1968 DODGE Dart GTS 340- Glen Print
Written by Double Dragon
Tuesday, 14 July 2015 19:16

1968 DODGE Dart GTS 340- Glen K. Ehlert


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen logo

Glen Ehlert's 1968 Dodge Dart GTS is an off the radar musclecar that to this day remains overshadowed by the heavy hitting Mopars.

The compact musclecars pumped out during the 1960s were aimed at buyers on a tight budget. Compact muscle didn't become big sellers until the classic musclecar era deteriorated. In the early 1970s the Duster 340 and Demon 340 suddenly came into their own as viable alternatives to the traditional intermediate sized musclecars which were dying off.

In 1968 the Dart GTS was in its second model year. 1968 saw much improved sales over the 1967 partial model year debut of the GTS. Aside from having a full year of sales for 1968, the jump in popularity of the GTS rests on one factor. What 'made' the GTS for 1968 was the 340 engine. The 340 was a new Mopar offering for 1968 and proved to be the perfect compliment to this car. The Dart GTS did well in a niche market for 'Junior Supercars' that was just starting to emerge in the later 1960s.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen 340 low front

The 'Junior Supercar' compact musclecars distort the original musclecar formula which is an intermediate sized car with a big engine. The primary appeal of the intermediates is their light weight plus a big block engine makes them incredibly fast. The secret of the intermediates is the width of the engine bay and length of rear trunk overhang. Intermediates are wide enough to house big blocks with unrestrictive exhaust and have enough room in back to run separate mufflers and straight out dual exhaust.

The ponycars and compacts were lighter than the intermediates and with a smaller frontal area had less wind resistance. These advantages were nullified because compacts were hampered by narrow engine bays and inadequate room in back to run dual mufflers. Ordinarily compacts used a single transverse muffler which smothered the dual exhaust system. The tight engine bay forced compromise convoluted routing of manifolds. The restriction of exhaust at both ends of the system lowered engine HP ratings and counteracted the weight savings and lower wind resistance of the compact musclecars.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen 340 dash

By the mid 1960s the drawbacks of the compact platform were ignored as the musclecar formula was applied to just about anything with wheels. The intermediate musclecar theme trickled down to the compacts and ponycars which underwent some modification to cash in on the craze. Ford widened the Mustang's engine bay to provide space for a bigger 390 engine option. Plymouth's 'ponycar' the Barracuda had to keep up but the 273 engine wasn't making it anymore. Plymouth created an awkward option to keep up with GM and Ford ponycars. Unlike Ford who widened the car to accept a big block, Plymouth kept the same narrow body and rammed a 383 into the engine bay of the 1967 Barracuda. There was no room for a power steering pump which would have been nice to have when wheeling that extra weight up front. The big shame was that the tight engine bay forced use of restrictive exhaust manifolds which significantly cut power. The Barracuda 383 may have been a compromise machine with shortcomings but it was fast and didn't go unnoticed.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen dr front

The famous Chicago, Illinois high performance Dodge dealer 'Mr. Norm' watched Camaros with 350s and 396s and Firebirds stuffed with 400s hit the street. Plymouth dealers counter punched with their 383 Barracuda but Dodge had nothing competitive in the compact muscle scene. The Challenger wasn't due out for a few more years. Mr. Norm was left high and dry by the factory so he took matters into his own hands.

Mr. Norm had his dealership put a 383 into a 1967 Dart GT and showed it to the factory engineers. This cobbled together Mr. Norm Dart GT inspired Dodge to create a 383 option for the Dart late in the 1967 model year. Dodge distinguished the 383 equipped Darts by naming them GTS. The plain Dart GT cars still only packed 273s.

The Dart GT and GTS options continued for 1968. Below are 2 items from Glen's collection of 1968 Dodge GTS literature. The top brochure is the USA version and the bottom one is the Canadian version of the showroom brochures. Note the factory redlines and bumblebee stripes on the brochure car. Most of the GTS cars have the full length stripe but they could be ordered with the bumblebee if so desired.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen dealer brochures

The impractical 383 Dart option was still available in the Dart GTS for 1968 but most of the GTS Darts in 1968 stood pat with the new small block 340 engine. The 340 was engineered from the ground up to be a high performance package. This lighter smaller engine worked really well in the GTS.

Few guys ordered the tight fitting nose heavy 383 package on a GTS when it was possible to get the well balanced 340 package. Look at the photo below of the 340 engine in Glen's car. Note that the engine is narrow enough to use efficient exhaust manifolds within the Dart engine bay. The 340 was able to fully maximize its potential while the choked down 383 was a shadow of its usual self when stuffed into a Dart. Aside from compromised performance and an unbalanced car, the 383 was such a tight fit in the Dart engine bay that it became a nightmare to change spark plugs. The plugs on the 340 are a breeze to reach. Note that power steering was available for the 340 as is the case in Glen's car. If you ordered the 383 there was no room for power steering.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen ps side 340

The Dart GT and Dart GTS were affordable sleeper musclecars and now they had a practical engine to go along with the package. The 340 'Junior Supercar' appealed to younger kids who wanted a good runner but had little money. In 1968 Glen was just such a kid.

Glen was born January 29, 1949. In spring, 1968 Glen had recently turned 19 years old. He was a school student, but he had a high paying job on the side. His big paychecks inspired the purchase of his first new car. He was limited in what he could afford and didn't have a distinct idea of what he could get within his budget. When Glen went down the hill to visit his neighborhood Mopar dealership he didn't have any particular car in mind. Once he stepped onto the Columbia Dodge dealership lot he zeroed in on a Blue GTS with a blue metal roof. See a story on Columbia Dodge in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website filed under BRITISH COLUMBIA/ NEW WESTMINSTER Dealers.

Before it was time to pick up the car Glen had second thoughts. He called Columbia Dodge and asked about another blue GTS on the lot which was identical to the one he first chose, except it had a white vinyl top. The salesman had both of the Darts prepped so Glen could pick out the one he wanted when he returned to the lot. Glen opted for the Blue GTS with white vinyl roof.

The shot below is Glen's graduation photo with his new Dodge Dart GTS with the white top and matching white stripes.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen grad day

The page below is from the back of the owner's manual. Glen's last name and final VIN digits have been removed to protect owner privacy. The 'B' in the VIN tells us this car was built at the Dodge Main final assembly plant in Hamtramck, Michigan. The P in the VIN indicates the screaming 340-4 barrel engine is installed. Glen's new 1968 Dodge Dart GTS was placed in service April 25, 1968.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen ps owner manual

Glen's GTS has the rear defroster option, imitation wood 3 spoke racing steering wheel, automatic shifter mounted in a console, AM radio, and vinyl top. The fender tag below lists the full option load and is read bottom to top left to right.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen fender tag

L= Dart/ S= Special price class/ 23= 2 Door hardtop/ 52= 340cid 4-bbl HP V8/ 5= 3 Speed auto / 38= E70x14 Red Side Wall steel belted tires/ 410= April 10, 1968 build date/ A61046= Dealer order number.

25= Drip Rail Mouldings/ 30= Body Belt Mouldings/ 78= Wheel Lip Mouldings/ AX4= 3.23:1 Rear axle/ S6C= Sport Trim Grade, Vinyl Bucket Seats. White on Blue Interior/ QQ1= Monotone Bright Blue Metallic Paint/ UU S3= Light Blue Metallic Upper Door Frame Color. White Horizontal Sport Stripe.

N8= Rear defroster/ R1= AM Radio/ Y7= White vinyl top

a6= Console/ b4= Bucket Seats/ m6= Driver's Outside Remote Operated Mirror/ w6= Built to Canadian specifications.

After down payments and delivery the $5,000.00 GTS still had a balance of $3,900.00 left owing over a 5 year period. When the dust cleared Glen only had enough money left over to insure the car for 3 months! See Glen's first short term insurance card below which began April 26. Once again, the personal identifiers have been removed from the image.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen insurance card

Glen's first order of business after driving his new car off the lot was to make a screaming pass by his high school. Once he had gotten the burnouts out of his system he quickly discovered that there were a lot of street racers anxious to give him a try at the lights.

In record time the factory equipment Firestone Redline tires were worn down to the cords. Glen recalls some good runs against small block Camaros up in hot spots like Gallardi Way, Marshall and Ladimar Road. The Dart GTS could take a lot of heavier cars from streetlight to streetlight but if a big block car got more than a single block of street to work with they would hunt down the GTS and overtake it.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen slot mags frt

When the Firestone redlines were roasted away it was time for new tires. As a typical teen Glen went for slot mags and raised white letter Goodyear tires but atypically he used some foresight and saved his original steel rims and dog dish hubcaps. At one point during his early ownership Glen repainted his blue rims black.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen front tire

When he revived the car as a factory correct car 20 years down the line Glen returned the rim colors to correct factory blue and re installed his original dog dish caps. The pictures of the GTS with slot mags were taken in 1977.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen slot mags rear 1977

Soon after purchase of the GTS Glen also added an aftermarket stereo under the dash which saved his factory radio from getting lost and simultaneously preserved the dash from butchery. The door panels didn't escape cutting however. For teens back then it was mandatory to add door speakers. Glen cut the door panels but mounted the speakers high enough that there was no structural metal cut out of the doors. That made it easy to return the doors to stock condition later. As it turned out the driver door was hit in an accident and the body shop did a poor job fixing it. Eventually the door was replaced. The white door panels seen below are also replacements.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen 340 door panel

The factory thoughtfully provided a 'one size fits all' rear package tray which came pre drilled with ventilation holes on either side of the defroster to allow stereo speakers to be heard inside the car. Glen added a pair of stereo speakers under the rear package tray back in the day without needing to cut anything.

The Certicard shown below is original with the significant VIN numbers edited out. The maintenance log records regular oil changes. Note the factory schedule of changing the oil filter on every second oil change.

68 Dodge Dart GTS Glen owner's maintenance

The service records from the owner's manual prove that Glen liked to drive his new car. The miles added up quickly in the first years of ownership. By October, 1969 the GTS had accumulated 23,607 miles. Over an 18 month period Glen averaged 1,300 miles a month.  Glen was basically the only driver although he did allow his wife to drive the car on occasion. Years later when she was grown up his daughter was allowed to drive the GTS. That was a one time and one time only situation! She has a heavy foot like Glen and he has kept the GTS off limits since then!

Although the Dart GTS is spared rain and commuting and shielded from overzealous daughters nowadays it didn't live a pampered life when it was new. The GTS was used as a work commuter, street racer and wasn't garaged. Being parked out doors in the perpetually rainy cool climate of New Westminster, BC takes its toll quickly, but the GTS shows only minimal degradation of the vinyl top. Normally these tops are full of rust lumps. The very corner on the passenger side shows signs of deterioration but otherwise the top is holding up.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen vinyl top

The front fenders on Valiant/ Darts that are left outside are usually well perforated but these ones have held off the ravages of time. The passenger fender was replaced after poor bodywork done by a bodyshop following an accident but the driver fender is original and it's still good. Compare this car to another New Westminster, BC car in the TWENTY YEARS PLUS section of the CAR STORIES on this website. The 1975 Valiant profiled there has holes in the fenders. That car was outdoors for 8 years.

Glen's Dart escaped the usual fate of outdoor cars in a wet climate simply because the Dart spent 25 years off the road. After a first stretch of 20 years off the road, the car enjoyed a brief revival for 6 months and then it went back into storage for an additional 5 years. 25 years out of the elements makes a big difference to survival. Another factor that may have helped the car is that it came with factory undercoating.

The GTS has had its share of incidents. The driver's door was hit in an accident and caved in. The bodyshop that repaired it dolloped in filler that soon started to disintegrate. The same problem happened when a bodyshop repaired the passenger front fender after an accident. As already mentioned above, eventually Glen switched the fender and door with new items.

The car was repainted in 1978. The painter came very close to the correct factory color. Glen hired a guy who cut the white stripes by hand. They look very good except the very front of the stripe doesn't taper quite as much as the factory stripe.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen front seats

The interior has stayed in good shape although the white seats are a problem because they show dirt. The seats held up quite well except for the middle indent in the center of the driver's seat. This stylistic divet provided a weak point in the driver's seat cushion and it split. Glen had to repair it using a seat from a junked car in combination with the best material from Glen's original seat.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen front seatback

Glen states that the Hamtramck built Darts like his car have a slightly different shaped rear upper back rest. The Hamtramck cars have a wider bulge in the panel than California built cars.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen engine dr side

Glen rebuilt the transmission himself following a manual. When the 340 engine was rebuilt a slightly tougher cam was installed. Although the car has only gone 80,000 miles the front end was developing some slop. Glen had the steering box rebuilt and the front end bushings and parts were all replaced. The original radiator was rebuilt and saved. The GTS still has the original power steering pump. The alternator and master cylinder were replaced.

The GTS is now spared from rain and daily driving. Glen's pleasure cruiser still gets driven hard on occasion but for the most part it leads a pretty good life regularly featured in car shows.

Glen died aged 70 on March 31, 2019 after a long struggle against cancer.

68 Dodge Dart GTS 340 Glen rear

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 March 2021 21:57 )