THE HEMI DART
In 1967 legendary Chicago Dodge dealership owner Mr. Norm Spaulding of Grand Spaulding Dodge contacted Chrysler and requested a high performance Dart be delivered to his dealership to compete with the Chevy Malibu, Camaro and Ford Mustang during the pony car wars of that era.
Chrysler delivered a 273 c.i V8 Dodge Dart to the Chicago dealership. Mr. Norm being a hardcore Mopar performance enthusiast was not totally satisfied with the small block 273 the Darts were equipped with and called some of the higher-ups at Chrysler requesting the Darts be fitted with the higher performance big-block 383 c.i V8 that Chrysler was putting in some of their larger muscle cars, mainly the Plymouth Roadrunners. Ford and GM were already putting big-blocks in their pony cars and the people in Chicago wanted something that was lightweight and would level the playing field. Mr. Norm was informed that the 383 c.i V8 could not be fitted into the smaller and lighter A frame Dodge Darts and the tinkering began at the Chicago dealership.
Never saying never Mr. Norm called one of his technician’s back in the shop and told him to go out to the lot, get a Dart and wedge a 383 into it. A day or two passed and Mr. norm was notified that the Dart was finished 383 and all. They moved the motor mounts slightly, cut a small piece of the A frame and added a few heat shields and the Dart’s inclusion into the pony wars was born.
Mr. Norm immediately called Chrysler, told them they got the 383 into their Dart and was invited to bring the car to Chrysler headquarters in Detroit. The engineers at Chrysler were surprised not only of how these “kids in Chicago” squeezed the big-block into the Dart but how the car handled and responded with the 383. They immediately knew they had their car to go up against GM and Ford pony cars and decided to begin manufacturing these big-block Darts a.s.a.p. They already had a small block V8 version of the Dart named the GTS, Mr. Norm decided these new 383 Dart’s would be known as the Dart GSS (Grand Spaulding Sport) named after his chicago dealership. Dodge engineers now enthused with their new entry into the pony wars started thinking big, bigger, biggest as in raw horsepower fitted into a car under 3200 lbs. Say hello to the birth of the Hemi Dart.
Birth of the Beast
In 1968 Dodge contracted the Hurst auto performance company to produced fifty specially-equipped 426 Hemi Darts for NHRA, SS/B and SS/BA drag racing classes. Today these Hemi Darts along their sister car the Plymouth Hemi Cuda still stand as two of the quickest production cars ever massed produced with 8 second ¼ miles times and speeds reaching the 160 mph range. The Hemi Darts were built for the ¼ mile and to compete with Chevy and Ford muscle cars of that era. Umm compete and crush!
At the top of the Dart performance range for 1969, the GTS was produced with the the limited availability of the 440 V8 and a very few 426 Hemi models in the "Hurst" edition Dart. To this day these cars are legendary, rare and the biggest bullies on the block. The street version of the Hemi being put into the Darts was rated at 433 hp and 472 lbs of torque totally stock. I’ve read the cars were really closer to 500 hp and could easily be tweaked to surpass that. Today at auction these original Hemi Dart’s are selling for over a quarter million dollars with no ceiling in sight.
These cars are basically a very large nasty big-block engine sitting on a small lightweight frame. No gimmicks, nothing fancy and purely built for speed. I love how un-politically correct Chrysler is even today and are still producing performance Hemi engines for Dodge Challengers and Chargers along with pick up trucks and a few other models. The latest version of the legendary Hemi for Challengers and Chargers comes in the 392 c.i. option. A little smaller and lighter than some of the previous Hemi’s but this one is factory rated at 525 hp! Fuel injection has helped with the fuel consumption but to be honest, if you're in the market for a Hemi equipped Mopar especially a late model muscle car, I seriously doubt you're too worried about the gas mileage.
The Hemi Dodge Dart-baddest mofo on the block.
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