See, I grew up with the original Dodge Dart. Had one in college, as a matter of fact, a ’65 Dart Charger with the Commando 273 V8. Yellow with a black interior. Four on the floor, of course.
My dad and I bought it used for a song, because back then, no one realized that these old school muscle cars were going to be classics someday.
And believe me, I had a lot of fun in that car. It wasn’t in the greatest shape, and it wasn’t exactly the best muscle car around, but my goodness, the noises that V8 would make when you got on it, four-barrel carb gulping air up front with a cloud of tire smoke billowing out the back.
I loved it, I really did.
But now there’s a new Dart in town, the 2013 Dodge Dart, a front-wheel-drive economy sedan that doesn’t offer anything more than a four-cylinder engine. It’s styled by Italians and full of computer screens and all kinds of gizmos I could care less about. Its predecessor was the forgettable Dodge Neon, the one that said “Hi” in commercials. It’s an economy sedan for Godsakes.
And it’s a better car than my old ’65. Better by a longshot.
Why? Because the reality is, that Dart Charger wasn’t close to being the best American muscle car of its day. It was just a mediocre mainstream car with a decent motor—nothing more, nothing less. It didn’t even look special, unlike some other Dodge muscle cars I could name. And if you want to talk about the best muscle car engine from back in the day, the Commando V8 wouldn’t even be in the conversation.
But the 2013 Dodge Dart is close to being the best small sedan on the market right now. The new Dart comes packed with features right out of the box, so you don’t have to pay a bundle for some fancy trim level. It’s got a nice smooth ride that stays quiet at speeds I’m not allowed to disclose. Thanks to underpinnings borrowed from Alfa Romeo, it’s not afraid of corners, either.
There’s even a version for car guys like me: you can get it with a six-speed manual transmission and the same turbocharged 1.4-liter motor that’s in the Fiat 500 Abarth hot hatch. Is this the best “muscle car” engine, if you could call it that, in the small-sedan segment? It’s in the running, I’ll give it that much.
So yeah, I still miss my ’65. Still remember the day it wouldn’t pass inspection—too much rust. Had to put it out to pasture, and I was pretty broken up about that.
But if you gave me the choice between a pristine Dart Charger and a 2013 Dart turbo, I’d take the new car every day and twice on Sunday.
You’re always gonna miss the way things used to be, but sometimes you gotta admit that 50 years of progress has its perks.
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