1969 Dodge Dart GTS: The Little Mopar That Could

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Dodge created the Dart GTS in 1967, it was a case of overkill – a big-block in a compact. High-performance compacts had started to become popular with those who knew a good power/weight ratio could make a fast car, but it was Dodge who upped the ante by being the first manufacturer (along with Plymouth) to install a big-block in a compact.

The introduction of the 1967 Dart GTS. (Image courtesy of carbuzzard.com)

While a 383 in the compact Dart sounded impressive, it put out only 280 horsepower (compared to 325 for the Coronet and Polara/Monaco) because of compromised exhaust manifolds due to the tight squeeze. Power steering wasn’t even available for the GTS, which limited the 383 GTS to some of the more hardcore performance fans who were content with a nose-heavy muscle car, but at the end of the model year, only 457 hardtops and convertibles were built for the U.S. (plus a few more for Canada and exports).

For 1968, the GTS came into its own. That was the year Dodge introduced the Scat Pack, a trio of bumblebee-striped performance cars (Charger R/T, Coronet R/T, and Dart GTS, later to be joined by the Super Bee) that were perfectly capable of sub-15-second ETs. Unlike the previous year, the 1968 Dart GTS now was its own full-fledged model, and now it had a brand-new engine: the 275-horse 340 small-block. The 383 was still available but received a horsepower bump to 300 horsepower; truth be told, the 340 was the more impressive motor. Four-speed 340s received a more radical camshaft than automatics – the only year the stick had a bigger cam.

The GTS was available in three stripe configurations (in black, white, or red): a “color-keyed” longitudinal stripe was standard, with the signature twin bumblebee stripes or stripe-delete as no-cost options. A special hood with two “simulated intake ports” was another quick way to identify a GTS from non-performance Darts. The Dart GTS hardtop and convertible also featured 14-inch tires, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhaust tips, standard TorqueFlite (with 4-speed a no-cost option) and “unique full-length side trim.” Buckets were standard on the hardtop, optional on the convertible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the end of the model year, Dodge built 8,295 GTS hardtops and 450 convertibles – hardly setting fire to the muscle car market, but the 340’s reputation as a giant-killer was much larger than sales would indicate.

Nineteen sixty-nine brought a more refined Dart GTS. There were the usual model-year changes like grille, parking lights, and trim, plus the simulated intake ports on the hood were redesigned. The GTS also had a new bumblebee stripe, a single wide stripe bumpered by pinstripes; the longitudinal stripe was discontinued, although a buyer could still specify stripe-delete. Once again, the 340 was the standard motor for the GTS, with the 383 receiving a boost to 330 horsepower – not up to the Super Bee’s 335 horses, but still up a substantial 30 horsepower. Come midyear, Dodge would drop in a humongous 440 Magnum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut an interesting thing happened to the GTS – it gained a stablemate. Hot on the heels of the Plymouth Road Runner, Dodge decided to use the same formula (few frills other than horsepower) for the Dart, which led to the creation of the Dart Swinger 340. Over 16,000 were built, compared to 6,285 Dart GTS hardtops and 417 GTS convertibles. For 1970, the Dart Swinger 340 continued but the GTS was laid to rest.

Noel Bennett of Toronto, Ontario bought this GTS convertible out of Canton, Illinois at the end of 1990 but it sat 13-14 years while he “dealt with life raising kids, going to work, and paying the mortgage.” Then about 7 years ago, he decided to get on it. With the help of Nigel Miles of Beaverton, Ontario, you see the car as it is today. Noel has been a Mopar lover since he was a teen and has had a few Swinger 340s, but he always loved convertible GTSs but were out of his price range until he was able to find this one – one of 58 4-speeds built for the U.S.

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About the author

Diego Rosenberg

Diego is an automotive historian with experience working in Detroit as well as the classic car hobby. He is a published automotive writer in print and online and has a network of like-minded aficionados to depend on for information that's not in the public domain.
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