Pages From The Past: SWINGER – The Dart Gets Serious

2 years ago Heritage

Dodge continued the use of vivid images and bright catchphrases rendered over black backdrops into the 1969 model year, as this ’69 Dart Swinger 340 ad illustrates. At the time, the word “swinger” implied fun, freedom and frolic. It was a wise move to apply it to the new-for-‘69 340-powered Dart performance model. Keep in mind, since its 1963 introduction, the compact Dart was generally seen as a staid, practical economy car. Packing Slant Six power, they were legendary for longevity, but fell short with the youth market … until the arrival of the Swinger 340.

Old Dodge Dart Swinger advertisement

While the high-winding 340 small block (P-code in the fifth spot of the VIN) was also available aboard the more costly Dart GTS for $3,226, by trimming the fat, a base Swinger 340 could be had for an amazing $2,836 – including the bulletproof A833 4-speed stick and 3.23 geared 8-¾ rear axle in the deal – making it one of the best performance bargains of the era. Interestingly, though the 383 (H-code in the fifth spot of the VIN) and 440 (M-code in the fifth spot of the VIN) big blocks could be had aboard the Dart GTS (which came standard with the 340 small block), Dodge never applied the R/T treatment to the compact Dart. It’s too bad, can you imagine the fun they could have had with Dart R/T or DaR/T emblems and graphics?

Old Dodge Dart Swinger advertisement

Getting back to our analysis of the ad, let’s look at the written words: “Play your cards right and three bills can put you in a whole lot of car this year. Dart Swinger 340. Newest member of the Dodge Scat Pack. You don’t make it on looks alone. 340 cubes of high-winding 4-barrel V8. A 4-speed Hurst on the floor to keep things moving. All the other credentials are in order. Just check below. Then check with your Dodge Dealer. Especially about the price. From there, the copy lists standard equipment, including the 340 cubic inch 4-barrel V8, 4-speed full synchro with Hurst shifter, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhausts, D70x14 wide tread tires, Dart Swinger bumblebee stripes, performance hood with die-cast louvers and 3.23 axle ratio.

While the Swinger 340 got the same 8-3/4 rear axle as the Coronet Super Bee, Coronet R/T and Charger R/T (with special brakes and axles to accommodate the compact Dart’s 5-on-4 inch wheel lug pattern), buyers wanting maximum acceleration were offered the Sure Grip limited slip differential for an extra $42.35 and steeper 3.55 or 3.91 gears for just a few dollars more. And for those who didn’t enjoy fancy footwork, the beefy A727 Torqueflite® automatic transmission was a no-cost alternative to the A833 4-speed manual. In all, with a base sticker price of $2,836, the ad’s claim that “three bills” got a whole lot of car was no hollow boast.

Old Dodge Dart Swinger advertisement

Now, let’s focus on the car featured in the beach scene. Presented in R4 Bright Red to complement the brash, diagonal Swinger callout, an extra level of eye-catching contrast is gained from the optional black vinyl roof, a $78.65 upcharge. And while all Swinger 340s rode on specific 14×5.5 inch steel wheels with small center caps, an extra $64.10 got the Simulated Mag Wheel Covers shown. Looking a lot like exotic magnesium rims, they were also offered on Chargers, Coronets and full-size Dodges riding on 14-inch tires (a 15-inch version of these complex wheel covers was not made).

An interesting detail is the lack of an antenna on the passenger side front fender of this radio-delete example. You paid $63.35 extra for the basic Music Master AM radio or a hefty $134.95 for the solid state AM/FM unit. Like other Darts ordered without radio equipment, the passenger side front fender is not pierced with the 1-inch diameter hole needed to mount the antenna mast. These radio-delete fenders command a premium at the swap meet.

Old Dodge Dart Swinger advertisement

As with any 1968-1971 Dodge magazine muscle car ad, the cheeky Scat Pack Bee, also known as the Dodge Racing Bee, is boldly depicted in full color. To Dodge’s credit, several renderings of the famed bee were used throughout the campaign to keep it fresh and interesting. Here, the bumblebee cartoon is depicted from a lower than usual angle, coming at us head on, just above the consistently applied recurring slogan: Dodge Scat Pack…the cars with the Bumblebee stripes.

This ad must have attracted plenty of attention, successfully turning viewers into buyers. Of the 197,700 Darts built in 1969, no fewer than 16,637 were Swinger 340s – that’s roughly one-in-twelve. The Swinger 340 would also be offered in 1970 before being replaced in the Scat Pack hierarchy in 1971 and 1972 by the Plymouth Duster-based Demon 340. But get this, while domestic production of the Swinger 340 ended after 1970, Canadian access continued for two more years! Thanks to some string pulling by Canadian Dodge dealerships, Chrysler of Canada’s Windsor, Ontario, plant was convinced to produce 83 Swinger 340 Specials in 1971 and another 30 in 1972. Google them for more on this interesting turn of events.

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