For The Swinger at Heart: Rich Ferrari’s 1969 Dodge Dart Swinger


For 1969, the Dart Swinger 340 was the latest offering from the Dodge Scat Pack, and it was marketed precisely at the youth buyer. The Swinger 340 came standard with a 4-speed transmission, dual exhaust, heavy-duty Rallye suspension, D70-14 bias-ply tires, and a 3.23:1 geared 8 ¾-inch differential. To separate the Swinger’s appearance from the ordinary Darts, the Swinger 340 received a bumblebee stripe, which wrapped the quarter panels and trunk lid.

The interior came with a bench seat and a Hurst shifter handle and ball extending from the shifter boot mounted on the floor. There was no tachometer; instead, the instrument cluster had three small gauges (engine temperature, fuel level, and ammeter), an oil light, and a 120-mph speedometer nestled between the gauges.

The 340 Dart had so much potential that Cragar Industries and Car Craft magazine assembled a race-prepped Swinger, which competed in F/Stock eliminator at the ninth annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Winternationals. In class eliminations, the Swinger runner-upped with a best of 12.72 elapsed time at 109.12 mph on a 12.70-second class record. To read about the Swinger’s buildup, reference For Swingers Only! in Car Craft (Feb through April 1969).

Rich Ferrari, of Trenton, NJ, had known about the Swinger that graces these pages ever since close friend Dave Mucciarello brought it to the east coast in 1983. Rich let Dave know, “if you ever sell this car, I want it.” While Dave owned the Dart, Rich helped him rebuild the 4-speed transmission, the rear differential, the front suspension, and the drum brakes (all four wheels). Dave had Maaco shoot the Dart’s exterior on a budget, and then he added the trendy 1980s touch to the engine bay by brush painting it Rustoleum© black. Dave and Rich searched the junkyards for front seats, seat belts, and interior panels. For the better part of a decade, Rich fine-tuned the 340, rode in the Swinger, and even drove the Swinger on a rare occasion.

Dave had a life-changing event, and in 1993, he offered Rich the well-worn Dart for $1500. The sale included an additional 340 engine, 4-speed transmission, driveshaft, rear differential, leaf springs, doors, a radiator, a hood, and many small pieces. For several years, regardless of the summer heat, the cold of winter, or the everyday hazards of operating an older vehicle, Rich used the Dart as his daily driver. When it rained, water leaked onto the carpet due to non-existent wiper pivot seals (which Rich finally address), and the winter salt ravaged the already rusty lower quarters. In 1997, after 4-plus years of service, Rich parked the Dart with plans for its restoration.

Initially, the restoration progressed nicely, with Rich completing plenty of the bodywork during the first two years, but then life got in the way. The Swinger was pushed to the back of the garage and was forgotten about for over a decade. By 2012, Rich could dedicate time to the restoration, so through a friend, he contacted George Montgomery about finishing the bodywork and paint. George was looking for a project, and he was qualified to complete the final touches on the bodywork and apply the paint.

After smoothing out the bodywork, George primed and painted the entire Swinger in the factory T5 Copper Metallic tint using modern basecoat/clearcoat paint. With the fresh paint dried, Rich and George attached the body panels onto the shell. The only non-original body panel on the Swinger was the trunk lid that had received extensive damage before Rich’s ownership.

During the reassembly, Rich elected not to reinstall the 2.76:1 geared 7 ¼-inch rear end that Dave had slipped under the Swinger; instead, he installed a 3.91:1 cogged 8 ¾-inch rear end. Fortunately for Rich, he was able to find a local Mopar parts vendor that was parting out a ’68 Dart. Rich purchased the front bench seat to replace the pair of non-original front buckets, contacted Legendary Auto Interiors for the correct Saddle Tan Deluxe seat covers, and completed the entire seat cover installation of the front and back seats by himself.

Rich assembled the engine and joined the 340 to the cleaned and detailed 4-speed. He slipped the assembly into the Swinger’s engine bay. Rich added a Mopar Performance electronic ignition and substituted the Carter AVS carburetor in favor of a new Edelbrock AFB style 750 cubic feet per minute (cfm) carburetor.

Rich kept the AVS, but he has come to prefer the AFB because it provides him with better drivability and fuel mileage. The 340’s exhaust exits via the factory manifolds into reproduction head pipes attached to Meineke mufflers. The tailpipes were reused, and Rich picked up a pair of stainless exhaust tips to finish the exhaust.

As Rich was applying the final touches to the restoration, he sent the bumpers to Tri-City Plating for minor repairs and re-chroming. Rich secured the shiny bumpers to the factory bumper brackets with new hardware. The other brightwork was polished and reinstalled, or new-old-stock (NOS) parts were located and installed to bring back the sparkle of the Dart. Rich installed 205/75R14 tires on body-colored wheels and completed the wheels with a set of reproduction dog dish hubcaps.

Since the restoration, Rich has rolled 5K-miles on the Swinger. Because Rich likes to take the Swinger on longer trips, he pulled the rear axles and dropped the 3.91:1 center section out, replacing it with a 2.76:1 center section. Now, Rich cruises the Swinger without the drone caused by the high-revving 3.91s, and he can even pass by a few more gas stations before requiring a fill-up. These days the Dart lives a life of luxury, but with the 340’s deep performance heritage, Rich’s Dart will always be a potent Swinger at heart.

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Chris Holley

Chris Holley

Technical Contributor Chris has been a college professor for 20 years; the last 15 spent at Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA. During the day Chris instructs HVAC and electrical/electronic classes, and high-performance classes, which includes the usage of a chassis dyno, flow benches, and various machining equipment at night. Chris owns a '75 Dart, a '06 Charger, a '12 Cummins turbo diesel Ram, and he is a multi-time track champion (drag racing) with his '69 340 Dart, which he has owned almost 30 years.

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