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1974 DODGE Dart Custom- Victor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Thursday, 30 July 2015 17:22

1974 DODGE Dart Custom- Victor


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

74 dodge dart custom victor logo

During the late 1960s buyers were slowly weaning themselves off full size cars and looking at intermediate sized cars. When the 1973 oil crisis hit this trend surged as buyers abandoned large cars and even intermediate sized cars as the gas lines and panic escalated.

74 Dodge Dart Custom Rose Vic front

Domestic manufacturers tried to counter the public frenzy and stem the tide of buyers rushing to foreign import compacts like the VW, Datsun and Toyota. Ford had the Pinto and Maverick while Chevy fielded the Vega and Nova. The rest of the GM divisions created Nova clones. AMC had the Hornet.

74 dodge dart custom victor passenger side

But the only domestic manufacturer with a compact car that had stood the test of time was Chrysler. The Dodge Dart traces back all the way to 1960. The name was originally attached to a fairly large car to plug the hole created when Dodge dealerships were deprived of the low price Plymouth brand. By having Dodge exclusively sold on Dodge lots this enabled Chrysler to have distinct brands. The Dart was a true Dodge intermediate that sold in the slot formerly occupied by Plymouth. In 1963 Dodge moved the Dart name to their new compact which was a slightly larger clone of the popular Plymouth Valiant. The backbone of the car is of course the indestructible slant six.

74 dodge dart custom victor slant six 225

The Slant six has been produced in various sizes but all rely on the angled cylinder banks which allow the use of long straight intake runners which improve economy and power. Combined with the durable engineering the various sizes of the slant six have earned their reputation as thrifty workhorses. The 225 cubic inch version of the slant six is shown in these photos. The engine has been repainted.

POPULAR SCIENCE April 1974 tested a 225 slant six installed in a 1974 Valiant with automatic trans and 2.76:1 axle. PS recorded a 0 to 60 time of 16.6 seconds, steady speed 45 MPH economy of 21.34 MPG and steady speed 60 MPH economy of 15.62 MPG.

74 dodge dart custom victor front slant six 225

The Plymouth Valiant and Dodge Dart went on to build up an excellent reputation over the years and reaped the reward with massive sales volume during the early 1970s. When the Duster fastback was combined with the Valiant body suddenly Plymouth had an enormous hit on their hands.

Dodge wanted a piece of the pie but their cloned version of the Duster named Demon never caught on in sales like the Duster. The Dart remained the bread and butter big sales hit for Dodge. Having the right car at the right time helped keep Chrysler alive during the fuel crisis.

74 dodge Dart custom victor wheel

Over the years the Dart was modified to accept electronic ignition and emission controls. Factories started to provide radial tires. New 5 MPH bumpers were added at each end of the car but otherwise the Dart was pumped out essentially unchanged. Note the grey colored collapsible filler plastic mounted between the front of the car and the bumper. This actually blends in fairly well when viewing the car at a distance.

74 dodge dart custom victor front bumper

The oil crisis had been in full swing for a while when summer 1974 rolled around. Up in Vancouver, BC, Canada the trickle down effect of the gas shortage was felt just as strong as down in USA. That summer Rose was only in her middle age when her husband suddenly died. With a family business in Vancouver, BC to sustain and a son, Victor to look after she swung into action. Rose needed a new reliable car for work and errands. She was ready to sell her 1962 Pontiac which she had bought new from Bow Mac in November, 1961. She sold that car privately and in August, 1974 she bought this Golden Fawn 1974 Dodge Dart new from Delta Chrysler Ltd located in Delta, British Columbia. The Dart she spotted had been on the lot since July 10, 1974.

74 dodge dart custom victor shipping order

The broadcast sheet below is intact except that the final VIN digits have been edited out to maintain owner privacy. Note axle type 176.

74 dodge dart custom victor broadcast sheet top

The bottom of the broadcast sheet has notations for wheel lip molding, side molding and front and rear bumper guards. Power steering is also indicated. The Dart Custom model came with a few more standard items than the base model such as full wheel covers.

74 dodge dart custom victor broadcast sheet bottom

The purchase order below is complete except for Rose's signature, last name and final VIN digits which were removed to protect owner privacy. Note that Rose signed for the car conditionally "subject to lawyer's approval'. She wanted some minor damage to the car fixed first. She requested a new front bumper, bumper guard and for the hood to be aligned. It is not certain if the damage occurred during shipping or when moving the car from storage to the display lot. The note also says 'install tires'. It may be that the car was delivered with bias ply tires and she wanted radial tires instead.

74 dodge dart custom victor purchase agreement

Inflation was in full swing by 1974. Part of the increase in new car prices was due to manufacturers passing on the price of safety and emission items to customers but the real problem was that the interest rates were starting to soar by the mid 1970s. Rose's Dart Custom cost $4,682.00 which included the automatic transmission, power steering, AM Radio, body molding, full wheel covers, whitewall radial tires, remote driver's outisde rear view mirror, and rear defroster.

Extra cost items included with the Dart were 2 radial winter tires ($300.00), 1 extra rim ($15.90), front and rear seat covers ($33.00), undercoating ($55.00), floor mats ($19.90). Adding these items to the car swelled the price to $5,085.90. That's a lot of money for an economy car! Rose managed to get $400.00 knocked off the price so that when license registration and tax was added on she came in at $4,932.25. Rose paid with a certified check on August 26, 1974. Subsequent warranty work done at the dealership quoted the sale date as being August 27, 1974.

The final VIN numbers are removed from the image below to preserve owner privacy.The leading VIN numbers decode as follows:

L= Dodge Dart/ Dart Sport

H= High price class

41= 4 Door sedan

C= 225-1 barrel 6 cylinder engine

4= 1974 Model year

R= Windsor, Ontario, Canada final assembly plant

Note that the door sticker below states that the car was built in June, 1974. This is an approximate date. Factory workers grabbed these stickers from a bin. The information for this Dart Custom was printed off on a sticker dated June, 1974. The actual build date can occur one month plus or minus from the indicated date in some instances. In the case of this car, the build date is supposedly July 11, 1974 according to the fender tag. Interestingly, this car was built ahead of the fender tag scheduled date because it was already received as a complete car on July 10, 1974. The lesson here is to take all the documentation as a guide not gospel.

74 dodge dart custom victor door sticker

Rose's Dodge Dart Custom was nicely equipped for a economy car with power steering, AM radio, remote outside rear view mirror, rear defrost, and cloth inserts in the seats. Like many lightweight Darts and Valiants of this era the car relies on manual 4 wheel drum brakes. The V8 Mopars now all came standard with front disc brakes but lightweight 6 cylinder cars were exempt from the advancing technology. The fender tag shown below is complete except for the removal of the sequential VIN digits on the bottom right. The fender tag is read starting from the bottom left.

74 dodge dart custom victor fender tag

E24= Slant Six 225 engine/ D34= Light duty Torqueflite automatic transmission/ LH41= Dodge Dart Custom 4 door

C4R= 225 engine, 1974, Windsor, Ontario  / The final VIN numbers on the bottom of the plate are edited out.

The second line from the bottom reads as follows:

KY4= Golden Fawn exterior paint/ L1L3= Parchment cloth and vinyl bench/ KL2= Upper door frame color

711= July 11, 1974 build date/ G66404= Dealer order number

The third line up from the bottom reads:

KY4= Golden Fawn exterior paint (upper)/ C= Built to Canadian specs/ 22= 22 inch radiator/ F16=

G52= Remote control chrome driver outside mirror/ H21= Rear defroster

The top line reads:

M26= / M38= / V5X= Black vinyl body side moldings/ END= end of tag

74 dodge Dart custom victor pass seat

The optional AM radio is mounted below the heater. At this time usually only high end cars went to the extravagance of AM/ FM radios although it was possible to order one in the economy line.

74 dodge dart custom victor radio

The optional remote driver's outside rear view mirror mounts the adjustment knob below the vent window as seen below. Very few cars still used the popular vent windows by 1974. Most 2 door cars had long since eliminated the vent window. Even many 4 doors had done away with vent windows which were replaced with flow through ventilation using dash ductwork. Consumers loudly complained about the phase out of vent windows which was purely cost motivated.

74 dodge dart custom victor remote rear view mirorr

The Chrysler method of adding options was pretty basic back in the 1970s. Optional switches were simply attached below the dash as can be seen in the photo below. The toggle switch below the dash is marked 'Rear Air' and controls the optional rear defroster. Over at GM and Ford dummy instrument pods and empty moldings were designed into the dash to accommodate optional gauges and switches. The money Chrysler saved on an adaptable dash layout allowed them to provide a full gauge package even in lowly economy cars. During this same period Ford and GM relied on 'idiot lights' and only provided a speedometer and gas gauge in most of their cars.

74 dodge dart custom victor gauges and switch

The rear defroster air slot is visible through the rear window. Note the rear package tray's stellar condition. This is actually a reproduction item installed in 2002.

74 Dodge Dart Custom victor rear window

Note that the corners of the window where the trim attaches are rust free. Many vinyl top Darts from this era were rotted out in these areas because vinyl tops hold moisture in. It was a fortunate turn of events that this particular car wasn't equipped with a vinyl roof.

Rose was plagued by problems with the factory shoulder belt mechanism soon after she started driving it. She found the shoulder belts annoying and had them checked on several occasions until finally with frustration she had the factory set up removed and lap belts installed in 1995.

74 dodge dart custom Victor shoulder belt

Rose's Dart was well kept and not abused. She wasn't terribly fussy about her car but she did like to maintain it properly. Her son Victor is a perfectionist and a car guy. He recoiled in horror when the car was used for mundane tasks. He still retains the shock from the day Rose casually loaded up the car with cement bricks to build a shelf. This car was not babied. It was a workhorse. The rear passenger fender has some slight remnants of stress caused by bricks falling onto it to remind Victor of those days.

74 dodge dart custom victor rear fender

Most of the 179,607 miles currently showing on the Dart Custom were incurred during Rose's ownership. Note that the speedometer is ratcheted back from the former standard 120 MPH dial that was the norm for 1960s and early 1970s US built cars. By 1974 many new cars had speedometers that now ended at 100 MPH. In a few years legislature would pull the speedometer limit back to 85 MPH.

74 dodge dart custom victor speedometer

Rose had a cavalier attitude towards the car regarding it as mere 'transportation'. Despite logging quite a lot of miles on the Dart in the time she used it the Dart escaped any serious mishaps. The irony is that her son Victor the car guy was the one who actually damaged the car. He hit a cement abutment with the car. Rose simply said,

"Get it fixed."

Victor had the dented front passenger fender straightened August 3, 1978 and some touchup paint applied by Dean Brother's Collision repairs. He wasn't fully satisfied with the results but it looks reasonable.

74 dodge dart custom victor owner manual

Rose wasn't fanatical about the car and approved the repair. She did stay on top of the maintenance as proven through a stack of bills. If something didn't work right she got it dealt with immediately.

April 11, 1975 at 3,989 miles the first LOF was performed and seat covers were installed.

July 4, 1975 at 6,957 miles engine ping at 50 MPH was corrected.

Aug 26, 1975 at 8,298 miles when in for LOF the same ping problem was rechecked (40- 55 MPH).

Jan 13, 1975 at 10,154 miles a leak in wind vents was fixed, a tuneup was performed (due to stalling), and seatbelts were checked.

Jan 29, 1976 at 10,577 miles noisy windshield wipers needed fixing as did the engine ping. Torsion bar height was adjusted along with a wheel alignment.

Feb 9, 1976 at 10,728 miles the Dart was taken to an independent garage to get the windshield wiper squeal fixed. The carb was overhauled at the same time to cure hot and cold stalling.

July 4, 1976 at 14,153 miles the Dart received new fuel pump gasket, engine oil pan gasket, transmission pan gasket, and speedometer gear case seal.

April 25, 1977 the rear muffler was replaced.

Nov 2, 1977 at 27,412 miles the front shocks were replaced. The speedometer O ring in the transmission was replaced.

Nov 16, 1977 replacement of two rear wheel studs (right rear).

March 22, 1977 at 21,000 miles an LOF plus new thermostat and scope test was performed due to hard starts when hot and tests were done to verify lack of heat from heater.

Oct 17, 1978 at 32,887 miles the battery terminals were cleaned due to hard starting.

Jan 15, 1983 at 47,471 miles the front brake pads were replaced and drums turned, rears were just cleaned.

March 1, 1983 at 47,615 miles the left brake hose was replaced, PCV valve replaced and license light bulb replaced.

Oct 21, 1985 at 53,494 miles the car needed to be jump started. Even with a new battery it wouldn't hold a charge. On Oct 23, 1985 the alternator and regulator were replaced. The temperature gauge was repaired and brakes adjusted at the same time.

At 53,602 miles the lower ball joints were replaced and an alignment performed.

Dec 3, 1990 a repeat job was performed to fix the heater.

Aug 5, 1993 at 65,402 miles the Dart was towed in due to a no start. The ballast resistor needed replacement. The carb was reset and EGR valve reconnected. The leaking radiator was replaced at the same time.

Oct 1, 1993 at 65,680 miles a leaking frost plug was replaced and choke was reset.

April 24, 1995 at 68,220 miles pelvic lap belts were installed in the car (Rose had the troublesome factory shoulder belt removed).

Sep 21, 1995 at 69,074 miles towed in for a no start resulted in a new coil ballast resistor.

Feb 7, 1997 at 69,697 miles the Dart failed the dreaded Aircare testing. The car was reset and an oil sending unit wire was replaced at the same time.

The front driver seat has started to fray slightly in some areas that are a touch threadbare but it has miraculously escaped tears or rips mainly due to Rose's foresight when she ordered the car and specified the addition of front and rear seat covers. The seatcovers took the abuse and saved the seats.

74 dodge dart custom victor driver seat

It is interesting to note that very little apparent wear is visible on the pedals despite the mileage. As mentioned earlier, the carpet has been replaced.

74 dodge dart custom victor driver pedals

The driver's arm rest bears graphic evidence of the mileage piled on this car.and has worn out. It is on Victor's list of things to replace.

74 dodge dart custom victor driver door pull

The steering wheel shows very light wear. This is the 'custom' steering wheel which has a heavily padded 3 spoke design and smaller diameter than the standard wheel.

74 dodge dart custom victor dash

The ashtray looks brand new since neither Rose or Victor were smokers.

74 dodge dart custom victor ashtray

Rose was aware that as time passed her car was now becoming a classic. People made offers on the car which was now seeing much less use after her retirement.

The rear seat saw minimal use and remains in decent original condition with some minor wear on the right rear passenger seat bottom where items were placed on the seat.

74 dodge dart custom Victor rear seat

Victor replaced the headliner, rear package tray and carpet in summer, 2001. A neighbor helped Victor install new carpet in the car which turned into a nightmare when it didn't fit right. After torturous hours stretching the carpet and fiddling it was installed just so. Victor showed the car and his great carpet job to to Rose who vaguely glanced at the car and said,

'That looks nice."

The new headliner cost about $500.00 and the rear package tray and carpet cost $516.00. It had better have 'looked nice'!

In 1998 Victor bought a reproduction trunk mat to replace the worn out original. The repro was a good buy at $75.00.

74 dodge dart custom victor trunk

Note the gas tank filler tube running right through the trunk on the left. This was a Mopar signature during the 1960s and 1970s. Victor has returned the original screw off gas cap to the car but for a period during the gas crisis when the car was in heavy use a locking gas cap was put on the car.

74 dodge dart custom Victor gas cap

Once Victor was officially immersed in the maintenance of the car Rose decided to put it in his name. The car was transferred to Victor March 3, 1999. The Dart had been in Rose's name for 24 years and 7 months.

74 dodge dart custom victor transfer

With only pleasure use for the last few decades the garages have seen less of this Dart Custom these days.

In Dec, 2007 the carburetor choke was malfunctioning causing a rich condition. The gasket was leaking gasoline as was the carb bushing. A remanufactured replacement was installed in Feb, 2008 at 178,617 miles.

On July 20, 2009 the alternator packed it in and needed to be rebuilt. The original alternator had already been replaced back in 1985.

Oct 26, 2013 at 79,322 miles a tire was replaced.

Rose became unable to drive and passed away in 2003 aged 91 years. Victor has kept his mother's car in good mechanical shape. He repainted the engine and did brakes, exhaust and tires and drives it regularly enough to keep it going. He also brings it to car shows when he isn't showing his other cars.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 May 2016 22:51 )