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The Early (Big) 1960-1962 Dodge Darts

1963-66 Dart | 1967-76 Dart

The Dodge Dart was introduced as a smaller (but still big) Dodge, with a wheelbase four inches smaller than the standard Dodge — 118 rather than 122 inches (the 2010 300C had a 120 inch wheelbase). At the time, Dodge was positioned between value-based Plymouth and affordable-luxury Chrysler. The Dart marked the first time in quite a while that Dodge fielded a car to compete against Ford, Chevrolet, and, by extension, Plymouth; its introduction, and that of the Lancer, signalled the start of branding compromises that would end up taking Plymouth from third place down to history. The Dart was quite successful, though, with 400,000 sold over three years.

1960 dodge dart

The Dodge Dart was originally offered in three models: Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix. It had a choice of 17 different colors. Styling was designed to resemble other Dodges, but with a grille that featured vertical bars that curved down and forward from the hood. Side trim, ornamentation, medallions and nameplates were exclusive. A Dodge press release gushed:

From the side, the Dart's low silhouette is dramatized by long, flowing sculptured lines in the rear quarter panels, providing an expression of fleetness and power. At the rear, the clean design is seen in the smooth, flush lines of the bumper and the broad surfaces of the deck lid. A custom touch, also exclusive with the Dodge Dart, are the red reflector buttons set into the back edges of each fender, above the tail lights.

The Dart interior is roomy and the car's excellent entry and exit qualities result from its unit body construction. This Unibody is rustproofed and sealed by Chrysler's comprehensive new anti-corrosion and weatherproofing systems.

1960 Dodges

Three engines were available: the brand new 225 cubic inch slant six, making its debut, was standard on Seneca and Pioneer, while the 318 cubic inch Red Ram V8 (with twin-barrel carburetor) was available as an option. To really motorvate the Phoenix, a four-barrel 318 was optional and the 383-cubic-inch D-500 engine with ram manifolding was available as “special equipment.” All models could have the slant six.

1960 dart

All engines used regular gas. The 145-horsepower Slant Six delivered 24.74 miles per gallon in the 1960 2,061-mile Mobilgas Economy Run. Patterson said refinements in the engine "should offer the motorist even better economy in 1961."

The 318-cubic-inch V-8 with two-barrel carburetor pushed out 230 horsepower (gross) and, in the 1960 Economy Run, recorded 22.29 miles per gallon with an automatic transmission. The four-barrel version delivered 260 horsepower.

1960 dart

New rubber block and heavy coil spring engine mountings used on all 1960 Dodge engines achieved the largest reduction of engine vibrations since Dodge first introduced V-8s. The slant six used a new TorqueFlite transmission; an alternator, then revolutionary, was available as an option.

Three automatics were available in 1960 and 1961:

Engines were:

1960 dodge dart

Canada had no Pioneer wagons, but did offer the Phoenix-based Sport Suburban that used Matador side trim. The Phoenix convertible was imported; instrument panel and interiors were from the Plymouth. Engine choices were the slant six and 313-cid V8 (2 or 4-bbl). No 361 or 383 engines for Darts in Canada, and the alternator was not offered as an option on Canadian-built models.

Unibody construction and suspension

"The new 'Unibody' construction of the 1960 Dodge Dart cars is the greatest step forward in automobile body building since Dodge introduced all-steel bodies," M.C. Patterson, Dodge general manager, said.

The body and the frame are integrated into a single unified structure by this new method of construction. The "Unibody" gives extra room on the inside -- including spacious legroom, ample headroom and high seats -- and greater structural strength. It also provides a higher level of comfort and quiet for the driver and passengers.

Extensive tests have proven the 1960 "Unibody" construction is nearly four times as strong as cars built by conventional body and frame methods.

The most intensive rustproofing and anti-corrosion process ever used in the automobile industry has been adopted by Dodge for 1960. Twenty separate operations are involved in the body protection and finishing process. They include seven different dipping steps, seven external sprays and six coats of sealers, primers, and "Lustre-Bond" enamels.

The Dart had large glass surfaces to create “an airy outdoor feeling suggestive of a convertible” and a “large sky-view rear window, available on hardtop models in shaded glass that cuts out 85 percent of the sun's heat.”

The Dodge Dart used the Torsion-Aire suspension (dual torsion bar), which “virtually eliminates front-end dip, acceleration squat, and body sway.”

Details on the 1960 Dodge models, Torsion-Aire, and unibody construction

Safety features

Many of the safety features seem laughable in today’s times. Seat belts had yet to arrive; ditto airbags, crush zones, and crumpling steering columns. Here is Dodge’s list of safety features, not including the dual headlights:

Dodge Dart interior

A new seat design, with the driver’s side of the front seat higher than the rest of the seat back, was design to provide added support. The parking brake was foot-operated, and the transmission push-buttons to the left of the driver (so only s/he could operate them) and the push-button heater/air conditioning controls to the right (so the passenger could operate them). The translucent plastic speedometer extended above the dashboard just below the line of vision so it could be read easily. To prevent nighttime reflections on the windshield, a canopy arched over the speedometer face.

A wide range of colors graced the interior, with combinations of nylon warp fabrics and vinyl.

Seneca and Pioneer station wagon features

1961 Dodge Dart changes

The slant six compression ratio was reduced from 8.5 to 8.2 to increase its smoothness and quietness, and mainly to deal with bad gas. Low-speed performance and economy were improved by a revised calibration of the choke and carburetor. An eight-degree advance in the camshaft timing also helped quiet the Slant Six. The alternator, still a unique feature, became standard in the US, and the slant six was the standard engine on all but Phoenix convertibles.

1961 dodge dart

The base eight-cylinder engine remained the 230-horsepower 318 V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor; the 260-horsepower four-barrel version became optional on all models, and three high-performance V-8 engines were offered: the (continuing) 305-horsepower D-500; a 325-horsepower Police Special; and a 330-horsepower V-8 with special ram induction manifolding.

The D-500 had a displacement of 361 cubic inches, a 9 to 1 compression ratio and a four-barrel carburetor. The intake valves of the D-500, which was also around in 1960, were enlarged to give better breathing -- and better performance. The Police Special, designed specifically for use by law enforcement agencies, had a displacement of 383 cubic inches, a compression ratio of 10 to 1 and a four-barrel carburetor.

The special ram induction V-8 had the same displacement and compression ratio, but was equipped with two four-barrel carburetors, dual exhausts, a special camshaft and valve spring dampers. Ram induction -- using long, "tuned" manifold branches -- forces air and fuel into the engine when the car is accelerated. The increased output of power makes possible quicker, safer passing -- putting added punch in the mid-speed range, at which most motorists normally drive on highways.

The V8s had to make do with the two-speed Powerflite automatic, while the Torqueflite was reserved for the slant six. A manual transmission was standard on the 361 and 383. All the engines ran on regular gas.

The 1961 Dart was restyled inside and out. The interior of the car featured new nylon and rayon fabrics, a distinctive instrument panel, a new door trim design, color-keyed steering wheels, and new, contemporary color combinations. The front end featured a wide concave aluminum grille which encircled the dual headlights. Projections at the ends of the wrap-around front bumper provided housings for the parking lights. A newly designed hood had simulated louvers near the base of the windshield. Horizontally styled tail lights with flush lenses were positioned directly above the massive rear bumper.

Station wagons, again available in the Seneca and Pioneer series, featured a "torpedo" tail light and rear fender treatment (from the Polara!), which distinguished them from the rest of the Dart line. The wagons had a 122-inch wheelbase throughout the Dart’s run.

The high rear window was standard on all Phoenix hardtops, increasing the rear glass area by 47 percent.

The 1961 Darts were available in 16 different Super Enamel and Super Metallic Enamel colors, 12 of which were completely new. Twenty-one two-tone color combinations were offered. Interior colors were keyed to the exterior.

Rectangular pushbuttons for the automatic transmission and heating system were housed in sculptured upsweeps which projected from the upper edge of the panel. The new speedometer cluster featured a horizontal dial with dark figures against a light background. Three different steering wheel variations were available. The vinyl door panels featured a new "spear" design.

The front seat had custom positioning. In addition to the normal back and forth adjustment, the seats may be placed in a variety of ranges and then tilted, to or fro, to meet the driver's specific need.

The alternator, which debuted on the Valiant, now showed up on the Dart as standard equipment. Other Dart engineering advances included:

Dart models equipped with factory undercoating had a new under-the-hood silencing pad of fiber glass. The pad, which soaks up engine sounds, was held to the hood by snap-in fasteners. Two new steps were added to the Dart's seven step rustproofing process. Before the body was dipped in water reducible primer, a special spray was applied to the insides of the door sills to make certain that the surface was covered with primer. After the final paint-baking process, the inside surfaces of the door sills were given a coat of high melting point wax compound.

Options included "Child Guard" vacuum-powered locks that operate from an instrument panel switch (power locks); a highly efficient, easy-to-operate heater; a dealer-installed emergency four-light flashing warning system; transistorized radio with rear-seat speaker; remote-control outside rear-view mirror; power steering, brakes, seats, window lifts and station wagon tailgate window; seat belts and padded instrument panel; station wagon roof luggage rack; windshield washers; and tinted glass for all windows.

Canada had a model line-up similar to the U.S., with the addition of a Seneca 3-seat wagon and no Pioneer 2-door sedan. The Phoenix convertible was imported. Instrument panel was from the Plymouth but seats and door panels were the same as the U.S. Dart. Engine choices were the slant six, 313-cid V8 (2 or 4-bbl) and 361-cid V8. The generator was still standard and the alternator optional. No Lancer or Polara in Canada.

Sales (Bill Watson)

The 1960 Dart was a big success, but the backward fins of 1961 and the downsizing in 1962 resulted in a downward trend. For US production:

1960 : 306,603 (compared to 242,725 Plymouths)
1961 : 167,678 (compared to 198,444 Plymouths)
1962 : 148,356* (compared to 172,132 Plymouths); includes 12,268 Polara 500s.

In Canada -
1960 : 16,565 (compared to 10,705 Plymouths)
1961 : 12,883 (compared to 15,192 Plymouths)
1962 : 10,272 (compared to 10,101 Plymouths)

1962 Dodge production was, except for 1942 and 1946 due to WWII, the worst since 1936 (6,964). The 1962 Plymouth's was the worst since 1935 (7,806), again not including 1942 and 1946. Canadians went more for the finless 1961 Plymouth with the monster movie front end than for the big fins on the 1960. 1960 was also not a good year for Dodge in Canada as sales had dropped from 44,008 in 1956 to 31,902 in 1957 to 15,199 in 1958 and then rose a miniscule 591 cars to 15,790 in 1959. These Dodge figures do not include Custom Royal / Polara production.

1962 Dodge Dart cars - changes

1962 dodge dartsJoseph Newhouse wrote: “For 1962, the Dodge Dart was downsized to become an intermediate car. The three-tier model line-up was retained, but the Dart Seneca was replaced by the Dart, the Dart Pioneer was replaced by the Dart 330, and the Dart Phoenix was replaced by the Dart 440. Over 100,000 Darts were sold in 1962, using similar engines to the larger 1960-1961 models.”

Though the Dart got smaller and lighter, it offered powerful 413 cubic inch V8 engines (except in the wagons), with availability starting early in 1962. The aluminum intake manifold was a new, one-piece, short (15-inch) ram tube which fit between the rocker covers and acted as a tappet chamber cover. Hot tappet lash could be set with the manifold installed -- an important servicing advantage. The tapered-branch manifold was tuned to increase output in the ranges above 4,000 rpm. Two four-barrel carburetors sat atop the huge engine, underneath high capacity air cleaners and fed by a three-valve fuel pump. The port areas were 25% larger than normal, with streamlined 2.08 inch intake valves and oversized 1.88 inch exhaust valves. The block had a strengthened deck structure and no heat crossover package; and head gaskets were stainless steel. Exhaust manifolds had a three inch outlet and went into a two inch tailpipe.

Inside the engine were forged aluminum pistons for the 11-to-1 standard compression ratio engine; that increased thermal efficiency for maximum output, but required premium fuel. The 4 3/16-inch bore engine had a chrome-plated, high-strength, iron top compression piston ring. The number two ring was be standard, and a new, one-piece oil ring was added.

1962 Dodge Dart carsNew high-strength valve spring retainers and double high-load valve springs were used for higher rpm operation. The rocker arms included a lock nut on the lash-adjusting screw. Valve gear was rated stable to 6,500 rpm on the standard test fixture.

The ignition system was double-breaker, no-vacuum-advance. A smaller crankshaft pulley cut belt speeds. All pulleys were deep-groove, and an air-conditioning water pump was used. The crankshaft was hardened with .0005-inch undersized journals and shot-peened fillets. F-77 tri-metal Clevite 413 bearings were be used. The connecting rods were be magnaflux checked. The oil pan had a deeper sump than the standard unit, and was equipped with anit-slosh baffles.

The 413 engine was available with either heavy-duty manual or automatic transmission. The three-speed, close-ratio, floor-mounted, manual transmission had ratios of 2.09 and 1.44 and was preferred for police work. The clutch had 10 1/2-inch O.D. high-strength, pearlitic malleable iron pressure plate, extra-heavy-duty torque shaft, and special disc. The heavy-duty Torqueflite push-button transmission had high-capacity components and an upshift speed up to 5,600 rpm. The prop shaft was similar to the stock police car shaft but with a cemented boot.

The regular police rear springs were used, and a new heavy-duty pinion bumper assembly was included. The standard, "Sure-Grip" rear axle ratio was 3.91. Seven optional MoPar ring and pinion sets from 2.93 through 4.89 were available. Dodge also offered 6 1/2 K rear wheels with 9.00 x 14 tires as dealer-installed options. The engine package was called the "Ram-Charger" -- a name suggested by the intake manifolding of the engine.

Across the board changes (Bill Watson)

The Lockheed brakes and the driveshaft brake were dropped, being replaced by self-adjusting Bendix brakes with the emergency brakes on the rear drums.

The torsion bar suspension was revised, with the Dart and Plymouth adopting the Valiant/Lancer style with the adusters up front by the lower A arms. The 1960-61 models used the 1957-59 style with the adjusters at the back of the bars, under the front floor of the body.

The new B body also adopted the style of unibody used on the Valiant/Lancer with its front end welded to the remainder of the body. Only the second crossmember was bolted in place, with the style use depending upon whether the engine was a 6 or V8. The 1960-61 models had a front stub frame that was bolted in place. All models, including the wagons, were now on a 116" wheelbase.

The A904 Torqueflite was now the same as the Valiant and Lancer with a park sprag and no drivershaft brake. The park lever was located horizontally just below the transmission buttons. The new A-727 Torqueflite replaced both the Powerflite and the cast iron case Torqueflite transmissions. Unlike the A-727 used in the Dodge 880, Chrysler and Imperial, the Dart/Plymouth version had the park sprag and no driveshaft brake.

The Dart also got Chrysler's new reduction gear starter that replaced the old Autolite unit. The two starters, by the way, are not interchangable due to different tooth counts on the ring gears.

The slant six was the base engine on all models except the 330 3-seat wagon, the 440 wagons and 440 convertible.

A new sporty model was added for 1962 - the Polara 500. It was a Dart with a revised grille, taillights and unique side trim along with bucket seats inside. It came as a 2-door hardtop and convertible when introduced, but a 4-door hardtop was added in December. The base engine was the 361-cid V8.

Around December, Dodge offered the Sport Sweep package, which was the Polara 500 side trim on the Dart 440 sedan, hardtops, and convertible. Dodge had received many complaints about the lack of trim on the sides and the stubby look as a result.

Canada : Model line-up as in U.S., with the addition of a Dart 3-seat wagon and no Dart 330 2-door sedan. The Dart 440 convertible was imported, complete with Dart instrument panel and interior. Engine choices were the slant six, 313-cid V8, and 361-cid V8. The Polara 500 was not available in Canada. The Sports Sweep was added as an option on 330 and 440 sedans and hardtops in January. Bucket seats became an option on Dart 440 hardtops and sedan at the same time. The generator was still standard with the alternator optional. The V8 engines got the new Chrysler reduction-gear starter but Canadian-built slant six models kept the direct drive starter, now made by Prestolite. No Lancer, Polara 500 or Custom 880 in Canada.

By the way, if a Canadian wanted a Dodge with a D-500 engine, Chrysler of Canada would import the whole car. Chrysler of Canada never imported a special engine to install in a car - it was much easier to just import the car. It also made things easier when parts had to be replaced as Chrysler of Canada listed Canadian and American parts in their parts catalogues, along with identification items as serial and engine numbers.


Numbers courtesy of Joseph Newhouse:

1961 Lancer
(Valiant based)
Wheelbase 106.5 118 122 120
Overall: Length 188.8 209.4 212.4 200
Width 72.3 78.7 78.7 74.5
Height (loaded) 53.3 54.8 54.9 58.2
Road Clearance
(loaded, at muffler)
5.4 5.1 5.2 5.6
Seat Height: Front 11.2 11.4 11.4 (Not measured)
Rear 13.7 13.3 13.2
Headroom: Front 37.9 37.8 37.8 38.7
Rear 37.4 38.0 38.1 36.2
Legroom: Front 42.8 45.1 45.1 41.8
Rear 39.8 42.1 42.4 40.2
Hiproom: Front 56.8 63.8 63.8 56.2
Rear 56.9 62.9 62.8 55.5
Shoulder Room: Front 54.0 60.4 60.4 59.3
Rear 54.1 59.8 59.6 57.6
Trunk Capacity 24.9 cu. ft. 31.6 cu. ft. 32.8 cu. ft. 16.2 cu. ft.

Body styles, 1960

Seneca Six and V8

  • Club Sedan
  • 4 Door Sedan
  • Wagon 6 Passenger

Pioneer Six and V-8

  • Club Sedan
  • 2 Door Hardtop
  • 4 Door Sedan
  • Wagon 6 Passenger
  • Wagon 9 Passenger


  • 2 Door Hardtop
  • 4 Door Sedan
  • 4 Door Hardtop
  • Convertible


John Hagen wrote:

My father was a factory sales rep for Dodge in 1960, and Dodge furnished him with several cars to drive each year. If the sales were slow, the field force got more cars. They had to sell them eventually to dealers. At one point in 1959 he had 4 cars. Some he let sit at the local dealer and never brought home.

In 1960, he had some Dart Phoenix's. They all had the two-barrel 318s, and the manual swing out seats. The driver or front seat passenger had to move a lever so they would swing out and then use their legs to swing them in. The big Dodge had the automatic seats which would swing in unision with the door opening, powered by a cable. Actually, the manual were the best as the auto type made closing the door harder.

The article stated that the 1961 Darts only had Powerflite transmissions for the V8s. All the 1960 and 1961 Darts he had were V8s with Torqueflites. They were the original cast iron torqueflites (the 727 didn't arrive until 1962). The 6 cylinder cars did get the alumimum 904 starting in 1960. I believe the Powerflite was still available until 1962 but I don't recall seeing any. In 1963 I started working at Edwards Motor cars in Milwaukee doing car prep; I worked on and drove many 1960 -61 Darts so am quite positive of this.

My father, a Dodge field rep, at one point in 1960 had 2 field cars, a white Polara and a red Dart Phoenix, both two-door hardtops. Talk about having nice cars in the driveway! They were both really sharp cars. The Polara had four-bar "flipper" wheel covers (different fron the Lancer caps of previous years) that would make musical sounds at low speeds due to the air turbulence they caused.

The Polara had a four barrel big block, I think a 383 but Dodge also used 361s in the Polara/Matador line. It was not the high performance version as it had single exhaust. It was a torquer motor and could move the car along okay. In late 1960, dad got a 1961 Dart Phoenix with a 383 ram inducted motor. That car was quick!

1963-66 Dodge Dart | 1967-76 Dodge Dart


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