There's always been a market for economy cars. Even during the 1960s and '70s, at a time when gas-chugging performance models ruled the streets, manufacturers saw plenty of need to produce inexpensive, fuel-efficient vehicles to satisfy thriftier buyers.
Dodge's entry was the Dart. Small, cheap and reliable, it was wildly popular with consumers. In an effort to have their compact appeal to an even larger crowd, the Dodge boys created a special version to satisfy those drivers with a need for speed -- but who also wanted to keep a close eye on their budget.
The result was the Dart Swinger 340. Mating a small, affordable car to a big, powerful engine equaled even more happy owners.
One such example is Jerry Kusch. "I've always had an interest in little cars mounted with a large, factory performance engine. It's fascinating to see how the manufacturers pushed the envelope," the Melrose Park resident said.
Kusch is the proud owner of this 1970 example, which reminds him of the one he had during his teenage years. The Banana Yellow paint was what first caught his eye when he came across the pocket-rocket in 2010.
"The bright color just simply stood out and also helped to make the detail of the body lines more visible."
Kusch was also attracted to the factory dual exhaust and, more importantly, what was emitting that sweet rumble exiting those pipes. "The chrome tips made the car even more attractive and especially when paired with that deep, throaty sound at idle and takeoff," he said.
What's producing that melodic muscle concerto is a 340 cubic-inch V-8, churning out 275 horsepower and 340 foot-pounds of torque. The numbers may not sound impressive but considering this car has a curb weight of just over 3,000 lbs, that's plenty to make it into a petite, and potent, street bruiser.
Seeking to wrangle up some more horsepower, leadfoot Jerry installed a more aggressive camshaft, carburetor and intake and adjusted the timing to allow the powerplant to run a higher-octane fuel.
To set this top-dog variant apart from its economy-minded siblings, Dodge endowed the 340 model with some exterior accoutrements. A bumblebee stripe wraps around the trunk lid and rear quarter panels while twin hood scoops, emblazoned with '340' badges, scream business.
Kusch and his Swinger roll to the cruise nights at Romano's and Culver's in Franklin Park and can also be seen at the Buona Beef in Rosemont. "My little Dart has the same kind of performance, ride and comfort as other larger, classic vehicles but without the hefty cost. And that suits me just fine."
Seems in over 40 years, the simple -- yet highly effective -- Dodge formula hasn't changed a bit.