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The Early (non-Valiant) 1960-1962 Dodge Darts

1963-66 Dart | 1967-76 Dart

The 1960-62 Dart was the first Dodge to compete directly with Plymouth; it had a 118 inch wheelbase, four inches smaller than the usual Dodges. This wasn’t the “upmarket Valiant” car, not yet; that role was served by the 1961-62 Lancer, and then the 1963-76 Darts.

1960 dodge dart brochure

The 1960 Dodge Dart was the first Dodge to compete directly against Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth; the tactic worked in the short term, with 400,000 Darts sold over three years. The car was sold in three trim levels (Seneca, Pioneer, and Phoenix) and 17 colors. 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.

1960 dodge dart

1960 Dodges

Station wagons had optional dealer-installed luggage racks, power tailgate windows with dual controls (above the rear window and on the dash) — optional on six-passenger wagons, standard on nine-passenger ones —  and an exclusive safety latch that only allowed tailgate opening when the window was rolled down and a double latch released.

Three engines were available: the brand new 225 cubic inch slant six, standard on Seneca and Pioneer, and the optional 318 cubic inch “Red Ram” V8 (with twin-barrel carburetor). To really motorvate the Phoenix, buyers could get a four-barrel 318 or the hot 383 D-500 engine with tuned manifolds (for a supercharging effect). The Phoenix could also be downgraded to the slant six.

dart wagon

From a story
by Bill Watson

All these engines used regular gas. The 145-horsepower Slant Six delivered 24.74 miles per gallon in the 1960 2,061-mile Mobilgas Economy Run. The 318 two-barrel 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.

New rubber block and heavy coil spring engine mountings on all 1960 Dodge engines brought the largest drop in engine vibrations since Dodge first introduced V-8s. The slant six used a new TorqueFlite transmission; an alternator, still unusual in retail cars, was optional (the first car with a standard alternator was the 1960 Valiant).

1960 dart

pushbuttonsThree automatics, activated by pushbuttons, were available in 1960 and 1961:

The list of engines below shows brake, or “gross,” horsepower — net horsepower, as used today, would be around 30-50 hp lower.

1960 dart profile

Canada had no Pioneer wagons, but did sell the Phoenix-based Sport Suburban with Matador side trim. The Phoenix convertible was imported; instrument panel and interiors were from the Plymouth. Engine choices were the slant six and 318-cid V8, the latter coming with two or four barrel carburetors. Canadian Darts did not get alternators yet

The Seneca was available as a club sedan, four door sedan, and six passenger wagon. The Pioneer was sold in these bodies, plus a two door hardtop and nine passenger wagon. The Phoenix was sold as a two or four door hardtop, four door sedan, and convertible.

Unibody construction and suspension

Dodge’s general manager, M.C. Patterson, claimed that “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.... Extensive tests have proven the 1960 ‘Unibody’ construction is nearly four times as strong as cars built by conventional body and frame methods.”

body roll

New rustproofing steps involved seven dips, seven sprays, and six coats of sealers, primers, and enamel paint. The Dart press release boasted of a “large sky-view rear window, available on hardtop models in shaded glass that cuts out 85% of the sun’s heat.” The Torsion-Aire suspension (dual torsion bar) had far less front-end dip, acceleration squat, and body sway than GM or Ford cars with coil springs, along with better handling.

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

1960 Dodge Dart safety features

Many of the safety features seem laughable in today’s times; the Dart lacked seat belts, airbags, crush zones, even collapsible steering columns. Here is Dodge’s list of safety features:

dart interior

A new seat design put the driver’s side of the front seat higher than the rest of the seat back, for better support. A wide range of colors graced the interior, with combinations of nylon warp fabrics and vinyl.

1961 Dodge Dart changes

The 1961 Dart was restyled, inside and out, with new fabrics and door trim, a new instrument panel, and color-keyed steering wheels. The front featured a wide concave aluminum grille which encircled the dual headlights. A newly designed hood had simulated louvers near the base of the windshield. Tail lights had flush lenses.

Dodge Dart Phoenix convertible

The slant six compression ratio was reduced from 8.5 to 8.2 to deal with bad gas; but cam timing was advanced by eight degrees. Low-speed performance and economy were improved by a revised calibration of the choke and carburetor (the end result was over 23 mpg in the Mobilgas Economy Run, with estimated “real life” 17/20 mileage). The alternator became standard in the US, and the slant six was the standard engine on all but Phoenix convertibles.

1961 dodge dart

The 260-horsepower four-barrel 318 became optional on all models, and all existing engines continued, with new high-performance V-8s:

The D-500 version of the 361 had a 9 to 1 compression ratio and a four-barrel carburetor. The intake valves were enlarged for better breathing. The Police Special had 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 added two four-barrel carburetors, dual exhausts, a special camshaft, and special valve spring dampers. Ram induction used long, tuned manifold branches to create a supercharging effect at certain rpms.

Dart Seneca

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.

Station wagons were split from the rest of the Dart line by a “torpedo” tail light and rear fender treatment (from the high end Polara). The wagons had a 122-inch wheelbase throughout the Dart’s run.

Seneca wagon

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

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

Pushbuttons for the automatic transmission and heater were in sculptured upsweeps; a new speedometer cluster used a horizontal dial with dark figures against a light background. Three steering wheel variations were available.

Dodge Dart Pioneer

The vinyl door panels featured a new “spear” design. The front seat had custom positioning — back and forth, and tilted.

Dart engineering advances included:

Darts with factory undercoating had a new fiberglass silencing pad under the hood. Dodge also added two new rustproofing steps, another spray on the insides of the door sills and a coat of wax on the inside surfaces of the door sills.

1961 Dart Phoenix

Options included vacuum-powered locks; a heater; dealer-installed hazard flashers, transistorized radio with rear-seat speaker, remote-control mirror, seat belts, padded instrument panel, station wagon roof luggage rack, windshield washers, tinted glass, and power steering, brakes, seats, window lifts and station wagon tailgate window.

Canada had a model line-up similar to the U.S., with the addition of a Seneca three-seat wagon, but the loss of the Pioneer two-door; Phoenix convertibles were imported rather than being made in Canada. The Canadian Darts used Plymouth instrument panels with other trim the same as in the US. Engines were the slant six, 318-cid V8 (two or four barrel), and 361-cid V8. The generator was still standard, but now the alternator was optional.

1962 Dodge Dart cars - changes

Joseph Newhouse wrote: “For 1962, the Dodge Dart was downsized; 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.” The new styling was generally not well received.

1962 dodge dart 440

In a famous move, Chrysler’s President, on hearing a rumor that GM was downsizing its cars, put an emergency resizing program into place at Chrysler. The result was odd styling, lower sales, and the new “B-body” series. In reality, GM simply added a new car of intermediate size. The Dart only lost two inches of wheelbase; other Dodges (and Plymouths) were not so lucky.

overhead dart

This section by
Bill Watson

The new B bodies, including the 1962 Dart, took many of the lessons of the 1960 Valiant. The old Lockheed brakes and the driveshaft brake were replaced by self-adjusting Bendix brakes, with parking brakes on the rear drums. Likewise, they moved to the Valiant-style torsion bars, with a better failure mode and more accessible height adjusters.

rear of dart

The new B body also adopted the style of unibody used on the Valiant, with the 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 six or V8 (the 1960-61 cars had used a front stub frame that was bolted in place, largely due to manufacturing constraints). All Darts, including the wagons, were now on a 116” wheelbase.

1962 Dodge Dart dashboard

The A904 Torqueflite was now the same as the Valiant’s, with a park sprag to stop the car from moving while parked. The sprag was operated by a separate lever, just below the transmission buttons. The new A-727 Torqueflite replaced both V8 automatics; unlike the version used in the Dodge 880, Chrysler, and Imperial, the Dart/Plymouth version had the park sprag.

1962 dodge darts

The Dart also gained a new in-house reduction-gear starter, replacing the old Autolite (cutting five pounds). The two starters are not interchangable, due to different tooth counts on the ring gears.

inside the 9162

The slant six was the base engine on all models except the 330 three-seat wagon, the 440 wagons, and 440 convertible. The 413 was available in three setups, 365, 380, and 410 horsepower (gross), with a single four-barrel or dual four-barrels. The 383 was sold with one or two four-barrels, withi just a 5 hp difference; the 361 was still lingering, with a single four-barrel.

The smaller body (and a 60-pound-lighter V8 automatic) meant far less weight; Dodge dropped axle ratios on the slant six and 318 V8 (with automatic) to save fuel.

polara 500

The sporty new 1962 Dodge Polara 500 was just a Dart with a slightly revised grille, taillights, and side trim, with bucket seats. It came as a two-door hardtop and convertible when introduced, but a four-door hardtop was added in December. The look was rather similar to the smaller, Valiant-based Lancer, which had been launched in 1961.

The base engine for the Polara 500 was the 361 V8. A Dart 440 with that engine and a TorqueFlite automatic, with a 3.23:1 rear axle, did 0-60 in 8.1 seconds, with a 15.4 second standing-start quarter mile time — quite good for the time, and credited (by Dodge) to weight loss.

1962 dart

Around December, Dodge started selling 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; this was its way of handling that.

dart 440

In Canada, a Dart three-seat wagon was added, but the Dart 330 two-door sedan and Polara 500 were not available. The Dart 440 convertible was imported. Dart engine choices were the slant six, 318-cid V8, and 361-cid V8. 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. V8 engines got the new Chrysler reduction-gear starter but Canadian-built slant six models kept the direct drive starter, now made by Prestolite.

The 413 option

Despite being downsized for 1962, the Dart now boasted a powerful 413 cubic inch V8 engine option (except in wagons), arriving in early 1962. A hot package in the light Dart, it included an aluminum intake manifold with a one-piece, 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 manifold length was designed to increase output at engine speeds over 4,000 rpm. It had two four-barrel carburetors fed by a three-valve fuel pump, 25% larger port areas than normal, a strengthened deck structure, and oversized exhaust. Forged aluminum pistons and an 11:1 compression ratio showed this was a serious motor.

1962 Dodge Dart cars

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 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.

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” — due to the intake manifold’s ramcharging effect.

dodge dart brochure

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.

Sales

by Bill Watson

The 1960 Dart was a big success, but the backward fins of 1961 and the downsizing in 1962 brought sales down. US production figures were:

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 World War II), the worst since 1936. The 1962 Plymouth’s was the worst since 1935, 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.

Learn more

Specifications

Numbers courtesy of Joseph Newhouse:

1961
Lancer
1961
Dart
1961
Polara
2006
Charger
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 53.3 54.8 54.9 58.2
Clearance
(loaded, at muffler)
5.4 5.1 5.2 5.6
Seat Height: Front 11.2 11.4 11.4 (n/a)
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
Trunk Capacity (cf) 24.9 31.6 32.8 16.2

Feedback

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 four cars. Some he let sit at the local dealer and never brought home.

In 1960, he had some Darts with 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.

All the 1960 and 1961 Darts he had were V8s with Torqueflites. 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 two 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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