Red Rider


Upgrading a ’68 Dart to modern performance standards.

By Bill Woods Photos by Paul Stenquist

A GTS in badging alone.  Dart started out as a little old lady’s green 6-cylinder convertible that was bought by a mechanic who started, then gave up on, a restoration. Third and current owner spec’d out the mild Pro-Touring mods.

All it took for Brian Shackelford to become a Mopar man was a red Dart convertible with a white interior and smallblock under the hood. But Brian wasn’t driving at the time, ‘cuz if he had he woulda been in a heap o’ trouble as Brian was only 5 back then. The Dart belonged to the local Dodge dealership mechanic who enjoyed blowing it out up, down and sideways on the street, much to young Brian’s delight. 

Body remains stock with flanks covered in a compelling Viper red. Dart rolls on RMS suspension front and rear that owner says made a world of difference in handling.

True to his Mopar imprinting, Brian bought his first car—a Road Runner—which he drove while restoring it (a 4-year project) when he was 17. When he got the itch to restore another car, he went for a Dart. He found a ’68 green convertible with 98K miles for $4900. The car had been sitting inside a mechanic’s garage for six years, the result of an aborted restoration. Brian’s goal: modern upgrades for a sharp, dependable and fun driver.

360 was yanked out of a Dodge 4×4, Ed’s aluminum heads, warm cam, 10.5-to-1 compression and 800 CFM Edelbrock add up to about 450 horses. Hedman shorty headers take it out through Dynomax VT muffs.

sharp, dependable and fun driver.

With no time to handle the wrenching himself, Brian turned to Woody’s Hot Rodz in Bright IN. They would make Brian’s vision a reality—not too difficult as Brian wasn’t going the Pro-Nutz route, just something sensible—stock appearance, adequate power and responsive handling. A thorough media blast by Woody’s showed the body and chassis to be very solid—unusual for a 40+ year old convertible. There were just three small holes—the largest about the size of a dime—that needed repair. Part of the credit goes to the original Slant-Six that leaked oil, totally saturating (and preserving) the undercarriage. Once the greasy side was cleaned it was undercoated with bedliner material. “this ain’t no show car,” states Brian.

Bonspeed SS wheels carry 225/40-18 Yokos up front with meatier 275/35-19s out back. They all fit under the stock ‘wells.  Wilwoods front and rear bring it all to a screeching halt.

The shiny side was sprayed an outstanding spray of vibrant Viper red. GTS emblems were added-on and rear badges were subtracted for a clean look. Brian said that if this car had been a real GTS, he would have restored rather than modify it. We guess sixes don’t get no respect—even if they make their home in convertibles.

Rear is debadged for a clean look. Taillamps are converted to LEDs.  Keisler 4-speed overdrive trans feeds back to 3.55 8-3/4” rear.

Suspension modifications included an RMS Alterktion front end and their Pro-Link rear setup with fully adjustable QA1 shocks. While the Dart was on their lift, Woody’s bolted in a Keisler 4-speed overdrive.

For his bullet, Brian turned to Tom Kleinberg, a retired Chrysler dealership mechanic, who had built the mill for Brian’s earlier Road Runner. Tom came up with a 360 out of a Dodge 4×4 that he punched .030” over and bolted on a set of Edelbrock aluminum heads. The 10.5-to-1 motorsports a warmer cam and makes about 450 horsepower. Originally fitted with a Holley that proved troublesome, Tom, a Carter AVS devotee, swapped it for an 800 CFM Edelbrock—the closest carb to a Carter design currently available. Hedman shorty headers work with Dynomax VT muffs on the exhaust side. These valve-tuned units are quiet at cruise but open up when you get on it. Very pleasant to live with.

Pearl white interior comes from Legendary. Steering wheel is a Colorado Custom tiller. Stereo is hidden in the console. Two forward dials control the woofs from the subwoofer.

Brian upgraded the brakes with Wilwoods–6-piston up front and 4-piston in the rear. The ‘woods are complemented with a Hydroboost system. While in upgrade mode, Brian improved all the lighting, going with LED taillamps, halogen driving lights to replace the park light bulbs and uplevel headlamps. 

The bottom line, according to Brian, is the Dart turned out to be one of the funnest cars he’s ever driven, and that includes Vettes, a Viper, and a new Chrysler 300 SRT.

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