Written by Vince Mayo

I have an uncle that lived in California who had bought a 1976 Dodge Dart Special Edition sometime in the late 1980's. When he moved back to Pennsylvania, he brought the car back with him, and he did not drive it much. I had ignored the car for about three years, but then I moved into an apartment and needed a car. My uncle gave me the Dart with 212,000 miles on it and said I did not have to pay him for it. The car was originally silver with a dark red top and dark red interior. My uncle had removed the top and painted the car all black.

Other people pointed out some unique features of the Dart I owned. I was told most Darts have slant 6 engines, but mine had the 318 V8. It also had bucket seats, but it had four doors. This was odd for a Dart to have because in most cases, bucket seat Darts only had two doors. It also had air conditioning, and it worked :-). It also had a circular Chrysler emblem hood ornament (the spring return type) and driver-visible turn signal lights on top of the front fenders. The car had rear window defroster that had a broken switch, which I later fixed. This was the Cadillac of the Darts.

I found a Chilton's manual for Darts at a surplus book store that had two left for $5 apiece. I bought both because I had a friend that had a Dart also, and I gave a book to him. The book explained the VIN number, and I found out my car was made at the plant in Newark, DE. My friend's car was made in Idaho, I think.

This car had intense power behind it. It would really go when you wanted it to. When I took it to a garage to have it inspected, this bad mechanic tried to adjust the emissions on the car by putting it in gear and stepping on the gas. I did not know it at the time, but this had blown the bearings on the crankshaft. The car constantly shook at stoplights after the inspection.

I put an all-new suspension on the Dart. It was sitting very low in the back, so I looked in the Chilton's manual, and it showed how to change the rear leaf springs. At the time, I did not know JC Whitney existed, so I had the springs made locally at twice the price JCW charged. The leafs took a day to put on, and the job was not too bad to do. The only dangerous point was removing the axle from the leafs. All the rest went like clockwork.

I did not have the proper tools to do the alignment for the front, so I had a mechanic do this for me. The bolts to adjust the camber had to be replaced because they were frozen. They had to be cut out with a torch. After the suspension was done, the Dart drove straight as an arrow with minimal tire wear.

I also put white spoke rims (the type you see on Jeeps) on the Dart. The car did not have much rust; the only rust showing was in the driver's rear quarter panel by the wheels. I wanted to get the car painted white and get air shocks, but this never happened because of the bearings in the engine. The gas was expensive also. I do look back on the car with good memories, and I'm glad I owned it. In the end, I also paid my uncle $520 for the Dart.

The car was driven to a junkyard in Irwin, PA, around July 1996 with 250,000 miles on the odometer. I left the Chilton manual in the trunk of the car in case the vehicle may have future owners.


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