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Sharp Dart: 1961 Dodge Dart Pioneer

041716 Barn Finds - 1961 Dodge Dart Pioneer - 1

This is a second-year Dodge Dart and it’s a sharp one. This 1961 Dodge Dart Pioneer is found in Toano, Virginia, halfway between Richmond and Newport News. And there’s a bonus, it’s a 3-speed manual! The seller says that this car is original “from its factory 3 speed column shifter to the all glass fuel filter.”

041716 Barn Finds - 1961 Dodge Dart Pioneer - 2

This is a sharp car: sharp design, sharp execution, sharp handling, and unfortunately, there’s a sharp crease behind the passenger door. There is no mention of rust and looking at the photos it doesn’t really look like there is any, other than surface rust. The seller says that he can send underside photos or any others if you ask. Dart made several models in 1961; this really is unique, love-or-hate-it styling on these cars. I prefer the 1962 Darts, but that’s just me.

041716 Barn Finds - 1961 Dodge Dart Pioneer - 3

More sharpness here. This is unusual, one-year styling back when car companies had such a thing as one-year styling. And, although this was a Virgil Exner design, it was highly-criticized at the time for a few awkward design features, like the tail lights that were so low that they were hard to see by other drivers. The seller says that the hood emblem, the letters D O D G E, were placed incorrectly at the factory. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but that’s what they say. I think that this color would have been “Buckskin” originally, in its pre-faded era.

041716 Barn Finds - 1961 Dodge Dart Pioneer - 4

How would you like to have invented the “western” blanket? You’d be a billionaire, these things are everywhere in the old car world. This is the only interior photo, other than one of the driver’s floor and one of the odometer showing 61,353 miles, which I’m guessing is actually 61,353 and not 161,353 judging by the condition of the car. This is a 3-speed manual on the column which I would definitely prefer over an automatic, but that’s just me. I know that there are folks who would prefer an automatic. The seats obviously will need to be recovered or they would be shown in the photos, but everything else looks like it would clean up nicely.

041716 Barn Finds - 1961 Dodge Dart Pioneer - 5

This is one of my favorite engines of all time: the 225 slant-six. The owner says that the car “runs, drives and shifts amazing. Starts right up and ready to cruise!” Of course, the top of the air cleaner and valve cover have been painted, unfortunately, but it looks pretty good in there. An automatic transmission would have been an option and the alternator was introduced in 1960. There is no engine that I would rather work on and tinker with than a slant-six. Well, maybe a Cadillac V16, but I mean, within reason…

I think this car will go for a pretty penny but it’ll still be a reasonable buy, if those two things can even remotely exist in the same universe. It’s found on eBay with the current bid price of $2,225, but the reserve is not yet met. What is your guess on the reserve for this car? $4,000? $5,000? For the condition and cool factor (two-door, manual, great, original finish), I think it would be a super fun car to own. Do you like these bigger Darts or are you a 1970’s Dart fan? Or, both?


  1. The Chucker

    I may get flamed for this, but I think this would be a very cool platform for a late-model HEMI/6-spped transplant. Upgrade the suspension and brakes to deal with the upgraded engine/trans, and leave the rest alone save for some vintage torque-thrusts.

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  2. piper62j

    Cool thinking Chucker.. I agree..
    Nice find and nice car to start with.

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  3. 8banger Dave Member

    As Ward whirls around to remind The Beav to quit goofing off…

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  4. Charles H.

    BaT featured this one, just a few days ago, I agree with The Chucker, I think this would make an awesome platform for a late model Hemi transplant!

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  5. Blindmarc

    There was a restored one on red/ black at Mecum this weekend that bid to 18.5k but no more. Didn’t sell.

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  6. Fred

    Was the one at Mecum a post or hardtop?

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    • Blindmarc

      A hardtop. I thought it was a beautiful car. Not sure what the engine was, but I have it recorded.

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  7. Vince Habel

    It is easy to believe they were put on wrong. We had a Chevy Monza with a Skyhawk emblem on the hatch lock. Also a Granada with Monarch on the one side.

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  8. Roger Pence

    I think the Chucker is on the money. If I were to win the lottery tonight, my first call would be to buy this and the next call would be to Icon for the full Derelict treatment.

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  9. John Newell

    My best friend’s father had one of these new but it was an automatic and a four door. His dad drove it like a normal old guy. Bob drove it like it could be driven. That meant when we were going around left turns I had to hold onto the seat cushion to keep from falling out of the window. The car felt like it was up on two wheels. It was also great for backfiring through the exhaust pipe by turning the key off under load then turning it back on again. Pretty hard on the muffler and much harder on the ears from the explosions. You can’t do that any more or you’d lock up the steering column and hit a post or a tree. That car was pretty fast. I don’t think a three in the tree could be as nimble as this “slush” six was. In fact power-shifting a three in the tree generally left you holding a snapped off gearshift and stuck in neutral. That’s why George Hurst was so necessary.

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  10. Charles

    Great car except for the out of place fins! Does look good overall…. Slant sixes run forever and ever and ever……..

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  11. John Newell

    I agree Charles. Even at the time they owned weird. But slant sixes were great engines like you say.

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    • Doc

      When I was 16 (1970) bought a convertible same one as in Blue Hawaii for $100.00
      had a 361 big block 4bbl, used to beat GTOs and ‘Vettes. Sold it for $100.00. Who knew?

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  12. John Newell

    The one my friend’s father owned was a Seneca or a Pioneer, I think and it was a creamy tan colour. The interior stayed mint because they put clear, fitted plastic seat covers on it. Try sitting on those in shorts on a hot summer day without a/c.

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  13. ROTAG999

    My Aunt had one same color slant 6 but was a 4 door pushbutton auto.
    Really kink of neat with the rear view mirror mounted on the dash.

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  14. John Newell

    That’s right! I forgot about that! The dash mounted mirror was a really great feature. I forgot about the push button auto too. There was a lot about these cars to enjoy.

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  15. Debbie Hardcastle

    Wasn’t a 225 not until 62-63 a 175 up till then? Maybe my memory just getting foggy. I might be getting confused with the valiant which didn’t get the bigger slant 6 till then. Anybody remember?

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    • Ed P

      The 225 was rated at 145 hp from the factory. You may be remembering the “Hyper-Pac” option that was dealer installed. That would increase hp to about 175.

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    • Rotag999

      From 63 to 66 they had the smaller 170 ci slant six !

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      • Ed P

        The 170 was available 1960 to1969 in compacts

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    • Bruce Norlund

      The 225 slant 6 was available starting in 1960.

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  16. Ed P

    The 1960 Dodge Dart was a better looking car. I don’t know what was on Exner’s mind when the ’61 appeared, but it was not an improvement.

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  17. John Newell

    I think the great unwashed agreed with you Ed. In droves.

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  18. EDWARD

    This was my grandfarther’s family car in Kennedy’s Washington D.C.. One car that made me wish I was in a Newyorker all the time. We used it on Sundays. One Sunday on the way to Georgetown, to church I was nearly killed because the back door became unlached. I held on to the opened door til to the next stop. My grandmother driving never knew til I closed it.

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  19. Melvin Burwell

    Nice car. I think that first body style is the best looking. Good price too.

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