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Roots of the Dart Dynasty and ‘Cuda Kingdom – Part 2

Roots of the Dart Dynasty and ‘Cuda Kingdom – Part 2

Growing From Strength to Strength

Second Generation Darts and Barracudas: 1967-1969

In part 1 of this three part history of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda, we learned that both models were based on the same A-Body platform, which was first used beneath the 1960 Plymouth Valiant and 1961 Dodge Lancer, Chrysler Corporations’ first post-WWII compact car offerings. Though Dart and Barracuda were initially targeted at frugal, entry level buyers looking for economical transportation with a touch of flash, by 1966 the impact of the Baby Boom generation was being felt.

The offspring of returning military servicemen and women who had endured the struggle of WWII, in 1966 the first waves of Baby Boomers were old enough to drive – and buy – new cars. More importantly, this youthful bunch liked rock and roll, horsepower and muscle cars. But since the first generation A-Body platform of 1960-’66 was never intended to be a high performance muscle machine, its engine bay was physically too narrow to accept Chrysler Corporation’s big block V8 engines. That changed in 1967.

In addition to a total body and interior redesign for Dart and Barracuda, the A-Body’s front frame rails were spread apart 3 inches and the inner fenders and fire wall were tightened up. This was done specifically to allow easy installation of the B-Series and 383 big block wedge V8 on the regular assembly line. So while the frugal Slant Six and 273 small block V8’s continued to motivate the majority of new Darts and Barracudas, the stage was set for installation of any Chrysler Corp. big block, except the wider 426 Hemi. This big-engine-in-small-car combination was the recipe of the most successful muscle cars, and now Dart and Barracuda were true contenders.

The transmission tunnel was also enlarged to accept Chrysler’s legendary 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission. Previous 1960-’66 A-Body transmission tunnels were much smaller. That was good for passenger leg room but only allowed clearance for Chrysler Corporations’ medium duty A-904 automatic transmission. Though tough enough for the optional 235 horsepower 273 Four Barrel engine, the A-904 simply wasn’t designed to accept the higher levels of torque and horsepower generated by a big block. But after expanding the engine bay and transmission tunnel, the A-Body was poised for a high performance party

Though the very first retail 383 installations were performed by Grand-Spaulding Dodge, a well-known Chicago area dealership noted for emphasizing high performance models and marketing, the factory waited a few months and made the 383 option a mid-year offering aboard the Dart GTS and Barracuda Formula S.

Restrictive exhaust manifolds limited advertised output to 280 horsepower but refinements for 1968 increased it to 300 horsepower, then 330 for 1969. The 1967-1/2 383 engine option also brought the A-Body its first full-length dual-exhaust system. Previous 1965-’67 high performance 273 engines exhaled through a large diameter 2-1/2 inch single exhaust system tipped by a resonator and oversized rectangular outlet jutting out beneath the driver-side of the rear bumper. 1968 also brought the 275 horsepower 340 small block, an outgrowth of the LA series small block engine family. Combined with mandatory heavy duty suspension and brakes, 340 powered A-Bodies offered a near perfect blend of straight line performance and handling prowess.

At the top of the performance pyramid, 1969 brought something unthinkable to the originators of the 1960 Valiant, availability of the 440 Magnum / Super Commando, Chrysler Corp.’s highest displacement engine until the 488-cube Viper V10 of 1992. Unlike the 383, the 440 wasn’t de-tuned in any way for A-Body use and churned out the same 375 horsepower and 480 ft/lb of torque as when installed in a same-year Dodge Charger R/T or Plymouth GTX.

The only hitch was the lack of a manual transmission. While 340 and 383 Dart GTS and Formula S / ‘Cuda buyers could select a 4-speed stick or automatic transmission, 440 A-Bodies were all equipped with the 727 Torqueflite automatic transmission with a console shift handle. Precise totals are not known, but evidence suggests that about 1,000 440 A-Bodies were built in 1969 (640 Dart GTS and 360 ‘Cuda 440’s). Look for the letter M in the fifth spot of the VIN and trim tag code A13 for verification of any suspected 1969 440 A-Body (1967-’69 383 A-Bodies always carried engine code H in the VIN’s fifth spot).

Beyond the excitement under the hood, the other half of the 1967-‘69 Dart and Barracuda story focused on totally new body styling. Dart moved away from the rounded forms of 1966 toward design language focused on deltoid shapes and crisp folds in the sheet metal. Sales jumped from 112,900 (1966) to 154,500 (1967), a 37-percent improvement. The same assortment of 2-door, 4-door and convertible body styles continued with one big exception, for 1967, the Dart station wagon line was dropped, never to return. As Dodge’s entry level offering, variety was the Dart’s strength. From a Slant Six, 3-on-the-tree, radio delete Dart 170 2-door post for the frugal spinster to a 383 4-speed GTS for the recent high school grad, there was a Dart for every type of buyer.

At Plymouth, the 1967 Barracuda continued its mission as a sporty personal car. More than ever, efforts were made to separate it from its more pedestrian Valiant siblings. Styling was leaner with virtually no shared body panels from the Valiant parts bin. A deep set, divided grille with faux driving lamps doubling as turn signal indicators gave it a fresh look up front. As with the 1964-’66 run, there were no 4-doors but in a move meant to grab some Mustang sales, an expanded variety of 2-door body configurations was offered. For the first time in 1967, Barracuda buyers were offered convertibles and 2-door hardtops. On fastbacks, the previous massive glass backlite – which critics said looked too much like an afterthought – was replaced by a slightly curved glass panel. The B-pillars were then fully integrated into the shape of the fastback. The overall effect was a success. In its December, 1966 issue, Car and Driver magazine called the Barracuda Formula S fastback; “unquestionably the best-looking car out of Detroit in 1967”.

As with the refreshed 1967 Dart, Barracuda sales flourished in 1967 and 62,534 were built, a 64.4-percent gain over 1966. Of the three body styles, the sleek fast back was the strongest seller, consistently beating the hardtop (30,110 – vs – 28,196 in 1967, 22,575 – vs – 19,997 in 1968 and 17,788 – vs – 12,757 in 1969). Over at Ford, the opposite was true; the boxy Mustang hardtop always outsold the more attractive2+2 fastback.

The reason for this odd popularity reversal wasn’t price. The sleeker 2+2 was only $213 more expensive that the box-top coupe. The main objection to the 2+2 was its reduced seating capacity and narrow trunk compartment opening. Because Mustang’s interior stylists incorporated complex cabin vent ducts into the B-pillars, rear seat hip room was 43.2 inches, leaving room for only two rear seat passengers (the hardtop’s rear seat held three). So Ford wasn’t kidding when it named the fastback “2+2”, it’s a 4 seater, two upfront plus two in the back.

As for the Barracuda fastback, its B-pillars weren’t encumbered with ducting so its’ full width, folding rear seat offered 48.5 inches of hip room, almost a half-foot more than Mustang 2+2. A similar scenario is playing out today with the Dodge Challenger and its competitors in the pony car marketplace. Challenger is the only five seat pony car on the market. Camaro and Mustang only seat four. This can make a big difference to young families.

By the close of the 1960’s, the Dart and Barracuda were headed in very different directions, one a sporty personal car, the other a reliable yet utilitarian mass transportation device. Both would endure into the 1970’s – and beyond. In the next installment of this retrospective, we’ll examine how the Dart and Barracuda continued to evolve to suit market conditions and demand.

This factory cutaway illustration of a 1969 Dart 4-door sedan showcases the second-generation A-Body. The frame structures depicted in the upper half are permanently welded to the underside of the body shell, not bolted on like certain competing designs. Note the odd combination of the 340/383/440-style open element air cleaner and 273/318-style single exhaust tract.

Your author has owned and modified over a dozen A-Bodies since 1987. These pictures compare the empty engine bays of a 1962 Valiant (white) and a 1967 Dart (red). Close inspection reveals added distance between the frame rails on the 1967. The pen points (top left) to the more intrusive shock absorber tower of the 1960-’66 A-Body, a detail that prohibited factory big block installations.

The wider engine bay set the stage for machines like the 1967 Dart GTS 383. The standard A-Body 7-1/4 inch Salisbury-type rear axle wasn’t strong enough for this level of performance. To keep pace, the Hotchkiss-type rear axle from the B-Body was fitted with down-sized A-body 10×1.50 drum brakes and special axle shafts with the A-Body’s unique 5-on-4 inch bolt pattern. These unique A-Body-only 8-3/4 rear axles were also used under 1965-‘66 273 Four Barrel Darts and Barracudas when backed by a 4-speed manual transmission.

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Discussion Starter #102

As exciting as the muscle Darts were, the vast majority of Dart output focused on two and four door family machines with Slant Six power. This 1967 four door had a base sticker price of $2,224. Several million were produced over the following decade.

The second generation Barracuda fastback did away with the “fish bowl” window used in 1964-’66. In this 1969 magazine ad, Plymouth officially embraced the abbreviated “‘Cuda” street slang moniker with a special model of the same name. The Kelsey Hayes W23 wheels deserve mention. Most often associated with Road Runners (and a 5-on-4.5 inch bolt circle), these wheels were also made with the A-Body 5-on-4 inch bolt pattern, as seen here. Very few sets reached the public.

This 1968 Barracuda displays the hardtop body style, of which 19,997 were made. Fastback output for ’68 was 22,575, convertibles accounted for 2,840 units. At $2,605, the hardtop was $157 less costly than the fastback and $302 cheaper than a convertible (base equipment levels).

The 440 was only offered in 1969. It’s taller cylinder deck height made the 440 2.5 inches wider than the 383 (low deck) big block. For clearance, a special passenger side exhaust manifold had to be cast. Though 383 installations were done on the regular Dart and Barracuda assembly lines, the 1,000 440 A-Body installations done in 1969 were completed by Hurst Performance in Madison Heights, MI.

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Discussion Starter #103

The second-generation 1967 A-Body engine bay was bigger, but still not big enough for the 426 Hemi. So when Chrysler Corp. decided to construct a small fleet of 1968 Hemi Darts (80 built) and Hemi Barracudas (70 built) for use in NHRA drag racing, the job was farmed out to Hurst. The main hurdle was the passenger side shock absorber tower, which interfered with the Hemi’s right hand valve cover. The solution? Hammers and heat. Look at any legitimate ’68 Hemi A-Body for signs of blunt force. The workmanship ain’t pretty. But it worked.

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Discussion Starter #104
Roots of the Dart Dynasty and ‘Cuda Kingdom – Part 3

Roots of the Dart Dynasty and ‘Cuda Kingdom – Part 3

A Fork In The Road: The Fish Becomes a True Pony

As we’ve seen in Part One and Part Two of this series, the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda flew in tight formation throughout the 1960s, but 1970 brought a massive change. The compact A-body platform on which both were based remained beneath the Dart through 1976, while the 1970 Barracuda adopted an all-new, larger chassis platform based on the mid-size B-body passenger car series. The new Barracuda platform was called the E-body.

Even though the new E-body Barracuda’s 108-inch wheelbase was identical to the 1967-’69 second-generation A-body-based Barracuda, the new E-body platform allowed Barracuda body stylists to maximize the long hood/short deck lid proportions that were essential to success in the pony car market space, one of the industry’s most profitable at the time. Since Ford’s Mustang burst onto the scene with its long hood and short deck lid configuration in 1965 (as a 1964-1/2), every successful imitator followed the same formula.

A quick look at pony car contenders like the 1967 Camaro/Firebird, 1967 Mercury Cougar, 1968 American Motors Javelin and AMX reveals how most of Detroit was playing “follow the leader” in their efforts to capture some Mustang sales with their own long hood/short deck lid responses. Why re-invent the wheel?

As for Barracuda, this was problematic. Since it was anchored to the A-body platform (which was most often rendered as a 4-door Valiant sedan), the baked-in cowl-to-front-axle and cowl-to-rear-axle distances couldn’t be manipulated to achieve the necessary long hood/short deck body proportion. The 1964-’66 and 1967-’69 fastback models hid the matter with long, flowing B-pillars, but when the Barracuda hardtop and convertible body styles were introduced in 1967, their lengthy rear overhang and long deck-lid accentuated the A-body’s limitations in achieving the classical pony car hood / deck proportions.

Though it’s logical to assume buyers would prefer – and buy – the car with the more spacious trunk, or back seat, that’s not the way things always work. In the pony car realm, function almost always took second place to form. Simply put, pony car buyers were most attracted to cars with the long hood/short deck configuration because it adds a bunched-at-the-rear, ready-to-pounce feel. If Barracuda was to succeed, Chrysler Corp. planners knew it had to be separated from the A-body and its inherent styling limitations.

So while chanting “long hood/short deck lid, long hood/short deck lid” over and over, the stylists of what would become the 1970 Barracuda got to work in mid-1966. To help spread the cost of developing this completely new offering, Dodge was brought into the act. It’s version of the E-body was dubbed Challenger and would be Dodge’s first pure pony car…and a legend unto itself.

To maximize the long hood/short deck lid proportions, the E-body designers took the Plymouth B-body’s 116-inch wheelbase and sliced out a full 8 inches, mostly from the rear seat area. Over at Dodge, the Charger/Coronet B-body rode on a 1-inch-longer 117-inch wheelbase. For the Challenger, 7 inches were deleted, to deliver a 110-inch span between the front and rear axles. In both cases, the effect was stunning. Sure, rear seat leg room was reduced from 36.3 to 30.9 inches, nearly half a foot, but again, this wasn’t a function-over-form game.

When viewed from the side, the Barracuda (and Challenger) gave the impression of muscle, especially when fitted with the double-bulge ‘Cuda hood or optional rollicking Shaker hood scoop. Better still, at 186.6 inches, the 1970 Barracuda was 4 inches shorter than the 1969 Barracuda and less than 100 pounds heavier (when similarly equipped). Best of all, with its B-body ancestry, the E-body engine bay was built to take the 426 HEMI® without the need for an expensive trip to an outside modification center like the Hurst-built 1968 HEMI Super Stock program. The full line of Chrysler Corp. engines was offered. This included the 198 and 225 cube Slant Sixes, 318 2-barrel, 340 4-barrel, 340 6-barrel (aboard the AAR ‘Cuda), 383 2-barrel, 383 4-barrel, 440 4-barrel, 440 6-barrel, and The HEMI.

The 1970 Barracuda (and Challenger) should have been massively successful, right? Sadly, they weren’t. A combination of market saturation, shifting consumer tastes, skyrocketing insurance costs for young buyers, the distraction of the Vietnam war and a soft economy conspired to dull the sword. Though the all-new 1970 Barracuda boosted sales by nearly 74 percent over the outgoing 1969 (A-body) model, only 50,617 were built. At Dodge, the new Challenger scored 76,935 sales. No doubt, Plymouth and Dodge accountants were disappointed by the poor sales. It is hard to imagine that cars which now sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars – even millions – among collectors, once sat on dealer lots unappreciated. The mind boggles.

But again, things were tough all over. The same market conditions saw sales of Camaros tumble from over 243,085 in 1969 to 124,901 in 1970, a nearly fifty percent drop despite the 1970 being a totally new car. It wasn’t much better for Ford. The originator of the pony car movement watched Mustang sales slide from 299,824 in 1969 to 190,727 in 1970. Comparatively, things could have been much worse for the new E-bodies. But the writing was on the wall. The 1970s were not going to be an extension of the swinging sixties. Concepts that made sense when the E-body was conceived in late 1966 were no longer valid by the time it hit the market in 1970.

The muscle car boom was over – for the time being – and thirsty big blocks were no longer in demand. But with multiple millions invested in the E-body program, Chrysler Corp. wasn’t about to quit without a fight. The Barracuda (and Challenger) were refined, convertibles, big block V8s, beefy Dana 60 rear axles, and Shaker hoods were dropped after 1971. The new emphasis was placed on handling prowess and the fun factor. But sales continued to slide; 16,159 in 1971 (just 1,146 convertibles), 16,142 in 1972, 19,281 in 1973, and 11,734 in 1974. Oh, if we only had a time machine to go back and buy up a bunch of E-body convertibles, HEMIs and Six Packs. Heck, even a clean, base model 1970 Barracuda with the 198 Slant Six and 3-speed manual can draw nearly $20,000 today.

Things were better for the Dodge Dart in 1970, much better. As Dodge’s low-priced, entry-level offering, as long as people were buying new cars, the Dart was safe. Being Dodge’s entry level, bread-and-butter offering, the Dart lineup was the least affected by the lousy economy and actually prospered while more expensive models languished. Darts accounted for between 40 and 50 percent of total annual Dodge passenger car sales through the early 1970s. Sales were strong; 210,104 in 1970, 250,420 in 1971, 263,368 in 1972, and on it went.

And for good reason, with millions of satisfied buyers of the 1960-’69 offerings, many returned to buy new replacements throughout the 1970s and became life-long Dodge loyalists. The dependability of the Slant Six engine and TorqueFlite automatic transmission, crisp handling of the torsion bar front suspension and inherent toughness of the unitized A-body made it a legend. And there’s no doubt many Dart buyers chose Dodge after watching Dick Landy, Don Garlits, Sam Posey or Richard Petty win a race on TV or reading about it in a magazine.

For 1970, Dodge dropped the slow-selling Dart convertible, 2-door post sedan (after 1968) and limited-demand 383 and 440 GTS big block muscle machines (there were no Dart station wagons built after 1966). That left the 2-door and 4-door hardtops, plus (for 1971) a new semi-fastback called the Demon. Not to be confused with today’s 840-horsepower, wheel-standing, 9-second (wink-wink) commuter car, the first Demon was an outgrowth of the 1970 Plymouth Duster.

Essentially a Valiant with a nicely integrated semi-fastback roofline, the Duster became Plymouth’s lowest priced model, replacing the boxy Valiant 100 series 2-door sedan of 1969. A no-option 1970 Duster with the 198 Slant Six and 3-speed manual transmission stickered for a mere $2,172, giving stiff competition to the Chevy Nova and also-all-new-for-1970 Ford Maverick and AMC Hornet and Gremlin in the highly competitive compact car class.

Though only offered as a 2-door (Novas, Mavericks and Hornets could be had with 4 doors), the Duster still sold 217,192 units (24,817 as potent Duster 340s) in that first year on the market. In a seeming repeat of the Valiant’s launch in 1960, Chrysler Corp. made Dodge Division wait one model year before allowing a Dodge-branded version of the A-body platform (the 1961 Lancer).

A decade later, when the 1971 Demon arrived in Dodge showrooms, it shared the same 108-inch wheelbase as the Duster (3 inches less than the Dart’s 111-inch wheelbase), but got a different grille, tail light panel and interior upholstery treatment. The most controversial feature was the Demon’s name. Despite the use of a cute, harmless looking cartoon devil mascot, the reference was offensive to certain sensitivities; so for 1973, Dodge re-named the car the Dart Sport.

None of this hurt sales and the Demon sold 79,959 units (10,098 as Demon 340 muscle cars) in its first year, then 48,580 for 1972 (8,700 as Demon 340 muscle cars). The 31,379 unit year-over-year Demon sales drop is misleading. Dart also offered 2-door hardtops (called Swingers) and 4-door sedans along with the Demon. Overall Dart sales for 1972 were 263,368 units, up 5.17 percent over 1971.

Regardless of the name badge on the fender, Darts offered excitement under the hood. Thanks to its unit construction, the Dart’s 2,800 to 3,200 pound curb weight (depending on options) offered an excellent power-to-weight ratio. Engine choices included the 198 (1970-’74) and 225 Slant Sixes: the 318 2-barrel, the 340 4-barrel (1970-’73) and the 360 4-barrel (1974-’76).

Even when equipped with the Slant Six, performance was peppy and burnouts just a foot stomp away. All over the country, high school parking lots were jammed with Slant Six A-bodies. New and used, they were cheap and plentiful enough to serve as first cars for thousands of new drivers. If you went to high school in the 1970s or 1980s, you probably have many happy Dodge Dart memories.

Beyond the torque-laden Slant Six, approximately 30 percent of Dart buyers chose to pay the extra $79 for the 230-horsepower (gross rating, 150 after 1970) 318 V8. This transformed any A-body into a surprisingly quick car. But with its single exhaust system and small 2-barrel carburetor, insurance adjusters didn’t recognize it as a performance package. That wasn’t the case with the wicked little 340 V8. For $378, buyers got a total vehicle performance package centered on the same engine offered in Plymouth’s 1970 ‘Cuda 340 and Challenger A66, the legendary 275-horsepower 340.

First offered as the 1970 hardtop Swinger 340, then the 1971-’72 fastback Demon 340, heavy-duty brakes, wheels, suspension and cooling were included. And like most mid-size Dodge muscle packages, the 340 engine was never offered with a 4-door body style. The 340 saw the same compression ratio cut as all Detroit engines in 1971 to prepare for unleaded gasoline, but 14-second quarter-mile performance was still possible. When equipped with a 4-speed stick and optional 3.91:1 rear axle ratio, Demon 340s were true big block slayers.

The 340 was replaced by a similarly prepared 360 for 1974-’76 Dart Sport 360 applications with one significant exception. The 220-horsepower 360 was offered for one year – 1976 – aboard 4-door Dart (and Valiant) hardtop A38 Police Pursuit models. Favored by law enforcement agencies seeking better fuel economy and in-town maneuverability than bigger Band C-body police cars, the 1976 Dart Pursuit marks the only time a 4-door A-body was factory-built with a full-length dual exhaust system (California Emissions cars got single exhaust).

After serving for over fifteen years, the A-body platform under the Dart was beginning to show its age. For 1976, Chrysler Corp. introduced a replacement, the Dodge Aspen (and Plymouth Volare). Known as the F-body platform, the Aspen shared the A-body’s rear wheel drive layout but replaced the longitudinal torsion bar front suspension with a novel transverse torsion bar setup that offered a smoother ride. Elsewhere, the Aspen was more refined with higher quality upholstery materials, instruments and convenience options. The 225 Slant Six, 318 2-barrel and 360 2-barrel and 4-barrel engines were offered in the Aspen, though the placement of the gas tank hinted at a significant shift in philosophy.

Secured to the under-side of the trunk floor, against the driver-side rear frame rail, the Aspen’s rectangular 16-gallon fuel tank stood ready to supply the needs of the engine for many happy miles of motoring. But positioned as it was, the layout left no room for a conventional full-length dual exhaust system. There was no place to run the tail pipe out the back of the car. In other words, the F-body design team intentionally chose not to “protect” the platform for dual exhaust systems, a key part of any high-performance V8 powertrain. The catalytic converter age had arrived.

For 1976, Dodge dealers sold new Aspens and Darts side by side. That ended in 1977. The Dart was finally discontinued. But was it gone forever? No way. Just as the HEMI brand has a valuable recognition factor with the general public, Dodge knew enough folks would recall their “indestructible” Darts of younger days. For 2013, the Dart nameplate was revived for use on a high-content sub-compact model, much like the original Valiant/Lancer.

Benefiting from the 2010 merger with Fiat, which gave rise to Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the new Dart blended existing European Alfa Romeo and Fiat components with upgrades made to better suit the North American marketplace. For instance, to gain interior volume, the width of the body shell was increased 1.5 inches and the wheelbase extended 3.7 inches, the result being a sub-compact model with more interior space than some competing models in the next-size-up compact segment.

Your author was invited to be part of the Dart’s publicity program in 2013 with something called the Dodge Dart Road Trip. I was handed the keys to a shiny red Dart and drove it throughout the Midwest on a 1,000-plus-mile tour. Along the route, we stopped at many Mopar® hot spots and created videos that you can still watch online; just Google “Dodge Dart Road Trip” to see some of them.

Demonstrating how huge the SUV and crossover segments are in today’s market, despite representing a solid value, the final Dart was built on September 2, 2016. The Dart’s Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant was needed to meet demand for Jeep® vehicles. It turned out, the Jeep plant in Toledo, Ohio, was making – and selling – so many Jeep Wranglers, the room for building Jeep Cherokees was getting squished. To solve the problem, the Dart was discontinued and Jeep Cherokee production moved from Toledo to Belvidere. Problem solved. And because the Dart and Cherokee are quite similar under the skin, the Belvidere plant required only minor tweaks to transition from Dart to Cherokee production.

So that’s the story of how the Dodge Dart Dynasty and ‘Cuda Kingdom grew out of the same A-body platform, but took off in very different directions after the first decade. Will the world ever see a return of the Dart or Barracuda nameplates? Only time will tell!

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Discussion Starter #105

The E-body Plymouth Barracuda (right) and Dodge Challenger made the most of the long hood/short deck lid pony car theme. Unfortunately, market timing was flawed and what should have been a huge success wasn’t.

It’s hard to imagine, but in late 1970, this HEMI ‘Cuda likely languished on a dealer sales lot. By 1975, the energy crisis and OPEC market manipulations crushed demand for 9 mpg muscle cars. Clean HEMI ‘Cudas went begging for buyers at $2,000. That has changed…

The A-body found success, especially in semi-fastback form as the Plymouth Duster and Dodge Demon. This 1975 Duster is a next-to-last year model. The Aspen/Volare F-body replaced it after 1976.

This little guy wouldn’t hurt a flea. Still, in 1973, Dodge re-named the Demon as the Dart Sport after only two years. The basic car was unchanged.

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Discussion Starter #106

Beneath the skin, the Duster and Demon retained the tried-and-true mechanical components first launched under the 1960 Plymouth Valiant and 1961 Dodge Lancer. The front disc brakes arrived in the mid-sixties as an extra cost option.

The 1976 F-body Volare/Aspen gas tank prevented dual exhaust routing. This model accurately depicts the odd two-into-one exhaust tract used under the 360 4-barrel-equipped Volare Road Runner and Aspen R/T.

Your author enjoyed driving this new Dart on the 2013 Dart Road Trip. The use of the Dart nameplate was controversial, one side felt it was archaic and younger buyers wouldn’t make the connection to the original. The other side felt it was a worthy continuation of the brand. Regardless, Dart lives on (sort of) as the new Jeep Cherokee uses the Dart engine and certain chassis components.

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Discussion Starter #107
Author revists Kenosha, relives auto plant shutdown

Author revists Kenosha, relives auto plant shutdown

Jun 22, 2018

Anthropologist Kathryn Marie Dudley revisited the site of one of her fondest research projects.

The Yale University professor commemorated 30 years of Kenosha’s controversial Chrysler assembly plant closing with a presentation and open discussion of her book “The End of the Line” on Friday at Kenosha Creative Space, 624 57th St.

Dudley, 59, interviewed dozens of displaced auto workers, area residents and community leaders as part of a year-long, college anthropology dissertation. The project led to a 1997 book and endless classroom discussion about the de-industrialization and transformation of Kenosha and other rust-belt cities.

The book is required reading in her Ivy League classroom.

“There was a lot of controversy over why the plant closed, whether it should’ve closed, what the consequences of that would be,” Dudley said. “Those diversions were very deep and serious. I suspect they’re still there.”

The New Haven, Conn., resident toured a much different Kenosha than what she remembered on Friday — from I-94 to the lakefront — before appearing at the downtown presentation.

What was once a 30-acre assembly plant is now HarborPark, the city’s lakefront epicenter of museums, festivals, fine dining, markets, entertainment and vintage streetcars.

“My jaw was wide open,” said Dudley, a Racine native. “We grew up on County Line Road and I remember bicycling along Green Bay Road during my adolescence. These are areas I knew very well that look very different now.”

The presentation was held at Kenosha Creative Space, a hub connecting and inspiring creative activities, providing access to cultural experiences and involving broad, inclusive community participation.

The group is heavily involved in Kenosha’s revitalization.
Chance to diversify

“The closing of the plant gave Kenosha the opportunity to diversify and not dependent on one industry to survive,” Creative Space Executive Director Francisco Loyola said. “In the book, I saw tension between blue collar and white collar. For the first time, I actually saw it in writing and it made a lot of sense.”

“End of the Line” analyzes Kenosha’s radical shift from a manufacturing to post-industrial economy and how it redefined America’s view of family, community and its future.

Thousands of workers lost their jobs in the 1998 shutdown.

Dudley met several of those workers, including a memorable interview with a Kenosha woman who worked as a sprayer in the painting division on the assembly line.“She devoted her whole life to work on the line,” Dudley said. “She described her work in really sophisticated terms of being creative and meaningful like an artist.

“There were many interviews like that where workers were talking about the satisfaction and challenges of this work they did collectively with 5,000 other people and talking about in ways that really flew in the face of everything I’d read about dehumanizing, industrial labor.”


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Discussion Starter #108
FCA US Facilities

FCA US Facilities in Ohio and Michigan Reach Silver Status in World Class Manufacturing

Awards bring total number of silver plants in North America to nine
Designation recognizes continued progress toward becoming World Class

June 25, 2018 , Auburn Hills, Mich. -

Two FCA US facilities have joined the ranks of silver designated plants in the Company’s World Class Manufacturing (WCM) methodology. Toledo (Ohio) Machining and Sterling Stamping (Sterling Heights, Michigan) were recognized for their efforts in expanding the implementation of WCM principles, becoming the eighth and ninth plants, respectively, to reach this milestone.

WCM, the FCA production methodology that focuses on eliminating waste, increasing productivity, and improving quality and safety in a systematic and organized way, was first implemented by Fiat in 2006 and introduced to Chrysler Group as part of the alliance between the two companies in June 2009. WCM principles are applied to all aspects of the plant organization, from quality to maintenance, cost control to logistics, all with the goal of continuous improvement. WCM also engages the workforce to provide and implement suggestions on how to improve their jobs and their plants, promoting a sense of ownership.

Toledo Machining and Sterling Stamping were awarded silver following two-day audits last week during which they earned a minimum of 60 points in 10 technical and 10 managerial pillars. Employees at both plants demonstrated clear WCM know-how and competence through employee-conducted pillar presentations and a review of projects that have been expanded across the shop floor.

“I want to congratulate the 3,400 employees at Toledo Machining and Sterling Stamping for working tirelessly to achieve silver status,” said Brian Harlow, Vice President – Manufacturing, FCA North America. “Becoming a silver plant requires extraordinary commitment, endless dedication and a laser focus. These employees faced the demands and rigors of WCM head on, using the tools and the knowledge they have gained to implement the changes that make their facilities deserving of the silver designation. These two awards demonstrate that the pace toward becoming world class across our North American manufacturing footprint is accelerating.”

The achievement of WCM award levels, as confirmed through independent audits, recognizes the long-term commitment of the workforce to making significant changes that can secure the future of a facility. Awarded plants also have a role in accelerating the implementation of WCM throughout the organization as coaches and mentors.

During an audit, zero to five points are awarded for each of the 10 technical pillars, which include safety, workplace organization, logistics and the environment, and for each of the 10 managerial pillars, such as management commitment, clarity of objectives, allocation of people, motivation of operators and commitment of the organization. A score of 80 would indicate World Class.

Along with Toledo Machining and Sterling Stamping, seven other FCA North American facilities have been designated silver plants. They are Windsor (Ontario) Assembly Plant, Dundee (Michigan) Engine Plant, Toledo (Ohio) Assembly Complex, Saltillo (Mexico) South Engine Plant, Mack Avenue (Detroit) Engine Plant, Saltillo (Mexico) Van Assembly Plant and Warren (Michigan) Stamping. Windsor Assembly was the first plant to reach silver status, an honor they received in March 2014.

In addition to the nine silver plants, there are currently 11 facilities that hold the WCM bronze designation:

Saltillo (Mexico) Truck Assembly
Trenton (Michigan) Engine Complex
Indiana Transmission Plant II (Kokomo, Indiana)
Kokomo (Indiana) Transmission Plant
Kokomo (Indiana) Casting
Toluca (Mexico) Assembly
Brampton (Ontario) Assembly
Tipton (Indiana) Transmission
Belvidere (Illinois) Assembly Plant
Indiana Transmission Plant I (Kokomo, Indiana)
Warren (Michigan) Truck

About Toledo Machining Plant

Awarded bronze status in September 2016, the 1.2 million square-foot facility in Perrysburg, Ohio, has been making automotive components since 1966. Currently, Toledo Machining produces steering columns for a variety of FCA vehicles and torque converters for the four-, five-, six-, eight- and nine-speed transmissions. Since 2011, the Company has invested more than $90 million to upgrade the plant. Toledo Machining employs nearly 900 people. The plant was awarded bronze status in September 2016.

About Sterling Stamping
The largest stamping plant in the world, Sterling Stamping ships to customers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The plant provides stampings and assemblies, including hoods, roofs, liftgates, side apertures, fenders and floor pans for the Dodge Grand Caravan and Dodge Durango, Chrysler Pacifica, Jeep® Grand Cherokee and Jeep Cherokee, and Ram Truck. In July 2015, the Company invested $166 million to add three new press lines to support increased product demand, bringing the total number of major stamping press lines to 26. In operation since 1965, the plant employs nearly 2,300 people.

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Discussion Starter #109
Deal-making at Chrysler

Deal-making at Chrysler

June 03, 2019

1925: Walter P. Chrysler reorganizes Maxwell Motor Co. into Chrysler Corp.

1928: Chrysler acquires Dodge Bros.

1950: Chrysler establishes Missile Division for engineering and production for the U.S. Army's Ordnance Guided Missile Center at the Redstone Arsenal.

1959: Chrysler re-designates the project as the Space Division, and becomes Marshall Space Flight Center's prime contractor, designing fuel tanks for the Apollo program.

1967: Chrysler expands to Europe, attaining majority stock in the British Rootes Group, Simca of France and Barreiros of Spain.

1971: Chrysler buys 15% stake in Mitsubishi.

1978: Chrysler sells Chrysler Europe assets to PSA Peugeot Citroen.

1979: Congress approves Loan Guarantee Act with $1.5 billion in federal loans to Chrysler in the largest federal bailout at that time.

1982: Chrysler sells its defense business to General Dynamics for less than $350 million.

1984: Chrysler acquires stake in Maserati.

1985: Chrysler buys Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. for $637 million.

1987: Chrysler buys American Motors, primarily from Renault, for $1.5 billion, gaining its profitable Jeep brand, assembly plants and ties to 1,400 dealers.

1988: Chrysler and Mitsubishi begin Diamond-Star Motors, a joint venture factory in Normal, Ill.

1989: Chrysler sells Gulfstream to buyout firm Forstmann Little & Co. for $850 million.

1991: Chrysler sells its half of Diamond-Star to Mitsubishi.

1993: Chrysler sells remaining Mitsubishi stock.

1998: Daimler-Benz acquires Chrysler for $36 billion in largest acquisition of a U.S. company by a foreign buyer at that time.

2000: DaimlerChrysler acquires one-third of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.

2005: DaimlerChrysler sells its remaining Mitsubishi stock.

2007: Daimler sells Chrysler to Cerberus Capital Management for $7.4 billion.

2008: Chrysler and General Motors seek federal assistance to avoid bankruptcy. Congress balks, but the George W. Bush administration provides funding to keep automakers solvent until Barack Obama's inauguration.

April 2009: Chrysler enters Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize with the U.S. government's financial backing.

June 2009:
Chrysler emerges from bankruptcy, controlled by Fiat, with a UAW-administered Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association as its biggest shareholder.

2014: Fiat acquires Chrysler's remaining shares, combining companies into FCA.

May 27, 2019:
FCA proposes merger with Renault to form world's third-biggest automaker.


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Discussion Starter #110
America's Supercar That Never Was

America's Supercar That Never Was


The ME Four-Twelve had a mid-mounted V12 engine, 4 turbos, and looked like it could eat a Ferrari for breakfast.

The Chrysler ME Four-Twelve concept isn’t a car we have to imagine: this one actually existed. What we do wonder is what could have been if the Chrysler and Daimler-Benz merger had gone well. In the book, Taken For A Ride, the author explains that the world's reaction at the time to the merger was one of excitement and positivity, and that: "DaimlerChrysler would be the new model for automotive synergies, a paradigm-busting leap forward in cost-efficient manufacturing and development of cars and trucks."

That wasn't the case. The $36 billion merger took place in 1998 and ran until 2007 before it was dissolved and Cerberus picked up an 81% stake of Chrysler for a mere $7.4 billion. The magnitude of Daimler-Benz's mismanagement of the merger registers was, ultimately, an epic disappointment. Cars that came out of this period include the Dodge Journey, the Dodge Caliber and Chrysler Sebring, the Jeep Compass and Patriot, as well as the Dodge Nitro and Jeep Liberty. Under Dieter Zetsche, there was the potential for a big swing for the fences in terms of collaboration between Mercedes and Chrysler though, and the ME Four-Twelve could have been that.

What was the ME Four-Twelve?

In 2004, the ME Four-Twelve concept debuted at the Detroit Auto Show as a mid-engined V12 pumped up by 4 turbochargers. The engine was a 6.0-liter AMG-derived work of engineering art pushing out 850 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 850 lb-ft of torque at just 2,500-4,500 rpm. It powered the rear wheels using a specifically engineered 7-speed wet-clutch transmission using paddle shifters, and only had to move 2,888 pounds of weight. The lightness was added by using a honeycomb style carbon-fiber and aluminum chassis and a liberal helping of carbon-fiber through the rest of the car. Even the seats were made of a carbon-fiber structure and the brakes were made of a ceramic composite.

Chrysler claimed the ME Four-Twelve could make it from 0-60 mph in 2.6 seconds and to 100 mph in 6.2 seconds. The power to weight ratio was better than anything around the time, including the Ferrari Enzo, McLaren F1 and Bugatti Veyron. On top of all that, the suspension system was state of the art with adjustable shock absorbers using stainless steel pushrods matched with dual control arms front and rear. To top it all off, engineers recorded an eyeball straining 2 g being pulled under braking in testing.

How did it look and drive?

Chrysler’s design language was strong at the time and was incorporated into the ME Four-Twelve to create something elegant but aggressive that doesn’t look dated 15 years later. It was a concept, but it was clearly put together for possible production rather than as a pie in the sky idea. The interior looks of its time in places, but it also looks like a finished product that, again, wouldn’t look out of place today.

The concept displayed didn’t run, but the engineers within SRT put a working model together, and even let journalists loose with it around the Laguna Seca track as a work in progress. At the time, Motor Trend declared that Chrysler had shown it could build something to take on the European supercars at the top of the game

What actually happened?

Zetsche was quoted as saying "We have a very clear and good definition of the technical specifications of the car. With that, we can do a [cost] calculation for building 10, 100, and 1,000 cars and figure out the price points.” Zetsche also said that there’s "no doubt” that if the numbers added up and people would be prepared to pay "between $250,000 and $750,000 for a 248-mph Chrysler,” that he would give the ME Four-Twelve the green light for production.

Unfortunately, in 2005 it was reported that an internal study had demonstrated it would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the concept fully during a time when Chrysler needed to be rebuilding. It was also pointed out that the car would have been faster and cost more than the Mercedes SLR McLaren, and some people at the top of the Mercedes chain of command didn’t appreciate that idea at all.

What could have been?

It could have been a world-class American luxury supercar, albeit with a German heart. It would have been a great sibling for the hardcore Ford GT. While many, including the people in charge, didn’t see a business case for it we wonder if rich American enthusiasts might have had something to say about that. America has always had a lust for both supercars and American road monsters, and this could have been both at the same time.

If the merger hadn’t been so horribly mismanaged and Chrysler had been allowed to develop such a magnificent halo car with cutting edge technology, the brand's status could have been so much more than it is today. Zetsche appeared to understand that. "Even though Chrysler doesn't have much of a race history," he said, "it was an engineering-led brand. That's where we want to go back to, and there's no better way to prove the capability of our engineers than going to the edge. I'm convinced that, if we can make the car work, it'll be good for the brand."

Ultimately, that never happened and 15 years later its GM that could take it to the Europeans with the mid-engined C8 Corvette having sharpened their swords with the current generation of supercar embarrassing front engined Corvette. What it probably won’t have, if history is any indication, is the level of luxury supercar owners want and the ME Four-Twelve was shaping up to deliver.


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23,465 Posts
Discussion Starter #111
1958 Chrysler Line Up Dealer Promo Film - Windsor New Yorker Saratoga

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