1963 Dodge Dart
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1963 Dodge Dart

This is another of Jon's toys that has taken up space in my driveway and absorbed my copious free time. For those of you keeping score, this is the second funky little early sixties Mopar that I've let Jon drag to my house (actually, the third if you count his parts car...) - if you have not read it already, you should first go read all about the first car if Jon's that arrived in my driveway to get some sense of context and background for this page.

Basically, he found this locally for $400 - it was so cheap because it had a thrown rod. Add in a free slant 6 engine from a 1980 Plymouth Volare, and we decided to do a low-buck engine swap to get him a bearable daily driver. This car has the funky pushbutton automatic and the interior is in pretty decent shape. It also recently had new tires, brakes, tune-up, and a bunch of other work, so the purchase price was actually a pretty good deal. Now all we have to do is make it run... He's paying for the parts, I'm having fun doing the work, and he'll get a decent running car out of it for a good price. I think it's a win-win situation. :-)

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This is the free engine. Kinda grimy, but not too bad. It came with 3 carbs, 2 air cleaners, and a bunch of emissions-related odds and ends. Everything except a distributor, but oddly enough, it including the electronic ignition control box with the wiring harness. The inside of the valve cover looked like a typical 100,000 mile engine, the picture here is after a good hour or so of cleaning it in my parts washer.

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Carnage! This is what happens when you neglect a motor. The #1 rod (that's the rearmost cylinder for you non-Mopar fanatics...) decided to break apart just above where the cap mounts and punch a hole in the block right behind the starter. From the looks of the bearing surfaces on the crank, it was run with very dirty oil for some time before this happened - the scoring is intense and deep. The rod not only snapped, it twisted and bent. Wow. I have most of the block pieces along with at least some of the big end of the rod - I'm going to dismantle the engine and put this all up as a wall of carnage or something.

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This is the engine bay sans engine -  grimy and typical for an untouched 1963 vehicle. Stuff had been serviced during it's lifetime, but oil and grime accumulate and add up over time. The pic of the engine is just after we yanked it out of the car.

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A few minutes with some Simple Green and a pressure washer can do wonders for a grimy engine bay. In this case, the grime was over an inch think on one area of the frame, but it came of pretty easily. I could scrub it down some more, but I figure since I'm not going to paint it, the light coating of grease should help prevent flash rust from forming. At least it doesn't have that "slimy" feeling to it anymore when you need to touch things while working on the car...

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Well, the engine is in and the car is mobile again - under it's own power, no less! The biggest issues we had with the swap were:

  •  Swapping the intake/exhaust/carb from the old motor so we could use the same throttle linkage.
  •  Hammer-clearancing the oil pan for the steering linkage. We decided to not swap oil pans and pickups (too lazy), and the pan hit the linkage when it was "centered" So we whacked on it for a bit with a hammer and drift to give it a 1/2" or so of clearance.
  •  Getting the right fan spacer and fan for the car so it did not hit the radiator. The nice 7 blade fan needed an oddball size spacer that we couldn't find (3/4" long - they only come in 1/2" increments), so we used a 1" spacer and the 4 blade fan from the new motor.
  •  Hammering the metal plate on the bottom of the starter back into shape so it would stay in place. It had been struck hard by the rod exiting the block on the previous motor and bent up pretty badly, but other than that was in pretty good shape.
  •  Fixing a seriously jury-rigged in-line trans fluid filter. The original setup was leaking all over the exhaust (aka - the "smokescreen feature"), so we got three fittings to make it all work right and re-used the same filter - voila, no more smokescreen. The parts store even gave us the fittings for free.
  •  Plugging the wiring harness for the reverse light back in at the gearshift assembly so they would work. Why it got unplugged I may never know, but it was an easy fix.

Translation: The swap went pretty well. Amazingly well all considered.

NOTE: The trans filter setup is a common issue on this era Mopar. The automatics did not use a "normal" in-pan filter on the pickup (way to go Mother Mopar!), but instead used an external filter in one of the trans lines. The external filters are not available from any source I can find, and short of modifying the innards of the trans (aka, the pickup tube), you need an external filter. The one on this car was a WIX #51964 - which is now superceded by a WIX #58964 which is still available. The factory setup has fittings in the hard line that screw right into the factory filter. The aftermarket filters will just have push on hose fittings, so you need adaptors to go from 5/16" tube (one male and one female) to 5/16" hose male. In our case we couldn't find the 5/16" female fitting, so we use a 5/16" tube fitting union and another 5/16" male fitting. Note that some non-name brand fittings (like what we found at the parts store) can have metric wrench sizes and the tube fittings are usually soft brass, so use the right wrenches to tighten stuff! You will need to gently bend the existing hard line for clearance to make this work (keep it away from the exhaust as much as possible), and make sure to clamp both ends of the both short sections of hose you use to connect the filter to the lines. Don't forget to get the "flow" direction on the filter correct! The factory filter on this car was in the return line that goes from the radiator back to the trans, so the flow arrow points towards the firewall. Tie-wrap the filter to the factory bracket so it doesn't flop around, and you're done.

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Jon is now driving this beast on a regular basis - it's his daily driver. The car runs pretty well considering how much stuff we did not buy and how low-buck this swap was. We even re-used the anti-freeze we drained out of the original motor since it was relatively new... The brakes were recently redone, and all we did was a few stops forward and backwards to self-adjust them and rub off any crud that had accumulated while the car sat.

Amazingly enough, other than the fact that the engine burns oil (duh) and one tire has a slow leak, the car actually runs pretty darned well. The old battery finally gave up and went to battery heaven, but my tune-up job has been good enough to get Jon to work for a few months now without any major incidents. The only remaining stuff to fix would be that slow leak and the fact that the engine is really slow to warm up for as of yet some unknown reason.


For fun, we tore down the blown motor. Grimy, but interesting. I junked the block and cam, but I've got pretty much everything else in my garage somewhere. I kept the crank for fun and for the off chance it's turn-able and could be reused (doubtful).

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Jon is using this car as a template for the work to put disc brakes on his 1964 Valiant - think of it as the 3D rolling assembly manual. He needed a good reference for what the master cylinder setup looked like originally, so he snapped a couple of photos.

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Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? You can email Mike or Debbie.

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Page last updated 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM