Many people don’t know the story of my first car.
Well, let me rephrase: my real first car. Yes, it’s true that my first car that I had when I turned 16 was a 2003 Cadillac CTS, but there was another car before then. My real first car, or the car that was supposed to be my first. This is the story of the Dart.
When I was born in 1995, my parents had three cars all together. My dad had a 1985 Ford F150 Lariat Explorer and my mom had a 1995 Nissan Altima GXE and a 1986 (I believe) Honda Civic hatchback. My dad, had an extra project car, however, a 1972 Dodge Dart two-door with the 318 ci V8. It was white with a black vinyl roof, like the one pictured below, except less Mexican (I have no images of the car on hand).
My dad purchased the Dart sometime in the 1980s, with the mindframe of a child getting the chance to buy his dream toy. My dad was a major Mopar nut, one of his dream cars was the 1970 Roadrunner, and while growing up, he would always tell me about famous Mopars like the Barracuda, Charger, Challenger, and even the Dart. When he bought that Dart, he wasn’t just buying it to drive and daily: he wanted to fix it and make it his baby.
The Dart was basically a basic package car with the 318 and an automatic on the column. When I was born, the car had custom mag wheels on it and fake Demon badges placed on it. While I was a toddler, it was a bit of a moment of pride for my dad: my mom would tell me stories of how he would load me into the car and take me around town to wow all his high school sweethearts, much to her chagrin, but it was also around this time that my dad had a vision.
His vision was that not only was he going to fix it, he was going to fix it for me.
As I got older and started to grasp the basic concepts of the world, I slowly started to realize what they meant when they said that the Dart would be, “my car.” It was a thrill, I saw it as a majestic beast of a muscle car that I would one day use to tame the majestic Alabama backroads. My dad and I spent countless hours buying and subscribing to Mopar-centric magazines and books, looking at examples of other built Darts in the world, and drawing up plans for the car. It was so exciting, and was one of the things that got me into cars overall.
But, like most great stories with great promise, things didn’t quite work out for the Dart project. My dad, being a construction supervisor, was traveling on the road often. Though we were a fairly well-off middle-class family at the time which meant we did have the money to build the car, I was but seven years old or so during the process, and with him on the road, no one was really there to work on the car or really take care of it. The Dart, unfortunately, was left to rot out by his workshop.
Throughout my childhood, I watched as years went by and the Dart collected more and more rust. Snakes holed up inside the wheel wells. My dad eventually pulled the 318 from out of the engine bay and set it in his shop, and promised that one day, we would use the rest of the body for good. It never really happened though, as my parents found financial trouble in the mid-00s, and my dad’s life on the road increased, meaning our relationship, as well as the future of the Dart, was strained.
However, around 2008, the future of the Dart had a short, and small glimmer of possibility.
Somewhere around 2007 or 2008, my dad got a better paying job and brought up the possibility of fixing the Dart up. He was back home more often, and had tons of more money on the backlog to really begin working with. Since the 1972's body had been sort of lost to the elements, my dad bought a second Dart to play with: a 1971 Dart Swinger with the Slant 6 in that odd, 70s pea green. The picture above is an exact replica, in fact it may even be the one in question before we owned it.
My dad’s plans were now the following: we were going to drop the slant 6 and replace it with the 318, which we were planning on boring out and modifying to become a 360 or 383, which he claimed was possible. We would finally be able to build the car the way we wanted to, and we had a much better chance now because the 1971 was in much better shape, as it could run and drive with no issue.
So, what exactly happened that led to me not having the car now? It’s a bit personal, and out of the fear of my father eventually finding this, I will stay away from any intimate details.
Life pretty much got in the way from the car becoming a reality. I was going through high school and was on the way to becoming a teenager, and was focusing more on school and my social life. I hardly had the time, and then, the interest to work on the car. Financial troubles also affected us once again, which meant that money was out of the question when it came to fixing the car. That plus the aforementioned intimate details, meant that there was really no one paying attention to the future of the Dart, and it, once again, fell to the wayside.
It was around this time that I ended up buying the Cadillac for my first car, and that marked the end of the future of the Dart, at least in my hands.
So, what happened to the Dart?
Well, in 2011, after months of sitting with no work, my dad finally had enough, and sought out a buyer. Luckily for us, we had a local family friend who had a knack for building drag special cars, and he was interested in it. He ended up buying both the 72's shell as well as the mostly running 1971, and set off to build a dragster with it.
Since that day, I never saw either of the cars again. I don’t know if our friend ever actually built anything of them, or if they just sat and rotted away once again. God knows where those cars are now.
I suppose, at the end of everything, I do regret deeply not pursuing this project as enthusiastically as I should have. If we would have had the time and the money to build this car to our plans, things would be a whole lot different now. I would have been a different man, probably would have never been an author on this great (ish) blog, and the biggest difference, I would be driving an old Dodge Dart now.
I do hope one day I can reverse these mistakes by making enough money to buy or restore another Dart to the condition of which my dad wanted us to. Whether or not it’ll ever happen is a mystery, but it’s definitely a dream of mine, just as it was a dream of my dad’s when he was my age to buy the 1972 in the first place.