The Dodge Dart is best known as a humble economy car, but the 1968 Dart GTS featured on this episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” shows the compact Dodge had a sporty side too.
Instead of the inline-6 engine many Darts left the factory with, this car has a 383-cubic-inch V-8 with a 4-barrel carburetor. The same engine was used in the more popular Plymouth Road Runner, but the Dart is smaller and lighter. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a 4-speed manual transmission.
The Dart was ordered new by a Wisconsin couple, and has now outlasted their marriage. It’s been fully restored to stock condition, with the exception of period-correct aftermarket Cragar wheels and an aftermarket tachometer. Leno is only the second owner, and he got the original build sheet, a lifetime of maintenance records, and more paperwork to attest to its authenticity.
This was considered a small car in 1968, and with about 325 hp, it was also pretty powerful for its time. The Dart isn’t small or fast by modern standards, but its torquey V-8 means it’s still decently fun to drive, according to Leno. Drum brakes and unassisted steering mean it’s no canyon carver, however.
Dodge introduced the Dart for the 1960 model year, downsizing it to a compact car for 1963 to compete with the Chevrolet Nova and Ford Falcon. The Dart remained in that role until production ended in 1976. Twinned with the Plymouth Valiant, the platform also served as the basis for the original Dodge Demon (later Dart Sport) and Plymouth Duster coupes.
The Dodge Dart returned for the 2013 model year after a decades-long hiatus, but this time as a modern compact car with front-wheel drive and 4-cylinder power. It wasn’t as long-lived, however. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (now Stellantis) killed it off a few years later to focus on better-selling, more-profitable SUVs and pickup trucks.