Crank the steering wheel around at least a couple times, gingerly let out the heavy clutch and edge up the revs just a bit. The big V8 chuffles and the car chuffles forward and around, out onto the narrow two-lane blacktop road. With all that lock in the steering system, there’s no choice but to let the wheel slide through one’s hands. With more caster than a shopping cart, the front wheels find straight ahead all by themselves and, whadya know, we’re under way.
This is a 1969 Dodge Dart GTS and by its bumblebee stripes shall ye know it. A full-fledged member of the Dodge Scat Pack, the GTSport was big brother to the Dart GT, coming with everything the GT did and more. Particularly under the hood. The “base” engine for the GTS was the 340 cid V8, stretching Chrysler’s thin-wall small-block V8 for all it’s worth, or the little version of the big block, the 383, while the GT could be ordered with the same engines as before or the new 318 cid V8 producing 230 hp.
Producing horsepower—and converting it into acceleration—was more the milieu of the Dodge Dart GTS, however. The 340 pumped out 275 horses, while the 383 was rated 300, actually a few less than the same engine in a bigger chassis, thanks to the more restrictive exhaust manifolding in the Dart’s limited engine bay. With either engine came a four-barrel carburetor and 2¼-inch dual exhaust and, as a mandatory option, the Rallye Suspension package. Heavy-duty torsion bars (0.88-inch diameter for the 340 GS, 0.94 for the 383), heavy-duty ball joints, stronger six-leaf rear springs, firmer shocks and a front antiroll bar were included and were complimented by E70x14 red-striped tires on 14×5.5-inch steel wheels and dog-dish hubcaps. “Mag look” wheel covers were optional. Bucket seats were standard on hardtops.
Dodge finally gave up on its own trigger reverse-lock-out shifter, known as the wet noodle, and put a Hurst Competition-Plus linkage and lever with the four-speed. A reverse-engagement warning light presumably would prevent backward burnouts. The shift lever itself was a stout chromed rod, bent in two places to bring it closer to the driver, and topped with a ball. Shiftless types could order up the Torqueflite automatic and, for someone with an odd sense of humor, the column-mounted three-speed manual transmission was available as standard equipment.
To get a tachometer in the Dodge Dart GTS, the center console first had to be specified, because that’s where Chrysler put it. It made about as much sense as wearing a wristwatch on your ankle, but because Chrysler tachs were about as accurate as Russian home-market watches, it didn’t much matter. Serious runners bought aftermarket and mounted them up where they could be seen.
Speaking of being seen, one had a choice in how and how much to advertise the performance status of the Dodge Dart GTS: Either a “rallye stripe down the side,” the bumblebee stripes around the tail (in white, red or black), or no stripe at all. Every GTS, however, came with red and chrome “GTS” labels, one per side, front and rear, and an “air scoop hood design.” The latter consisted of bulges lengthwise in the sheet metal capped with simulated air intakes, filled with “340 FOUR BARREL” PR “383 FOUR BARREL” depending on what was beneath.