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1969 Dodge Dart Swinger

Story and photos by Jerry F. Boone

Don Phillips remembers exactly when he decided he wanted to own a Dodge Dart.

“Back when I was a kid, I used to do a lot of street racing,” he says. “I had a ’55 Chevrolet and it was about the fastest car around.

“One night out at the airport, I went against this black Plymouth Duster. I pulled him for the first three car lengths, then he went by me like I had my foot on the brake.”

It took the Portland, Oregon retiree a few years to find his Duster--although it is the Duster’s sibling by Dodge-- and a few more years to restore it.

“Actually, he’s owned it for 18 years,” says his son, Michael. “It sat for a long time.”

Phillips says he was looking for a project car when his neighbor told him his Dodge was for sale.

“I looked at what it was and immediately said ‘sold!’,” he explains.

“But it was awful,” he adds. The floorboards were rusted, the quarter panels were either rusted or damaged, the trunk was passing air through the floor and one door needed to be replaced.

“It needed everything,” he says.

But, it had a newly reconditioned Chrysler 340 short block in need of finishing, along with the factory four-speed gearbox.

It took Phillips about four years to restore the car.

“The parts are mostly available, but I ordered so many of them I wish I owned stock in UPS,” he jokes.

“In retrospect, I think it would have made more sense to gut the car entirely instead of working through it the way I did,” he says. “And maybe I’d look at building a stroker motor.”

No matter what the approach, the finished product simply looks “right”.

“As soon as I got it done, I took it to four shows,” he says. “It got four trophies.

“I tried to do everything right,” he says. That meant making no compromises on craftsmanship. The fit and finish are superb. The engine bay gleams like it just came from the detail shop. There are a few parts that still display the marks of being in service for 40 years, but they add to the car’s patina and character.

Phillips says he tackled the car after he retired, spending enough time on it that his wife dubbed the Dodge “The Other Woman.” He responded by having a plaque painted and placed on the firewall proclaiming the title.

“I did most of the work myself,” he says, with friends filling in around the areas he was uncomfortable tackling.

The changes during reconstruction are subtle. It has a beefier driveline and larger axles. The engine is fed through a 750 cfm double-pumper carb and is fired via electronic ignition.

According to Phillips, Chrysler underestimated the power output from their engines to help mitigate the public’s concern about young people having too much power under their right foot.

The company claimed horsepower output in the mid to high 200s, while the engines actually put out about 340 horsepower.

“This one’s about 400,” he says. “It’s way too much power for the tires on it.

“I actually built it to race,” he adds, “but it turned out too nice for that.

“I suppose I could get bigger, stickier tires for the rear and take it out to the track, just to give it a try.”

So if you’ve got a hot ’55 Chevy, consider yourself warned.

Recommendations
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R.M. Clarke
Dodge Dart 1960-76
Brooklands Books, Paperback, 2002-02-21
Dodge introduced the Dart range of cars to compete in the low-price market. Although basically the same as the equivalent Plymouth models, marketing changes brought the Dodge dealers in competition with other brands. The top of the range Phoenix could come with D-500 Ram Induction. However, the 410hp Ramcharger pandered to the street racer brigade at a reasonable price. This is a book of contemporary road and comparison tests, specification and technical data, new model intro’s, driver’s impressions, analysis. Models covered include: Seneca, Phoenix D500, Pioneer, V8, 440, Convertible, Ramcharger, Compact, GT, 270, GT225, GT V8, GTS, 340GTS, Swinger, Demon, Sport, Coupe, SE.

John Haynes
Haynes Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant, 1967-1976
Haynes Manuals, Inc., Paperback, 1985-07-30
Haynes disassembles every subject vehicle and documents every step with thorough instructions and clear photos. Haynes repair manuals are used by the pros, but written for the do-it-yourselfer.

Steve Statham
Dodge Dart and Plymouth Duster (Muscle Car Color History)
Motorbooks, Paperback, 2000-10-26
This book covers Chrysler’s high-performance A-body muscle cars, including the Dart GT and GTS, the Swinger 340, the Demon, and the Duster. Color photography of restored and factory-original vehicles, along with archival images, are accompanied by a history for each, there are discussions of design and production, driving impressions, accessories and options, popular performance upgrades, and the cars’ successful histories at the drag strip. Steve Statham is the author of the MBI muscle car books Camaro and Pontiac GTO: The Great One.

Chrysler Motors Corp. Dodge Division
1969 Dodge Charger - Coronet - Dart Factory Service Manual
Paperback, 1968
This is a new reprint of the original Chrysler Corp. factory shop manual for all 1969 Dodge A and B-Body. It covers Dart, Coronet, Super Bee, and Charger. Also in included is a supplement for 1969 1/2 models with Six-Pack induction. 826 pages.

Phoenix Graphix
1969 “Dart Swinger” Bumble Bee Stripe Kit - BLACK
Manufactured to meet or exceed factory specs, this Dodge-style Bumble Bee Stripe Kit will help you repair or restore your Dart so that it looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. Increase the value of your classic muscle car with a stripe/decal kit from Phoenix Graphix.

Phoenix Graphix
1969 “Dart Swinger” Bumble Bee Stripe Kit - RED
Manufactured to meet or exceed factory specs, this Dodge-style Bumble Bee Stripe Kit will help you repair or restore your Dart so that it looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. Increase the value of your classic muscle car with a stripe/decal kit from Phoenix Graphix.

Phoenix Graphix
1969 “Dart Swinger” Bumble Bee Stripe Kit - WHITE
Manufactured to meet or exceed factory specs, this Dodge-style Bumble Bee Stripe Kit will help you repair or restore your Dart so that it looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. Increase the value of your classic muscle car with a stripe/decal kit from Phoenix Graphix.
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