1976 Dodge Dart Sport
6-cyl. 225cid/100hp 1bbl
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With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Following the great sales success of the compact Dodge Dart from 1963 to 1966, Dodge upsized the car in nearly every way for 1967. Most important to enthusiasts, perhaps, the Dart's engine bay could now handle bigger V-8s.
Initially, Dodge offered three models, available in coupe, sedan, and convertible body styles: the base (previously called the 170), a 270, and the GT. Engine options included a 101-hp 170-cid or 145-hp 225-cid slant six, and a 273-cid V-8 producing either 180 or 235 hp.
Late in 1967, Dodge introduced a new Dart GTS model to compete against the Chevrolet Nova SS. By 1968, it would carry either a 275-hp 340-cid V-8 or a 300-hp 383-cid V-8, while the base V-8 was increased to a 318. The GTS weighed less than 3,000 pounds and included a high-flow exhaust system and Rallye suspension. Transmission options included a Torque-Flite automatic, Hurst four-speed on the floor, or a three-speed column shift manual. A small number of Darts were specially built for drag racing by Michigan-based Hurst-Campbell with 440-cid engines. Similarly, some Darts were fitted with Dodge's 426-cid Hemi and stripped of several interior bits in an effort to save weight.
For 1969, Dodge introduced the Dart Swinger 340, a two-door hardtop coupe that included a Hurst four-speed, vinyl upholstery, Rallye suspension, bumble bee stripes, unique colors, and wide 14-inch wheels and tires. The GTS continued on, and the big news was more power from the 383—now up to 330 hp.
Dodge revised front and rear styling on the Dart for 1970, and the base 170 V-8 was replaced by a larger 198-cid unit. In the Swinger 340 a three-speed manual and front disc brakes became standard. But the following year the Swinger 340 was gone, replaced by the Demon, which was essentially a Plymouth Duster. The Swinger name lived on in what had been the Dart Custom hardtop.
In 1972, the Dart received several changes, both inside and out. Interiors were revised, as were the front grille and most exterior lighting. Underhood, the cars carried a better alternator and the transmissions were upgraded to offer a smoother, quieter ride. The 340 cars got electronic ignition, which would make its way into the entire range for 1973. Also available in 1973 was a sliding sunroof on two-door cars.
Few changes were incorporated into the Dart in 1974, though the following year Dodge offered a revised cabin heating system, and also introduced cruise control on select models. By 1976, Dart sales fell to their lowest total since 1963 (still an impressive 100,000 units), and the model was discontinued in favor of the Dodge Aspen. During its final throes, the Dart received unusual modifications in the form of the “Convertriple” and “Hang Ten” (Darts with added cargo capabilities), a patriotic “Spirit of ’76”, and the “Dart Lite” (a fuel efficient Dart that was similar to Plymouth’s Feather Duster).
Today the Dart name is typically associated with its low price when new and its reputation for reliability, but enthusiasts understand that the high-performance variants of the model can be loads of fun for pennies on the dollar.