Written by Robert Pusateri

History

My 1975 Dodge Dart Special Edition was originally sold in North Carolina, and in 1977 the Dart was traded in at a local Chevrolet dealer in Alamogordo, New Mexico. My father then purchased the car for $2800, a fair price at the time for a top of the line 2-door hardtop Dodge Dart equipped with power brakes, power steering, and air-conditioning.

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.

Restoration

Rust had appeared in the cowl, under the vinyl, and on the doors, rear window filler deck, and other usual areas. The rusted cowl was removed and replaced along with doors and other parts that fell victim. These parts were replaced with good used parts or new sheet metal which was spot welded, welded, leaded, and sealed to slow their aging process. The parts came from various local independent junkyards that still had A-Bodies left. The most significant problem was finding a parts car then discovering it had rust in the same places. Many of the reproduction parts for 1975 Dodge Darts were misrepresented as earlier parts that did not fit, or were just not available.

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.

Today

My father and I spent many hours together restoring the Dart to near-factory specs in cold and hot weather and still do maintenance tune ups together as he shares his 23 years of experience troubleshooting the Dart with me. The Dart is now more than a just a vehicle; it has become a testament that hard work can bring any vehicle back from the brink of death. Today the Dart only goes out on clear Saturday night or Sunday afternoon drives.
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