The Dodge Dart is best known as a humble economy car, but the 1968 Dart GTS featured in this episode of “Jay Leno’s Garage” shows that the compact Dodge had a sporty side too.
Instead of the straight-6 engine that many Darts left the factory with, this car features a 383 cubic inch V-8 with a 4-barrel carburetor. The same engine was used in the more popular Plymouth Road Runner, but the Dart is smaller and lighter. Power is transmitted to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual gearbox.
The Dart was ordered new by a Wisconsin couple and has now survived their marriage. It has been completely restored to original condition except for the period spare Cragar wheels and a spare tachometer. Leno is only the second owner, and he got the original build sheet, a lifetime of maintenance records, and more paperwork to attest to its authenticity.
It was considered a small car in 1968, and with around 325 hp it was also quite powerful for the time. The Dart isn’t small or fast by modern standards, but its torquey V-8 means it’s still fun to drive, according to Leno. Drum brakes and non-power steering, however, mean this is no canyon carver.
Dodge introduced the Dart for the 1960 model year, downscaling it to a compact car for 1963 to compete with the Chevrolet Nova and Ford Falcon. The Dart remained in this role until production ended in 1976. Paired with the Plymouth Valiant, the platform also served as the basis for the original Dodge Demon (later Dart Sport) and Plymouth Duster coupes.
The Dodge Dart returned for the 2013 model year after a decades-long hiatus, but this time as a front-wheel-drive, 4-cylinder modern compact car. It wasn’t that long, though. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (now Stellantis) killed it off a few years later to focus on best-selling, top-grossing SUVs and pickup trucks.