The Greatest Car Ever Built
December 18, 2003 12:57 PM   Subscribe

The Greatest Car Ever Built O mighty Slant-6 engine, most magnificent creation of the coal-steel industrial heart of America at the zenith of her manufacturing genius! (NY Times, req required).
posted by jamsterdam (22 comments total)
I loved my Dart. Mine eventually became a low-rider due to sagging springs and shocks. Three phenomenons come to mind;

1.All Dart/Valiant owners look like they are leaning against the doorframe when they drive. This is because the bench seat invariably collapses. It adds a bit of James Dean to your driving posture. RACE FOR PINK SLIPS?

2.There is nothing quite like the smell of a Dodge Dart.

3.Were they all green?
posted by machaus at 1:03 PM on December 18, 2003

Had one. It was stolen (best guess: for parts) the day before I was to use as trade in and thus I got insurance money well beyond the 50 bucks I was to get for it...all my friends were convinced I had hiden it for the insurance money. Nice car. But like ex wife, they give service and then get tossed away for something or someone new.
posted by Postroad at 1:08 PM on December 18, 2003

My Grandmother had a 1972 (Yellow) Dodge Dart which ran for about 25 years. That is, until she gave it to my dad who never put oil in it. At that point it died...just as the article says.
posted by milnak at 1:11 PM on December 18, 2003

machaus, that smell is rust. ;)
posted by notsnot at 1:20 PM on December 18, 2003

I was the proud owner of one of the 'less reliable' cars with the Slant 6, a 1979 Volaré that I bought for 100 bucks in 1993. Ye gods, what a car. It leaked gas something fierce, the transmission was touchy and eventually lost 2nd gear, but it simply refused to stop running. When I finally retired it, I ended up selling it to someone for $150. Great engine, and it made me money.
posted by tankboy at 1:36 PM on December 18, 2003

I had a green '75 Dodge Dart for a few years in college. Sometimes it would refuse to start in the cold Buffalo winter, so I'd take a length of pipe out of the trunk and whack the engine with it until it decided it was time to get going. The old thing also ran as well as it ever did for about a year, without a drop of oil in it.

That was a good car.
posted by majcher at 1:36 PM on December 18, 2003

My '66 Dart was brown. I got it from a teacher at my high school as a "Get it out of here and it's yours" deal somewhere around 1982. The Slant 6 engine did indeed run forever; the rest of the car rusted around it. Same with our family's '76 Duster. Both were Fred Flintstone cars at the end of their lifespans; lift the floor mat and look down at the road. Absurd though it may sound, I still have fond memories of both, probably because they were the first cars I could drive as a teenager.

My sympathies about the Volaré, tankboy. I could never figure out how the replacement for such wonderfully reliable cars such as the Dart and Duster could be so unreliable.

Anyone else with a Duster remember the spare ballast resistor(s) that you ALWAYS kept in the glove compartment? Every now and then you'd turn the ignition key and get nothing. So you'd replace the ballast resistor and the engine would start right up. I got to be very quick at it.

And that last lovely quirk, the lug nuts on the wheels. For years, Chrysler engineers maintained that the lug nuts would work themselves loose on one side of the car -- I can't remember which -- as a result of normal driving. This didn't seem to happen on GM or Ford products, but nevertheless, they solved this non-problem by using lugs and nuts that you turned RIGHT to loosen and LEFT to tighten. Because this was completely counter-intuitive, they tried to help by marking the lugs with an L or an R -- but I could never remember if that was for tightening or loosening. So when I got a flat tire on that side, I would just about hurt myself using a spinner wrench on lug nuts that seemed to be unimaginably tight... until I remembered that I was turning the wrong way. (Chrysler finally gave in and switched to a normal setup in I think the late 70's.)

Ah, good times.
posted by pmurray63 at 2:07 PM on December 18, 2003

I had a '67 Valiant in blue, and when that fell apart, I got a '74 Dart in puke-green. IIRC they were both $100. I like to think it's still out there somewhere in Western New York, running on...
posted by obloquy at 2:30 PM on December 18, 2003

1967 (or was it a 76?) Dodge Dart. The torsion bar on the passenger side blew out. I looked at it, went into the trunk, got out a 4X4 and wedged that inbeteen the body and front wheel to raise the front end. Drove it like that for 3 months, went home and Dad put in a new torsion bar. Drivers side torsion bar went out on drivers side 2 miles from home, Dad replaced other side.

The master cylinder went for the breaks. Drove to outside of the college town, pulled over, jacked up front end and pushed break pads away from rotors. Drove 250 miles back home w/o using breaks to once again have Dad fix car. During trip, pulled over and added the extra 5 gals of gas needed...let car coast to stop.

The things you do in college with your college car.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:50 PM on December 18, 2003

Have any of you ever worked on a Dart's engine? Jebus Christ in a jumped up sidecar! It slants, right? You've got lots of room in the compartment, right? That's because Dodge, in their infinite fucking wisdom, mounted absolutely everything on the underside of the slant!

(Worst fricken car I ever owned. My father talked me into buying it from his boss. I shoulda known right there...)
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:09 PM on December 18, 2003

And another thing: 3 on the tree? Who's brilliant idea was that nightmare? God, I hated that car.
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:10 PM on December 18, 2003

My wife's family had a '65 Dart 4 door. There were 10 kids in that family (yes, Catholic), and they all fit.

The car had a 318 V8 and hauled balls.

Eventually the kids grew up and wife's oldest brother inherited the car. Shortly thereafter he hit a tree with the front left quarter. Pulled the fender off, mounted a headlight to the bumper and drove it for some time after that.

I'd imagine practically everybody of a certain age in the U.S. has a Dart or Valiant story.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:40 PM on December 18, 2003

When I was in college in the 80s I worked as a valet at a fancy resort hotel in Newport Beach, CA. My policy was that if anyone came in driving a Valiant or Dart, it went front and center at the curbside VIP parking. I concur that all the ones that survived were sea foam green.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:52 PM on December 18, 2003

A friend had a completely rebuilt '69 Dart Swinger with a 340 V8. Oh what fun it was to win street races against people expecting a mere 6 cylinder.
posted by lasm at 4:32 PM on December 18, 2003

That sounds awfully familiar, SteveInMaine; my dad used to drive a '66 Impala, four doors and a big ol' V8. The family kept growing, but it was bench seats front and back, so we just kept on squeezing in. We'd show up at church and come pouring out of it like one of those circus clown cars, eight or nine of us kids plus our parents. (Not Catholic, though.) They eventually replaced it with a fifteen-passenger van...
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:40 PM on December 18, 2003

I had a friend with a Valient that was this off white beige color, it was lovingly called "the turd".
posted by Eekacat at 4:56 PM on December 18, 2003

A friend of mine got a Dart with the slant 6 free, and he was trying to kill the motor so he would have an excuse to put a 318 in its place. So he stops putting oil in it; The car still runs normal for months. So finally he goes out to a demolition derby race, gets drunk on the stands, and speeds home through some backwoods.

The Dart hit a parked vehicle at over 50 Mph, slid out of the gravel road, hit another parked car, fell in a ditch, and he kept gunning the motor in the ditch until the oil pan dropped. Those parked cars were his neighbors, and he convinced them to let him go home and set up car insurance the next day.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2003

Greatest motor ever built? - I've got 245,000 on my Volvo B230F 4 cylinder. Best motor I know of - except maybe for a few Toyota/Nissan/Honda powerplants in the contention too, and a few US made motors here and there also....well, anyway - It runs great and doesn't burn very much oil. Straight up, overhead cam - Replace the timing belt, change the oil, and that's about it. 245K and going strong.

Still, the slant 6 was the B230F of it's day - no question about that.

Keyser Soze - great story. Y'know, I know someone who did that "no oil" trick, with a honda with 200K, for a couple of months. I told him to put some oil in it and he replied that - at that point - oil would wreck the motor. But it was a timing belt which killed that Honda in the end.

I got 225,000 out of my Plymouth Satellite with an 8 cylinder 318. Essentially a big dart, and it was green too. It started to burn oil and - when I ran out of money - I started feeding my collection of old motor oil back into it. It still wouldn't die. When I got bored enough with the blue smoke, I scrapped it.

Now I have a '57 Mercedes 220s coupe hanging out in my back yard. It's got a 6 cylinder ~2.4 liter ~130 horse engine. I've taken it up to about 85 mph on the highway. It won't corner for shit. Comfortable though, like an old marshmallow on wheels.
posted by troutfishing at 8:05 PM on December 18, 2003

On the opposite end of the spectrum, from a starved-for-oil standpoint, is a friend of mine's 91 festiva. Festiva. It's got 241k miles on it and will still beat my CRX off the line (to 50MPH). All this on account of changing the oil regularly.

Them slant 6's are hard to kill, I must admit. My mom had one that ran so quietly, even after 140k, at stop lights she'd mistakenly try to restart it.
posted by notsnot at 9:38 PM on December 18, 2003

My grandmother has a 63 Dart with , literally, only about 8K original miles. I don't think she ever drove it anywhere except a few blocks to the A&P once a week, until she got too old to drive. If I inherit it, I should probably sell it to a collector or something.
posted by sixdifferentways at 12:13 AM on December 19, 2003

My first car was a 1969 Valiant. It was blue, so my friends called it "The Blue Bomber", and then I rechristened it "Enola Gay" because I didn't think that "The Blue Bomber" was edgy enough...

I used to pull into gas stations and get great offers to sell the car (high bid: $2,000 in 1985). I asked the high bidder why so much, and he told me that he wanted to swap out the slant 6 engine for another of his cars, and then drop a 450 8-cylinder into my Valiant and then go race it! We didn't sell it to him, but I still miss that car!
posted by tommyspoon at 4:23 AM on December 19, 2003

My first car was a 74 Dodge Dart with a 318 engine. It had about 60,000 miles on it when I bought it for $400 back in the mid 80’s. I put about 60,000 miles on it myself. I ran the hell out of that car for 4 years and it kept going. The only frequent problem I had with it was when the ballast resistor for the electronic ignition would get wet, it would short and fry. So you had to keep a spare resistor or some wire to bypass it in the glove compartment. In the last year of its life, both back springs popped up thru the trunk due to rust and were repaired. The engine lost compression on 2 cylinders but still ran. The death blow came when the transmission died. That's when I got rid of it.

As far as cars and longevity goes, the engine that I’ve seen last the longest in my lifetime was the 283(not sure of the size) straight 6 that was in the folk’s 1976 Ford Granada. It had nearly 200,000 miles on it and the worst that happened with the engine was the water pump went on it. But sadly Ford didn't make a transmission as good as the engine. That car required six of them over its lifetime (most of them used though). They finally got rid of it not because of mechanical problems but because the body was badly rusted. I guess all the American cars from the 70's had that problem.
posted by whirlwind29 at 6:35 AM on December 19, 2003

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