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Remembering the 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger Concept, Mopar's Forgotten One-Off Hot Rod

Introduced in 1960 as a full-size car, the Dodge Dart evolved into a compact muscle car in just a few years. Five decades later, the concept car that signaled the birth of the iconic Dart Swinger is up for grabs, so it's time to take a closer look at this forgotten yet important piece of Mopar history.
1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept 16 photos
1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept
Developed to replace Plymouth full-size in the low-priced segment for the Dodge dealer network, the Dart debuted in 1960 as the smallest full-size Dodge. A big success at the time, the Dart was downsized to a midsize in 1962 following a corporate mistake.

Having heard talks that Chevrolet would downsize its large cars, Dodge executives decided to develop a smaller Dart for 1962. But much to their surprise, what they had overheard wasn't about smaller full-size Chevys, but the compact Nova. But this management error eventually led to the creation of the Dart Max Wedge, a high-performance car with a race-spec engine.

The Dart's venture in the midsize market didn't last long though. Following a last-minute decision to drop the Lancer, Dodge redesigned the Dart into a compact for the 1963 model year. With a range-topping V8 good for only 180 horsepower, the third-gen Dart was far from wild, but things took a dramatic turn for the better in 1967.

1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept
Redesigned into a more muscular-looking car for the fourth generation, the Dart took its first steps into the rising muscle car scene. Originally available with an optional 340-cubic-inch (5.6-liter) V8 rated at 275 horsepower, the Dart was eventually offered with the 383-cubic-inch (6.3-liter) and the 440-cubic-inch (7.2-liter) mills from the bigger Challenger and Charger.

In 1968, Dodge also offered a limited-edition HEMI version with the almighty 426-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) V8.

But the most legendary variant of the Dart didn't arrive until 1969. That's when Dodge dropped the two-door sedan and introduced a two-door hard-top model called the Swinger. The badge lived on until the Dart was discontinued in 1976 and turned the nameplate into one of the most desirable compacts from the era.

What many people don't know is that the Swinger was previewed by a concept car.

1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept
Unveiled at the 1969 Chicago Auto Show, the Dart Swinger 340 Concept was built by Alexander Bros under Chrysler Corporation's specific guidance. The result was a custom hot rod that looked ready to hit the drag strip rather than the auto show floor.

It wasn't a radical departure from the production Dart Swinger, but it did come with a few features that raised eyebrows. For starters, the round headlamps that have defined the Dart since 1960 were dropped in favor of rectangular Cibie units. These were backed by a pair of round lights placed right in the center of the grille.

It also featured frameless side windows and recessed door handles, the latter a feature that would become popular many decades later. The Goodyear Polyglas tires were wrapped on Ansen Sprint slotted aluminum wheels for a drag-ready look.

But the rollers weren't the only elements that placed the Swinger concept at the drag strip. There was a big, three-hole scoop on the hood, hold-down pins, and a molded rear spoiler. The bucket seats, Hurst shifter, radio-delete plate, and wiper-delete further emphasized the concept's drag-ready nature.

1969 Dodge Dart Swinger 340 concept
To top it all off, the coupe was finished in a burnt orange-like Maroon Metallic and fitted with a 340-cubic-inch V8 with a four-barrel carburetor. Mated to a four-speed manual transmission for row-your-own fun.

While many concept cars from the era have been scrapped, the beefed-up Swinger survived to this day. Not only that but it's been restored to original specification using original and new-old-stock parts and it looks like it just left the Alexander Bros shop 52 years ago.

And while most show cars have been retired in museums, this one is up for sale, as it's set to go under the hammer at Mecum Auctions' Kissimmee event, scheduled between January 6-16, 2022. It's a unique opportunity to own a piece of Mopar history and the car that kicked off the legendary "Swinger" badge.

 
 
 
 
 

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