Dodge Dart

Dodge was a part of the Chrysler Corporation when divisional restructuring removed Plymouth away from the dealership, prompting the company to make some changes fast. Another low-priced car was needed to replace Plymouth and in the 1960 the first Dodge Darts entered the market.

As an interesting fact, the basic vehicle name was a cause behind great disputes. Project plan proposed the name Dart while Chrysler executives asked for a research program which produced the name Zipp. After some debates and the name Dart finally prevailed.

The choice proved right as during the 13 years of production the Dart earned its good reputation. The Dodge Dart was one of the most successful compact cars ever introduced in the American automobile marketplace.

The Dart sedans and coupes were based on the Plymouth platform and had a 118 in (2,997 mm) wheelbase, shorter than the standard-size Dodge line. The Dart station wagons had the same 122 in (3,099 mm) wheelbase as the Polara hardtop wagon.

The Dart line was offered in three trim levels: the basic Seneca, mid-range Pioneer, and premium Phoenix. Vehicle was equipped with standard equipment on certain Phoenix and Pioneer body styles including the 225 cu in Slant-6 318 cu in and 361 cu in V8 engines available at the market. Other engine performance options were 2-barrel or 4-barrel carburetors, with single or dual exhaust.

Unique unibody construction and standard 11" brakes gave the image of dependable and solid car designed for average buyer. Smart advertising campaign ignited the success and gave Dodge Dart instant popularity. Chrysler management decided not to interfere with in-house competition between Dodge and Plymouth, thus as Dart sales climbed, Plymouth's sales dropped.

Sales of the Dart even surpassed those of the full-size Dodge Matador and Dodge Polara, resulting in cutting of the mid-priced Matador production after the 1960. Slightly redesigned to emulate the Polara model, 1961 Dart remained the smallest Dodge. The same three trim levels - the premium Phoenix, mid-range Pioneer, and base Seneca remained available. Phoenix convertibles were all equipped with V8 engines.

Darts in all series were equipped as standard with three-speed, column-shifted manual transmissions. Chrysler's pushbutton-shifted TorqueFlite automatic was available at extra cost. Unfortunately, the decision to restyle proved wrong as Dart sales drop by nearly 46%, to 142,000 units from 266,700. Reverse fins, rear fender scalloping, concave grille and low positioned small tail lights showed highly unpopular with buyers.

Actually, negative reaction particularly came from other drivers who complained that they could not see them. Dodge was eventually forced to manufacture auxiliary taillights available at extra cost which didn't help the general styling impression.

Dodge dropped to ninth position in sales in the American market in 1961, with sales lower than Plymouth's. In 1962 the Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix trim levels were changed to Dart, Dart 330 and Dart 440. With a lightweight body, suspension changes and symmetric rear leaf springs, the performance again ensured great handling, breaking and acceleration. However, Dodge Dart never repeated the scope of initial success.

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