Sensible Upgrades: 1965 Dodge Dart GT 273 Commando

The Dodge Dart was introduced in 1960 as a full-size car, then revised into a mid-size for 1962, and then became a compact in 1963 until 1976. Offered in sedan, coupe, station wagon, and convertible forms, the Dart was a very successful model. This 1965 Dodge Dart GT coupe has had some recent performance upgrades and is up for sale in Yorba Linda, California. It can be found here on craigslist for an asking price of $12,500. Thank you Barn Finds fan Rex M. for the tip!

The third-gen Dart was originally available with only 2 sizes of the well-known slant-six engine, in 170 or 225 cubic inches. Partway through the 1964 model year, a 273 cubic inch V8 was added as an option to the GT trim, and in 1965 a high-performance Commando version was offered, which included an upgraded cam and a 4-barrel carb, producing 235 hp. This car is apparently equipped with the Commando upgrade as well as a variety of newer aftermarket hotrod parts (well, the seller says they’re “shiny but mild”). That gives the engine bay a bit of a custom look while providing modest performance increases. Still, the engine bay looks extremely clean and tidy with a bit of flash, without being over-the-top. The seller doesn’t know if the 63,000 miles on the odometer are original or not, but the 904 automatic transmission was recently rebuilt so that is one less thing to worry about.

No word on if this is original paint or not, but it presents very well in the photos. I believe that this light tan/cream color was a common option for the Dart GT, often with a black half-vinyl roof. A close look in the engine bay shows some wires against the cowl that appear to have overspray on them, as does the inside of the trunk, so probably this car was repainted in its original color. The Dart was never meant to be a flashy car so there isn’t much brightwork, but it looks as if it is all present and in excellent condition. I don’t see any rust or damage, and the panels line up correctly as far as I can see. You’ll also notice the car comes with year-correct plates, which is a cool touch.

The interior is pretty basic, but the GT option meant it had bucket seats and a console instead of a bench seat. The dash and gauges look to be in great shape, as does the rear bench seat, but overall the interior needs some work to match the rest of the car. There is a dash pad, which means there are probably some bad cracks, and the headliner is falling down in the rear. The door panels inserts also appear to be pulling apart, and there is some strange wrinkling on the carpet around the shifter. Nothing individually is serious, and it won’t prevent the next owner from enjoying it, but fixing these things would definitely increase the overall presentation. So in general, this seems to be a nice car with no major issues.

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Comments

  1. alphasud Member

    This is a nice clean classic. Not many left so you will probably be the only one at the car shows. What’s that I see? It that a Hoffmister kink on the B-pillar? Just kidding, but the car has nice lines and who doesn’t like going commando.

    Like 15
  2. Winfield Wilson

    In 1971, my father bought a used ’65 Plymouth Valiant 2-door sedan with 3-on-the-tree and a 273 Commando engine. That car was a sleeper! I learned to drive a stick with that car, and once in a while he’d let me drive it to school. I also learned what a dual point distributor was, and how to do a tune up.

    Like 9
  3. Pit Stop Pauly

    Never met a Lancer/Dart/ Valiant I didn’t like! Cheap, reliable, odd and fun; what more could you ask for?

    Like 14
  4. Gord

    I believe if it was an original commando car it would have a cutout in the rear valance (driver side) for the square tube resonator. I don’t see it on this car.

    Like 3
    • Steve

      I don’t recall my 65 Barracuda with 273 Commando engine and 4 speed having a rear valance cutout. Would have since I added a JC Whitney dual exhaust kit on it. This car does have the correct air cleaner, should have black crinkle finish valve covers, solid lifters, and a dual point distributor. Good memories!

      Like 2
  5. Steve J

    Back in the 60’s, I had a 1964 GT convertible with the V-8 and 3 speed stick. At the same time, my future wife has a 1964 2 door sedan with the slant 6 and a 3 speed stick. The 6 seemed to have more power and run smoother. I ruined the engine in mine by not fixing a slight radiator leak and having it overheat. My wife’s car kept going for several years with no problems.

    Like 3
  6. Dave

    Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at Chrysler’s engine division back then!
    This engine should also have solid lifters if it’s a Commando. They also stuffed that motor into Barracudas up to and including the 1967 model. I almost bought a four-speed coupe off a used car lot in Columbus in early 1975 but was seduced by a 1971 440 Fury ex-cop car.
    Even then, the “educated pencil” was employed. This engine is rated at 235 horsepower but the standard 318 is rated at 230. Go figure. But by 1967, development on the 340 was well underway to provide a LA engine option to fill the gap between the LA 318 and the B 383, and to compete with the GM 350s and the Ford 351. Mopar was able to get respectable street power from the 340 without resorting to solid lifters and dual-point ignition systems. IIRC, Ford had a solid-lifter 289 for the Mustang but I think that Chevy had hot versions of the 327 already on the market by 1967.

    Like 4
    • Frank

      340 engines had the duel point distributor and a very hot hydraulic cam

    • Terry Bowman

      Dave, the 68′-69′ 340’s did have a duel point dist., but only on the 4-speeds. I believe the 273 (65′ – 67′), 4 bbl, 4-speeds also had the duel point.

      • jwaltb

        Dual. A duel is something different.

      • Terry Bowman

        jwaltb, both duel and dual has a meaning of two. I was just trying to make a “Point” (as in ignition systems back in the 60′) and not referring to (a sharp or tapering end) of something.

  7. flynndawg

    i owned the exact car in 72/73, my new hi-school sweetheart wife had the same exact car, mine was the v-8, hers was the slant, twin cars in this exact color… wow this brings bak memories as the whole lot is ‘x’s’ now… :)

    Like 3
  8. Greg Songer

    I see a dual reservoir master cylinder, which didn’t come out until 67 IIRC. If it has had an upgrade to front discs, even better.

    Like 3
  9. Joel Bieler

    ‘69 Swinger, same color as the featured car, 225 Slant-Six, three on the tree, AM radio and bench seat, $2400 new. Also owned a ‘75 Sport, green, white vinyl roof and Up-and-Over tape stripe. 318 V8, three on the floor, white vinyl interior and bucket seats. $4500 new. Loved both cars!

  10. .Mike Ingram

    Had a 1967 Barracuda with this motor. Very strong.

    Like 1
  11. John B

    My first car was the same car except mine was red with the black viynl roof.miss the s#&€ out of that car!!! It was a real performer and a blast to drive

    Like 1

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