Rick Giesbrecht of Stephenfield spared no detail in restoring this 1962 Dodge Dart. His family purchased the vehicle in 1964. (Larry D’Argis photos / Winnipeg Free Press)
The 1960s was a decade of change in automobile styling. The heavy fin and chrome era was left behind in favour of a leaner look with the emphasis on roomy interiors, useable trunks and improved ride and fuel economy.
That didn’t mean the cars were devoid of style. In fact, they saw a change almost every year.
In the Dodge camp, the 1962 Dart was completely restyled from the ground up. Riding on a two-inch shorter 116-inch wheelbase and with a 202-inch overall length, the Dart was 10-inches shorter than the 1961 model.
The redesign featured a unique headlamp arrangement with the inboard lamps mounted higher in the oval grille than the fender lamps. Sharp sculptured fenders, both fore and aft, gave the perception of motion and a style that no other make had on the market.
For Rick Giesbrecht of Stephenfield, his 1962 Dodge Dart had been around his whole life.
Sitting on the lot in 1964 as used vehicles at the Rambler dealership in Morden, two 1962 Dodge Dart sedans were offered for sale. Both low-mileage, well-cared-for government lease vehicles, a gold coloured one was purchased by his uncle Frank and the chocolate brown sedan went home with his parents, Susan and Henry.
The Dart sedan with its slant six-cylinder engine and column-shift, three-speed manual transmission served the Giesbrecht family well. Later passed down to brother Ed and Larry before Rick received it as his first car in 1981, the Dart was like a family heirloom.
An electrical failure forced Rick to retire the car as his daily driver, but in the fall of 2007, he stripped the car down to its uni-body and frame for a full restoration.
New bushings, steering, suspension and braking system was the first order of business.
For power, the slant-six was retired in favour of a 230-horsepower, 318-cubic-inch V-8 from a 1974 Plymouth Duster that was rebuilt by Millar Auto Machine in Winkler. Mated to a three-speed manual transmission, rebuilt by Trans Tech, Giesbrecht had moved the shift lever from the steering column to the floor, with a Hurst floor conversion kit.
Fitted with electronic ignition and a custom 2.25-inch diameter dual exhaust system with Hush Thrush mufflers and resonators, installed by Wes’s Tire Shop in Carman, it’s a little livelier than the original stock slant-six the factory installed.
Giesbrecht performed the metalwork, including any required straightening and rust repair, before Hillbillies Garage in Lockport got the nod to repaint the dart in a lava-red hue from a 2009 Mitsubishi. Wet-sanded and polished, the flawless finish dances in the light.
The stainless trim was reworked, straightened and polished by Giesbrecht and the bumpers replaced by North Star Plating.
Inside the passenger compartment, Omer Gautron at Omer’s Designs in Fannystelle, Man., reupholstered the interior in a white vinyl, indicative of the original pattern.
Giesbrecht painstakingly rebuilt the rare dash switches, and a new tinted windshield was installed. The original AM radio resides in the dash while a hidden Sony AM/FM CD stereo takes care of supplying the road tunes. Monitoring the engine functions are auxiliary oil and amperes gauges and Pro tachometer.
The Dart rides on a set of 15-inch Cragar S/S five-spoke chrome wheels, shod with 245/60 and 215/65 series, BF Goodrich raised-white-letter radial tires. Period-correct and looking all dressed for a night on the town, the wheel and tire combo works perfectly with the ’60s styling.
Completed in the spring of 2010, Giesbrecht’s Dart is used sparingly as a summer driver. It’s styling a testament to an era gone by and a time where things were looked after and made to last.
Family vehicles are often traded-in and forgotten, but for Giesbrecht, the Dart’s history and provenance are all here. It just adds a sense of cool to be able to say you still have the family car.
Today marks the eighth annual collector-car appreciation day. The Manitoba Association of Auto Clubs and its members invite everyone to help celebrate the heritage and culture of the automobile.
The festivities take place at Memorial Park across from the Manitoba legislature and run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. this evening. All are welcome to attend.
The engine is a 318-cubic-ince V-8.
The interior of Rick Giesbrecht’s 1962 Dart features the original AM radio.