BUILT TO GO FAST, MARCO SANDÍN JR.’S 1969 DART HAS EVOLVED INTO AN AWARD-WINNING SHOW CAR.
Built to go fast, Marco Sandin Jr.’s 1969 Dart has evolved into an awardwinning show car.
Having a fascination with all things automotive is often something that’s inherited, and in some instances eventually passed on. Many of our interests are shaped at an early stage in our lives as a result of what our elders indulge in. That was certainly the case with Marco Sandín Jr., as his interest in the Mopar brand was something that was bequeathed to him by his father. He explains, “My passion for Dodge was inherited from my father, Marco Sandín Sr. He was a prominent pilot in the ’80s and ’90s in Sonora, Mexico.”
For the Sandín clan, it all began in 1985 when the elder Sandín purchased a ’74 Dodge Super Bee. Now, you might be scratching your head because the Super Bee was killed off after ’71, however, in Mexico the Super Bee continued throughout the early to mid ’70s
and was based on the A-body platform. These smaller Mexican Bees were at that point equipped with a 318 four-barrels, so that was the foundation for his first foray into the racing world.
Loyalty to the Dodge brand also extended to the family’s daily driver with the purchase of a 1973 Dodge Dart Sport for his wife. Marco Jr. recalls, “That Dart Sport was used by my mom to take me to school, to visit my grandparents, and for things like going to the supermarket.” It served their family faithfully, and with the passage of time, evolved into their first bespoke show car. The second family project was yet another A-body, a 1972 Dodge Dart Swinger. From the outset, this car was destined to serve double duty as both a race car and a show car.
In 1999, it was Marco’s turn to hit the track. Having instilled and nurtured that Dodge loyalty and the passion for racing in his son, Marco Sr. converted the 1973 Dart Sport from a show car to a race car for his son. Both actively raced these cars and actually faced off twice during that time, with each splitting a win. In 2003, the 1972 Swinger went under the knife and received a number of upgrades in the form of a new engine, transmission, differential, and wheels, but was subsequently sold off to a family friend. At this crossroad in life the racing endeavors took an abrupt end and the priorities shifted to family and business matters. The 1973 Dart Sport was also detuned for street use and became Marco’s daily driver for a number of years.
In 2008, Alex, the youngest member of the Sandín clan picked up the family racing torch, and once again continued the tradition when he started drag racing a Chrysler Crossfire. That had a ripple effect that reignited the urge for the rest to hit the track again. Having been out of the quarter-mile game for a number of years, suitable cars were again needed, so they went back to a tried-and-true friend — the 1972 Swinger. It was bought back from their friend and treated to another rebuild,
consisting of yet another new engine, transmission, and differential. The 1973 Dart Sport was also given the same treatment, and both cars were once again hitting the track on a regular basis.
In 2012, they decided to get another A-body to put on the track. After some searching, one was found north of the border in Illinois. It was a 1969 Dart GTS they got track-ready rather quickly and actively campaigned regularly in Arizona and Mexico. The GTS soldiered on for two years until deciding “to run stronger.”
With that as the plan, the Dart was pushed into the family’s race garage in Hermosillo and torn down to a bare shell, and a course plotted for its rejuvenation. The to-do checklist included a full rollcage, big cubes, and some fat tires. Marco and his good friend Fernando Grijalva were the surgeons who performed all the work prepping the GTS for its new life. The underpinnings for the Dart were the starting point, and for that a Chris Alston’s Chassisworks Sportsman chassis kit was ordered to serve as the foundation to support the Dart’s outer skin.
Up front, the chassis rides on Chassisworks spindles and Varispring coil springs and shocks, while at the rear lies a fourlink setup with Koni springs and shocks, and a narrowed Ford 9-inch rear with 4.56:1 gears. This beefed-up hardware
was put in place to support the massive power upsurge that was going to be dropped between the fenders. That stout bit of kit came in the form of a 572ci Hemi. Marco had Dennis Maurer, the owner of Maurer’s Performance in Tempe, assemble the mighty elephant with a Keith Black aluminum block as the starting point. Lots of cash was thrown at this mill to stuff it with the best parts for the job.
The bottom end consists of a Callies Ultra billet crank, Venolia forged pistons, and Oliver Racing billet rods. The top end is capped with a set of Indy Stage V aluminum heads, a Hogan’s Racing aluminum tunnel ram intake, and a pair of Quick Fuel Technology 950-cfm carburetors. Power transfer to the rear is channeled through a 727 Ultimate Competition Torqueflite built by A&A Transmissions in Camby, Indiana. This combination, when run on the dyno, pumped out a healthy 866 horses and 700 lb-ft of torque.
The extreme makeover also carried over to the exterior as well. In the process, the skin of the Dart shed a few pounds with the addition of a fiberglass hood, deck lid, bumpers, and fenders. Since the goal was to create something custom without worrying about originality, when it came time put the body back together a bit of mix and match took place, and it all came down to personal tastes. The Dart was born as a 1969, yet Marco preferred some of the styling cues on the 1968 model, so he added a 1968 grille and side marker lights, but left the 1969 tailpanel and lights in place.
As work progressed, the body was slowly prepped to receive its new coat of paint. That task was entrusted to Efrain Sepúlveda in Hermosillo, who laid down five coats of black basecoat/clearcoat paint. Beyond the smooth gloss black finish, a red 1969 Dart Bumble Bee-inspired stripe was also installed around the tail, denoting what was laying under the hood. That red theme from the stripe was one that carried over to the interior and the engine compartment as well. The tube frame that adorns the interior is decked out in red as well as the massive Hemi valve covers and tube frame under the hood. The last part of the build was choosing some new wheels and tires. For that, he opted on some Weld Racing wheels skinned with Hoosier tires at all four corners.
Work on the Dart was pretty intense and all the pieces came together in only six months. The plan was to start racing it as soon as it was finished, but in the best-laid plans. Marco notes, “When I finished the whole restoration process, I made the decision to use it only as a show car.” Now, if you’re wondering just how stout this Mopar is, Marco has taken it down the track, and that was right after it was built, and it laid down a 9.20 pass. There have been subsequent upgrades since then, which should easily prop it into the 8-second club. Since the Dart was relegated to show duties, Marco was still left with that need “to run stronger.” That was, however, fulfilled with the acquisition of Scott Geoffrion’s ex Pro-stock 1993 Dodge Daytona in 2016.
The Dart has taken home a “Best of Show” two years in a row at the Muscle Cars at the Strip show in Las Vegas, where we had the opportunity to shoot it for the magazine. One thing was clear, whether it’s racing or showing their cars, it all comes down to enjoying them as a family.