Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1965 Dodge Dart: Perfect Size for 2011?

I'm especially taken with this bright red GT hardtop coupe, with the black half vinyl roof, bottom. There is just enough chrome trim and detailing on it to make it stand out for all the right reasons. The black vinyl bucket seat interior is really fetching as well! The well-drawn proportions of the base models at the top illustrate how important it is to get the car "right" before you add any extra trim to it. Chrome accents and two- or three-tone paint can set a car off, but they can't be used to make a poorly proportioned vehicle "right."  The same holds true with so many disciplines in the creative world. When I was designing publications full time and leading an art department, I could never stress enough to my artists that they get the basic design of the page, or cover, correct, before they started adding details like shadows or colors. Many of them would try to "wow" me with typographic "tricks" right away before they got the layout right, and believe me, you really can't "save" a bad design with filigree or "pretty clutter!" Click to enlarge to full-screen.

M Y   C O L L E C T I O N — In 1965, Dodge's smallest car was the Dart, available in three series: Base, mid-level 270 and "luxury" GT. Body styles ran the full sixties gamut, from 2- and 4-door sedans, to 2 door pillarless coupes, convertibles and 4-door wagons. They were available with six- and eight-cylinder engines with ratings from 101 hp to 235 hp, 3- and 4-speed manuals or an automatic transmission. 

Though they seemed small back then, seen in today's light, their 111" wheelbase (106" on wagons, shared with the Plymouth Valiant) place them squarely in the mainstream of 21st century sedans. Their curb weights of approximately 2,800-3,000 lbs are much lighter than similar-sized cars of today, but that's largely the result of all of the added safety equipment and crash structures our cars must now possess. Though the '65 model's styling shown is credited to Elwood Engel, the basic chassis and proportions date back to Virgil Exner's sensational 1960 Valiant. 

Engel's philosophy was to "fill out the square" in both silhouette and plane views, but there is a humble honesty to these cars that's very appealing. The hood and trunk lengths are just about perfect, the greenhouse and roof shapes are attractive, and the chrome strip that wraps from the taillights up and over the rear window on the pillarless coupes is really well done. The half vinyl roof seems a bit flamboyant, almost Exner like, and wouldn't really catch on with the rest of the industry for several more years, becoming more of a seventies cliché. It's just about perfectly executed on this Dart GT.

One is lucky today if a car is available in anything but a 4-door sedan, and if it is, the additional body style is usually a tall wagon. With all the advancements in computer-aided design and electronic "robotic" construction, I just find it odd all we can seemingly come up with are sedans. To top it off they're usually painted gray with a gray interior. Even though this was Dodge's least expensive, and smallest car, it came in a full panoply of body styles and trim levels. Interiors came in several color choices, usually red, green, blue, beige, white and black, and in a choice of cloth or vinyl—we hadn't yet felt it necessary to skin a cow for every single car in the 1960s. 

B T W :
I just remembered I've photoshopped one of these 1963-'66 Darts before. This is a 1963 Dart convertible in which I smoothed out the sides a bit, and added fender skirts for that proper "Cruiser" look. I chopped down the windshield a little to give the car a longer, lower appearance. I also dropped it closer to the ground a few inches and upped the wheel size, though I kept the sixties wheelcovers and white walls.


  1. Well, I had to be first on this one! These Darts and the 63, 64 and 66 are just wonderful. personally I prefer the 63 as the purest of the four. I never quite understood the shape of the taillights (2 ls) which don't seem to follow any of the body lines. But that's just me! That aside, these cars made so much sense and were deservedly very popular. At the time, I would have chosen a 270 two-door sedan or hardtop. Now a 270 convertible would be my choice, with 273 V8 and 4-speed.

    Chrysler was on a roll in 65 and continued that roll into the early 70s. Then the bumpers came and then the first gas "crisis" and they were caught out by both, leading to their late 70s crisis. Speaking of which, it drives me crazy that accepted wisdom seems to be that Chrysler was bailed out by the government in 79/80. Completely lost is the fact that the government gave them NO money but simply guaranteed loans -- loans that were paid back WAY ahead of schedule. The big lie has a long and terrible history!

    Oops -- I'm raving again.

    Paul, NYC

  2. Rave away! Interesting you mention lying about history. Ish just wrote a post about the rewriting of political history, and JMG had a post about Michelle Bachmann's attempt to rewrite America's history. You're right about the Chrysler loan guarantees, in the past couple of years I've often heard it referred to as a bailout.

    You're right about the '63-'66 Darts, too. The '63 almost looked like a little Chrysler Turbine from the front. I just remembered I did a chop of one of these Darts once. I'll look for it and add it to the post.

  3. I'm glad you mention Ish's article, on Rewriting History, It was so good. I want to comment on his blog but haven't found the time just yet.

  4. Holly 80's, my 6th grade teacher had one She was pro-Irish so you can only guess that her car was green.
    She took a few of us in her car for a class trip, while the other students went with some of the parents. She was a short petite quiet blond haired lady, but boy did she make that Dart fly.

    The car must have been handed down to her and was in mint condition. The only issue was that her muffler needed to replaced. The students called it a "put-put-car" because of the foul exhaust notes, lol.

  5. Green was a lot more popular in days gone by! Especially in the 1970s, it seemed like every other Dart came painted in an Olive Green.

  6. I like green but these days it looks great on Mini's.

    I thought I would share this image that I just found.
    Te design resembles the Dart, but I believe it is a Chrysler. The image takes things a bit too far, lol


  7. Woody, that's the "famous" Chrysler Turbine car. Most were destroyed, but apparently a few still exist. Tha'ts cool! Here is my brochure on them, This post has been picked up by Hemmings Motor New blog:

  8. Funny how they've brought back the Dart name...with a wide choice of colors! Still waiting on the coupe, ragtop and wag-, sorry, 5-door hatch, though.
    And the turquoise-blue cloth interior that's like driving around in a picture of Hawaii, even in Detroit in January...