In 1969, Car Craft Magazine, in conjunction with Cragar and Dodge, developed a plan to prepare a ’69 Dodge Dart Swinger for the NHRA Stock eliminator competition. Over a three-issue series (Feb-April ’69), the Swinger was transformed from a stock ride to an F/Stock race car. Some of the biggest names of the day were involved with the project.
Above Left: Cragar, Dodge, Car Craft Magazine, and other sponsors put together an NHRA F/Stock Dodge Dart Swinger giveaway race car. The entry forms were in Car Craft Magazine and various retail outlets. Above Right: 16-year-old David Outlaw won the contest, but because he was under 18, his mother, Odis Outlaw, was awarded the keys for the Dart by Cragar Vice President Tom Shedden and NHRA President Wally Parks.
Famed Nitromethane engine builder Keith Black worked his magic on the 340. First, he blueprinted the engine to meet the strict regulations of the NHRA Stock class. Next, funny Car pilot, Charlie Allen fine-tuned the factory chassis at Saddleback Dodge of Santa Ana, California. Then, with the assistance of Carl Schiefer of Schiefer Manufacturing Company, Allen reworked the A-833 manual transmission and installed a Schiefer Rev-Lok clutch assembly.
The paintwork was performed by George Barris, who is known for many custom vehicle projects, including the Batmobile. The paint and graphics were a semi-psychedelic ‘60s style reminiscent of the era. Exhibition wheel stander extraordinaire Bill Shrewsberry handled the driving chores to round out the team.
Above Left: The Cragar Swinger has amazingly remained nearly identical to its condition in 1969. George Barris applied the paint to the Swinger. Above Right: The Dart was purchased by Jimmy Crank in 1969. He ran the Dart on the street for a short period before limiting it to occasional AHRA events. Both photos are from around 2016. The original Cragar wheels are installed in the left image.
The project’s design was to race the Swinger at the ’69 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California, and then have the car ready to be given away at the ’69 NHRA Springnationals in Dallas, Texas. The racing portion of the plan was nearly flawless.
Shrewsberry’s great reaction times at the Christmas tree and his swiftness with the 4-speed placed him in the class finals. The Black prepared 340 ran just a few hundreds over the class record all day. However, in the finals, Shrewsberry was nipped at the finish line by a Pontiac sporting 60 more cubic inches and only carrying an additional 80 pounds of weight.
Above Left: The 340 that Keith Black assembled in 1969 is still in the engine bay. Although the Dart was neglected over the years, a little attention by Tom Ellie (the 7th owner) had it running again. Above Right: In the late ’60s and early ’70s, many magazines, including Car Craft, had project cars/giveaways that were used as promotional pieces and technical testbeds.
The giveaway portion of the project ran into a snag right from the beginning. The winner of the Swinger was a 16-year-old kid named David Outlaw. David filled out a Cragar Swinger Contest form while accompanying his mother, Odis, to a local tire store. Cragar and Dodge quickly awarded his mother the winner. She and David were flown from Florida to the Springnationals to receive the Dart.
Above: Every contest sponsor had a representative on hand at the ’69 NHRA Springnationals in Dallas, Texas. Shortly after this photo, David (the actual winner) got to ride in the Dart down the quarter-mile. Unfortunately, his view was from the back seat. His mother wheeled the Swinger, and Linda Vaughn rode shotgun. After this eventful day, David never saw the Dart again.
With great fanfare, David and his mother met all the officials from Dodge, Cragar, NHRA, and other project sponsors, including “Miss Hurst” Linda Vaughn, with whom David was quite enamored. After the “grins and grips,” David was relegated to the Dart’s back seat while his mom took the driver’s seat and “Miss Hurst” rode shotgun. After an uninspiring drive down the quarter-mile, the Dodge officials informed Mrs. Outlaw the Dodge would be stored until arrangements were made to ship the Swinger to Florida.
Above Left: In 1969, Cragar introduced the new G/T “Mags” to supplement its line of products. Above Right: The one-piece aluminum G/T wheels came with four color options. The Cragar Swinger Contest Dart had the new G/T “Mags,” but it appears to have had S/S wheels on the rear in some photos. (Images Courtesy of VintageWheelCatalogs.com)
David would never ride in the Dart again. Upon his father’s return from his Air Force deployment in Thailand, Mr. Outlaw learned of the Swinger. Not needing a race car, he quickly made arrangements for Dodge to keep the Dart while providing the Outlaw family with a new Polara wagon. What a major letdown for a 16-year-old.
Above: Car Craft Magazine covered the Cragar Swinger Contest Dart in a three-part series from February to April 1969. The coverage contained the engine blueprinting, the chassis upgrades, and the NHRA Winternationals coverage of the Dart’s performance. In the September 1969 issue, Car Craft introduced the contest winner.
Dodge sent the Swinger to Garland Dodge in Dallas, and the race car was summarily sold (financed) to Jimmy Crank sans a warranty. Crank drove the unmuffled Dart on the street for a brief time before restricting it to race duty at a few AHRA events. Finally, in the early ‘80s, the Swinger was relegated to Crank’s garage, where it rested for the remainder of the decade.
Above: After the Outlaws elected to receive a Dodge Polara wagon rather than a race car, the Swinger was sold to Jimmy Crank. When he raced it, he had some success with the Dart setting a few AHRA world record runs.
As the value of muscle cars swelled in the late ‘80s, Crank sold the Swinger to a man in Iowa, who quickly sold it to another Iowan named Johnny Johnson. In 1990, Robert Gabeline convinced his good friend Johnson to sell the Dart to him. Gabeline debuted the cleaned and tuned-up Swinger at the 1991 Mopar Nationals. Unfortunately, after the Nationals, the Swinger again disappeared.
Above Left: Classic Industries carries a complete line of Cragar wheels, including the classic S/S wheels. Above Right: Classic Industries has the 390 series Cragar wheels with spinners if a more contemporary wheel is desired.
Subsequently, after Gabeline’s passing in 2016, the Swinger was quickly snapped up. The seventh owner, Tom Ellie owner brought the Swinger, still wearing its barn-fresh dust, to the 2017 MCACN show, where it made quite a hit with the public; many knew nothing of the decades earlier Cragar Swinger Contest. Since the show, it has again gone into hiding. The Dart has remained true to its original appearance through all the years and owners, with most of the vintage performance parts remaining on the car.
Besides the wild Barris paint, the Cragar “Super Swinger,” as named in a March 1969 Car Craft Magazine ad, models a set of one-piece aluminum Cragar wheels. Cragar, best known for its famous S/S wheels, added a set of G/T “Mags” to the Swinger, with the rear wheels adequately fitted for the 4.5-inch converted bolt pattern. Cragar also installed its Power-Pack Ignition System and a pair of fender well headers, which can be seen poking out just behind the front tires.
Above Left: Like the 390 series wheels, the S/S wheels can be fitted with spinners if that strikes your fancy. Above Right: Long-time wheel competitor, Keystone, is now part of the Cragar family. The Keystone Klassic wheel, made famous by Sox & Martin, provides a great alternative to the S/S wheels.
Classic Industries carries several different Cragar wheel designs if the Swinger Contest has inspired you to pick up a new set of Cragar S/S wheels for your ride. With a multitude of widths and diameters, Classic Industries should have your Mopar covered. Also, to finish off the wheels, Classic Industries carries the center caps, spinners, mounting washers, and lug nuts. So, a new cruising and racing season awaits. How about fitting your Mopar with something new that is actually old but has always been cool?