The $1,800 price seemed a bit steep for an old 4-door Dart, but considering the condition, we settled on an agreeable price. Within the next several days I was able to evaluate the condition of "Ol Blue." The exhaust leak was due to a blown intake/exhaust manifold gasket, the valves had never been adjusted (you could still see red paint on the rocker arm gasket edges), and the spark plug tube o-ring seals had never been touched. Besides that, the car needed a new right front wheel bearing, power steering hose, A/C pressure side hose, air cleaner, u-joints, starter, thermostat, all water hoses, battery, cables, and a complete tune-up. The carburetor had been replaced, but was in need of another rebuild. The engine internals were clean as a whistle, and oil consumption was an acceptable 1 quart every 2,000 miles. Once those initial fixes were completed I drove Ol Blue without incident for the next two years. In the mean time I changed oil every 2,000 miles. I never used the stuff advertised by our famous golf pro. I don't offer him advice on his golf swing, so I don't listen to his recommendations on oil.
The one thing that endeared me early on to Ol Blue was it never leaked one drop of any fluids on my new driveway from the day I brought it home to the present. (Well, there was one exception.)
In 1996 I decided I had adjusted points once too often (really I'd only set them once) and joined a friend for a tour of the local U-Pull-It. There I removed the distributor, ignition amplifier, ballast resistor, and wiring harness from a late-model 225 slant six with electronic ignition. The following Saturday Ol Blue had electronic ignition. Later that year a differential leak forced me to bite the bullet and replace the pinion bearing seal. (Remember my new driveway?) Boy, that nut was hard to get off. A complete brake job came next. I was amazed how well the brakes worked with only a mixture of thick red oxide and brake fluid (water?) in the system. Each wheel cylinder was packed with what looked like enough red dirt and water to grow daisies. Ditto the master cylinder. I also remember the need to disassemble the push button heater/AC controls because all the buttons simply disappeared behind the dash one morning after an attempt to turn on the heater. I was able to collect all the missing pieces scattered all over the floor, behind, and inside the dash, and reassemble (even in the correct sequence) all the slide bars using screws instead of the broken OEM plastic buttons that formally kept the assembly intact. I also now know the procedure for replace my AM radio if the urge arises.
The last few times I let my 23-year-old daughter use Ol Blue while I wrenched on her Geo Storm, she reported that the Dart was hard to start. I had come to overlook this latest problem, but now it was time to earnestly seek a solution. As it turned out, both 3/8" cap screws holding the carburetor to the intake manifold had backed out sufficiently to create a lean mixture and give me great gas mileage, but unfortunately made the mighty 225 hard to start. That's the good and bad of it. The ugly part is it also caused Ol Blue to run extremely hot at speeds over 70 mph. Unfortunately for me, this occurred one evening in the middle of nowhere in California at 75 mph. Fortunately all I needed to do was slow to 55 mph and turn on the heater to correct the problem. Aiding the overheating problem was a newly installed radiator cap incapable of holding its pressure. Thank you, Mr. Stant.
Ol Blue always gets the socks of my left ankle wet when it rains. This generally isn't a major problem in California. But it's one of the few things I can count on. I nearly killed myself one morning when I turned on the defrosters and the windshield fogged up; I almost ran into the back of a big rig before I could wipe a view port. I might add that replacing the heater core on an air-conditioned Dart is not my idea of a fun way to spend a leisurely Saturday. But it's a better alternative than unexpectedly finding yourself parked under the trailer of your local red ball express at 60 mph. I believe the recently installed radiator cap contributed to the final demise of the heater core.
My wife is a gospel soloist and songwriter so we routinely turn our living room into a rehearsal studio. The drums are graciously loaned to us and often need to be transported to our home for these occasions. Ol Blue is the only vehicle large enough to transport all of the components a good drummer needs in one trip, hence Ol Blue is often referred to as "The Drumobile".
My latest problem with Ol Blue is not mechanical. My 11-year-old daughter LJ is not looking forward to driving Ol Blue when she turns 16. "Dad", she says, "It's ugly, and it needs paint, seat covers, and a CD player". It's tough to argue with these observations, but fortunately for me I've got five whole years to work on it. About this time I did inform LJ that her older sister forked out half the purchase price of her Geo Storm. However, to show her that I'm a compassionate dad and capable of compromising, we've decided I can start looking for an old Jeep. A cool-looking old Jeep. My biggest problem will be finding one in as good shape as Old Blue. But after all, I've got five years to complete my search. In the mean time I continue to drive Ol Blue to work daily. With only 120,000 original miles on the odometer there's plenty of use left in this old Dart.
To date, Ol Blue remains in nearly the same condition as in my story. It still runs as good as it did when I bought it back in 1994. It now has 152,000 miles on the odometer. I've adjusted the valves again and had to do another brake job. The pressure side power-steering hose is leaking and needs replacing, but I've elected to add fluid and park the car on my gravel driveway until I get the urge to replace it. I purchased a timing gear and chain, but gave it to my neighbor when his 1973 225 needed it more than Ol Blue did. Nothing's been rebuilt, no repainting's been done, and only a $30 set of throw-on seat covers have been added to cover the totally cracked and badly deteriorated seat covers. A recent 500-mile round trip to Fresno, CA netted me 21 MPG, and the vulnerable 225 used 1 quart of oil on this trip as I cruised HWY 5 averaging 75 MPH.
So, why did I sell Ol Blue? My daughter is now 15 ½ years old with driver's license fever, and the ugliness of Ol Blue just simply will not do. She would be satisfied if I painted the old Dart, but alas, there are a few more things I believe need attention before paint becomes a priority. Disc brakes are high on my list of requirements for a vehicle I'm going to entrust my daughter to drive. Let's face it, drum brakes on all four corners are simply not adequate. And, since a 4 door 1968 270 Dodge Dart has not quite achieved the distinction of "notable classic", I've decided not to invest another dime into this vehicle.
Robert of New Zealand is quit confidant Ol Blue will survive a 20,000 mile tour of the USA, and I believe that is a fair assessment. To help him achieves that goal, I change all the fluids before he took possession. I recommended that he continue the 3000 mile oil changes and said a short silent prayer for travel mercies.
So, farewell to this fine old steed and I hope I can find another replacement that has been as reliable as Ol Blue.
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