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The Dodge Dart GTS first appeared in 1967, though its real impact was not felt until the 1968 and 1969 model years. These models, neglected by many, offer a stunning combination of go-fast power with a lightweight, yet surprisingly roomy, compact body, complete with bucket seats. The only catch was that when new, and optioned to the max, the Dart GTS was cost-comparative to a base 383 Road Runner.
As a result, production numbers are relatively low: 8,295 units in 1968 and just 6,285 in 1969. The real plus for collectors, though, is their low value on the high performance Mopar scale; there's more bang for your buck here. Here are some tasty tidbits to snack on while you start to scour the classifieds.
As was the case in 1968, the base block in 1969 was the 275hp 340-cu.in. engine with little noticeable change--on paper or otherwise. And, just as in the previous incarnation, the 383 was a valid option, except that in 1969 it gained 30 extra horses and 25-lbs.ft. of torque thanks to a hotter cam and the upgrade to a Carter four-barrel carburetor.
The real zinger in the option mix, though, had to be the 375hp 440. Finding a GTS with this option is the Holy Grail for Dart owners. Those more familiar with Mopars know the basics: 4.32 x 3.75-inch bore and stroke; 10.1:1 compression ratio; hydraulic lifters; Carter four-barrel. Perhaps the biggest number is the torque rating, at 480-lbs.ft. The 440, however, was not available in the convertible GTS.
Deciding how you would like to have your GTS configured was about as easy to do as with any other make during the late Sixties. According to factory paperwork in the hands of Cooper, one of three transmissions could have been installed, but there were limitations.
For instance, a GTS with the A13 package (or Y39 in 1968), which was essentially the installation of the 440, mandated that only the console-mounted TorqueFlite automatic was available. This fabled three-speed automatic is quite durable and very capable of handling a good thrashing.
With regards to 340- and 383-equipped GTS Darts, the standard transmission was the column-mounted three-speed manual that in most, if not all, cases was swapped out for a floor-mounted four-speed, or console-mounted TorqueFlite. The four-speed came equipped with a Hurst Competition-Plus floor shift with a simulated woodgrain knob. What's interesting about the Hurst shifter is the odd shape, which looks a lot like someone distorted the original configuration. Odd as it is, it's effective in eliminating the "knuckles against the dash" shifting collision.
Since its inception, the Mopar compact had been built of unit-body construction, and that trend continued during the 1969 model year. Riding on a 111-inch wheelbase, it's needless to say that the extra horses dumped under the hood necessitated a suspension upgrade.
If you're thinking front discs, you're partially correct. Actually, the GTS came equipped with heavy-duty drums at all four corners; they each measure 10 inches instead of the smaller nine-inch drums of standard Darts. Buyers could select the disc brake option: vented front discs--measuring 10.78 inches in diameter--combined with 10-inch rear drums. Total swept area measures 314.7 square inches for stopping the 3,200-pound car. Optioning the system to be power assisted is a carry-over bonus for buyers today.
WHEELS & TIRES
A truly rare option was the W23 cast aluminum road wheel. Initially offered during the first two weeks of August 1968 for the 1969 models, surviving examples of these gems are more rare then hen's teeth. The factory recalled them, due to a tendency for the lug nuts to work themselves loose, almost as soon as the assembly line had bolted them on.
There seems to be little debate, however, over the official tire that arrived on GTS models: the sharp-looking E70-14 Red Streaks.
While undamaged wheels can be restored with a little bead blasting, primer and paint, correct tires can be sourced from more than one supplier.
BODY & INTERIOR
Only two body styles were offered: a two-door hardtop and a convertible. As mentioned earlier, there were engine/body-type limitations. There are few differences between model years, other than the obvious facelift to the 1969 grille, as well as the tail panel trim, taillamp lenses and side marker lamps. The 1968 grille sports round running lamps and an additional vertical dividing bar, while the 1969 face is blacked out, with rectangular running lamps and a single horizontal bar in the center.
Both model years feature a "power bulge" hood with faux vents; chrome strips here feature an insert with engine nomenclature. The rear panel on 1969 models was also blacked out versus 1968's bright metal panel. Cooper tells us that these rear panels are not currently reproduced, so an NOS piece commands big dollars.
The tail stripe also differs from one year to another. The 1968 style is a twin "bumblebee" stripe design that runs across the width of the back edge of the trunk and down each quarter. While the 1969 style is in the same location, the single, fat stripe is split on each quarter horizontally and features the "GT Sport" designation.
The basic point of the GTS was to get a Dart with buckets and a console. If you wanted a bench, you had to buy a Swinger. However, not all GTS models came with a console due to the four-speed. All interiors were vinyl, though coupes could have been ordered with a cloth/vinyl combo. Few differences exist between model years, the most noticeable being the elimination of the lower dash padding in 1969 models.
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