2013 Dodge DartPosted on December 7th, 2011
Chrysler unveils Fiat-based compact with classic nameplate
By Nina Russin
Chrysler announced yesterday that it’s expanding the company’s small car offerings in North America with an all-new Dart compact sedan, to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. The new Dart takes its name from Dodge’s midsized model of the late 1960s and early 70s, whose variants included some rather sedate four-door cars, but also the track-happy GTS.
The new Dart follows on the heels of the Fiat 500: the Italian automaker’s first North American model in several decades. Based on the Alfa Romeo Guilietta, the 2013 Dart comes with a choice of three engines: the same 1.4-liter Fiat block which powers the 500, and two new four-cylinder blocks with 2 and 2.4-liter displacement respectively.
Styling will be distinctively Dodge, including the crosshair grille, with LED tail lamps and dual exhausts inspired by the current Charger. The new sedans will be built in Chrysler’s Belvidere, Illinois assembly plant, which coincidentally built the models from the 1960s and 70s as well.
Upon reading that Dodge was reviving its classic nameplate for the new sedan, I have to admit I was dubious. Readers who remember the original Dodge Darts will recall that they were quite possibly the least flashy models among the Mopar offerings of the era. Compared to the exotic Plymouth Superbird with its long angular nose and massive rear spoiler, the Dodge Dart looked like a nun in a habit.
Chrysler’s design department at the time utilized a palette of exterior colors right out of Peter Max: retina-burning yellows, greens and oranges with descriptions to match. The Dart, however, got no such treatment. Even the high-performance versions came with rather mundane looking paint.
Then I it hit me: the answer was reliability. While it might not have been the biggest head turner in Chrysler’s garage, the Dodge Dart may well have been the most tenacious.
When I went to mechanic’s school in the mid-1980s, we used to joke that the only way to kill the slant six engine was literally take it out in a field and shoot it. The block could run without oil. It was crazy.
While the Dodge Dart sedans might not have been queens of the dragstrip, they were kings of the street for buyers needing cars which would start on a twenty-below morning in the heart of a Chicago winter. The Dart was its own kind of warrior.
Whether the all-new Dart will create a similar heritage to its namesake is yet to be seen. But this writer has high hopes. The Chrysler/Fiat partnership seems to have struck a chord among American buyers, who are charmed by the Italian automaker’s commitment to design, and warmed by the boost new small car models give to North American manufacturing.
Stay tuned for further details.
Leave a reply