Time Capsule: 1974 Dodge Dart

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I don’t much care for these mid-seventies Dodge Darts (though I have always liked the earlier two door versions, especially the more muscular GTS model.)

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By the time this car was new, Darts were more or less boring basic transportation modules that satisfied the needs of families all over America. Powered by Mopar’s famous and reliable 225 cubic inch slant six, most of these cars were driven into the ground by successive owners, though every so often, it seems we run across examples whose owners did not drive them very much, and kept them in pristine condition.

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Here on craigslist in the rural town of Sherman, Connecticut, is one such low mileage car, a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom four door sedan with only 12,568 miles showing on its pristine odometer.

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The seller of the car does not provide any information about its history. When I run across these low mileage cars, part of the fun is in hearing the stories of their owners, and why these cars were driven so little over the course of such a long time. At 42 years old, this car has been driven an average of just under 300 miles a year! How did that happen?

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Anyway, car’s current owner says it “looks, runs, and drives, like the day it left the showroom” and “the vinyl top, interior, paint, are like new.” The car was always garaged and not driven in bad weather.

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Based on the photos in the ad listing, I see no reason to doubt the accuracy of this description.

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Dodge introduced the Dart nameplate as a full size car in 1960 and then applied it to its compact car line starting in 1963. By 1974, when this car was built, Dart sales were in decline, and only 50,047 Customs were built. The final year for this body style was 1976.

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While this car is not one I would like to own, I can see the attraction it will hold for others. It is great to see any old car in such well preserved original condition. At car shows, the new owner will doubtless get plenty of comments from people who grew up riding in the back seat of one of these cars as a kid, or who drove one through high school or college until it just would not run anymore or simply rusted away beneath them. These cars are memory machines, taking us back in time, and reminding us of our past lives when everything seemed simpler. That will doubtless spur someone to part with some cash to take this car home. However, the asking price of $8,200 appears to be more hopeful than realistic. Given the pedestrian nature of a four door, six cylinder, early emissions era Dart, it looks like $6,000 is top dollar for this car.

What do our readers think of this car? Is it cool enough to buy, and if so, what would you pay for it?

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Comments

  1. Bob S

    These take an amazing pounding. I had one as my third car that was totally beat up when I bought it in 82. Front end has quite a ride with that torsion bar front end. Mine had way to much front negative camber, but with wider radials was fun trying to slide in curves.

  2. jmacc

    My 73 was the worst handling car (by a significant margin) that I’ve owned.

    Having said that, I did not take good care of it. I got it for free in terrible condition. It had holes in the floor in front of the rear seats you could see through. I covered them with plywood. Rust was everywhere. There was noticeable moss growing in the rear quarter panels.

    When it finally died (not willing to put in a radiator to replace the one I’d patched about 50 times) the first junkyard refused to take it. The second would give me no money but took it off my hands.

    Would not drive again.

  3. Cattoo CattooButt Member

    My friend Dave has one of these. Same color exterior; interior and engine/transmission configuration. His just so happens to have been driven a tad more than an average of 300 yearly.

  4. Tom

    Here is another 1974 with similar mileage here in Canada. Were they so terrible that people just stopped driving them? Surely they couldn’t have been thinking they were a great investment…

    http://www.autotrader.ca/a/Dodge/Dart/ETOBICOKE/Ontario/19_9336200_/?showcpo=ShowCPO&orup=4_15_146

  5. jefray

    I had a 73 model the same color and a 318. I loved that car. Sold it, when we couldn’t figure out a electrical issue. It was stolen from the guy I sold it to the same day. I’d buy this if I didn’t already have more cars than I need…

  6. Larry

    My parents had the same car, but in blue. Vinyl roof and everything. I don’t recall it being terribly reliable, and certainly not fun to drive, but it could take a lot of abuse. It hits a few nostalgia chords for me, but not so many that I’d part with even half the asking price to relive that bit of my youth.

  7. jim s

    car looks good in the photos and it has a slant six. if no rust make the seller an offer. then use it as a daily driver. great find

  8. Rando

    I had a 71 2 dr 318 Swinger. Great car. I put front and rear sway bars on it. Took as good a care as I could, drove the crap out of it, sold it to my college roommate, who rebuilt the driveline. I gave $600 in 87 or so. Had 78K on it. Wish I had it now…

    I could see this particular example being owned by older folks that didn’t go very far very often. Run to town, church, etc. Held on it, kept it in garage. Now the family is ready to sell it off? Just my thoughts. How else can it stay so nice? And it’s not really desirable at all. I definitely would NOT give that much for it.

    • Jeff DeWitt

      Sounds like my grandparents. They had one much like this (only blue). Drove it to church, the grocery store and not much else, and kept it in a garage (good idea in Western Michigan!).

      Don’t know what happened to it after they passed.

  9. Ed P

    Nice looking Dart. By ’74 buyers were turning to smaller cars in droves. Chrysler was trying to meet the needs by making Darts/Valiants look more important. The big downside of this car and all other ’74 cars was smog control. Power was way down. This would be a nice driver, just do not expect to win any races.

  10. jaymes

    still a ugly car this many years later, someone grandmothers car I suppose. too bad it wasn’t a challenger (

  11. Billy

    I’ve seen this car, it’s in excellent condition

  12. Barzini

    This was the Toyota Camry of its day — ubiquitous, modest and low-cost transportation.

    And as many others have observed, these cars could take a beating.

  13. Charles

    Whoa! Some ugly comments! However, these cars ran forever with the slant six, 3 speed manual or automatic transmission. Reliable, solid, enduring transportation. Knew a guy who a 4 door that suffered damage from a large tree falling on the passenger side due to a tornado. The insurance paid him, he kept it, took it to some “shade- tree buddies” who straightened it out to a certain degree, he drove it for 5 more years, sold it for $500!

  14. Rick R

    Little known fact: the hood on this last iteration of Dart is the same stamping as the ’69 Barracuda. A modest connection to the glory years for the A body – and something to remember if you are looking to undo that period “Grumpy’s Lump” pro stock hood scoop on that ‘cuda Barn Find.

  15. Jim Mc

    This is an awesome car. In many ways it’s not so different from a ’49 Plymouth. Chrysler had an audience, one that lasted through the years (yeah, me.) It’s comfy, not that fast, super reliable…..I personally love it. I’ve owned a good number of these Dart / Valiants through the years.

    But it’s waaaay overpriced. $8200 is crackpipe even in it’s awesome current condition.
    Start bidding at $3K and $6K tops. Tops! It’s a grandpa cruiser that I’d gladly represent.

  16. Jim Mc

    If it had a three-on-the-tree I’d be in luurve….

  17. Mike Kay

    I had one exactly like this back in the late 70’s. Looked very nice but developed carb problems that were downright dangerous (stalling on left turns). Water leaks (dripping on your feet when driving) were never resolved. Once when waxing the car, put a finger right through a front fender. Chrysler quality went down the tubes around this time.

  18. David

    Had a 76, bought it with 137k miles, sold it with 229k. Ran great. I maintained it well but took it places and at speeds it shouldn’t have been asked to go. Sky blue, white top. I got a bit weepy when I sold it.

  19. Sal

    I bought this car. Two years ago paid 6200 . The car is in mint condition and just hit 13,000 miles.
    The story of the car is simple , this guy in new England brought the car in 74 drove it for a year to work (always garage kept, still is) after the year he got another job that provided him with a company car. So he parked it in his garage and stayed there till he passed. The car was part of the estate sale in 2010. A used car dealer brought the car and cleaned it up replacing all rubber that was dry rotted. The car has zero rust.
    So the car dealer sold the car to one of his workers who collected classic cars hence the guy in Connecticut. He kept the car for 5 years and sold it cause he needed room for another car in his garage.
    I’ve had the car for 2 years and drive it a couple of days a month.
    I know it’s a old mans car but i plan to retire in a couple of years and plan to drive it more often then.
    I will tell you this that when i drive it , I have a smile from ear to ear.

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