After years of positioning itself as a mid-line brand, above entry-level Plymouth but below range-topping Chrysler, Dodge introduced a line of automobiles in 1960 to take on economy models from Ford, Chevrolet, and by default, Plymouth. Economy didn’t necessarily mean de-contented or underpowered, and Dodge’s new Dart could be had in multiple trim levels with five different engine options. Atop the list was the Dodge Dart Phoenix with the optional D-500 engine package, an unsung muscle car unfamiliar to many. Next January, a well-appointed and numbers-matching 1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix D-500 from the Jackie and Gary Runyon Collection will cross the auction block at Mecum’s Kissimmee, Florida sale, giving fans of Mopar muscle something a bit unusual to bid for.
For consumers, there was much to like about the new-for-1960 Dodge Dart lineup. Featuring styling by Virgil Exner, the Darts resembled Dodge’s larger and more expensive offerings, the Matador and the Polara. Like all 1960 Chrysler products (excluding Imperial), the Darts used unibody construction, which Dodge billed as stronger, quieter and roomier inside than traditional body-on-frame construction methods. Featuring three trim levels (entry-level Seneca, mid-range Pioneer, and luxurious Phoenix) and a myriad of body styles that included everything from convertibles to station wagons, there was likely a Dart model suitable for most consumers.
The Dart Phoenix two-door hardtop was priced from $2,618 when equipped with the new 225-cu.in. Slant Six engine, which must have made the $748 cost (an additional 29%) of the optional D-500 engine package difficult to swallow for most buyers. Checking off that box delivered a 383-cu.in. V-8 with a pair of four-barrel carburetors perched atop a Ram Induction intake manifold, mated to a push-button Torqueflite automatic transmission. Rated at 330 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, the setup likely produced performance unmatched by other “economy cars” of the day. As if to further solidify the Dodge Dart’s performance image, Norm Thatcher drove a supercharged 1960 Dart Phoenix to a trio of records in Bonneville, ultimately posting a top speed of 191.8 MPH.
The example to be offered in Kissimmee is described as coming with “every available option,” a list that includes power windows, swivel seats, an electric clock, power steering, power brakes, the Astrophonic AM radio with lighted push-button controls and a rear-seat speaker, stone guards, and door-edge moldings. Mecum claims the example is one of 586 Dart Phoenix models built with the D-500 engine option, but we were unable to verify this number. Given the added cost, it’s believable that just a fraction of the 70,700 Dart Phoenix models assembled in 1960 came with the range-topping V-8.
Restored in recent years, this example also comes complete with a copy of the IBM data card, Chrysler production records and boxes of spare parts. Mecum is predicting a selling price between $80,000 and $110,000 when this Dodge Dart Phoenix D-500 crosses the stage on Friday, January 13, 2017.
As a side note, the introduction of the Dart series did indeed help to drive Dodge’s sales upwards in 1960. In 1959, the division produced a total of 151,851 automobiles, compared to 411,666 automobiles in 1960. Of these, 262,300 were Darts, meaning that model handily outsold all of Dodge’s production from the previous year.
For more on Mecum’s Kissimmee sale, visit Mecum.com.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.