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1960-1961 Dodge Dart

Styling of the 1961 Dodge Dart wasn't as well accepted, and sales took a nose dive, but the newly available 413-cid V-8 could make it a real screamer.
Styling of the 1961 Dodge Dart wasn't as well accepted, and sales took a nose dive, but the newly available 413-cid V-8 could make it a real screamer.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1960-1961 Dodge Dart power teams were basically those of Plymouth's 1960 "standards," plus a few more. All models save the V-8-only Phoenix ragtop came with the larger, 225-cubic-inch version of the Valiant's new 170-cid Slant Six, a modern overhead-valve design with efficient wedge-shape combustion chambers and 145 horsepower.

The base Seneca/Pioneer V-8 was a 230-bhp version of the familiar Dodge/Plymouth 318. Phoenix offered a 255-bhp option, standard on the convertible. Next came a 295-bhp 361 for Pioneer and a 383 with 325/330-bhp for Phoenix, all with four-barrel carb, 10:1 compression, and Chrysler's tuned "Ram Induction" intake manifolding.

Transmissions were also familiar: standard three-speed column-shift manual, the same with extra-cost overdrive, and the proven two-speed PowerFlite and three-speed TorqueFlite automatics, also optional. The automatics' famous pushbutton controls were newly matched by a touch-activated climate system in a rather ornate two-tier Dodge dash.

Futuristic features were typical of Chrysler in this period, and the Dart had its share. Options included those two 1959 Chrysler novelties, swivel front seats and automatic day/night rearview mirror. And Phoenixes sported the corporation's new 1960 oval-square steering wheel, which gave more under-rim thigh clearance but looked quite odd -- aggravated by Dodge's stylized hub that one magazine likened to "a man on a torture rack."

Properly equipped, a 1960 Dart could be a hot performer in the great D-500 mold. That, along with attractive prices in the $2,300-$3,000 range, made Dart amazingly popular, and Dodge happily retailed over 323,000 -- a whopping 87 percent of 1960 production and more than double its 1959 tally. Dodge promptly went from eighth to sixth place in the industry -- at the expense of Plymouth, which lost about 10,000 sales despite the Valiant.

Dodge lost far more than that for 1961, plunging from nearly 368,000 to just over 269,000 and a ninth-place finish. It should have done better. Dart was back with the same broad lineup, virtually unchanged prices, and even a sizzling new ram-induction 413 V-8 option with 350/375 horses. Furthermore, Dodge gained its own compact, a Valiant clone called Lancer.

But Dart styling was now an odd combination of senior-Dodge front end and 1961 Plymouth "plucked chicken" rear fenders with canted blade fins stuck on -- backwards. Sales plummeted to about 183,500, though this was nothing like the disaster that awaited the 1962s -- shrunken to near compact size and even uglier.

Which only proves how much styling sold cars in the 1960s, as indeed it does today. But though the full-size Dart vanished after 1961, the name didn't, destined for new success from 1963 as a compact with far better looks.

Keep reading for 1960-1961 Dodge Dart specifications.

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