By on October 19, 2020

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, LH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Blinged-up personal luxury coupes based on big land yachts and cushy midsize cars printed money for Detroit during the mid-to-late 1960s, and so it made sense to extend the treatment to the lower reaches of the model range. Eventually, Chrysler took two-door hardtop versions of the Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart, made some comfort and styling features standard, and gave them kicky, youthful names: the Scamp and the Swinger. These cars sold like mad during the early 1970s, but most of them disappeared from American roads before the dawn of our current century. Here’s a ’73 Dart Swinger, complete with V8 engine, found in a Denver yard last week.

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, fender badge - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Swinger had happy little flowers on the fender badges, presumably inspired by carefree-yet-wholesome hippies and not the other kind of swingers who drove Chrysler Newports to Scotch-and-trank-fueled key parties in upscale suburban ranch-style homes.

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, RH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDodge sold a version of the sporty, fastback Plymouth Valiant Duster with “Dart Demon” badging for 1971 and 1972, but churchgoing types objected to the name and that car became the Dart Sport for 1973. The traditional three-box shape of the Swinger made it more of a personal luxury coupe, and this car cost about 200 bucks more than the Dart Sport in 1973.

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe base drivetrain in the ’73 Swinger was the 198-cubic-inch (3.2-liter) Slant-6, connected to a three-on-the-tree column-shift manual transmission. Very few Dart buyers were willing to live with 95 horsepower and a shifter that had seemed innovative on the 1939 Plymouth, however, and so most buyers upgraded to an automatic transmission and the optional 225-cubic-inch (3.7-liter) Slant-6 or the 318-cubic-inch (5.2-liter) V8 with 105 or 150 horsepower, respectively. This car has the 318, which came close to rivaling the Slant-6 for its ability to shrug off abuse and neglect.

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, automatic shift indicator - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf you wanted a four-on-the-floor manual transmission and/or the 240-horse 340-cubic-inch V8, you had to buy the Dart 340 Sport. Dart Swinger buyers could opt for a floor shifter for the three-speed manual, but most chose the bench-seat-friendly column-shifted three-speed automatic.

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, HVAC controls - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis car has the air conditioning option, which was an unusual splurge for compact buyers of this era and cost a sobering $358 (about $2,190 in 2020 dollars). The base price for a 1973 V8 Dart Swinger was $2,767 ($16,900 today), so that A/C cost more than the engine upgrade.

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, wheelwell rust - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsChrysler A-body hardtop coupes, especially ones with factory V8s, usually manage to evade this junkyard fate unless they’re crashed and/or rusted beyond redemption. This car had a bit of rust, which someone began the process of repairing. A neglected project car, swept out of an overcrowded garage or driveway?

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, door panel - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Swinger was a sensible economy car for its time, but with some luxury-car-influenced touches that made it slightly less of a strict Point-A-to-Point-B commuter.

1973 Dodge Dart Swinger in Denver junkyard, hardtop glass - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe hardtop side glass on these cars always caused a lot of wind noise at speed and usually leaked, but everyone enjoyed rolling down all the windows on a nice day.


Those youngsters were crazy for the Swinger.


“Turn in your badge, Buford!”


It appears that Dodge claimed the automatic-equipped Swinger was a separate model, thus making the Torqueflite free, or perhaps you really could get a slushbox for nothing extra in the Swinger.

For links to 2,000+ additional Junkyard Finds, be sure to visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

39 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Dodge Dart Swinger...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Here is the cheap-to-buy, cheap-to-service, sensible commuter car that nobody wants to own today, except anonymous internet fans.

    But any reasonable comparison shows that today’s cars are orders of magnitude better in value and performance.

    Too bad the 13 Dart was such a dud. The Dart name should be resurrected again, maybe as an EV. But I’m certain we’ll never see the “Swinger” trim level again.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      With power steering so light, you could just about blow on the wheel and it would spin lock to lock. :-)

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Is it wrong to want a vehicle that is cheap to purchase and easy to service?

      You seem to imply that the only way to achieve either of those is to return to the early 1970s.

      • 0 avatar
        millmech

        Duuuhhh – Could go back farther

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        How dare you ask for a cheap reliable vehicle you can service yourself. Did you ever think about the dealers? How can they make bank on you if the vehicle was reliable and self serviceable without the need of proprietary equipment? Madness.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        @ajla: Quite the contrary; I’m a fan of such vehicles. A Hyundai Elantra would be just one example.

        But consumer tastes and prosperity, plus mfr costs, are driving the market northward in product size, complexity, and price. Sadly, it’s becoming less and less appealing for the mfrs to build vehicles for the Everyman.

        • 0 avatar
          spookiness

          Elantra has been my recommended cheap car to non-car people for awhile. Especially the “value edition” with some extra niceities. The fact many people consider it a basic penalty box car shows you how our expectations have evolved.

          • 0 avatar
            R Henry

            @spookiness

            My recommendation in such situations has been Kia Soul. Either way, a bargain shopper can’t go wrong!

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “my recommended cheap car to non-car people for awhile”

            I’d say that unless you know otherwise for a specific situation, you should probably start recommending CUVs. Few normies want a “car” these days but you might get bites on the Venue or Kona.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          @SCE to AUX, Why does it have to be one or the other? And no way is this anywhere near “sensible” as a commuter. I guess if you throw enough money at it, giving it fuel injection, overdrive, limited slip, etc.

          And new ball joints for the love of god. Or why not start with something from 2004? Or going back to the ’80s even? Remember that Fiero from the other day? Geese

          Except it’s not exactly “consumer taste and prosperity” driving up complexity, proprietary software, built in obsolescence, quickly obsoleted parts, combo radio/HVAC touch screens, limited choices, bundling of the options you want with ones you don’t, etc, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            @DenverMike:

            I think you mistook my meaning. I wasn’t saying this 73 Dodge is *today’s* ideal commuter. It simply filled the same niche as today’s Elantra, which consumers are moving away from.

            And I agree on all the reasons you mention for why cars are how they are today. I do not advocate a return to the past, however. Today’s cars are better in nearly every way.

            But even the purchase experience has changed. Instead of simply buying a 73 Dart with 48 installments, today people walk into the dealer thinking of buying an Elantra for 48 months, but walk out leasing a Santa Fe for the same payments, or buying a Tucson for 72 months. Low interest rates and other sales gimmicks also help push the consumer up the food chain.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      One thing people don’t tend to calculate is that $17k in the ’70s bought you a car that was lucky to last four years before it was a pile of garbage, whereas now you can spend $20k and get a vastly better car that’s under bumper-to-bumper warranty for five years and is going to be in pretty good shape for 8. Cost-per-mile is *way* lower.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “Here is the cheap-to-buy, cheap-to-service, sensible commuter car that nobody wants to own today, except anonymous internet fans.”

      The Honda Civic seems to sell well to a lot of people. Including my wife, who has refused my efforts to replace her Civic with a Tesla.

      So, I’ll just have to buy a bigger Tesla for myself. But I have to wait longer and save up more.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “The hardtop side glass on these cars always caused a lot of wind noise” not to mention the driver and passenger vent windows in the regular models.

    This car probably embarrassed more than a few 1980s sports cars in impromptu stoplight races.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      320 lb-ft of torque at 2000 rpm will move a 3000 lb car pretty quickly from a standing start, even/especially with a Torqueflite. Those 1980s sportscars had to rev their engines much higher to get maximum torque.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Speaking of three in the tree . . . I once drove a three in the tree that was so smooth and natural it was completely unconscious operation. I wish I could remember the vehicle. All I remember is that it was really old, and super solidly built, and the actuation rod was external and parallel to the steering column.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    My father had a ’71 Plymouth Duster with the 198 cubic-inch slant six and the three-speed on the floor. The only other option was an AM radio. A solid, trouble-free commuter that didn’t look half bad.

    When the oil crisis hit in ’73, Chrysler offered the Feather Duster, essentially my father’s car with aluminum front fenders and hood, a four-on-the-floor and a more-economical axle ratio. It reliably got 30mpg, which was fantastic at the time. The Vegas and Pintos were getting real-world 23-25mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike Beranek

      My dad had the ’74 Dart Sport, also with ZERO in the option department. I can’t believe we survived without intermittent wipers, FM radio, a remote trunk popper, armrests, power steering, power brakes, A/C, power windows, power locks, day/night rear-view mirror, a mirror on the passenger side, extending sun visors, a locking glove box, a light in the glove box, oh God.
      All of that stuff is standard on almost every new car. How did we survive?

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Side glass wind noise? If anyone took the time to actually use the wide range of adjustment in the side glass panels, door and quarter, your comment isn’t really valid. Worn out POS, maybe. Having spent WAY too much time rebuilding and enjoying Mopar A bodies, you really need to appreciate them for what they were when in good nick. Still miss my ’67 HT with the 273 4BBL 4 speed. Damn nice car. You want to critique, start with the 9″ brake drums. That will keep you going for a while. :)

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      My 1963 Dart wagon had 14 inch wheels, and my neighbor’s 1963 Valiant sedan had 13 inch wheels. Chrysler designed the Dart and Valiant for the 13 inch wheels, so 9 inch drums soldiered on throughout the run of both. OTOH, junkyard parts were plentiful for decades, as Murilee will attest.

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      I learned to drive in the fleet of Swingers that the driving school my parents got me lessons from (Mostly to keep my mom from being scared shitless, and my dad, who had a radio announcer’s voice, from totally messing up my head by yelling at every mistake)and I never heard any window leaking noise in any of them. Some tire hum, and on I-75, where the owner of the school and I drove to get me some freeway heavy traffic time, noise from the side mirror at 55+. All but one of the Swingers had the 318, and I came to really hate it when he would show up in the one with the 225 slant six. My main complaint about the Swingers and all A Body Mopars was the ridiculously overboosted power steering.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    My aunt had a Swinger, nice-enough looking car, but pretty much a dog. I drove it a few times, tried to do some hooning once and it wasn’t having it, just didn’t have much oomph. I think it had a V8, but can’t be positive.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    The 70’s: You Didn’t Miss Much™

    Exceptions:
    – Peak recorded music was very likely from 1963-1973
    – Saturn V nighttime launch was 1972

  • avatar
    cardave5150

    The hottest girl in high school, bar none, drove a ’74 version of this car. Red, black vinyl top and interior, always arrived at school and left with all the windows down. Damn…..

  • avatar
    Boff

    The first car my parents bought after I was born was a ’70 Dart Swinger, blue with white vinyl roof, blue vinyl interior. Slant-6, auto, 4-wheel drum brakes. I don’t think it lasted 7 years…rust and many other issues. Pretty typical for the POS cars of the era.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Aside from the brakes and ballast resistor, these Darts/Valiants good, honest cars (for the time).

    Enough room with the bench to sit 6 relatively comfortably. But not ‘land yacht’ sized.

    Could be had ‘inexpensively’ or optioned to the hilt.

    If there is not too much body rot, this would indeed have been a good project car. A 2 door of this vintage and style, done ‘properly’ could fairly easily be converted into pseudo muscle car money/market.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    I have many fond memories of the 225 slant 6, which I rebuilt (my first) and drove the car for more than 100k. Solid lifters, I simply removed the distributor when I replaced the points, one belt drove the water pump and the alternator, the notoriously unreliable starter motor that required the occasional rap with a hammer handle to start the car. I adjusted the voltage regulator by bending the tab that held the spring. If you kept the charge voltage below 14 voltages the battery would last forever.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    I love these cars. They were good, honest transportation. Around the same time my father had a Maverick that couldn’t hold a candle to the reliability of his brother’s Valiant.

    Just around the corner from where we lived was an Anglican church (I guess that would be Episcopalian to those below the 49th parallel) and the minister drove a Dart Swinger. Junior High me thought that was pretty hilarious. I had no idea that there were any other kinds of swingers, as noted in this article. I didn’t know that ‘swinger’ could also mean hippie and not, um… a swinger. But how would I know that anyway? I was raised in an Irish Catholic house so we knew all about the sins.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I come from a Dart Valiant family. A 63 Valiant 170-6 three on the tree. 68 Valiant 225-6 three on tree. 70 Valiant 225-6 three on the tree. 72 Dart Swinger 225-6 automatic. The Dart Swinger was my moms. It was in Richard Petty blue with a white vinyl top. The option package with air conditioning, front discs and the lighting package which included the fender indicators and map light made it a bit more spiffy than a typical economy compact.

  • avatar
    Nikolai

    This was my dad’s first car. He always joked about how the key broke off in the ignition, but he could turn it over with a nickel.
    So he’d leave the car unlocked and leave the ashtray full of nickels, and it somehow never got stolen.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Personal luxury? I lol’d.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I always wanted a Dart especially the 2 door hardtop. My older brother’s first new car was a 63 light green 2 door post Dart 170 with a slant 6 and 3 on the tree. The body rusted away but the slant 6 kept running and running.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Funny that zinc coating was used in the 17th century in India, and zinc paint was patented in 1837, but US automakers didn’t discover galvanizing to prevent rust until the 1980s. Even Ford, which developed a rustproofing system in the 1950s, didn’t upgrade its factories until 1982. Now the steel automakers use arrives already galvanized.

  • avatar
    spamvw

    They thought Demon was bad? Time for a little history lesson from Wikipedia.

    The 1970 Dart’s dual tail lamps were given over to the badge-engineered Plymouth Valiant Scamp, while the 1971 Dart received new smaller quad taillamps that would be used through 1973. The Custom 2-door hardtop coupe became the Swinger, and the standard Swinger became the Swinger Special. Dodge gained a version of Plymouth’s popular Valiant-based fastback Duster and was to be named the Beaver,[32] but when Chrysler’s marketing department learned that “beaver” was CB slang for vagina,[5] the vehicle was renamed the “Dart Demon”.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Not fast but good drivers .

    I didn’t like these when new but time has shown they were very stout .

    Easy to Hot Rod too if that’s your deal .

    Sadly this one looks pretty used up .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Moparmann

    I recently saw an ad for a remarkably immaculate ’73 Dart, and the asking price was $12K. Prices for good condition early ’70’s Darts have been on the rise.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • probert: What does brown have for me – everything plus sweet sweet velvet.
  • probert: A genuine brougham.
  • probert: Finally our long national nightmare is over. Wonder if they’ll develop a way to tell when that space...
  • Conslaw: $3,200 per year in fuel savings is not too shabby. Even if it is just half that, over 7 years is $11,200.
  • Conslaw: This could also be used in the context of solar cell installations to tell the difference between a problem...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber