My very first experience with the Dodge Dart came in high school, when my best friend’s dad bestowed one upon her as her first car. With four doors and a dated look, it wasn’t exactly the car of her dreams, and the fact that it was green didn’t do it any favors. (She quickly saved enough money to buy a much hipper Volkswagen Beetle.)
I thought the Dart was in my rear-view mirror for good once she upgraded to the VW, but fate has a funny sense of humor. (That’s funny odd, not funny ha-ha, just for the record.)
I was in college when an unexpected turn of events left me without a car, and a friend of the family stepped up and graciously donated her daily driver to me. She had just upgraded to a station wagon and no longer needed her 1967 Dodge Dart Swinger.
The car was not going to win any beauty contests. It was white, with a rear view mirror that had some sort of adhesive issue, as it failed to stick to the windshield when the temperature got above 85 degrees. The seats were torn in a couple of places, and it had a few other cosmetic failings that would simply sound like nit-picking this many years later. Still, it drove like a tank – which was bad for racing but great for durability. I lived in Kansas at the time, and cars were usually no match for the icy winter roads. But my Dodge Dart Swinger took them like a champ! On at least two occasions I slid helplessly across black ice into the waiting trunk of a tree, hitting it head first. Each time, I managed to drive away with a new dent but no real damage.
To say I drove the car hard was an understatement; I literally drove her to death.
We parted ways one night when I was driving back to the dorm after working the late shift at a fast-food restaurant. Yes, I saw the traffic barricades where they were doing road work, but I had been slipping past those barricades for days while they prepped the road for whatever it was they were going to do. This time, as I maneuvered around them, I was surprised to learn that, apparently, what they were going to do was remove the concrete. My durable Dodge Dart Swinger and I plunged into the black hole where once a road had been, and as I heard the poor old gal emit a steely groan, something told me we’d had our last adventure.
When I heard that Dodge was resurrecting the Dart, I admit that I was suspicious. I recalled its boxy shape and less-than-sporty interior. How could Dodge – which has put the muscle back in the muscle car – consider smearing its reputation this way? Then I saw glimpses of the new and vastly improved Dart, which will be introduced next month at the 2012 North American International Auto Show.
This time around, the Dart is based on Alfa Romeo‘s Giulietta platform, and the design is muscular, sleek and sexy. Smooth curves have replaced sharp angles, and drivers will have three options of how they’d like the four-cylinder engine: as a 2.0-liter (base model), a turbocharged 1.4-liter or a 2.4-liter. Dodge has yet to unveil the car – we’ll have to wait until next month for that – but just the glimpses of what’s to come are enough to make me stand in line for a test drive. The truth be told, a Dodge Dart hasn’t made my heart race like that since the last time I clutched its steering wheel as I plummeted into a gaping hole where once the road had been.