Since we were an Air Force family the Dart has trekked from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back, visiting relatives and receiving orders to other bases. In 1981, the Dart went to Italy, Germany, and Austria with us as we went to see all the tourist attractions. The vehicle dwarfed most European cars, and the black paint job and white vinyl top and white pin striping made most European cars look drab. Driving at an average speed of 85 mph on the autobahn, her 318 coupled with a 2.45 rear end handled great. I always found it amazing that the wire hubcaps didn't fly off occasionally at warp speed!
In 1984, the car was shipped back to the States from Europe. My father drove from the New York port cross country to the Mojave Desert in California where the Dart's original paint job battled sun bleaching, sand, and snow for 4 years. In 1989, the car was taken to Texas and after all those adventures, she was retired in East Texas five years later -- by that time, her age was starting to show. In early 1995, my father started the long tedious task of rust removal, and the following year, I joined him in the restoration of the vehicle. It took until the 3rd of January 2000 for the Dodge Dart to roll out under her own power.
Generally the trim was destroyed or missing. The stainless moldings on the Dart required endless time of buffing and rebuffing. The stainless wire hubcaps had marks identifying them as AMF, but unfortunately I have only one spare (kind of rough). Those hubcaps were disassembled, polished, and painted, which took 26 hours for each one. Take a look at the difference between before and after in the picture on the right! I still comb junkyards for chrome trim, hood ornaments, and the three-piece rear grills whenever I get a chance.
The black paint job was the most back breaking -- primered, sealed, colored, and clear coated five times, then wet sanded with 1500-grit sandpaper and buffed to look like glass. The photo at right was taken just before the painting began. Pinstriping and the original side impact molding that is no longer available were both left off because of my lack of skill in pinstriping a vehicle. All of the pinstriping was measured and documented in case I decide to put it back on the car. The Special Edition emblems are not in as of yet.
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