John Cirillo's 1971 Dodge Dart


I am the proud owner of a 1971 Dodge Dart Swinger. I didn't always feel this way. I received the car in 1974 as a (sort of??) graduation present from college. Well, it wasn't exactly presented as such. Just one day I came home and my 1966 Plymouth Fury III was gone and there sat this orange beast with a black vinyl top. I didn't like it at first; I was hoping for a Road Runner or something, but at least it looked better than the 66 Fury. And it was orange! To my pleasure though, it had the same 318 engine as the Fury, and not a slant-six like my sister's 1967 Dart. (Another story!)

I quickly got used to the car and drove it everywhere. The car was perfect except for a slight hesitation as it went away from idle, something that I finally solved after 21 years. I installed a four-speaker sound system with 25 watts per channel which was a big deal in those days, and a CB radio with a 103 inch whip on the back. Yes, the Dart made a great ground plane for CB communications! I had just turned 21 and had to find out what going to bars was all about. Well, I found out and managed to wreck the Dart twice! Well, I was lucky and they managed to fix it, and I was more careful after that.

When I got the Dart, it had something like 28,000 miles on it. It had been owned by a girl for a couple of years, whom I did not know. She seemed to keep it very clean. Since then I've turned over the odometer once and now getting close to turn it over for the second time. It's at 89,731 now, plus the first 100,000. Now, the interesting thing is that in all the time I've owned the car, I haven't had to do much major repair on it. I think the most major thing was changing the timing chain and timing gears. Not sure if that happens a lot, but I think it happened because I was in the habit of bumping the starter once to make sure the cat wasn't sleeping in the engine, as I'd had a close call once with fur flying everywhere.

Really I can't think of too many other major problems I've had. It still can scratch the tires in all gears if I do it just right, which still amazes me for an automatic (I don't do this anymore though). I never have found out how fast the thing goes. With a 318 and 2-barrel Rochester, who knows? 100? 110? I know it's not a race car but for a lowend economy car, that's not bad. Oh, that was another interesting thing. Chrysler tended to use Carter carbs, but on the '71 they used Rochester 2GC carbs, like on an Oldsmobile. Why? I don't know! Maybe Carter had a bad year??? (Note:Several other 71 Dart owners confirm that their has a Carter BBD carb, so I don't know the story on this.) My Dart was made in Canada in the Windsor plant, so it did not come with air-conditioning, something I regret now that I live in Texas. It has a black interior with a bench seat bottom, but the seat backs fold forward so that people can get in the back, as it's a 2-door model. The instrument panel is the older, non-rally type, like in the 66 Fury. It has a simulated woodgrain texture on the dash. I haven't run into any other 71 models with the non-rally instruments OR the woodgrain, so I feel happy that it's sort of one-of-a-kind.(Note: at least three readers have written to say that they also have the non-rally instruments and the woodgrain, so I know now that this wasn't an accident.)
I just wish I wasn't so liberal back then with drilling holes and modifying the equipment. I've spent the last few years slowly UN-doing a lot of things I did.

Back in 1979 a minor tragedy struck: apparently the horn started honking and wouldn't stop. This fried the horn wires all the way from the relay to the horn, and burned out one of the horns as well as the relay. It's amazing but the adjacent wires in the harness were undamaged. I temporarily rewired the remaining horn with another relay and a button on the dash. In 1995 I decided to tear out the burned wiring and put it back to the way it was. This was a major undertaking as it turned out, but I found some excellent tape to re-tape wiring harnesses: Scotch 130C. It seems indestructible, not like electrical tape that goops up in a year or so. I've finally wrapped up that project (pun intended) and then I have to tackle why the fuel gauge stopped working. I know the gauge is ok, and the instrument panel voltage regulator. I'm just hoping it's not the float. It's not easy to get to the float unless you drop the fuel tank, which is full!!

Addendum Oct 1996: The problem was the sending unit in the tank. The rheostat measured infinite resistance. I found a replacement at Koller Dodge (mail order) and had it installed. The mechanic said that the little bronze (or whatever) contact on the arm had worn off and the bare metal arm was rubbing the element until it finally wore away to nothing. The new sender seems to be working fine. I will need to do some checks to get used to any changes in the fuel gauge calibration.

Addendum Sept 1997: The fuel calibration is about what it was before. It takes a long time to get from full to 1/2 tank, and then starts dropping pretty fast. It sort of slows down again just above 'E', which seems about like what it used to do.

Oh, by the way, I mentioned a slight hesitation that the car always had. I thought I tried everything, and no matter how many times I tried re-timing the engine or rebuilding the carb, that hesitation just wouldn't go away. Why???!!! Because it was caused by the vacuum-operated pull on the power valve in the carb (NOT the accelerator pump!!) and this part is not serviced at all in carb rebuild kits. I finally found someone (R-M restorers in Alamogordo, NM) that could fix this, and what a difference!!!!!

Another interesting thing that happened to the car was that after a few years the automatic choke quit working. It just didn't do what it was supposed to. I never really knew why. There was nothing wrong with the choke heat riser, but the manifold itself never got hot like it was supposed to. I finally learned that the blow-by passages in the intake manifold were plugged with carbon. The engine is supposed to blow the hot exhaust over the manifold to heat up the choke riser, but it couldn't because the passages were clogged big time! I pulled off the manifold and had to grind off the carbon with a burr bit on my drill. Now having done that, and having the carb fixed, actually the car runs better than when I first got it. It just takes time and money to do every little thing, but it's such a joy driving that car, and working on it. What else could I want???

The Dart goes on a road trip: 1999

In June of 1999 I began the long move from Fort Worth, Texas to Huntington, Indiana. I was a little apprehensive about driving the Dart the 1100 miles to Huntington, but it was either drive it or sell it, and I couldn't sell it! So after a good checkout, away we went. Everything seemed to work fine. I felt it appropriate to get off the Interstate and drive Route 66 through Oklahoma, and then rejoin the I44 in Joplin, MO. There was plenty of power, and that really helped when going up those hills in Missouri! I used about a quart of oil, which was more than I expected, but compared to the 2 quarts that the 86 Aries used, I don't feel so bad. The Aries developed some ignition problem that caused it to foul out part of the time, but not the Dart. I was also not surprised that I was getting 19 miles per gallon. I hoped for more, but 19 is better than the 16-18 I remember on previous drives. And that's with 87 octane unleaded too!
To end the story, we made it to Huntington in one piece, with no mishaps. If the car continues to perform like that, you might spot me driving on old Route 66 again in the future.

June 2000: A strange thing happened. I was backing out of the driveway when suddenly it seemed like the brakes locked up. I couldn't budge. on investigation, I found that only the front driver's side wheel was locked. but why? I did a lot of investigation but still couldn't find the cause. I replaced the return springs on that wheel, and in the process ended up replacing the drum and wheel cylinder, also the shoes. None of that helped. I then began to suspect the master cylinder. Some help from a usenet group ( confirmed that it was probably the master cylinder at fault. I changed that, but it didn't help. So at least I knew what WASN'T the cause. I didn't have much else to check. I started to suspect the differential pressure valve mounted far down on the driver's side quarter panel, but luckily I couldn't budge the fittings. I finally did an experiment. I could loosen the bleed valve at the wheel cylinder and the brakes would release. So I tried unscrewing the flex hose going into that cylinder, and the brakes also released. then I tried unscrewing the top end of that same flex hose, and nothing happened. I took that hose off the car and tried to blow through it, even tried poking a wire through it, but it had somehow collapsed near one end. I replaced it and all is well. A very scary thought. It happened so suddenly. I would hate to have one of the other hoses do that on the road. but at nearly $30.00 each, I'm not anxious to replace the other three.

My driver's side door was sagging for a long time, and I had to lift it slightly to get it to close easily. I had heard about ordering a new set of hinges, but I was hesitant to pay the $39.95 or whatever it was. But the other day I was at Auto Zone and was looking at the 'Help!' line of miscellaneous hardware from Motormite. There it was, 'Door Hinge Repair Kit, Chrysler Upper/Lower' part number 38382. For $4.95 I couldn't go wrong. The kit contains the long, lower hinge pin, the short, upper pin, and four brass bushings. I opened the door, supported it on two jack stands, and had a helper steady it while I knocked out the lower pin with a screwdriver and a hammer. I couldn't knock the upper one because the top of the door blocks it. So I unbolted the two bolts going into the door. Then we slid the door outward about two inches while I knocked out the upper pin. Then I could see the bushings, which were severly cracked. The tops broke apart and I had to knock out the inside part with a screwdriver and hammer. The new bushings went in easily. I then banged in the new upper pin, and we steadied the door back into position. I got the two door bolts started and then banged in the lower pin (this is tricky. Have to wiggle the door a bit.) Then I finished tightening the upper door bolts. Now the moment of truth-- I closed the door. It shut clean! I tried it several times. It shut perfectly. This was definitely a good investment for $5.00. Last step - I oiled the hinge pins.
PS- I don't know what the two extra bushings were for. The lower hinge appears to have no bushings.

August 2001: The Dart has been my daily driver to work and around town this summer. So far there's no news. The car just goes and goes. I have another couple of months before the nasty winter weather (read: salting the road) begins, at which time I'll park the Dart and start driving the Aries again.

A few pictures of my Dart: Click on the image to go to a page of photos of my Dart.

Photo page
Above photos are Copyright © 1996,2002 by John Cirillo. All rights reserved

71 Dart engine compartment wiring diagram (240Kb jpeg)
71 Dart interior and rear wiring diagram (200Kb jpeg)

If you're interested in hemi Dart conversions, click HERE to read what Charlie Gluck has done with his 68 Dart.

I have received quite a few e-mails asking where to get parts for Darts. I have several sources which are mail-order.

Hardens Muscle Car World
Box 306
Lexington, MO 64067
(800) 633-4690

Hardens will send you a flyer showing most of what they have available. It is mostly repro parts. The prices are decent. They now have a website:

Year One has a huge catalog of just about everything for repairing and restoring. Try their website at though it takes a while to load in.

The Paddock is another mail and web order firm similar to Year One. They have a free catalog that can be ordered. Their website is

For general replacement parts, Global4 automotive seems well stocked for older MoPars on their website. Look at

Also look at Auto Zone's easy parts lookup at

Jim's Auto Parts has an online MoPar catalog and a huge catalog that may be ordered. Check them out at

A repair kit to correct a leaking windshield wiper seal can be obtained from:
Schumacher Creative Services
2025 NE 123rd
Seattle, WA 98125
(206) 364-7151
(Note that this kit is also available from some of the above catalogs)

A good source of online help, and a chance to chat with other Mopar owners is the Allpar Chrysler Repair site at

An excellent reference is the Mopar magazines. There are two or three Mopar magazines at the newsstand now and then. Go and pick up a copy at your local bookstore. The ads alone are worth the price of the mag.

John Cirillo

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Last updated May 27, 2008

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