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Coast to coast road trip in a 75 Dart

First question that occurs to me is, why on earth would you WANT to? Myself, I wouldn’t trust a Dart to get me to the corner liquor store. But then, some people are just natural-born risk takers, and love taking on a challenge so daunting, so obviously insane, even the Gods Themselves would tremble at the prospect.

Dart Across America: Adventures of Driving a 1975 Dodge Dart 3,300 Miles in Six Days
The 225-cid. slant-six engine is touted for being bulletproof and able to handle all kinds of abuse. That’s one major reason why Erik Jesperson chose a 1975 Dodge Dart as the classic car for his coast-to-coast road trip adventure from Ocean City, Washington to Ocean City, New Jersey. The other solid reason was its mostly clean, rust-free body.

The road trip was arranged after Erik’s friend Josh asked what he wanted to do for his bachelor party before his wedding on December 1, 2023. A road trip across the country had always been on Erik’s bucket list, and he’s not the type to turn down an excuse to buy another project car.

After locating the 1975 Dodge Dart at a dealership, he had the car inspected by a local mechanic before fully committing to the trip. The mechanic came back with good news, simply recommending a tune up and stating the wipers didn’t work and the suspension was worn, nothing that would immediately jeopardize the 3,300-mile six-day drive.

“The Roadkill and Vice Grip Garage type shows have always spiked my interest,” Erik began. “Being a mechanic, I knew if I had the tools and supplies, I could probably make it happen.” Another piece of reassurance came from Josh, who works for U-Haul and had the ability to locate and rent a truck and trailer anywhere in the country at a cheaper rate (worst case scenario, of course). “My fiancé, Kristen, loved the idea of us acquiring an older car that we could use in the wedding as well as take to car shows and cruises together,” he added. That was the icing on the cake. Erik finalized the purchase and worked with the salesperson to pre-order any parts that could be needed for the trip, such as a mini starter, alternator, cap, rotor, fuel filter, and fluids. He packed items like spark plug wires and a few other parts in his luggage before catching his flight to Washington.

Wise move. The old MOPAR PoS did better than anyone intimately familiar with the road-apple abominations might expect, actually; minor annoyances like a broken fuel gauge,  a rotted-out heater core, and getting becalmed in Sturgis H-D rally traffic were dealt with, until…wait for it…WAAAIIIT FOR IT


Gee, didn’t see THAT coming.

Our intrepid duo did indeed make it to Ocean City, NJ in the end, which speaks volumes about their pluck, ingenuity, and good old can-do spirit. Jesperson and his fiancé plan to keep the “car” for some reason or other, which speaks volumes about their mental health, far as I’m concerned. Then again, though, I’ve never been known for being at all hesitant about embarking on high-risk, no-net road trips myself. Remember, I’m the guy who rode a 1971 Shovelhead FLH, replete with apehangers and suicide shift, from CLT to NYC just to see a pretty girl.

TWICE; I did that TWICE. So, y’know, maybe I ain’t exactly the one to be sitting in judgment on Eric and his affianced, eh?

(Via Ed Driscoll)


11 thoughts on “Coast to coast road trip in a 75 Dart

  1. Of course, the issue is it’s a 75 Dart. Post catalytic converter era.

    I’d take a 70 Dart with a nice 340 in it cross country if it were still 25 cents a gallon equivalent.

    Sure, not like taking a Corvette on Route 66 from Chicago to LA in the early 60s, but, well, what is?

  2. So he was not smart enough to take it to Mark Worman of Graveyard Cars beforehand?

  3. The 225 CI. slant-six engine is probably the most durable engine ever produced. I have a cousin that got a 20 year old Valiant in the early 80’s when he was in high school. He drove that car until he was in his mid 30’s. He rolled the odometer over the second time before it broke. 

    1. I think it was a good engine, for the time. A bit odd being slanted…

      Most durable ever produced? No way. The GM 5.3 V8’s may* have that honor. Numerous reports of 5.3’s with over 500k miles. I have 2 of them now over 300K and running as well as new with nothing but oil change and spark plugs every 100K.

      *may being the operative word as there may be something I’m not aware of.

        1. Not really. It is the small block Chevy replacement and other than displacement and V shape not a lot in common. The 5.3 is 323 cubic inches. The block and heads are quite different than the old small block Chevy. The Chevy small block came out in 1955 as a 265 CI displacement. I had one in my first* car, a 1955 Chevy wagon. I drove it before I got my license at age 14, then graduated to the 327 in a 63 Impala Super Sport, my first real on the road car. Chevy made a 350 and a 400 in the small block, and of course the famous Trans Am racing series sized 302 which I had in my first new car, the ’69 Z-28 Camaro. The 302 was the 327 block and bore size with a 283 crank. Big bore and small crank throw = higher revs generally.

          Aren’t you glad you asked 🙂

          *it was the family car from 1956 when my dad brought it home. It went into very light use from about 1962 when Dad bought a 62 Impala until about 1965 when I turned 12. I drove it as a trail car out in the wooded areas around our home.

          1. A lot of 327s from the sixties are still out there powering hot rods and street cars.

            I don’t think these new motors, with the Liters, have been around long enough to challenge that yet.

            1. The 5.3 and that family is the motor of choice for hot rodders these days. Every serious rodder is looking for one of the HP variants in the junk yards. No one is putting the old small block in a rod these days. Some exceptions of course, but it’s 1000:1 for the new generation. You can get good 5.3 motors from the junkyard for 3-500 dollars because there are tens of thousands of them.

              They first came out in 1997 in the Vette’s, then made their way into everything including trucks in 1999. Those original gen 2 & 3 engines ran through 2014 and were then replaced with a new 5.3 version, still in production.

  4. Nothing about the story makes sense to me. He’s a mechanic but has another mechanic check the car out. He doesn’t change the oil cause it “looked OK”. You can tell nothing about oil in a 50 year old car by looking at it.

    3300/6 = 550 miles per day. at 65mph average speed that is 8.5 hours per day in the damn Dodge Dart. The article should have been named “Pure Torture” by an idiot.

  5. I had the dubious honor of helping to drive a ’74 Dart from Cape Cod to the DC area. It was a friends dad’s aunts. We took turns driving. I’m pretty sure it had a 318. Most exhausting thing I’ve ever driven, other than a 70s ford van. Wandered all over the road. Leaned like schooner if you wanted to turn.

    Had a friend with a duster. Same thing. Wallowed like a pig, couldn’t get out of it’s own way.

    I was more of a chebbie person back then. Hell, I had a ’64 shortbed truck that road better than that Dart.

    1. Sounds familiar. One of my good friends first car was a used Dart with the push button automatic and slant 6. As I recall it drove like a pig and rode worse…

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