Junkyard Find: 1975 Dodge Dart

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Will 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.

This one does have an unusual option that you almost never see on Slant Six Chrysler A-bodies: air conditioning!

Most 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.

Even in the dry Southwest, however, Detroit cars of this era managed to rust around the rear window and beneath the vinyl top.

These 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.

Even with a missing hood and headlight, plus 5 MPH crash bumpers, this car has a good face.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Arthur Dailey Arthur Dailey on Apr 14, 2014

    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.

  • Laserwizard Laserwizard on Dec 14, 2015

    One of the worst vehicles made - by this time in its development, these cars were built like drunks made them - my family bought a new 1975 Dart and it had only one good thing about it - it was roomy. It was a dog, fuel thirsty, rode rough, seats were the most uncomfortable I can remember - seats slanted backwards far too much. This car was so awful it was one of those where Chrysler had to invent the rebate to move it. Based on the two years this dog stayed with the family, it should have been crushed in the first 30 days.

    • JimC2 JimC2 on Dec 14, 2015

      Well, that's a shame that your family got a bad one.

  • Dave M. IMO this was the last of the solidly built MBs. Yes, they had the environmentally friendly disintegrating wiring harness, but besides that the mechanicals are pretty solid. I just bought my "forever" car (last new daily driver that'll ease me into retirement), but a 2015-16 E Class sedan is on my bucket list for future purchase. Beautiful design....
  • Rochester After years of self-driving being in the news, I still don't understand the psychology behind it. Not only don't I want this, but I find the idea absurd.
  • Douglas This timeframe of Mercedes has the self-disintegrating engine wiring harness. Not just the W124, but all of them from the early 90's. Only way to properly fix it is to replace it, which I understand to be difficult to find a new one/do it/pay for. Maybe others have actual experience with doing so and can give better hope. On top of that, it's a NH car with "a little bit of rust", which means to about anyone else in the USA it is probably the rustiest W124 they have ever seen. This is probably a $3000 car on a good day.
  • Formula m How many Hyundai and Kia’s do not have the original engine block it left the factory with 10yrs prior?
  • 1995 SC I will say that year 29 has been a little spendy on my car (Motor Mounts, Injectors and a Supercharger Service since it had to come off for the injectors, ABS Pump and the tool to cycle the valves to bleed the system, Front Calipers, rear pinion seal, transmission service with a new pan that has a drain, a gaggle of capacitors to fix the ride control module and a replacement amplifier for the stereo. Still needs an exhaust manifold gasket. The front end got serviced in year 28. On the plus side blank cassettes are increasingly easy to find so I have a solid collection of 90 minute playlists.