Virgil Exner did some goofy things in his last years as Chrysler styling chief, but the 1963 Dodge Dart GT wasn't one of them. Clean, even Italianate in some ways, it elegantly refutes the notion that Exner's design talents were waning when this car was initiated circa 1960.
That year brought Chrysler's first compact, the Valiant, which was assigned to Plymouth. Dodge did without, but prospered anyway with low-price full-size Darts. The next year, though, Dodge got a Valiant-clone called Lancer. This matched GM's new 1961 Buick Special, Olds F-85, and Pontiac Tempest, but wasn't nearly as popular. Lancer also trailed Valiant in sales despite the 1962 addition of a sporty GT hardtop.
With rebodied compacts scheduled for 1963, Dodge sought a more distinctive Lancer to better compete with the B-O-P trio and Mercury's Comet. The result was a larger, prettier compact bearing the familiar Dart name (substituted at the 11th hour). Wheelbase swelled five inches except on wagons, which kept the original 106-inch span, as did the 1963 Valiants. Offerings included new convertibles in midrange 270 and bucket-seat GT trim, the latter again offering Dodge's sole compact hardtop. Rounding things out were 270 and base 170 two- and four-door sedans and four-door wagons. Save the last, which measured 190.2 inches overall, Darts stretched 7.1 inches longer than Lancers -- much closer to competitors' sizes.
Keep reading to learn about the styling and sales success of the 1963-1966 Dodge Dart GT.