Car: Dodge Dart Pioneer Sedan
What makes it special: The first Dodge Darts were introduced for the 1960 model year. They were downsized large cars developed to replace the Plymouth in the standard, low-priced car segment for the Dodge dealer network. For the 1961 model year, the Dart continued as the smallest full-size Dodge. It retained the 118 in wheelbase, and was restyled to emulate the larger Polara. The same three trim levels were available: the premium Phoenix, mid-range Pioneer, and base Seneca. Wagons shared the Polara’s 122 in wheelbase; they also shared the Polara’s unique side-mounted taillights.
What made it famous: 1961’s styling with its reverse fins, rear fender scalloping (the taillights were widely referred to as “ingrown toenails”) and concave grille was highly unpopular with buyers. The low position and small size of the Dart’s tail lights just above the corners of the bumper, was also criticized and drivers of following cars complained that they could not see them. The wraparound taillights projected light sideward, not rearward. By mid-year, Dodge made auxiliary taillights available at extra cost through its dealer network. However, these large round lights were mounted near the inboard side of the reverse fins, and aggravated the already awkward styling. Engine choices included the 225 cu in slant-six, 318 cu in and 361 cu in V8’s were also available in various configurations. Phoenix convertibles were equipped with V8 engines. Beginning mid-year, some Darts ordered with the 225 engine were equipped with the die-cast aluminum block. Darts in all series were equipped as standard with 3-speed, column-shifted manual transmissions. Chrysler’s pushbutton-shifted TorqueFlite automatic was available at extra cost. The alternator, introduced as standard equipment in 1960 on the Valiant, replaced the previous DC generator on all 1961 Chrysler products.
Why I would want one: Despite the infamous unpopularity of it’s styling, I happen to find it beautiful and unique. I’d take one of these all day.
Fun fact: Canadian-built 1961 Darts were identical to U.S. models on the outside, but the interior trim, controls, and displays were those used on the U.S. Plymouth.
Powered by Dragone Classic Motor Cars