History of the Dodge Dart

The Original Dodge Dart

They say that you can't judge a book by its cover, and while that may be true, the same may not be as easy to apply to the automotive industry. Certainly, looking at a stylish, fully-loaded Dodge Viper offers enough of an impact that you can be sure that it is a fun vehicle to take out for a spin around town or stretch your legs on the highway.

With best-in-class features, the modern Dart has certainly made a name for itself, with advanced features and an impressive selection of vehicle options that set it apart from the crowd. Let's take a moment and explore the origins of one of Dodge's favourite cars.

We're going to begin with what is often referred to as "the Original Dodge Dart", a vehicle that emerged in the 1960s, at a time when style and performance were matched by an industry hungry to explore novel concepts and push the envelope with new designs and features.

While the prototype was showcased in mid '60s, the public wouldn't be offered the opportunity to drive the Original Dodge Dart until some years later. So it was in 1967, that this remarkably aerodynamic vehicle was designed and developed by the world-famous Italian automobile and coachbuilding firm Carrozzeria Ghia. Changes came between the prototype and the production model, with a variety of options that exceeded the expectations at the time. The Original Dodge Dart rolled off the manufacturing line with a short wheelbase and as a full-size model based on the Unibody Plymouth platform.

Offered in three trim levels, from the basic Seneca, a well-equipped Pioneer, and a luxury model called the Dart Phoenix, this Dart was equipped with an all-new engine - the 3.7-litre Slant-6, with the 5.2-litre standard on specifically-optioned Phoenix models, and finally a 5.9-litre V8 optional 2-barrel or 4-barrel carburetors, again with single or dual exhaust.

Well received, there would be a number of updates in the years to follow, including, in 1961, the availability of another engine - a 6.3-litre V8.

Back in the '60s there was certainly an allowance for quick iteration changes based on the public's responses and so in the following years the Dart body was altered to be a mid-size car for the second-generation released in 1962 which was followed by a third generation in 1963 where it was re-classified as a compact car.

A fourth generation was released in 1967 that included more options and an alternative name; the Dodge Demon.

Dodge Aspen

In this size it continued until 1976 with refreshes and updates along the way. The Dodge Dart had a presence throughout the industry, taking up a special place in the taxi market. Where a specifically-developed option was developed for heavy use and nearly continuous driving. From that year until 1980, the Dodge Dart was re-named and branded as the Dodge Aspen, establishing itself as a compact-car.

Even though it earned various awards and significant recognition, including Motor Trend's Car of the Year award, there seemed to be less and less space for it in as new, more competitive options were made available from various automakers.

Dodge did not give up entirely on the Dart, trying to break it into the suburban segment with the motto "the family car of the future". By 1978, custom and special editions flooded the market, with grille updates, and an automatic transmission availability. There was even a Kit Car special edition of the Aspen of which only 144 were ever manufactured.

Leading up to the end of the production cycle, a new notable changes were addressed including new headlamps, an improved hood, fenders, and front bumper. The front-wheel drive was replaced from the Dodge Aries from the 1981 production model.

Following the logistical success of the previous generation, Dodge released models that resembled and contained many of the characteristics that drivers enjoyed on the Dart on the Aries, in a way, a spiritual successor to the Dart brand. It was marketed well but with consistent changes over the years it received only a fraction of the praise that the Dart had had prior to it.

 

Other vehicles attempted to latch on to the popularity of the Dart, including the Dodge Diplomat which had run concurrently with the Dodge Dart as a mid-size contender, being produced from the late '70s up until 1989.

The Lancer was another such chameleon, but stopped production in 1976.

None of these changes could halt the decline of the once-loved product line, and, quietly, it was phased out of production for nearly 2 decades.

But the story, obviously, does not end there!

In 2006, early-day plans were released that showcased the intention of resurrecting the brand by 2010. Although it originally carried the name "Hornet", the concept was dropped during the financial crisis as Chrysler scrambled to restructure the company. Finally released in 2012, the new Dodge Dart has earned a place in the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of drivers, as well as those who remember its namesake. Find out more about the new Dart and test drive one today at Marine Chrysler!

2016 Dodge Dart