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The Last Dart: 1981 Brazilian Dodge Dart Coupé de Luxo

by Alex Badolato

The Dodge Dart was a compact economy car in the United States; but in Brazil, the same car was expensive, luxurious, and desirable. The 2-barrel 318 was, for Brazilian standards of that time, a muscle car engine.

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Since we only got the Dart body, it had to be redesigned to assume multiple images, fulfilling different segments with the same car.

In late 1969, Chrysler do Brasil released here the first Brazilian Dart as a 1970 model. It was exactly the same car as the 1969 US car. From then on, the cars started to have completely different design developement.

For 1971 model year, Chrysler do Brasil released the Charger and Charger R/T. They were just the Dart rebadged as Charger, but with a completely new front end, with the headlights hidden behind the grill, side panels in the C-column, leather separated seats and 4 speed in the floor. The engine had a little higher compression rate. The colors were strong and each year there were new stripes and style changes. It lasted until 1980. A 1971 model, nowadays, can easily reach the US$50,000 level.

Other models were developed upon the Dart base, in a peak of 7 different models offered in one same year.

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In 1979 the style of the Brazilian Dart went back to the US model, but the 1974-76 one ... and it was produced until 1981. Chrysler do Brasil was bought by Volkswagen, which discontinued the cars and started to produce the first VW trucks in history, with a Dodge chassis and 318 V8 engine, as well as the most sold diesel options.

I have been collecting these cars for 20 years. And I spent 16 years searching for my A-body holy grail: the very last car produced.

The are no official records, since the guys from Volkswagen did a real blitzkrieg in the old company stuff ... Even factory pictures of Chrysler plant are very scarce ... And the last car was sold, just any other ordinary car ...

I first had to know which car was the last one ... After long researches in the Brazilian traffic authorities database that lasted years, I finally got into an answer ... There were records for chassis 93001, 93002, 93003, 93004, 93005, 93006, 93007 and 93008 - and absolutely nothing for the subsequent 50 numbers ... The 93008 was the very last unit!

I then searched for a long time. The last license renewal for that car was from 1995, so there were big chances the car had been junked ...

But I was still searching when a friend from Brasilia came with a hint ... He had heard that car was used in a car freak show in the Brasilia race track, between races. The driver used to drive it on two wheels, make several zero-burnouts, and drive it from outside the car ... In the end, the driver opened the door and started to run away, when a bomb of smog exploded making the car disappear ... Sad, uh ? After years in this sort of penitence, the car was abandoned in the back of a car repair shop, in the suburbs of the federal capital. There is were I found it, and bought.

I brought it to Sao Paulo, where it went throw a very meticulous restoration, that lasted an year and a half. The car is now safe .... for good.

This 1981 Dodge Dart Coupé de Luxo was produced in July 29th or 30th, 1981 in the Chrysler plant of Sao Bernardo do Campo.

The factory original color, onyx black, was not a catalog color. It was an special order, made most probably by a government department that later gave up of the order. I also own another 1981 Dart Coupé, absolutely twin of this, chassis 92992, probably made for the same order.

The production of Dodge Dart Coupé in Brazil lasted from 1971 to 1981. It reached a peak of 9,982 cars in 1973, going down all the way down until the ridiculous production of 10 units in 1981.

Was this the last A-body in the world? Only if you don't count the Australian Valiants. Daniel Stern wrote, "The Australian Valiants were A-bodies right up to the end. The body sheetmetal was entirely unique to the Australian cars starting with the 1971 VH model, but it was still an A-body underneath, with the entire undercar (suspension components, torsion bar length, etc.) carried over."

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