The Singular and Spectacular ‘62 Dodge Dart

There was nothing else like the ’62 Dodge Dart, where futuristic Jet Age design met dragster speed provided by a Max Wedge 413 V8.

Breaking the Mold

Searching through classic car listings you’re liable to run across all manner of unusual and esoteric cars. Amid the sea of ’65 Mustangs or ’57 Bel Airs you stumble on cars like the Bricklin SV-1, Sunbeam Tiger, and Saab Sonnett. The name Dodge Dart is surely far more familiar, and yet, the look of the 1962 model Dart is far from conventional, even among its contemporaries. Produced at the height of mid-century modern design, the ’62 Dart was a perfect distillation of Chrysler’s design chief Virgil Exner’s futuristic vision.

That vision had gotten increasingly ambitious (or outlandish, depending on who you ask) through the late 1950s to the point that Chrysler executives had begun blaming Exner’s radical designs for lagging sales figures. By the early 1960s, the proverbial ice was thin under Exner’s feet and work like the Dart’s ’62 redesign was all it took to earn Exner a pink slip.

The ’62 Dart’s looks are indeed polarizing. Some (me included) consider it a brilliant example of mid-century modern design while others, like Chrysler’s leadership and many customers of the day, called it irredeemably ugly. The verdict earned the Dart another, hasty redesign for 1963.

Put on your rose-colored glasses for this brilliant red example of a 1962 Dodge Dart we found on Carsforsale.com. Below we’ll dig into what makes the ’62 Dart such a singular and spectacular car, both visually and mechanically, and why this particular Dart is a perfect exemplar of those virtues.

Max Wedge Makes the Dart a Dragster

1962 Dodge Dart Exterior - carsforsale.com
1962 Dodge Dart Exterior - carsforsale.com

Necessity is the mother of invention therefore also the Dodge Dart. In the late 1950s, Chrysler’s dealership network overlapped their brands, creating dealership combinations like Dodge-Chrysler, Plymouth-Chrysler, and Dodge-Plymouth. Decoupling the brands resulted in gaps within brand lineups. Splitting Plymouth from Dodge meant the latter needed a new large/mid-size car. The new Dodge Dart shared a new unibody construction with the Plymouth Fury and took its name from a Chrysler/Ghia concept from 1956, the Super Dart 400.

The initial 1960 model Dodge Dart continued the basic chrome and fins aesthetic of the late ‘50s while a 1961 redesign gave a more modern, more conservative look (albeit with unique angles to the fins and rear end). The next-generation Dart for 1962 took the car’s looks in a much more radical direction with angled quad headlights and Jet Age-styled quarter panels and rear end. But the Dart got something else that was equally compelling, a new V8 motor.

1962 Dodge Dart Under The Hood - carsforsale.com
1962 Dodge Dart Under The Hood - carsforsale.com

The second-generation Dart had carried over three engines from the prior car: a 225 cu.-in. slant-six, a 318 V8, and a larger 361 V8, but added a new 413 cu.-in. Max Wedge V8. Deployed in Dodges, the new Max Wedge was marketed as the “Ramcharger” V8 and positioned the thusly equipped Dart as an out-of-the-box competition dragster. (Plymouth also got access to the Max Wedge, calling it the Super Stock.) The 413 V8 produced either 410 or 420 horsepower, depending on the compression ratio, and allowed the Dart to close in on a 12-second quarter mile time.

In 1963, the Dart name was transitioned to a new A-body compact to replace the outgoing Dodge Lancer. The interim as a mass-market compact lasted through 1966, and for 1967, a redesigned Dart entered the muscle car era with a host of V8 options, including the legendary 426 Hemi. The Dart name was briefly revived and applied to a compact sedan from 2013 through 2016. Hopes for a competition rally version were, sadly, never realized.

This ’62 Dodge Dart

Of course, the fourth-generation Dodge Dart, with its 426 Hemi, has gotten the bulk of the Dart’s historical shine. But for my money, it’s the single-year, second-generation 1962 model that’s by far its most remarkable iteration. This example, candy red with red and white interior and a 440 Magnum V8 under the hood, offers all the styling and original details of the ’62 Dart.

Before we get to the mechanicals, take a step back to appreciate the Dart’s out-of-this-world styling. The Dart originally came in six body styles: a two- or four-door sedan, two- or four-door hardtop, two-door convertible, or four-door wagon. This example is a two-door sedan (the hardtops got a pillarless design).

First, there’s the diagonally stacked headlamps with the inside marker lights flanking a wide catfish mouth of a grille. Move around to the side of the car to find the front fender trim line terminating midway through the front doors. Note the little hump, present in both two-and four-door versions, that jumps up along the passenger windowsill.

1962 Dodge Dart Interior Dash with Fratzog Logo - carsforsale.com
1962 Dodge Dart Interior Dash with Fratzog Logo - carsforsale.com

The rear quarter panels are where the ’62 Dart really gets interesting. Here the rear fender flare runs upward and toward the back to meet up with the uppermost of the circular quad taillights. Below this line is a set of eight chrome gills leading to the lower taillights. A prominent pinch in the chrome bumper runs up the rear end and trunk lid all the way into the rear window. Both the trunk lid and the hood share the Dart’s vintage Dodge emblem sunk into the sheet metal.

Another old school Dodge emblem can be found inside, centered on the Dart’s gauge cluster (this same “Fratzog” triangle logo was recently repurposed for Dodge’s next-gen electric muscle cars). Because this car is equipped with a 727 TorqueFlite automatic, you’ll find a push-button transmission to the left of the steering column. This Dart features power steering, power brakes, and a limited-slip differential. It comes with 77,180 miles on the odometer at a price of $37,000.

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Chris Kaiser

With two decades of writing experience and five years of creating advertising materials for car dealerships across the U.S., Chris Kaiser explores and documents the car world’s latest innovations, unique subcultures, and era-defining classics. Armed with a Master's Degree in English from the University of South Dakota, Chris left an academic career to return to writing full-time. He is passionate about covering all aspects of the continuing evolution of personal transportation, but he specializes in automotive history, industry news, and car buying advice.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous June 15, 2024

    In October 1961, my parents went to Taylors’ Dodge on Livernois in Detroit, MI, and ordered a 1962 Dodge Dart 440 four-door sedan in medium Blue metallic paint. the car had a 225 slant six engine, manual transmission on the column. driver-side manual mirror, AM radio, full-wheel covers, and black sidewall tires. The car was picked up about two weeks later. It was a cool car that we had until October of 1965, when they ordered a replacement vehicle. a 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 4-door sedan with a 318 V-8 and automatic transmission.

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