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1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 - Dart Games, Revisited

The Resurrection of the Car Craft Giveaway

By , Photography by Ed Zinke,

Because we sponsored the original build, we can also say that Jim did the job right. Apparently, he knows how muscle-car restorations work because he also owns a Bloomington Gold Corvette. In this case, the task of restoring the body fell to Cross Autobody in Edwardsville, which performed all the bodywork and then laid down the custom B5 blue paint. Denny's Upholstery in Bethalto, Illinois, performed the bright-blue resto interior stitching. The final point was the engine, which again was easy from the standpoint that only stock-type replacement pieces would satisfy the resto requirement. You would think that Car Craft would want to build a thumper motor to satisfy all those inner horsepower cravings. But the reality of the day was that Petersen Publishing rules would not allow us to give away a modified car, so we had to restore the Dart as close to factory specs as possible. But because the muscle-car resto movement was at that time really gaining momentum, it was an easy decision to make.

Those knowledgeable in all things Dart already know that its 340 engine was originally underrated by Chrysler at a mere 275 hp. When Bob Lambeck was finished with the engine, he had increased that power level to 315 hp, using the stock intake and headers. In the original story in the Apr. 1985 issue, our good friend, Louie Hammel, who just recently passed away after a long battle with leukemia, did the dyno testing at Edelbrock. All the subsequent resto work for Jim's version of the Dart came courtesy of The Parts Shop in Bethalto, Illinois.

Jim was gracious enough to give me a chance to cruise the restored Dart around the Du Quoin fairgrounds for a few minutes. I frankly don't recall driving the Dart when we first finished it, because it was probably finished the night before Chuck had to leave for his ill-fated cross-country cruise. The Dart today runs just like you'd expect from a 1960s muscle car with plenty of power from the 340 and twist from its 3.91:1 gears. There really wasn't anywhere safe to really WOT-test the Swinger, so I wasn't able to run it through the gears. That would have been fun, but that's not what this car is all about. It was more about revitalizing a little bit of Car Craft history and the knowledge that this car has survived the ravages of time. Too often, giveaway cars like these are abused and destroyed because the winner has nothing invested in the car. At least in this case, several people cared enough along the way to ensure the CC Dart survived. I like to think of it as a testament to how much our readers really care about cars and this magazine.

Car Craft readers are the best!

TECH NOTES
Who: Jim Shepard
What: 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340

Engine: Unlike most engines in Car Craft, this one was intentionally built close to bone-stock. The Parts Shop in Bethalto, Illinois, did the machine work to restore this 340 in its latest refresh, but our original builder was Bob Lambeck, who took the originally 275hp 340 and tweaked the 10.5:1 compression motor with a bunch of parts from Perfect Circle. The prep included work on the "X" casting heads with 2.02-/1.60-inch stainless steel valves, better springs, and a Perfect Circle 268/274 advertised duration hydraulic flat-tappet cam with 0.430/0.440-inch lift. Lambeck topped the 340 off with a factory dual-plane intake, and we managed to scrounge an original equipment replacement Carter AVS four-barrel carburetor to complete the buildup. Jim now estimates the power at around 340 hp.

Transmission/Rearend: Marvin Booth originally built the 727 TorqueFlite trans, but through no fault of his, the trans let go in the mountains of Colorado and a rebuilt version took over from there and, as far as we know, is still in the car. Dart 340 cars came with an 83⁄4-inch rear axle, and this one with the optional 3.91:1 gears and limited slip, which we retained. This made Chucks' trip even more painful since there was no overdrive transmission. Jim has faithfully retained all of the same components.

Suspension: The A-body Mopars were all unibody cars with torsion bars in the front and leaf springs in the rear. Other than new suspension bushings and ball joints, and a few other replacement goodies, the suspension remains as father Mopar intended.

Brakes: Stock Darts came with front disc brakes that measured 11 inches in diameter, followed up with a smallish 9-inch rear drum brake.

Wheels/Tires: It might be hard to believe, but there was a time when production muscle cars came direct from the factory with 5.5-inch-wide by 14-inch-diameter wheels. Even more amazing is that Jim was still able to buy a set of 225/70R14 BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires.

Acknowledgements: We have to have the last word here to say thank you to Jim Shepard for taking on such a major task. They say actions speak louder than words, and Jim's excellent effort speaks volumes. Thanks, Jim, for restoring a piece of CC history!

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18 comments
Ginger Barnes
Ginger Barnes

Michael Michael Barnes I think you will like this site.

Dave Farin
Dave Farin

340 great little screamer or a big block

Jerry Brentnell
Jerry Brentnell

moparfest in newhamburg Ontario in august every year give away 2 mopars at their car show

Lee Smith
Lee Smith

my first car was gonna b a green non gt dart like this (for 50$ running! ... just needed the L frnt wheel/a arm fixed (butterflyed bad. Moms was hatin (i was 15) AGood friend got it and we was all mobbin (lol

Loren Jones
Loren Jones

WISH I COULD SEE U...BLUE..SKY..LUV U FROM HERE TO THE SKY..U KNOW THW SKY GOES UP TO HEAVEN JUST CUZ THE CALL IT DIFFERNT IT NEVER ENDS...MAYBE OR CALL ME CRA2Y BUT ILL LUV U 4EVER...HERE AMD IN HEAVEN...N UR CUTE..perfect...ill tell u that all tHe time...u sAiD it..I knew I was n u sAiD I was...

Johnny Baker
Johnny Baker

I remember another car you gave away 22 years ago, the Green Machine 55 Chevy (facepalm). Hey whatever happened with the recovered remnants of Project Heavy Metal? Did you ever find more of it than just whatever was found in that Country Squire wagon?

Jae Cho
Jae Cho

Nice story Jeff smith.

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