It’s the day most every parent of a teenage driver dreads: the day their child earns the privilege to drive on the public highways.
Even after hours of behind-the-wheel driving practice and driver’s training classes at school, Matthew Koerner thought that his teenage daughter still required additional protection when she begins driving this coming April. Consequently, he plans to give his daughter his nearly new car, which is equipped with the latest in safety equipment including anti-lock brakes and airbag protection.

Koerner then set about locating a replacement car for his daily commute. He recalled the good times he had during his own high school years when he’d go cruising in his friend’s 1974 Dodge Dart. Koerner began hunting for a likely candidate to serve as his commuter car.

The search eventually led to the Internet where he found for sale a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger. Not only did the Dodge have the desirable 225-cubic-inch slant six-cylinder engine, but also the body style was a two-door hardtop.

Koerner went to Arlington, Va., to inspect the 1972 model and saw that the odometer had registered only 60,800 miles. The low mileage, he surmises, was due to a cracked exhaust manifold. Records show that the sporty Dodge was last driven in 2005.

Although he could not start and listen to the engine, he was aware of the bulletproof reputation of the slant-six, 100-horsepower engine, so just before Thanksgiving 2010 he went ahead and purchased the car.

He towed his Dodge to a nearby shop where it was further examined. He was pleased to find that his prize was very well optioned. In addition to power steering and power front disc brakes, the car is equipped with factory air conditioning. Atop each front fender is a warning light that flashes whenever the corresponding turn signal is activated.

Before putting the car back in service, Koerner replaced the exhaust manifold and installed a new 12-volt battery. After flushing most of the fluids from the Dodge Dart, he poured fresh transmission fluid, oil and antifreeze into the appropriate cavities. The axle seals also were replaced and new brake pads were installed on the rear brake drums.

He then with confidence drove to his Sterling, Va., home. The next morning the car failed to start. The culprit was a faulty voltage regulator. A new one was found for $12 and the problem was resolved.

Koerner says that he is the third owner of the gold-colored Dodge Dart Swinger. When new, the base price was $2,528. A total of 119,618 Dodge Dart Swinger models were manufactured that model year. Literature from that era claims that the car includes all federally mandated safety and pollution systems.

The 2,835-pound Dodge is supported by 14-inch white sidewall tires mounted on a 111-inch wheelbase. Koerner says the car has been repainted, but he believes it has always worn a coat of gold. The interior has several shades of beige. The front seat is of the bench variety with a split back to ease passenger access to the back seat.

While seated at the three-spoke steering wheel the driver has a clear view of the instrument panel centered around the 120-mph speedometer. Now that Koerner has his commuter car performing smoothly, he reports fuel mileage figures of between 21 and 22 miles per gallon.

His Dodge Dart Swinger has exceeded all of his expectations and is exactly what he wanted. “It was inexpensive and is cheap to maintain,” he explains. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters

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