By on August 15, 2013

10 - 1975 Dodge Dart Sedan Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill there ever be a time in which no Chrysler A-bodies show up in North America’s cheap self-serve wrecking yards? Sure, Darts and Valiants were as common 20 years ago as are dead Tauruses now, so the former torrent of old Chrysler compacts has become a trickle, but I still find at least a couple of them every time I visit The Crusher’s waiting room. In the last couple of years, this series has included this ’75 Duster, this ’64 Valiant wagon, this ’68 Valiant Signet, this ’66 Dart, this ’73 Valiant, and this ’61 Valiant, and today we’ll be admiring the car that was to 1983 what the ’94 Corolla is to 2013: a cheap, dependable sedan that nobody noticed.
07 - 1975 Dodge Dart Sedan Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one does have an unusual option that you almost never see on Slant Six Chrysler A-bodies: air conditioning!
13 - 1975 Dodge Dart Sedan Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost Dodge shoppers who could afford air conditioning in 1975 went ahead and got a Coronet, or at least sprang for the 318 V8 in a Dart. Perhaps this was an ex-rental car, or a New Mexico purchase.
11 - 1975 Dodge Dart Sedan Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven in the dry Southwest, however, Detroit cars of this era managed to rust around the rear window and beneath the vinyl top.
02 - 1975 Dodge Dart Sedan Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese were just good simple cars, full of corner-cutting build-quality glitches and crappy components but easy to keep running. If I found myself transported back to 1975 and I needed to buy a cheap new car for daily-driving use, I’d probably get a Dart (though mine would be a coupe, and it would have a V8, manual transmission, and no fancy vinyl-top option). A close second choice would be the Civic.
05 - 1975 Dodge Dart Sedan Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven with a missing hood and headlight, plus 5 MPH crash bumpers, this car has a good face.

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69 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1975 Dodge Dart...”


  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I don’t know why, but these cars always bring me a smile. Even the local Valiant versions.

    Must be the 2 Dart GT dad had when I was a kid, or the 63 my uncle used to drag race or that the 4 door SE where just ubiquitous in Venezuela (most with the 318) when I was growing up.

    Check out the mint one over at Old Parked Cars.

    I may be wrong, but I think the A-bodies played a big role in making Chrysler the #1 in Venezuela for many years, until they pulled the plug and sold the plant to GM.

    I remember someone telling me once that Dodges were the “friends of the poor” because they were tough and cheap to fix.

    • 0 avatar
      Aleister Crowley

      Athos,
      There were great cars, especially with the 318 and disc brakes. “Friends of the poor” indeed. They were easy to work on and the 318 V8 only got around 1 mpg worse than the six. (I had both.) My guilty pleasure was blowing away BMWs at stop lights while the girls in the BMW passenger seat looked on in amazement. I don’t think you could ever call a BMW a friend of the poor.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        318 + disc brakes + torqueflite is the usual configuration in which they’re found there. When petrol is cheap you basically don’t care much about fuel use.

        The car above, although pretty much used, still looks (very) serviceable. I’ve seen them with a Nova front subframe swapped after the front torsion bar system gives up the ghost. That’s the nicest fix I’ve seen for that.

        In my case I would go for a red Dart GT, white wraparound stripes, a hotted up 318 (or a slick EFI turbo slant six), rally wheels, centre console with A/T shifter and tuff steering wheel.

  • avatar
    Neb

    So if I were a new car buyer in 1975, and was thinking about buying a Dart Murilee spec’ed (IE with the stick and the V8) what would I be cross shopping? The AMC Gremlin V8?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Yep ;

    great if boring cars , we trash talked them in the shop as young Mechanics but they soldiered on and on and on and…..

    Maybe those dang Old Folks who bought them in droves , actually knew something ? .

    NAH .

    =8-) .

    -Nate
    (A-Body lover)

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I feel like this looks both cheap and outdated for ’75. Would’ve thought it was older.

    Also, the steering wheel is utterly awful.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    My uncle had a Dodge Dart Swinger in disco leisure suit green. He was a born-again Christian. He was always and forever trying to quit smoking, which was difficult ever since he gave up the bottle for God, so on his dash was a one-pound bag of red-and-white mint candies, half melted to their plastic wrappers. A fundamentalist, driving a Swinger, fighting his cravings. So much perfectly scripted irony.

    What a good memory you’ve brought to me, Murilee, of a beautifully flawed man and his car.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Maybe air conditioning was rare in Denver and other parts of the country but in Houston, TX where I grew up there were lots of slant 6 Valiants and Darts with factory air. They ran decent with air. In 1975 I would have looked at the Nova as well because they were bullet proof. In May of 1975 I bought a used 1973 Chevelle DeLuxe 4 door with a 350 2 brl. V-8 and air for $1,400. The Chevelle was a much better car than the Dart or Valiant and the mpgs were not much different.

    • 0 avatar
      lon888

      The mid -70′s Novas weren’t exactly bulletproof. My father had a ’75 and a ’76. The ’75 had the craptastic TH200 tranny, which of course, flamed-out in a traffic jam. The ’76 was so poorly built, it took three attempts to get it home from the dealer. that’s when my father gave up on Detroit and started buying Japanese. Both Nova’s made monthly trips to Charlies Automotive for repairs – not exactly reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      Have to laugh. Was looking on Shorpy last night and saw a picture of people at a drive in restaurant with cold air being piped into their car. Houston of course. I live in the area and understand but had never seen that before. http://www.shorpy.com/ Right now it’s on the front page but cycling back.

      I think this period was ok for used cars. The Nova, Dart/Valiant, and falcon are the size I like. If I had it to do over again though I’m happy with the AMC product and would need to consider a Datsun/Toyota/Courier/Luv selection. Whatever, it would have an efficient R12 AC since I live in East Texas.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      I bought a 69 Signet about 15 years ago. Was an old lady car and was fairly well-equiped. It had air, tinted windows and power steering, but no power brakes. My son drove it, but it did not hold up well. It had probably spent its whole life being driven at 30 miles per hour. He started taking long trips on the interstate at 80 MPH. Soon the old slant six began to knock.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      We had a ’71 Valiant Scamp with A/C and a /6. It also had power drum brakes, power steering, an uprated two-tone vinyl interior with metal pleats to brand you on sunny days, and turn signal indicators on the fenders. My parents bought it new after having moved south with a new red ’66 Coronet 440 hardtop that had a V8, no A/C and black vinyl seats. A/C took precedence over other options at that point.

  • avatar

    a friend of mine had a ’74 Swinger, in white, with green interior, slant six and A/C here in N. Texas. It cooled the car fine, but the vent placement was very very much like an under-dash design, All three were in the center aimed at your knees, there were none on the outboard edges. It did take what little edge the Slant Six had and dulled it with the A/C on, and he got about the same mileage as I did in my ’76 Chevelle with its 305 and A/C.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    What I remember was that when you stepped on the gas nothing would happen and then it would lurch making it a real pain to drive in traffic. It wasn’t my car and was told “it was normal.”

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Heh. In the ’60s, that WAS normal, if you had a mechanic who didn’t know how to fine tune the carb on a slant six, especially the 1-bbl. Different makes had different quirks, and it took an experienced mechanic to know how to deal with whatever rolled into his garage.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    Cross shopping anything in 1975 was a choice among the bottom of the barrel since Detroit and Japan were all trying to figure out how to make their cars run even half right due to the ever-increasing pollution controls.

    That said, we had three slant 6 Valiant / Dart cars in our extended family, a ’62, a ’68 and a ’75. Before the smog controls, they were sweet running cars, and with the Torqueflite 727 tranny, nearly indestructible.

    Their common fault was after a few years, the exhaust manifold would crack. My dad brazed a couple of them back in the day. But even then, they could last well over 100,000 miles with proper care. I even heard of one that went 225,000 miles without a single oil change–all the owner did was add when low and change filters once in awhile.

    My wife, in her single days, had a friend who inherited her father’s company Valiant. After a few years, he got tired of it, hoped it would die, but it didn’t. He ended up pushing it off a cliff.

    The GM Novas and their counterparts by 1975 suffered from stalling when cold and sluggish performance when warm–the Mopars were still the best of the big 3.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Did Chrysler really sell the 727 with slant sixes? I kind of doubt that since even 318-equipped A and E bodies often came with the lesser 904. I know because I owned one (a ’69 Charger).

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Chrysler did mate 727s to slant-sixes, usually for trucks, but used the 904 as the base auto transmission. The way the Big 3 operated, if there were more 727s available or not enough 904s, they’d put the 727s into anything being assembled at the time. Chrysler actually put modified 727s in some FWD 4-bangers in the ’80s.

        I wouldn’t call it a “lesser” transmission, since it could handle a lot of torque. It just wasn’t as outrageously overbuilt as the 727, but it was almost as durable, properly maintained. The two transmissions were nearly identical, with the 727s having parts with more beef built into them.

        You really couldn’t tell the difference unless you did something stupid. I had a 4,000-lb. ’63 Newport with the 727 and a 361 V8, and the owner’s manual advised using “low” going down sustained hills to avoid brake overheating. No manual of any car I’ve owned since advised doing THAT, but I’ve never since had a 4,000-lb. car with 11-inch drum brakes.

        • 0 avatar
          CobraJet

          I always wondered about the carmakers selection of transmissions back in the 60′s and 70′s. I had a 69 Pontiac LeMans with a 350 2bbl V8. It came with a THM 400 trans. Many other 69 mid-size Pontiacs that I knew of with the lowest power 350 engines had THM 350 and often had the 2 speed powerglide. The THM 400 should have been reserved for the hot GTO’s.

        • 0 avatar
          bunkie

          Ah, thanks for the clarification. I suspect my bias comes from hanging around some under-informed muscle car guys in college. Having said that, I’ve never heard of a 904 being mated to a wedge motor.

          And yes, I did something stupid with my Charger (19 at the time, first car, etc.). I’ve never broken anything major since then, I learned my lesson after paying to have the 904 rebuilt.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            In the 1980s, there was an 904-LA transmission (904-LA is a 904 mated to the 318) option on police cars. The advantage was that the lighter 904 would get better mileage and slightly better acceleration than the ridiculously-overbuilt 727. Apparently Mopar believed the 904 was up to the task of police service.

          • 0 avatar
            porschespeed

            And that’s the real joke, because “police service” means idling for hours in “Park” followed by an occasional run up to a whopping 70MPH (over 15 seconds+) back in the day.

            Nothing a standard contemporary Civic or Corolla couldn’t do with far less angst.

      • 0 avatar
        Monty

        Yeah – I had a ’73 coupe with the 225 slant and a 727 torqueflite. Also had a ’65 pillored coupe with the 170 slant and a 3 spd manual and the tallest axle ratio (which I think was 3.23); that car couldn’t get out of it’s own way.

        My favourite, though, was my ’68 GT, with the 273 2bbl and torqueflite. That little V8 hauled ass, although a “GT” with a bench seat and vinyl top was just somehow not quite right.

        Darts and Valiants may have been decontented to the point of absurdity, but where the Mopar boys got it right was the drivetrain, in virtually any combination. They were, and still are bullet-proof. The 727 OR 904 Torqueflites withstood years of abuse, and the slanties and smaller V8′s would run forever, in spite of the majority of their owners abusing and not maintaining them.

        If I could go back to the period of Generation 4 (1967 – 1976), I would order a coupe with the 225 slantie, 4 speed, in light blue and the dark blue interior, and drive that thing for a half million miles.

        I got me a serious case of Slant 6 love.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’d drive a slant 6 two door Dart/Valiant…

    But I would probably change out the intake and exhaust, get a mild head porting, and put on a 4 barrel carb. Probably wouldn’t decrease MPG all that much, but would make it a lot easier to keep up with traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I always wondered why Chrysler just killed the slant six in ’83 without trying to convert it to fuel injection. Even throttle-body FI would have been an improvement. the pushrod-activated 2-valve system was a limitation, and the alternative would have required new head and manifold designs. At the time, Lee Iacocca was trying to get the Feds to add a 50-cent tax increase on what was then cheap gas to make 4-bangers more attractive.

      • 0 avatar
        roger628

        The upcoming FWD designs, other than trucks,wouldn’t have been able to accommodate the slant-6 anyway. The M-bodies had an unclear future, it was thru sheer dumb luck and providence that they made it 1989.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    My dad kept a ’72 Valiant for years so he didn’t have to drive his purty trucks around town. I hated it then. I would embrace it now.

    Clean & simple.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Actually, I want TWO Darts.

    A slant-6 Dart for commuting, and a 340 Dart Swinger with the black twin-scoop hood and nice meaty steelies with chrome dog-dishes. Because, well, those 340 A-bodies were definitely fun cars.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I learned to drive stick on a 69 Valiant three on the tree slant six. From a fit and finish and interior quality perspective, it was the bottom of the barrel, even by the standards of the day.
    It made up for this with it’s sheer indestructability. Except for the cooling system, nothing was needed but standard wear parts.
    I taught two younger sisters to drive manual on it. Both of them used it to commute to college. Finally around 1980, one of the sisters sold it to her BF as a winter DD in Pittsburgh because he didn’t want to expose his used Porsche to the winter salt. It still had the original clutch. He used it for a few years before they parted ways.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    My parents owned several 70′s Darts, including a baby blue 4 door. This brings back memories…

  • avatar
    readallover

    Hey! You are missing my favorite fact. What is the mileage?

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      16/22mpg adjusted to current EPA. Real world, probably not that good

      • 0 avatar
        scottcom36

        My ’78 Volare, a Super Six automatic wagon, got 18 in mixed driving and I could nurse it up to 23 on the highway.
        Oops, I see that readallover was looking for the vehicle’s total mileage. It’s a 5 digit odo, so who knows? I’ll guess 224,000.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    My 1975 pick would be a Olds Omega coupe with bucket seats, floor shifter, 260 V8 coupled to the bullet proof THM 350 trans, rallye suspension, A/C, stereo, PS and PB. I knew several people back in the day with 75-77 Omegas similarly equipped that went over 200K with little trouble and they handled very well for the time too!

  • avatar
    CAMeyer

    In the working class NJ town where I grew up, Darts and Valiants were ubiquitous, rivaled in numbers only by Impalas and Novas. As I remember it, in the 1970s, these cars at their lower trim levels (no A/C or anything like that) were the cheapest family cars you could buy, bar none, undercutting the Nova or the Maverick. With their refrigerator-like styling, and minimal metal and vinyl interiors, these cars were as square as they came. Of course, that makes them hipster favorites today.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Had the 2 door version of the Plymouth (Scamp) with the 318 engine and a/c it was a sweet car, I just wished I had held on to it a lot longer, like the saying goes, you don’t appreciate what you got until you lose it!

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    The Dart/Valiant/etc body style was very problematic for rust in the rear window corners; all those concave shapes collected and stored water much more readily than other rear glass of that era. Still a gorgeous styling touch, however.

    And wow, a 2-piston York A/C! Strong units, albeit not very rev-happy.

    I owned an early 70s Valiant with the /6 for a year; I ended up removing the radiator cap as it lost far less water that way and ended up selling it to a windsurfer for $300 more than I paid for it.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    This was my parent’s last new car exactly except for the a/c. Same colors and everything. “Buy a car; get a check!”.

    Alas it made it to ’83 junker status, when my Dad illogically replaced it with a used Fiat Strada, then a ’77 Coronet, then my ’81 Toyota. Obviously cars weren’t his gig.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @CobraJet–I would never drive a car that old that has been sitting around at 80 miles per hour. Nothing that old will hold up very well if driven at high speeds for long periods. For one thing those engines rev at higher rpms. I had a 63 IH stepside pickup with a straight 6 which I never drove above 60. Cars today are designed to rev lower. If you treat an old car like that right it will last, particularly a slant 6. Also oil changes every 3 months or 3,000 miles. Take care of any of the old cars and they will run forever. My brother had a 63 Dodge Dart 2 door 170 model with a slant 6 and three on the tree he bought new that had almost 200k miles in 7 years. The engine was going strong when he sold it but the body was rusted badly and the car would not go into reverse. My one niece was playing with the water hose and started to fill the tank with water. It got about a quart of water in the tank and it still started and ran, but it took a couple of tankfuls of gas to get it to run smooth again.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    GM cars in 1975 had HEI for the first time, and no more points to adjust. SO, they ran better then 1973-74 tanks. While some hate catalyst, they were a huge reducer of air pollution.

    Also, in summer that year, the 455 was brought back for Firebirds.
    The 1976 model year that started in October ’75 was a big warm up from dark days of one year earlier.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Great for GM, but too bad ’76 saw the Aspen/Volare and lean burn from Chrysler. Ford spread the Granada/Monarch, Fiesta and Lincoln Versailles over the ’75-’77 period. Including the downsized ’77 models, GM did something right in between the Vega and Citation, except for the Oldsmobile diesel, Cadillac V8-6-4 and HT4100 transmission. Come to think of it, NO WONDER it’s called the malaise era!

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I will always have fond memories of these cars, as I basically learned to drive in one. My folks didn’t want to take me out driving, so they signed me up for a lot of driving lessons, like hundreds of hours, to keep me from nagging them. The one I drove most of the time was a ’72 318 powered one, pretty loaded up, dark blue and a black vinyl top. Before the first Dart I drove, I had driven only two cars, a ’69 Hurst Olds, and a ’72 Chevy Caprice. The HO I drove solo, around the block twice. It was a loaner and I was just supposed to swap my dad’s car and it around.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    After her husband died, my dad’s sister (that would make her my aunt…) bought a ’71 Dart sedan. I just remember thinking it was a nice, uncomplicated car. That got traded for a Volare which was traded for a LeBaron and then she switched to Buicks. Seems by the end of the 79′s our entire family was done with MOPARs after years of owning nothing but. The only constant is change.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Brother had one as his first real car. It was used and bone stock. Also abused. I remember watching the chunks of sludge come out when he drained the oil. He said last year it was the worst car he had ever owned. So it wasn’t bulletproof, quite.

    By 1975 the Dart had the rep as the one American car that still had good durability that could hang with the Japanese. So they weren’t just another anonymous car. They just looked like it.

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    This is pretty much the car I took driver’s ed with in high school, except the Plymouth Valiant variation. They were several years old by then, refrigerator white with black vinyl interior (bucket seats in front), Slant Six with automatic, and factory air conditioning.

    Considering what kind of abuse they suffered on a daily basis, the cars were amazingly robust. Those engines were underpowered for good reason, especially with four teenagers and an instructor onboard. We also ran the a/c the whole time, as my lessons occured in the early fall term, when it’s still pretty warm in Southern California.

    I know that Chrysler had a relationship with the school district, because years earlier I used to see the students practicing hill parking in Fury IIIs in front of our house when I was a little kid. Years later, when the Valiants were retired, I believe they transitioned to Plymouth Reliants, though I really doubt those held up as well at the hands of novice drivers.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    This was the last year of Dart/Valiant and the last year of this body style which started in the 1967 model year. I would say in the 10 years they got their money out of this platform. The Voltaire/Aspen were horrible cars and the Reliant/Aspen were not so good either. No wonder Chrysler was in trouble. As for the 73-74 GM cars I never had a problem with the way my 73 Chevelle ran with the 350 V-8. My 77 Monte Carlo with a 305 was not a very good engine. Some of the problems with the GM’s were the carburetors. Most of the American cars ran badly after 74 until the 90′s when most went from carburetors to fuel injection. I had a 84 5th Avenue and the electronic controlled carburetor was problematic–the 318 V-8 was great.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    ” Porschespeed

    And that’s the real joke, because “police service” means idling for hours in “Park” followed by an occasional run up to a whopping 70MPH (over 15 seconds+) back in the day.

    Nothing a standard contemporary Civic or Corolla couldn’t do with far less angst.”

    _NOT_ ~

    Routine Police Duty also involves bouncing over and into curbstones , rail road tracks and so on , slowly as well as at imprudent speeds and no , Japanese cars cannot handle this , never could and never will because they’re not designed & built for it apart from Land Cruisers & Pickup Trucks .

    A Body Mo-Pars were decidedly not Sports Cars but they took punishment no Nova , Falcon etc. ever could and I’m a Bowtie Guy to my shoes , facts is facts .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    brettc

    My family had a neighbour that bought on of these in the 90s. I still remember the first time I saw it. He said (in a heavy Trinidadian accent) – “this is my 1976 Dodge Dart. It’s got mag wheels and it’s jacked up in the back.”

    So that’s my old Dart memory. In related news I’ve considered the Dart for a new car but the interior looks kind of low rent and the website configurator makes my head hurt with all of the option combinations.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I must have ridden in/ driven many of these , tho I never owned any Chrysler product . A GF had a 1969 Swinger in a similar yellow and black vinyl top I piloted many times . It had the slant -six and the automatic but nothing else – rubber floormats , no power steering or brakes or A.C. A pretty stout car though that she kept for years . As JeffS says above here in Houston most Darts and even Pintos came with A.C. A friend’s parents bought a new baby blue / white vinyl top ‘ 75 Dart Swinger with the slant six after their baby blue Renault 16 blew its engine . The car had barely changed from the GF’s ’69 Swinger . Still recall thinking at the time and confirmed when I look at your photos that Chrysler had the absolutely least convincing woodgrain of any manufacturer , not just its automotive competition , but also all the manufaturers of that awful malaise era putting woodgrain on everything from clock-radios to microwave ovens .

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    And if you felt you needed more wood grain you could get the contact paper with the walnut finish to add extra highlights to the doors and dash. Get some fake lambs skin wool seat covers for the front for an extra touch. That’s real class!

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    In Canada there is a book published annually called ‘Lemonaid’ providing recommendations for used and new car purchases. For years their number one recommendation was a Dart, preferably the 68 to 72 but also including the 73 – 75 models.

    The also recommended the 225 slant six rather than the V-8.

    These cars were cheap to buy, cheap to maintain, a decent size (could sit 6 with the standard front bench), had good sightlines and with only basic maintenance (and some rustproofing) would outlive any other cars of that era.


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