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1965 and 1966 Dodge Dart GT 273

As unlikely as it may seem, the humble 1965 Dodge Dart GT 273 is a centerpiece of a cult-car movement. The Slant Six Club of America, for example, celebrates these and other MoPars that used Chrysler’s 170-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine.

Slant-six Darts were durable, modest compacts with surprisingly balanced performance and affectionate styling. Not that any self-respecting muscle-enthusiast of the time would be caught dead in one. That’s okay, because there was a Dart or two for this crowd, also.

1963 Dodge Dart GT 273
The 1965 Dodge Dart GT 273 was a stout compact that turned quite
sporty in GT guise.

Dodge had offered its 273-cubic-inch V-8 in the 1964 Dart, but only with a two-barrel carburetor. With 180 horsepower, it was quicker than a slant six, but it still didn’t win many stop-light Grands Prix. For ’65, Dart got an updated hood, grille, and tail, and could be ordered with a 273 in a potent new form that helped the diminutive Dodge earn a name for itself in the junior muscle arena.

Introduced in 1964, the 273 was a new engine that ultimately led to a series of V-8s known as the “LA” family. With standard two-barrel carburetion, the 273 produced 180 horsepower.

For 1965, Chrysler added a four-barrel intake manifold with a Carter AFB carburetor. This $99.40 option helped squeeze out 235 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 280 pounds/feet of torque at 4000. The 273 had 3.625-inch bores, but with a short 3.31-inch stroke, it had the ability to rev quite freely.

Its most inviting Dart wrapper would have been the GT, a dressed up Dart 270 with bucket seats, console, and attractive chrome appointments. Built on an 111-inch wheelbase, it was available in hardtop and convertible bodystyles. Dodge’s Dart GT was the division’s sportiest small car, though over at Plymouth, the Barracuda, with its 106-inch wheelbase and fastback styling, also was available with the optional 273 four-barrel V-8.

Standard behind the 273 V-8 was a three-speed manual transmission, with optional four-speed or TorqueFlite automatic. Axle choices were modest: 3.23:1 standard, 2.93 or 3.55 optional.

A typical 273 Dart GT hardtop could run 0-60 mph in the low-nine-second range and turn the quarter in the mid-16s. Car and Driver called the 235-horse Dart’s performance “interesting, if not stunning,” adding that Dart GT’s Torqueflite was “one automatic transmission that can actually be shifted,” giving it “overwhelming superiority over manual units in super stock drag racing.”

The ultimate racing Dart for ’65 would have been one in which its steel body panels were replaced with fiberglass ones made for Dodge by a company called Fibercraft. The switch would have saved 400 ET-robbing pounds.

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The 235-horsepower 273 option returned for the 1966 Dart Dart GT 273. Interior appointments included a new optional center console. During ’66, Chrysler introduced a specially modified 273 V-8 as a limited-production option for the Dart. At 275 horsepower, it was one of the few engines of the period to pass the magical one-horsepower-per-cubic-inch threshold.

 

1966 Dodge Dart GT
MoPar’s four-barrel 273-cid V-8 gave the 1966 Dodge Dart GT a nice kick.

 

Called the D package, after the D/Stock racing class for which it was tailored, its heart was a 273 that used a radical Camcraft camshaft, solid lifters, special 700cfm Holley 4160 four-barrel carburetor, and free-flow tubular exhaust headers by Doug of California. A full-breathing intake manifold that incorporated a special low-restriction air cleaner also were D items.

A four-speed manual transmission with Weber clutch, and a Sure-Grip 83/4-inch rear with a heavy duty 4.86:1 axle ratio also were part of the D package. A heavy-duty suspension and 6.94´14 tires rounded out the menu on cars that came to be called the D/Dart. Owners of ordinary Darts were advised that they could contact Chrysler’s Parts Division to convert to D spec.

Dodge called the D/Dart a “regular production line” car, but cautioned that “Due to the expected use of these vehicles, no warranty coverage applies.” Darts at this time also were campaigned in road racing and rallies. Weighing just 2946 pounds, the D/Dart was a contender in not only drag competition, but in a host of other events.

Priced well under $3000, a 273 Dart GT of this period was a great buy, and just might be worthy of a little cult of its own.

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Dodge's junior muscle car, the Dart GT 273, featured surprisingly balanced performance. Here are the detailed specifications on the 1965 and 1966 Dodge Dart GT 273:

Dodge Dart GT 273
The 1965 Dodge Dart GT 273 featured bucket seats, a console,
and stylish chrome details.

 

Engine Type
V-8/LA-Block
V-8/LA-Block*
Displacement (cid)
273
273
Horsepower @ rpm:
235 @ 5200
275@ NA
Torque (pounds/feet) @ rpm
280 @ 4000
300 @ 4500
Compression Ratio
10.5:1
10.5:1
Bore (inches)
3.625
3.625
Stroke (inches)
3.31
3.31
Valve Lifters
Hydraulic
Mechanical
Availability
1965-66
1966

*High Performance

Times*:

0-60 mph (sec)
8.2
0-100 mph (sec)
27.5
1/4-mile (sec)
16.9 @ 87 mph
Top speed (mph)
120
Axle ratio
3.23:1
Engine type
273 (235 hp)

*Source: Car and Driver (1965)

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