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By Steve “Scat Pack” Magnante 9/17/2021 6:00 PM HeritageVideo7 min readDODGE CLASSICS
Just a little over one month from now, Spanky’s Freedom Car Auctions’ Great Texas Mopar® Auction Event will redistribute over 250 vintage and special interest cars, vans and light trucks from a quiet resting place in the Texas prairie to the driveways, garages and workshops of lucky winning bidders. You could be one of them.
Since this amazing collection of vehicles is presently stored in a huge field – sharing space with a herd of cattle and wild critters, including rattlesnakes – and because there are no facilities like restrooms, paved parking, handicap access and all the other details needed when gathering large amounts of bidders together for a traditional on-site vehicle auction, the Great Texas Mopar Auction Event is strictly online. It’ll all be handled via computer screen.
But fear not, every week of every year, Spanky’s Freedom Car Auctions successfully conducts major online auctions featuring livestock, construction equipment, coins and jewelry – and, yes, vintage cars – so they have it down to a science. All you will need is a good Internet connection, a computer with video capabilities and you’re in the mix.
And because the Great Texas Mopar Auction Event is a no-reserve event, every last vehicle will be sold. There won’t be any of the disappointing “no sale, next lot number” flops that can happen with reserve-type auctions where seller expectations (and their reserve amounts) may not be realistic. Will many cars sell for very affordable bids? Count on it.
Let’s gather around and preview another five vehicles that’ll soon find new owners.
1956 CHRYSLER SERIES C73 IMPERIAL: LOT #41
Like Cadillac to General Motors and Lincoln to Ford Motor Company, Chrysler’s Imperial brand started out in 1927 as a premium model above the Chrysler Series 50, 60 and 70 of that year. As Chrysler Corporation’s most elegant – and expensive – line, the Chrysler Imperial was finally made into a separate division in 1954, known simply as Imperial. This 1956 Imperial four-door sedan is an amazingly well-preserved, unrestored example of the entry-level offering.
Originally priced at $4,832 – $392 less than the sleeker pillar-less four-door hardtop – this one has the factory-installed AirTemp air conditioner, a necessity in its native California (the California “black plates”, which read MGK443, are still with the car). Big news for all 1956 Imperials was an increase in the size of the Fire Power HEMI® engine from 331 to 354 cubic inches and a compression ratio boost from 8.5 to 9.0:1. Output surged from 250 to 280 horsepower and even more hot-rodders began searching for crashed Imperials from which to snatch their HEMI-headed hearts.
But not here. Perched ahead of the Powerflite automatic transmission – with first-year push button controls – the 354 HEMI V8 engine is totally stock and wears its heavily silenced oil bath air cleaner unit. The Virgil Exner designed body and massive chromed bumpers and grille are in great condition with the “gunsight” tail lamps poised atop the vestigial tail fins. Though likely in need of a mechanical look-see before road use, this Imperial is ready for fun. The precise definition of that fun – driving to car shows and daily use, or removing the 354 HEMI engine for a hot rod and salvaging the front clip for a Chrysler 300 restoration project – remains up to the successful bidder.
1964 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA: LOT #43
Ba-ba-ra-ra-cu-cu-da-da. That was the refrain of a vintage radio ad for the Plymouth Barracuda when it made its debut on April 1, 1964, a full 16 days ahead of Ford’s Mustang. This 1964 Barracuda is one of 23,443 built but stands tall for its optional 273 V8 – a $131 upcharge over the base 225 Slant Six – and oddball column-shifted three-speed manual transmission. It also has the $100 Sport Group which added faux bolt-on wheel covers, whitewall tires and the three-spoke, wood-rimmed steering wheel.
Though it wears an Eighties-themed bright green re-spray with “boy racer” paint stripes (not to be confused with the more tasteful Formula S center stripe of 1965), the bones of this Barracuda are very solid and ripe for resurrection. Retro funny car fans will notice the synchronicity between the lot number (43) and the fact NASCAR star Richard Petty (whose race number is 43) campaigned a Race HEMI engine-powered Barracuda match racer during Chrysler’s 1965 boycott of NASCAR race events. Would this solid Barracuda make a fitting tribute to “King Richard’s” 43 JR. HEMI engine-powered Barracuda? You decide.
1965 CHRYSLER 300 SPORT: LOT #44
The entire Chrysler lineup received a total restyle for 1965 and this 300 Sport is an outstanding example of the breed. Unlike the preceding 1963 and 1964 models, which suffered from “muffin top” styling, the ’65s benefitted from crisp lines that made the car seem smaller and tighter despite riding on a two-inch-longer wheelbase.
One distinct – and brave – detail found on 1965 300s and New Yorkers was glass-covered quad headlamps. Also employed on 1965 and ’66 Imperials, these flat shatterproof panes featured fine horizontal lines which added an almost culinary feel to the design. Not to be confused with the 1965 300-L, the last of the 300 “letter cars” which were only offered as two-door hardtops and convertibles, the 300 Sport could be had as a four-door sedan or hardtop, a convertible or this two-door hardtop. Of the 27,678 1965 300 Sports built, 11,621 were sporty two-door hardtops like this.
Though the 300 Sport lacked the 300-L’s 413 big block engine, base power wasn’t too far away, coming from the 383 four-barrel which delivered 315 horsepower and came with dual exhaust, all of which are still present on this very clean, very original example. And while a floor shifted four-speed manual transmission was a rare option on all Chrysler 300s (Sport and letter series), the 727 TorqueFlite® was standard issue.
And while the idea of parting out a clean survivor like this chills the bones, let it be known that builders of 1962-1965 Max Wedge and Race HEMI engine-powered Super Stock clones treasure the one-year-only big block 727 TorqueFlite under the floor pan because of its 1965-only pairing of cable operation (easily mated to 1962-64 push button controls) and modern slip-yoke driveshaft coupling (versus the awkward 1962-64 companion flange). But this 1965 Chrysler 300 Sport is just too nice to part out. Right? Right!
1956 PLYMOUTH SAVOY CUSTOM SUBURBAN: LOT #45
Before WWII, station wagons were less popular than convertibles and wood body construction was the norm. But after the war, as returning servicemen started having families, the steel body station wagon became “a thing”. The breakout year was 1956 when station wagons accounted for 11.3 percent of all new cars of all makes in America – up from 8.2 percent in 1955.
This 1956 Plymouth Savoy Custom Suburban two-door station wagon was part of the station wagon bonanza. As a Savoy, it’s a mid-priced unit, slotted between the entry-level Plaza and top-tier Belvedere. Plymouth offered two- and four-door station wagons in 1956, as they did for many years before 1961 when four-door wagons became the rule. Of the 81,792 station wagons built in 1956, just 9,489 were two-door Savoy Custom Suburbans like this.
Base price was $2,312, just $46 less than its four-door sibling. Though the original 268-cubic-inch polyspherical head V8 is missing (non-V8 wagons lack the “Vee” emblems on the tailgate and grill), the secondary tailgate emblem tells us this car was originally ordered with the $184 Powerflite two-speed automatic transmission. Beyond those amenities, an austere feel permeates this nearly rust-free wagon from its primitive sliding glass side windows to its split “head banger” tailgate.
With its final-year coil spring front suspension (torsion bars arrived in 1957) and first-year push button automatic transmission controls, this original paint two-door wagon is a special find. We can’t see much advantage in performing a showroom stock restoration, but a tasteful 6.4 HEMI / TorqueFlite 8 infusion would add new life to this rare work horse.
1963 DODGE DART GT CONVERTIBLE: LOT #48
The Dodge Dart nameplate first appeared in 1960 as a replacement for the Coronet line. Those 1960-61 Darts were big cars. In 1962, the Dart nameplate transitioned onto the smaller – and all-new – B-body series of mid-size cars that hosted the mighty Ramcharger 413 Max Wedge for the first time. After just one year, Dodge once again shifted the Dart nameplate onto an even smaller car based on the compact A-body platform. And it is these compact A-body Dodge Darts that were produced in the largest numbers from 1963 through 1976.
This 1963 Dart GT convertible represents the first of the breed. Based on the compact A-body Lancer of 1961-62, the compact-sized 1963 Dart was born to take on competitors like the Ford Falcon and Fairlane, Mercury Comet, Chevy Nova and Corvair, Rambler American, Studebaker Lark, Buick Special, Pontiac Tempest, Oldsmobile F85 and Dart’s corporate cousin, the Plymouth Valiant (with which it shares its A-body platform).
While the vast majority of the 153,906 Darts built in 1963 were of the bland, basic transportation variety, Dodge set the Dart GT aside for those who wanted some fun. All GTs came with front bucket seats (an exotic detail in 1963), a padded instrument panel, full wheel covers and specific GT emblems, details which helped attract 34,300 buyers. There was no V8 offered until the 1964 arrival of the all-new 273 LA series small block, but as period magazine road tests confirm, the GT’s 145-horsepower 225 Slant Six was quicker than all but the turbocharged Corvair Spyder and Oldsmobile’s 215-cubic-inch all-aluminum V8 powered Cutlass Jetfire (also turbocharged).
The Dart’s base three-on-the-tree manual transmission was standard in the GT unless $172 was spent for the push button-controlled A904 three-speed automatic seen on this example. But more than the GT package, more than the bucket seats, more than the “dial-a-win” transmission, this Dart’s convertible status places it into a special realm. Again, of the 153,906 Darts built in 1963, just 11,390 – or about one in fourteen – were open air convertibles.
Sure, the vinyl top is in tatters, but the all-important power articulated top frame is present and ready for revitalization. A magnet test for rust and corrosion shows minimal rust and the under hood area lacks the typical holes and patchwork typical of rust belt examples. This little red Dart stands ready for fun and many more miles on the open road.
Well that’s a wrap for this week’s vehicle preview from the Great Texas Mopar Auction Event. But we’ll be back next week right here at the DodgeGarage with more, more, more!