Although there’s a lot of sketchy stuff to be found on Craigslist, every once in a while, a true gem pops up. Dustin Smith, 31, stumbled across a 1967 Dodge Dart GT back in March of 2018 and was so intrigued by the listing that he took a risk and purchased the car sight-unseen. Now, he’s transformed it into a meticulous work of art with modern muscle packed properly into a classic body.
The car was located in Florida, and the older gentleman who had posted it for sale didn’t know much about it. “I had him send me some photos, and it was a good enough deal that I went for it,” said Smith, who quickly wired the cash to complete his transaction and had the car transported up to his home in southern Indiana.
Smith originally intended the Dart to be a daily driver while he built up a Chevy Nova, one of many that he’s owned over the years, but ultimately changed lanes on the thought process and sold off the Nova to focus solely on the Dart.
As a CNC machinist by trade, Smith is the owner-operator of Sin-Fab LLC and had not only the right equipment but also the skill and knowledge needed to transform his Craigslist Dart from mediocre to marvelous. “I mostly do industrial application machine parts but I also do a lot of turbo kits for local guys and, with this car, I knew I needed to do one for myself,” he added of his boosted intentions.
At first, Smith enjoyed the Mopar muscle in naturally-aspirated form as the Dart had come already equipped with a nice 5.9-liter Magnum V8 crate engine. Wanting to enhance the car’s looks to match its performance, he invested the money he made from selling his Nova into a new paint job. “I drove around a bunch of car lots until I found the perfect color, which just so happened to be a Dodge one,” he admitted of his dedication to selecting the exact right shade, Hydro Blue, which he then had Gary Richey of Mr. Muscle Restoration spray over the Dart’s body.
“I pulled the engine out after paint and cleaned it up over the winter with new gaskets and studs,” Smith shared of what inspired him to order and install a TorqStorm supercharger for the summer of 2019. It wasn’t long after, though, that plans changed once again.
By September, Smith had obtained a Gen 3 5.7-liter Hemi engine from a friend and planned to update his classic ride to more modern standards. “Everyone has seen 10,000 LS swaps, but it’s rare to see a Hemi-swapped car,” he reasoned of the choice. “I could have also bolted on a Hellcat blower and called it a day, but it’s harder to build custom headers and a turbo system in an A-body, plus I’m making more power on less boost. It’s the setup I’ve always wanted in a classic Mopar, and the results have been pretty rewarding.”
On January 1, 2020, the lifelong turbocharger enthusiast started ordering the components he needed to complete the project and wrapped up work less than seven months later.
A “good Facebook deal” helped Smith score some forged internals from a Modern Muscle Xtreme (MMX) drop-in kit, including MAHLE pistons, Molnar connecting rods, a 6.1-liter crankshaft, Comp cam, and more all still new in the boxes. He stripped his engine block, checked all the measurements and clearances in-house at Sin-Fab to confirm no machining was needed, then got to work doing the assembly himself.
Other than the rotating assembly, Smith chose to keep the remainder of the Gen 3 Hemi stock to enjoy some reliability and longevity as he cruises the streets with the Dart. Factory aluminum heads and stock valvetrain components keep the Hemi humming happily along with its 10.2:1 compression ratio.
A Holley Terminator X engine management system ensures that the Hemi receives an ample and appropriate amount of fuel as needed, which is fed courtesy of a set of Fuel Injector Clinic’s 1,000 cc injectors, Holley inline pump, and Aeromotive regulator.
The turbo kit is a masterpiece of Smith’s handiwork, as he built the entire thing from scratch and by hand. Fitting all of the plumbing and componentry into a fairly tight space was challenging, but he enjoyed the process of figuring out where all of the pipes would run and how everything would come together; during the fitment, Smith even made the Dart’s K-member from scratch to allow the engine mounts to be placed in the necessary locations.
A forward-facing header setup, crafted by Smith, stands out while the VS Racing 7875 gen II billet turbocharger happily spools up a mild 10 pounds of boost whenever the driver gets a little pedal-happy. Similarly, the TiAL 50mm blow-off valve and VS 44mm wastegate prevent the snail from getting too excited while the pressurized air is chilled by Mishimoto intercooler before flowing through the Holley 92mm throttle body and into the 6.1-liter Hemi factory intake manifold.
Initially, Smith figured he would go with an automatic transmission but had his heart set on something with an overdrive and wasn’t keen on installing a GM 4L80. A conversation with a friend, however, inspired him to give a manual gearbox a go instead. “Within 48 hours, I had a six-speed TR6060 Magnum with a factory Hellcat clutch on my floor and I’m so happy I went that way,” he noted of how much more fun the car is to drive with its Hurst shifter in place. “I know it won’t be a track queen with the stick shift, but for what I do, it’s awesome and the interstate drivability is amazing.”
Although he grew up going to the track to watch drag racing with his father, Kerry, Smith was tired of seeing all of his friends struggle by constantly working on their racecars and knew he wanted something that he could simply enjoy on the street without frustration.
Knowing that a properly set up chassis and suspension would be a huge help in ensuring enjoyable streetability, Smith reinforced the framerails before hand-making the 4140 sway bar, lower control arms, and a plethora of other parts.
Next, he installed QA1 upper control arms along with QA1 front coilovers to work with the factory rear leaf springs which utilize an offset kit, then fitted a Ford Mustang II steering rack. Out back, a Ford 9-inch rearend with 3.55:1 gears has been beefed up with a spool and a set of axles from Moser.
Once Smith was satisfied with the performance parts, he focused on the Dart’s appearance. Inside, the sleek black upholstery is accented by clean Holley gauges and a trick, custom aluminum dash that Smith made himself. Outside, he also fabricated the inlays for the 1968/1969 GTR hood, shaved the radio antenna, and added a custom chin spoiler to set off the beautiful body lines.
Finally, a set of 15-inch wheels were wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber and bolted on to showcase the Wilwood disc brakes that had been installed up front as well as the factor Ford discs in the rear.
For all his efforts, Smith has already been rewarded with multiple “Best Mopar” awards at several car shows since the Dart’s relatively recent completion – including “Best of Show” in the Modified division at Holley’s 1st annual MoParty in 2020 at Kentucky’s Beech Bend Raceway Park.
Unfortunately, an incident in November of 2020 where another driver backed into the front corner of Smith’s stunning showpiece meant that he had the perfect excuse to add a new hood. “The grill had to be fixed since it’s irreplaceable, but it worked out that I was able to get half of the paintwork for free,” laughed Smith, who was thrilled with the fantastic job that the team at Corydon Auto Collision in Indiana did with blending the repairs with the prior paint work.
“I like that I built something different. This is my idea of the perfect street/strip car,” said Smith, rightfully proud of the 1,000-plus hours he has invested in his handiwork. “I street drive it 95-percent of the time, and it’s very smooth and quiet. I take it to as many events as I can, both to show it off and to race.”
Smith certified that his beautiful blue 1967 Dodge Dart pumps out an impressive 668 rear-wheel horsepower and 712 pound-feet of rear-wheel torque, all done through less than 14.5 psi of boost and on 93-octane pump gas. Although he’s still working on getting a “good” pass out of the combination, he has driven it deep into the 7-second zone in the 1/8-mile.
Looking towards the future, Smith plans to work on the tune-up to improve his on-track elapsed times even further. More car shows are definitely in store for him, too, and his father, Kerry, who got him started with racing in the first place, is still right there by his side. Now, decades after their first forays to the track together, the two men are enjoying the unique Craigslist classic that not only holds up on track but also turns heads everywhere it goes.