was testing a car at that time (early in 66'), and that the D-Dart would be available in May.
Sometime in April of 1966, my father did get some information on the car from the salesman (I think sales manager of the dealership, Frank something ?), saying that the D-Dart was a complete drag-ready Dart GT, 4-speed transmission car, and would run low 13.00's off the trailer. You would only need 7" slicks and a tachometer, nothing else. Back then, my father said, the D/Stock class record was around 13.40 or something close to it. He figured he just bought himself a record holder
RETURN TO STORY PAGE
COPYRIGHT 2007 BY ALAN LEWIS