The Dodge Dart is an automobile originally built by Dodge from 1960 to 1976 in North America, with production extended to later years in various other markets. The Dart nameplate was resurrected for a Fiat-derived compact car introduced in 2013.
The Dart name originally appeared on a 1957 show car featuring a body designed by the Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Ghia. The production Dart was introduced as a lower-priced, shorter wheelbase, full-size Dodge in 1960 and 1961, became a mid-size car for 1962, and finally was acompact from 1963 to 1976.
The first Dodge Darts were introduced for the 1960 model year. They weredownsized large cars developed to replace the Plymouth in the standard, low-priced car segment for the Dodge dealer network. Dodge dealers had been selling Plymouths since 1930, but divisional restructuring took the Plymouth brand away from the Dodge dealer network. Project planners proposed the name Dart, only to have Chrysler executives demand an expensive research program which produced the name Zipp. This was promptly rejected in favor of Dart.
With the cancellation of Chrysler’s upper level DeSoto brand, upper level Dodge products were pushed upmarket, while using Plymouth products with more features for lower-level Dodge products.
The Dart sedans and coupes were based on the unibody Plymouthplatform with a 118 in (2,997 mm) wheelbase, shorter than the standard-size Dodge line.However, the Dart station wagons used the same 122 in (3,099 mm) wheelbase as the upmarket Polara wagons. The Dart line was offered in three trim levels: the basic Seneca, mid-range Pioneer, and premium Phoenix. The new Dart came standard with an new engine, the 225 cu in (3.7 L) slant-six. The 318 cu in (5.2 L) (standard equipment on certain Phoenix and Pioneer body styles) and 361 cu in (5.9 L) V8s were optional with two-barrel or four-barrel carburetors, and with single or dual exhaust. The Dodge 383 cu in (6.3 L) V8 was added in 1961.Brakes were 11-inch drums.
Sales of the new Dart were greater than those of the full-size Dodge Matador and Dodge Polara, which also created an in-house competitor for Plymouth. Advertising from 1960 and 1961 compared the Dart to the “C” car (Chevrolet), the “F” car (Ford) and the “P” car (Plymouth). After the economic downturn of 1958-59, Dodge production for 1960 rebounded to a 367,804 cars, the division’s highest total to date and good for sixth place behind Chevrolet, Ford, Plymouth, Rambler, and Pontiac. Chrysler officials were somewhat less comforted at how 87% of Dodge’s volume consisted of the low-profit Dart line, compared to the upmarket Matador and Polara, of which only 41,000 were sold for the 1960 model year.
As the Dart’s sales climbed, Plymouth’s sales dropped. Chrysler executives did little to stop the infighting between the divisions. Dart sales were so strong in 1960 that production of the medium-priced model lines were reduced. The full-size, mid-priced Matador was discontinued after the 1960 model year as buyers selected the slightly smaller but better-appointed and less expensive Dart Phoenix. The premium Polara remained in the medium-price segment in 1961.