1971 DODGE DART

Muscle Car Review - - Rare Finds - By Jerry Heasley

We went along on this barn find in search of a mus­cle car. Here’s what we found. “I never looked to see what it re­ally was,” Bill But­ler said as we moved closer to an old tin shed. In­side was a 1970 or 1971 Dodge Dart that he had dragged from a tenant’s park­ing lot 10 to 15 years ago in West Texas.

Truth be­ing stranger than fic­tion, But­ler was about to pull a barn find out of a barn that be­longed to him. The ve­hi­cle would prove to be a sur­prise in more ways than one.

He pried open door of the shed, and we pushed our way into the small space to see dust cov­er­ing what looked like, at first glance, ei­ther a Dodge or Ply­mouth A-Body.

“The peo­ple rented the body shop. This car was in that body shop. They closed down, left town, and left this car out­side in the park­ing lot.” But­ler had ex­pected the owner to re­trieve the ve­hi­cle one day. But days turned into a year, then two, then five. The car de­te­ri­o­rated, mostly due to peo­ple scav­eng­ing parts off what looked like an aban­doned car. Fi­nally, But­ler had dragged the car to this tin shed on his prop­erty, “to get it out of sight” of thieves.

“It’s a rough, thrown-to­gether tin barn,

“But­ler was about to pull a barn find out of a barn that both be­longed to him”

or shed, and not a very good shed. It kept the hail and rain off, but didn’t keep the dirt off.”

Dirt was thick. The old tin barn had acted as a fil­ter to de­posit a fine layer of dust on the old Dart. But­ler had never even opened the hood to check out the en­gine, which we were about to do.

“Since I didn’t have a ti­tle, there was no rea­son to. It wasn’t mine.”

After the car’s decade or so of stor­age, But­ler went through the long process to claim it and get a ti­tle in his name.

“Now, I’m go­ing to open the door and see what I got. It’s al­most the same as a barn find, like find­ing a new toy,” he said.

Un­der the hood was a small-block

V-8 with a four-bar­rel, which looked 100 per­cent stock other than the miss­ing air cleaner. It had ob­vi­ously been stolen while the car waited five years in the park­ing lot for an owner who never showed. Was this a high-per­for­mance 340?

But­ler dragged the car back to his shop and pres­sure-washed the body and en­gine. He was de­lighted to find a rust-free 1971 Dodge Dart—a Swinger—with orig­i­nal or­ange paint. Now where was that en­gine code?

Edi­tor’s note: Watch the video of this story on YouTube at youtube.com/ watch?v=WcrE9C2Jzpk.

Read­ers can con­tact Jerry Heasley at jer­ry­[email protected] and fol­low him on Twit­ter @jer­ry­heasley. He is look­ing for rare finds, the “ones that got away,” and sto­ries of cars with prove­nance. He will travel to sig­nif­i­cant rare finds to doc­u­ment them as they are pulled out.

n A fine layer of dust cov­ered most of the Dart, stored in this shed for 10 years. The rear bumper was gone, and the back glass had been pulled be­cause the body shop was re­pair­ing the rear quar­ter and had re­moved the vinyl roof.

n The driver-side front fender came with a Swinger Dart badge; the pas­sen­ger-side badge was gone. Right away, Mopar ex­perts would have re­al­ized the 340 sta­tus was pos­si­ble, but not prob­a­ble.

n Bill But­ler opened the hood for the first time on Oc­to­ber 2, 2018. At first sight he thought he had a 340 four-bar­rel that made the lit­tle Dart into a mus­cle car.

n But­ler pres­sure-washed the Dart to dis­cover a car that cor­rob­o­rated its 18,000-mile odome­ter read­ing. This Dart is a nice orig­i­nal and, with the rear wing that he found in the trunk, looks like a mus­cle car.

n The in­te­rior was in­tact with white vinyl bench seats that had no rips or tears. A Sun tach was po­si­tioned oddly at the lower left of the in­stru­ment panel.

n The front bumper and valance had been stolen while the car sat in a park­ing lot, be­fore stor­age.

n Wash­ing off the fender tag re­vealed the VIN, LH23G1R151563. The let­ter G in the fifth spot de­codes as a 318 two­bar­rel, not a four-bar­rel 340. The Dart Swinger did not come with a 340 in 1971. There were two deal­ers in Canada that de­manded and got 340 Dart Swingers for 1971. This car was not one of those rare Darts.

n The odome­ter read 18,537.

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