Strange but true: The first Dodge to wear the Dart nameplate wasn’t a compact sedan like the 2013 Dodge Dart. It was a mid-sized sedan produced from 1960 to 1963. Stranger yet: The name originally chosen for this car wasn’t Dart. It was Zipp.
How’s that for a car name—Zipp? Reportedly, the name tested extremely well in consumer surveys.
However, the Zipp name was dropped before introduction (fortunately, perhaps) in favor of Dart, and this first generation of models using the name was very successful for Dodge. The Phoenix shown here was the top of the 1961 Dart lineup, which also included the Seneca at the base trim level and the Pioneer in the middle.
The Dart was a bit smaller than the full-size Polara but compensated Dodge shoppers with an impressive list of equipment, including a deluxe all-vinyl interior on the Phoenix. Powertrain choices included a Slant Six and a 318-cubic-inch V8, or even a 361-cubic-inch V8 with 265 hp for drivers seeking the ultimate in performance.
One feature Dodge was noted for in these years was the location of the center rearview mirror: It was mounted not up high at the top of the windshield but down on the top of the dash. In theory the sight lines were better with this lower location, but in practice the view was often obstructed when passengers sat in the rear seat. Dodge gave up and adopted a conventional mirror location for 1964.
One extremely rare option for 1961 was an RCA record player. Originally known as Highway Hi-Fi, this unit mounted under the dash in a shock-proof case and played seven-inch, 45 rpm records through the car’s radio system. However, to reduce skipping the tone arm required extremely high tracking force, which wore out records at a frightening rate. Aren’t you glad we have compact discs and MP3s today?