440 In Waiting! 1970 Dodge Dart

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I consider fourth-gen Dodge Darts (’67-’76), like this 1970 example, to be unsung heroes. While I prefer the ’67-’69 version, there’s nothing wrong with a ’70 – they were lightweight, inexpensive powerhouse cars. Today’s find, a resident of Clarksville, Tennessee, has an issue or two to consider so it may be best to think about this car in the future tense, as to what it could become. It’s available, here on eBay for a current bid of $4,000, with three bids tendered as of this writing.

Claimed to be a “Swinger” trim level, this Dart is wearing a tail stripe that is more reminiscent of a “Swinger 340” performance model. This example isn’t doing any swinging right at the moment as it’s engine-less. The driver claims, “The vehicle is drivable and is mainly used for weekend drives” – not sure how that’s possible. These A-body cars can become real rust buckets but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. This example is clean and straight with no sign of rust. The hood has been removed and is not finished to match the Bright Blue Metallic hue but it appears to be straight and useable.

Originally powered by a 125 HP, 198 CI, in-line, six-cylinder engine, apparently, a smokey slant six in this case, that lump has been given the bum’s rush and the seller has a 1976 vintage 440 “RB” V8 engine that is waiting to take charge. The seller adds, “Standard bore and stroke Stock heads, rods, crank B body oil pan (I believe)“.  No word as to whether it actually runs but the mention of a “904 TorqueFlight 7 1/4 rear end” probably isn’t going to cut it with the big block engine. Beyond that, there’s the matter of the front suspension and K-frame to consider.

We’re told that the interior is “finished” and what can be seen looks fine. It’s a very basic bench seat interior but many of the performance model Darts came so equipped.  There’s only one image of the innards and it appears that there’s some sort of homemade console taking up space on the transmission hump.

I like the way this seller is thinking, but as many of you know from your own experience, you can’t just shoehorn a big-block engine under the hood of a car that originally didn’t possess one. Yes, this vintage Dart did harbor big-block engines in earlier iterations but there’s a lot of undoing, and then redoing that will have to occur to make all of this fit together and work in unison. My thought is that this project is probably better left to someone who has specific experience with this kind of switcheroo, wouldn’t you agree?

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  1. Leslie MartinMember

    Just my opinion, but putting a later 440 (probably from a truck or motorhome) in this car would be a big mistake. Chrysler put a lot of extra engineering into the Darts of this era that were optioned with big blocks. None of them left the factory with 7 1/4 rear ends and 904 Torquflites.

    You could beef all that up, to put an RB motor in, but youd still end up with a massively front heavy car with poor handling. A much better (and easier) approach would be to fit a Mopar 360 crate engine, or better still a rebuild 340 if you can find one. You’d end up with a car that would be plenty fast and more fun to drive, IMHO.

    Like 27
    • Nevada1/2rack NevadahalfrackMember

      Agreed! Or even go to your favorite reputable wrecker and find a clean 5.7 HEMI with transmission, brakes and the like instead of the 5.9L (360 ci)..

      Like 7
      • Steveshow

        I have a 12 SRT8 with a 6,4L and a 6 speed. That drivetrain in a Dart would be a rocket ship!

        Like 3
    • Howard

      I agree, that’s what I’d do. With that said with aluminum heads, intake etc. you can get the weight down pretty close to the small blocks weight. Mopar Action magazine did an article on this about a year ago.

      Like 1
    • Bill Bledsoe

      A 440 could be made to work for sure, but a performance built 340 might be better and easier project.

      The rear end and transmission would need a upgrade. Probably a 727 torque flight and a nine inch rear end.

      Looks like the headliner is missing but that’s not usually an expensive fix.

      I’m not a big Mopar fan but I would like to clone this one as a muscle car.

      Like 0
  2. Grant

    Never understood the logic behind the 198 six vs a standard 225. In 1960 with the original Valiant, the standard 170 vs 225 made some sort of sense, but when the 170 was phased out, what did they do? Yep, they made a 198. Purely an accounting guys idea, not an engineers. MPG was actually a little worse than a 225, the smaller engine had to work a tad harder. As an engineer, I can tell you that a 198 is no cheaper to make then a 225, so why not give the customer his best bang for the buck? Kind of like TV manufacturers who use the same chips inside all levels of their TVs, except the higher cost models have some of the nicer picture quality options turned on on them that they turn off in the lower cost models. A kick in the pants to consumers. That chip costs them the same, the difference is an artificial way to make some people pay more if the want better, when they could give everyone the same great TV at the same price. Why not make your very best product at a fair price and then corner the market? Capitalism has turned a bad corner. I also agree a front heavy big block is a horrible idea if you want a decent handler. If you just got to have a V8, find a nice and cheap 318. That would work with the standard rear end and 904 tranny. A big block is a dumb idea not to mention a money pit.

    Like 4
    • S

      The 170 went away as the cars they were installed in became heavier and consequently was no longer powerful enough. The purpose of offering the 198 was to offer the customer a smaller engine option, but for the company to save some money, since they no longer had to manufacture two different slant 6 engine blocks. The 198 has the same block and head as a 225, it just has a different crank with a shorter stroke. That’s why the displacement is less. As you may remember, the market was different back in 1970. Different entry level cars competed on how low their initial base price was (without options) so one manufacturer could say their car was cheaper. Customers then cared about the final price they paid for their cars. It wasn’t like today where all people care about is the monthly payment – which is artificially changed by altering the length of the loan or the interest rate slightly. People now don’t think about the final price they’re paying the way they did back then. Does anyone now buy cars that are stripper models, with basic seats, roll down windows and no a/c, just to save money on a new car? The 198 was only offered from 1970 to 1974. Most people paid a few dollars more and sprung for the 225 anyway. In 1975 when they began putting catalytic converters on the cars, along with leaner jetted carburetors, the 225 was barely powerful enough as it was, so the 198 was discontinued. It’s generally agreed that the 225 is the better engine from a power perspective.

      Like 1
    • Howard

      Yep, they should have kept the 170 it would have come in handy in the 70’s. Make it available with an overdrive. If you look at early 60’s road tests 170 3-speed Valiants and Darts were about as fast as a 225 Automatic but got quite a bit better gas mileage.

      Like 0
  3. Maggy

    I’d go the cheap route with a slightly hopped up 318,4barrel ,aluminum intake headers and duals.340 would be really neat though.It’ll make someone a nice solid little project.

    Like 4
  4. Allen L

    I was expecting to see at least one comment saying they were going to
    🎶 take the last train to Clarksville 🎶 to see the car.
    Okay, no more Monkee-ing around.

    Like 5
  5. patrick

    To even consider a big block in this car you must change the K member if you can find one for the big block? they never put anything smaller than a 8 3/4 rear axles behind automatic trans big blocks. it’s a lot of work but it will have as close to warp drive as you get!

    Like 1
    • K Johnson

      You don’t need to change the lember. Schumacher makes conversion motor mounts for slant 6 to RB. In fact I have a set for my dart 440 install. I have 2 A body 8 3/4 rear ends and. BB 727. I did this same conversion to a 71 duster back in the 1980’s. They can be torque monsters on the street.

      Like 0
  6. S

    A friend of mine had a 72 Dart Swinger Special with a 198, no a/c, no vinyl top, and points ignition (in 1972 only, points ignition was standard and electronic ignition was optional at extra cost). He wanted a new car, but had no money, so he got the cheapest car he could get. It did have an automatic and a radio, and power steering, so it did have some options. He did later wish he had gotten electronic ignition for just a few dollars more. The distributor is down low on a slant 6, and it’s hard to see what you’re doing when you adjust the dwell on the points.

    Like 1
  7. S

    This car must have been green with a green interior, judging by the steering wheel and upper interior painted part of the door.

    Like 0
  8. Anthony

    My first car was a green ‘72 dart swinger with a 318. That would be the best motor for this car.

    Like 0
  9. Timothy Kenner

    I have had a 73 duster since 1992, original 318 car,94 started building as a drag car,I’ve had 2+451 stroker’s,572 ci in it and it now has a 500ci,489 8/3/4 rear 4.56 gears,the 572 had to much torque for the car to handle even with a 12pt cage,frame connectors,backed halfed, engine compartment cage all tied in,but the 500ci is perfect for it,runs mid 10s in Denver.

    Like 0
  10. Jerald Covington

    My dad bought a brand new 1968 dodge dart for 1700 hundred dollars bare bones 3 on the tree rubber carpet am radio had the smaller 6 banger in it got about 25 mpg on the highway after about 75,000 miles started burning oil so he bought a low millage 225 six and switched the motor out in a day easy to do back then the 225 had a lot more power by far and the mpg were not much different

    Like 0

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