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1974 Dodge Dart

1974 Dodge Dart

Text by Joe Babiasz, photos by Ryan Merrill

The early 1970s are regarded as the performance peak for factory muscle cars; however, by the mid-Seventies, performance cars were nearly non-existent. Federal emissions guidelines had put a stake in the heart of almost all muscle cars, and their replacements became crude caricatures of a glorious past. Body stripes, phony scoops, and special wheels replaced tire-smoking power. Regulations pushed compression ratios lower, and leaner fuel mixtures resulted in reduced horsepower. Combined with the increased vehicle weight necessary to meet five-mph bumper crash tests, and what buyers were left with wasn't very appealing. However, Chrysler still had a few tricks up its sleeve, and pulled the preverbal rabbit out of their hat. Enter the 1974 Dodge Dart. The Dart was available in two distinctive body platforms. The 108-inch wheelbase Dart Sport and Sport 360 were essentially Dodge's version of the pillared two-door Plymouth Duster. The longer 111-inch wheelbase Dart and Dart Custom were available only as four-door sedans, and were aimed at families. The stylish Dart Swinger and Swinger Special also rode on a 111-inch wheelbase, and were the only true two-door hardtops in the Dart line.

Exterior changes from 1973 were kept to a minimum. All models received a redesigned rear bumper able to withstand 1974's federally mandated, five-mph rear bumper crash test. Taillights on the Dart, Dart Custom, and Dart Swinger were enlarged and repositioned from the rear bumper to the tail panel just above the bumper. Ten new exterior colors were added for a total of 16.

Inside, little changed. Bench seats were standard, with bucket seats available as an option that required the customer to order the center console. A new "Unibelt" seat belt system replaced the difficult-to-use, separate lap and shoulder belt. An extra cost, manually operated sunroof was available on the Dart Sport, Dart 360 Sport, and Swinger models. To overcome previous complaints about keeping the car cooled, the air conditioning system had its capacity increased.

Chrysler's Slant Six and 318 V-8 engines were carried over from 1973. The 340 cubic-inch engine was replaced by a more emissions-friendly 360 cubic-inch V-8. Rated at 245 horsepower, the 360 provided brisk performance in the lightweight Dart while using regular gas.

The Dart Sport 360 was the ultimate low-price performance car. Standard equipment included the four-barrel, 360 cubic-inch V-8, front anti-sway bar, rally suspension, dual exhausts, and special body stripes. Front disc brakes were standard on the Sport 360, as well as on all V-8 equipped Darts. Transmission choices included a three-speed manual, four-speed manual, and TorqueFlite automatic.

Mid-year, the Hang 10 model was introduced. Designed to reflect the image of the laid-back surfing community, the Hang 10 checked off every box when it came to illustrating that image. Standard equipment included orange shag carpeting, multi-colored seat and door pad inserts, fold-down rear seats, and a red and white side stripe with the image of a surfer riding a wave at the back end of the stripe. A Hang 10 logo was placed on the hood and decklid. The only exterior color was eggshell white. Customers had a slew of options to choose from including racing mirrors, rally wheels, and either a half or full vinyl top. Engine options ranged from the Slant Six to the 360 cubic-inch V-8.

Another mid-year introduction was the Dart SE (Special Edition). Aimed at providing a more luxurious small car, the SE featured velour high back bucket seats, carpeted door panels, a woodgrain instrument panel, and deluxe wheel covers. A vinyl roof and special hood ornament were also standard. The only transmission available was Chrysler's dependable TorqueFlite.

The year 1974 was successful for the Dart. With a wide range of engines and body styles, buyers kept coming back for more. For the performance minded, the Dart was quick enough

Published Sep 27th, 2017

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