32K Mile Survivor: 1961 Dodge Lancer

Once upon a time, the Dodge Dart that we all know and love from the late sixties through the mid-seventies was actually a full-sized, mid-priced model. The compact Dodge of the early sixties was called a Lancer and I have to admit that I completely forgot about it until I found this Dodge Lancer, which is located in New Orleans and listed for sale for $4,500 here on Autotrader. I actually thought I was seeing an example of the better known Plymouth Valiant.

This Lancer has an interesting story in that it only has 32,000 miles and it is being sold by the widow of the second owner who bought it from the widow of the original owner in 2015. It appears to be in very solid shape; it has a weathered look but I think it actually belies how I would expect a 58-year-old car to look.

There is no mistaking the Virgil Exner styling cues. Some will tell you that it is a “love it or hate it” look but I’m actually on the fence, I kind of like it but it’s a bit out there. The “look” is further enhanced by some chrome gewgaws that were added by the second owner and secured to the grille.

Under the hood is no surprise, it is the tried and true Chrysler slant six engine displacing 170 cubic inches and generating 101 horsepower. Backing up the slant six is a three-speed manual transmission with a factory-installed floor shift. The owner makes no mention of how or whether the engine runs other than to indicate that it might need a new motor mount.

The interior of this Lancer looks pretty kempt though it appears that the carpet is missing from the back-seat area. And actually, that’s a help as you can get a good look at the rear floor plans and they appear to be sound. The seat belts, which don’t match the seats, were probably added later as they still were not required by law in 1961. Note the ashtray mounted high on the back of the front bench seat, don’t see those anymore!

The body of this Lancer looks good! No evidence of rust or integrity issues. There is surface rust in the trunk pan but it doesn’t look problematic – no idea about the underside as the owner makes no mention or has offered any images.

So, do you find this Lancer’s design polarizing, or so typical of the era that it is chic again or just typical goofy old Chryco styling from the late ’50s/early ’60s? I actually like this Lancer though I could do without the grille doodads. One advantage this Lancer has over its corresponding Plymouth Valiant is that it doesn’t have the peculiar-looking continental spare tire cover/toilet seat thing on the trunk lid. That concession alone makes this Dodge something to consider.


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  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    I’ve owned a few Darts from 64, 65, 66, and 73.

    I heard rumors on the interwebs that Virgil Exner was unhappy at Chrysler by 1961, and thus purposely designed the ugly-duckling cars of the 61-64 era to stick it to Chrysler. And would that have corresponded to the time when Elwood Engel left Ford and went to Chrysler? I have only questions.

    Like 4
  2. LARRY

    Personally I love the older car designs..when you see something like this back then you pretty much new what it was..nowadays they all look alike cars and trucks..just try telling me that the new 2020 Corvette doesn’t look like a Ferrari

    Like 5
  3. Miguel

    Here is a Lancer available in Mexico but for much more money. It is also a more interesting color.

    Like 11
    • David Ulrey

      The green one you posted the picture of is one of the most acceptable looking ones, in my opinion anyway, that I have ever seen. Their styling is somewhat ‘unique’ shall we say.

      • Miguel

        David, these cars always hit me as a hold over from the ’50s into the ’60s. No other cars were designed like this, much to their detriment, I think.

  4. Miguel

    There is also this Valiant which is similar to the Lancer here. I thought the factory floor shift was rare, but all three of these cars has it.

    Like 3
    • Grandpa Lou

      My Dad bought a brand new 1960 Valiant 170 with a three speed. The floor shift was standard as was a 3.55 rear end. I was a tad too young to drive then, but rode in it a lot. Dad said it went well, and Mom was crazy fast with it, it handled quite well. She scared me frequently. Dad said it was one of his favorite cars.

      Like 2
      • Miguel

        I had a 1962 valiant for a while with the push button. For a slant 6 it ran OK.

  5. Alan Brase

    I wonder if this is the year of the one made famous by the Tappet Brothers, Click and Clack? One brother was fond of it and the other would mock him and call it a DAR-TRA.
    Probably a sweet little car. I didn’t realize the 225 slant six had smaller predecessor.

    Like 3
    • sourpwr Member

      Loved the Tappets and haven’t laughed til I cried since !

  6. Russ Turner

    Had a ’63 dodge Lancer GT and it was super swell . . . white with a red interior. Bought some larger rims for the rear and that’s all it needed! As most people say, sure wish I had it now!

    Like 1
    • Miguel

      Russ, 1962 was the last year for the Lancer. For 1963 They called it a Dart.

  7. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Seem like a nice car for the money assuming there’s no rust to deal with. I like the quirky styling though first thing I’d do is get rid of all that crap on the grille and headlights. This would be a great daily driver; practical size, dependable with probably decent fuel mileage and family-friendly with four doors. The 3-speed adds to the fun, too. One thing is for sure, it’s a car that will stand out in a sea of Nissans and VWs.

    Like 7
  8. Mark in WNC

    The owner says it might need an engine mount??? Or course it does…look!! It is over on its side!!

    Like 7
  9. Will Fox

    The `61 Lancers are nearly non-existent anymore. These were use-em-up-and-throw-them-away type cars back in their day; nothing anyone would bother saving. This one is VERY complete. All those do-dads on the grille and the funky headlamp attachments can come off. Nice that the seats were re-upholstered, but I would re-do them in the original vinyl. If done right, this WOULD turn alot of heads at the next MoPar show!!

    Like 2
  10. Bob C.

    I always preferred the looks of these over the Valiants. More radical looking than their competitors, but better built IMO.

    Like 1
  11. Glenn Schwass Member

    That is in great shape and I love the seats and floor shift. My Dad had a 61 Valiant but it had 3 on the tree. Hope it goes to a good home.

    Like 1
  12. Del


  13. scott

    I owned a 62 lancer with a 225 slant 6 with and ALUMINUM block. Please., no arguments, because I KNOW many of you don’t think the slant 6 had an aluminum block version, but it did! Good luck finding a head gasket for the aluminum block version, its tough and expensive if you do find one. The Car now lives in OH.
    The price on this one is wishful thinking. Not too much demand for these, especially decorated with pantie hose cups.

    Like 3
  14. Little_Cars

    That “Once upon a time” when the Dodge Dart was a full-sized, mid-priced model was short-lived. I believe up to 1959-60 Dart/Senecas were big ‘uns.. Lancer was used back in 1957 on a full sized car. Otherwise all were considered compacts to compete with what we know as compact cars through the 80s.

  15. Richard j Martin

    A great looking car. I wish that I had the money to buy it!

  16. TimM

    It sure is a weird looking car but that to me is what’s so cool about it!! Three speed with a slant 6 will run till the days when we are driving space ships!! Do you think they’ll design space ships like cars???

    Like 1
  17. Bob McK Member

    Does anybody really think this is a 32K mile car? It may have 132K or 232K, but there is no way it can be this rough with only 32K miles. Are the seats even correct fabric? Look at the engine. Love the car, but the story may be made up.

    Like 1
  18. craig

    my parents had one of these…tough as nails…only difference mechanically was ours had an automatic trans that was shifted by a push button arrangement on the dash

  19. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Original ? Looks like it’s been “caressed” a lot in them years……….

  20. James Turner

    From around 1960 on to about 1965 Dodge/ Plymouth were HORRENDOUS looking automobiles. The guy that designed these early cars must have been cross eyed drunk. I was almost 16 Y O when these cars were on the showroom floors and I still remember thinking even as a teenager how bad these cars were designed. Just look at that cheap a** plastic dash, Gauges and controls for example not to mention the hideous outside design. $1,500.00 tops for this non classic monstrosity/ oddity. Wo Ho Ho Barney Rubble, A car for you.

  21. JoeNYWF64

    The difference these days is that 85% of modern cars are ugly with cheap plastic add ons ON THE EXTERIOR only making matters worse.
    The original domestic chevy spark is my #1 ugly pick.
    & in the old days, it would have to be Dreyfuss’s car in American Graffiti.

  22. John Arduser

    Way back when I was still a child I owned a ’62 Lancer with the 170 motor and a 3-on-the-tree. One day the gas gauge stopped working. So, I estimated when I needed gas, buying only a gallon or two at a time; then miraculously the gas gauge started working again…and the tank was full! The point? That little slant six was averaging well over 20 mpg! Ahead of its time.

  23. Mitch Ross Member

    I love the first gen Exner designed compacts best . Actually really like the ’65-“66 as well. Much more than the boxy ’67 and later cars, which I also like. Not sure why I posted, but, whatever…

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