Plot Twist: This 1968 Hemi Dart Is The Strangest Ever!
http://www.hotrod.com/articles/plot-twi ... gest-ever/
More Photos: http://www.thehemi.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=9832While every exterior element of this 1968 Dodge Dart GTS makes it completely worthy for the pages of Mopar Muscle magazine, it is the things which are largely hidden from view that put it over the top. No, we’re not talking about the mint interior. No, we’re not talking about the fully painted, detailed, and amazing undercarriage of the car. We’re talking about the engine. This is a 1968 Dart with a Hemi in it, and before you start to flip the page because you’ve seen plenty of them, this is a 1968 Dart with a first-generation Hemi. The little 331 has been poked out to 342 cubes, and it is nestled between the stock fenders and under the stock hood. That got your attention, didn’t it? It sure got ours. How does this happen, why does this happen? Stick with us and find out.
The story begins in late 1967 when John Seifert was at home on leave after attending basic training. While away, he had been thinking about cars and how he was going to buy one when he returned. A trip to the local Dodge dealer with his dad netted him a test drive in a new Dart GTS and the hook was set. They sat down with a salesman, clicked the boxes for the options they wanted, and then John counted the minutes for six weeks until his machine arrived. That car was a radio-delete 1968 Dart GTS with a Torqueflite, 3.91 gears, and a 340ci small-block. “The only thing I added to that car was a set of Cragar S/S wheels,” John says. “I took it to the track and it clicked off 14.0s all day long. My wife and I loved the car and had a lot of fun in it. Then we got the news that there was a baby on the way so we needed something more family oriented. I sold the Dart to a friend and bought a Coronet 500. I never saw the car again after he sold it.”
As has been proven time and time again, you can take the car guy and put him on the sidelines for a while, but you’ll never cleanse him of his passion. John’s departure from fast cars was not permanent and it was self-imposed for the benefit of his family life. Now that the kids are grown, he’s great guns into killer cars again and the little Hemi in this Dart is a result of that. “When I saw a medium gold 1968 Dart with a vinyl roof for sale on Craigslist, I was off to Rockville, Maryland about as fast as I could get the trailer attached,” John says with a laugh. “This was not my original car but it was the same color and had the right roof. This car started out as a 273/manual-on-the-column combination, and by appearances was a decent car. We’d later learn differently, but I am glad I bought it when I did.”
The introduction of the first-generation Hemi into this car was not some diabolical, long term plan. Instead, it was the result of another project and the needs of a friend. “I also have a 1955 Dodge Meadowbrook station wagon and I was planning on putting a blown 331 into that,” John says. “I then found a 392 Hemi for that car and my buddy was building an old drag car and wanted a vintage-cased supercharger for the engine so I sold him the blower. That left me with the engine and the car came together from there.”
Before we delve any deeper into the engine situation, the rest of the car should be mentioned. When John and Bob Nobile of Advanced Automotive Concepts stripped the car down for a full rotisserie restoration, they did not make many kind discoveries. Instead, they found lots of sub-par body work and lots of rust holes once the car was blasted. That meant metal work galore and they nearly melted the phone off the wall at AMD ordering replacement panels. Bob Nobile was the lead on the metal work (this is a guy who works on cars that have been shown at Pebble Beach!) and John estimates about 90 percent of the sheet metal on the car was replaced before they were done. “While the car was stripped and we were doing the metal work, we made some alterations,” John said. “We added frame connectors and we mini-tubbed the rear, adding about three inches of width to the factory wheel wells. We did it so it still has the factory appearance and many people do not notice that it has been changed at all.”
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how nice the paint is on this car. John made mention of “dipping” the body a couple of times to us so we finally to had to break down and ask him. Was this car literally dipped in paint? “No, but when I was working with Mark Dumer of Hilltop Autobody in Jerrettsville, Maryland on the paint, I told him I wanted it to look like that,” John explains. “Every single inch of this car was primed and painted. Areas people probably don’t normally pay much attention to. The top, the bottom, the entire inside, even the roof area where the vinyl would eventually cover it. I feel as though it seals the car a little better and sometimes you just want what you want.” Dumer was more than happy to oblige John and because of that you can see just how stunning this machine is from all angles. The PPG medium gold paint is classy and looks deep enough to dive a triple lindy into.
So with the car painted and ready to go, we can now get on with the unique engine in the Dart. “The Hemi is a true pump-gas motor, John says. “Because I had built it intending to put a supercharger on it, the compression is low enough to run whatever gas you want.” Spatially, there was some work to do because as the engine sat, the stock hood was not going to cut it. “We lowered the K-member down two inches and between that along with the low-rise intake manifold, we got everything packaged under the stock hood just like we wanted.”
The headers on the car are awesome with one tube on each side making an appearance in the wheel well. “Bob Nobile built the headers and exhaust from scratch,” John says. “I cannot tell you how good a fabricator this guy is. He does awesome work.”
So with the engine in the car, an ATI Torqueflite bolted up behind it, and a minty fresh restored interior from Ben’s Auto Glass, it was time to hit the cruises, hit the shows, and (as the kids would say) snap some necks as gearheads got a load of a very unique Mopar. According to John, the plan has worked. “Lots of people see it as being a nice Dart and then they get to the engine compartment,” John says with a laugh. “You can tell right away who the real Mopar fans are because they are much more apt to recognize what they are seeing. The reactions are pretty funny. Many people cannot identify the early and later Hemi engines so I usually take some time explaining that the first-generation engines have the distributor in the rear and the Gen 2 engines have it in the front. People enjoy seeing the car.”
That enjoyment was never so clear than at a car show being held at an Allison Transmission plant a short while back. “This car show was 98-percent GM cars and I got the people’s choice award,” John said proudly. “I could not believe it. The trophy was amazing and made of transmission parts. That was a very fun day and it definitely made me appreciate how much people enjoy the car. It was me and a sea of Chevelles!”
Among the other great touches on the car is the stance which seems to speak to everyone. That’s a story from John’s past as well. “Everyone likes their car to sit a certain way,” John says. “Some guys like them to be raked, some guys like them to be really low, and I always liked the look of a car that was level but just slightly higher sitting then stock.” With a torsion bar front end, this look is very easy to achieve.
Rolling on Chrysler police car steel wheels also gives the Dart a tough look. Showing his attention to detail again, John opted to go with the 1969 center-button—style caps for the wheels because he thought they looked better than the 1968 versions. He’s managed to keep this car all-Mopar and all very subtle which is about the opposite you would expect if you explained this machine to anyone who had never seen it before.
Cars like John’s are more than the sum of their parts. This thing is very subtly bombastic. There are multiple elements of this car that could have been overplayed or done in ways that would not have complimented the rest of the machine, and rather than make those common mistakes, John Seifert and the craftsmen he worked alongside on this car nailed them all.
Many times we see builders and owners who don’t know when “a little” is “enough.” John does. The 331 under the stock Dart hood is way cooler than it would be if the engine were all hanging out. The slightly taller-than-stock stance is awesome but would look goofy with another inch or two of lift applied. The medium gold paint is classy and cool while still being just different enough to be unique, not yelling and screaming about it like some other hues we’ve seen.
The Dart of Deception is the kind of car we love to see get built. It’s a cool curveball in a sometimes repetitious world of car building. We’ve never been so happy to be hoodwinked!
1968 Dart GTS
John Seifert; Rosedale, Maryland
Type: generation 1 Chrysler Hemi
Bore x stroke: 3.872(bore) x 3.62(stroke), 342ci
Block: factory block prepared by Paul Hogge
Rotating assembly: 8.5:1 Jahns pistons and otherwise stock components precision matched
Cylinder heads: stock iron cylinder heads ported, combustion chambers polished
Camshaft: Racer Brown camshaft, lift and duration not disclosed
Valvetrain: stock valvetrain with the addition of Hot Heads valve springs
Induction: Two Edelbrock Performer Series 500cfm carbs atop a Chrysler 2×4
Fuel system: factory Chrysler pump
Exhaust: custom made headers and custom exhaust by Bob Nobile using
Ignition: MSD billet distributor, MSD ignition box, MSD spark plug wires
Oiling system: stock wet-sump oiling system with remote mounted oil filter
Cooling: stock style mechanical water pump, aluminum universal radiator
Output: engine has never been dyno tested
Engine built by: Paul Hogge at Racing Parts and Machine
Best ET: car has not been drag raced
Transmission: Chrysler 727 Torqueflite automatic, ATI 3,200-stall converter
Driveshaft: steel with 1350 yoke built by Perry Hall Power Equipment
Rearend: 8.75 Chrysler rearend from Coronet narrowed four inches, Moser axles,
Moser differential, 3.91 gears
Front suspension: stock-style front suspension with torsion bars in place, Hotchkis swaybar
Rear suspension: stock-style shocks with Mopar Super Stock springs
Steering: PST steering box
Brakes: car converted to factory-style disc brakes, uses 10×2.5 inch drums in rear
Chassis: k-member lowered two inches for engine to clear factory hood
PAINT & INTERIOR
Color: PPG Medium Gold Metallic
Painter: Mark Dumer at Hilltop Autoboy; Jerrettsville, Maryland
Interior: factory stock style interior by Ben’s Auto Glass; Parkville, Maryland
WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: Chrysler police car style steel wheels with 1969 center button caps;
15×4.5 (front), 15×8 (rear)
Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman 26×6 (front), 28×12 (rear)
Special thanks: John thanks Bob Nobile for all the excellent fabrication work,
Mark Dumer for the amazing paint, and Brian at Ben’s Auto Glass for the
This car would make my HemiDart.com domain proud.