In the fall of 2012, John Rimel started his search for a rolling restoration project. While he had a particular car in mind he was searching for, he came across one a bit different that caught his eye on ForABodiesOnly.com. While it wasn’t the 1970 Swinger 340 he was originally looking for, this particular SS1 Yellow 1968 Dart GTS prove to be just too tempting and suited John’s needs for something he could work on while driving. The car was located in Houston, Texas so John immediately sent the seller a private message requesting more information. Within several minutes of John sending the message, the ad was pulled from the website due to the seller not following the website rules. Being as it wasn’t ever relisted; John figured the owner had given up on dealing with the website.
Several days later, John got a message from the seller asking if he was still interested so numbers and emails were exchanged and the ball got rolling. It turns out the owner had gotten the car from his dad back in 1999 as a graduation present. Through college, marriage and kids, he had ambitions of restoring the car however given the costs and time needed, he came to the conclusion he just wouldn’t be able to do it so he decided to list the car for sale. After some negotiations, John and the owner agreed on a price and John arranged for a member of Moparts.org to come and inspect the car for him before completely pulling the trigger.
Once the inspection was done, they spoke several more times and finally agreed to the deal. John had the car transported to Yakima, Washington and upon its arrival, he immediately stripped the car; tagging and bagging parts and getting as many pictures as possible. The Dart had previously sat for several years in Amarillo, Texas where unfortunately it sat out in the elements subject to the adverse weather that northwest Texas has to offer. Given there was the usual A body rust in the lower quarters and some hail damage to the hood, roof and rear trunk lid, the car wasn’t too bad.
John’s Dart was sold brand new at the leading state of Texas Scat Pack dealer in the day; Hedgecoke Motor Company in Amarillo. The original owner special ordered this car to his specifications. In addition, his sister bought a dark blue 1968 Dart GTS off the showroom floor on the same day he took possession of his ordered GTS in March 1968. John says interestingly, that GTS has been restored and is still driving around Amarillo today. John says in his research, he found the car changed hands several times between the 1970s and 1990s however the original owner maintained the original title that whole time.
While John says he purchased the car with the intent of making it into a nice driver, he decided to treat it to a full rotisserie restoration at B&B Restorations in Yakima, Washington which took the better part of 2014 and 2015. “I found that the original owner was a bit of a hot-rodder. It was very evident with the amount of body filler found in both rear quarter panels. It seems the rear of this car was attracted to telephone poles” says John.
John’s Dart is a bit of a rare one to say the least. Only 2112 383 GTS Darts were produced in 1968. Out of those 2112 produced, 1113 were automatics and 991 were 4-speeds. John says “For some reason, the production figures for this were based on percentage due to production figures not showing a “transmission” distribution.” He’s very proud to say his Dart is completely numbers matching as it still houses its original engine, transmission and rear end. It even has the original D-70-14 Firestone Redline spare tire mounted on the original 14×5.5 steel wheel in the trunk! When John got the broadcast sheet and fender tag decoded by Mr. Jim Rhinehart (noted expert on performance A Body Dodge and Plymouth cars), it was discovered his Dart was very nicely equipped from the factory and in a classy form to boot.
As stated previously, it’s a SS1 Yellow car from the factory. Top that with a black vinyl top and black transverse sport stripe and you have one wicked little combo when you consider the black special trimmed black vinyl bucket seat interior in the mix. To add some extra class to the equation, John’s Dart was ordered with body colored 14×5.5” steel wheels topped off with Dodge Division hub caps and wrapped with E-70-14 Redline tires. It doesn’t get much classier than that. The original owner did want some power to go with that class though as made evident by the 383-4bbl big block under the hood backed by a 727 HD automatic transmission.
When John was in the process of the restoration, he says he decided to make some mild modifications to the car to make it most get in and drive road worthy while sticking to its original coded roots. He’s very firm in saying all of these modifications can easily be reversed and with some more changes toward stock, this car could easily compete in concourse type events.
During the restoration, he sourced out parts from some of Mopar’s big parts players such as Classic Industries, MrMoparts and Mopar Performance. As mentioned previously, the bulk part of the restoration was completed by B & B Restorations in Yakima, Washington. This is where the body, paint, upholstery and assembly were done. John would like to thank Nick, Neil, Levi, Jo and Sidney for all the help with those tasks! The team at B&B did an incredible job at making sure the Dart was as straight as an arrow before laying down a beautiful coat of its original SS1 Yellow paint.
Jim Devine of Devine Automotive Machine in Yakima took care of getting the 383 back to its pavement pounder status. The 383 has been bored .040 over and then fitted with hypereutectic pistons, stainless valves and a COMP XE262H camshaft. On top, the 383 has been treated to an Edelbrock DP4B intake and Edelbrock 1406 625cfm carburetor. John states the intake is period correct as an over-the-counter Chrysler part and he has the original and correct Carter AVS carburetor at home. He also added an electronic ignition set-up for better reliability and firing.
The original 727 HD transmission was sent out to Todd Stanley at Valley Transmission in Okanogan, Washington where it was treated with a full refresh before being mated back up to the 383. John says while the Dart came equipped from the factory with 3:23 gears in the rear end, the original owner had the dealer swap them out to 3:91 gears so John decided to stick with those. For suspension parts, John made a call to Firm Feel Suspensions and ordered brand new Bilstein Shocks, poly graphite bushings and a Firm Feel 1 1/8-inch front sway bar to spruce up the handling of the Dart. The GTS came equipped from the factory with HD front disc brakes and 10” rear drum brakes.
The interior was sourced from Legendary Interiors and was installed by B&B. John says the seat belts are from Bill Edwards at Upholstery Mods & More. The Dart features an original console tachometer and gauge work was done with help from Auto Meter Gauges. Overall, John’s Dart GTS is a perfect example of the combination of power and class. He even had Robin McQueen over at Automolove.ca design an awesome banner of the car which proudly hangs on the wall next to it! We thank John for sharing his wicked ride with Mopar Connection.