Junkyard Find: 1973 Dodge Dart Swinger

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1973 dodge dart swinger

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.

The 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.

Dodge 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.

The 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.

If 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.

This 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.

Chrysler 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?

The 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.

The 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™.










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  • -Nate -Nate on Oct 20, 2020

    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

  • Moparmann Moparmann on Oct 22, 2020

    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.

  • Lou_BC The 2023 ZR2 is burdened with GM's 8 speed. It's been allegedly "fixed" so it doesn't gear hunt and shudder. I still won't trust it. The turbo 4 cylinder should address the lack of torque found in the V6. I test drove a full-sized Trail Boss. I could make it gear hunt. The turbo 4 didn't seem to be lacking in power, at least for an empty crewcab with a 6.5 box. It lacked anything resembling character. It had next to zero compression braking even with tow/haul engaged. Chevy should have continued offering the VM Motori based inline 4 diesel that's in the older Colorado trucks.
  • EngineerfromBaja_1990 That's a >$50K truck right there. I don't need to have the build sheet, it's just way over the top. I'd keep it simpler in LT or Z71 trim. If I wanted to spend $50K I'd have gone full size already
  • MaintenanceCosts The ZR2 looks like a cartoon of a truck. I'd rather have one that just looks like a truck. Without the configurator it's hard to know for sure but my choice is probably a loaded Z71.
  • Roadscholar My 3k mile Veloster N has been at the dealer for 2 weeks for an engine misfire. At least I didn't get a ticket but I'd like to have my car back eventually.
  • SCE to AUX Cox reports that inventory is at 37 days - a far cry from the 60-70 considered normal just a few years ago. Average 'listing price' is $46k.https://www.coxautoinc.com/market-insights/new-vehicle-inventory-july-2022/Demand remains high and supply remains low, which is why dealers continue to mark up prices.As for affordability, it's not that people's income has changed, but car prices are pushing some out of the market. That will have a long-term effect on new car demand, but it will also drive used car prices even higher.In the last year, Tesla has now passed VoA, BMW, Mazda, and Lexus, and is close to catching Subaru. That's gotta bother some people.
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