Exhaustive Comparisons: A Review of Dodge Dart Exhaust Systems through the Past Fifty Years
I was reading the latest issue of Automobile magazine today (January 2013 issue) and came across an ad for the Dodge Dart that blew me away – twice, you might say. There, on the inside back cover is a full page image depicting the tail of a spanking new white Dart Rallye. The nose of the car is pointed toward a distant mountain range and the picture is framed and lit to highlight the Dart’s standard dual exhaust outlets. Most intriguing to a motor head like me (and probably you as well) is how the ad copy is all about those sexy twin pipes. In part it reads: “It’s just integrated dual exhaust…so why are we the only ones to offer it? It might seem like a small detail, but it’s indicative of something much bigger. Other car companies have lowered your expectations for what a compact car can be. Maybe they’ve lowered their expectations. When we designed the all-new Dart, we built it from scratch with everything we’ve ever wanted in a compact car. And, sometimes, two of everything”.
That “two of everything” is the part we’re hot for. You see, dual exhaust systems have long been a symbol of power and street credibility. Back in the Fifties when the Detroit horsepower race was first getting started, if your car didn’t have dual exhaust, you added them – even guys with obsolete inline six-bangers split the manifold and ran duals out to the back bumper. Dual exhaust was a tip-off the car was packing one of the new wave of post-WWII overhead valve V8 engines. Those twin banks of cylinders needed an individual exhaust tract – thus two outlets peering from beneath the rear bumper – to breathe properly. Cars like the 1953 Dodge Coronet – with its new Red Ram Hemi V8 – re-set the bar and the potent thrum of “twice pipes” was new music – as potent as the new “rock and roll” – to an eager public’s ears from coast to coast.
Now it is true that a car like the all new Dart – with its lineup of transverse-mounted, inline four cylinder engines (the standard 2.0L, 16V Tigershark, optional 1.4L, 16V intercooled turbo MultiAir and optional 2.4L 16V Tigershark MultiAir II) – doesn’t need the added breathing potential of twin, parallel dual exhaust head pipes, mufflers, catalytic converters and tail pipes, but there is no harm done in fitting sexy dual outlets to let the troops know the car is ready for serious fun. Rather, the dual outlets jutting out from the rear fascia get back to the advertisement’s statement they’re “indicative of something much bigger”.
Don’t misunderstand and assume the car is a throwback to earlier days, the Dart Rallye is capable of delivering refined comfort and stellar fuel economy that’s in line with its competition, but the dual bright metal adorned exhaust tips are a tip-off there’s plenty of sporting intent packed into the rest of the package. By contrast, many of the other compact on the market were designed by folks who almost seem to hide their single exhaust outlets. That’s a sign, maybe, the rest of the car is equally as uninspired – and uninspiring to own. I look at a few of the competing cars and I do get the sense – as the Dodge ad says – “maybe they’ve lowered their expectations (for what a compact car can be)”! Not so, the new Dart.
All of this got me thinking about the history of dual exhaust systems – and how they’ve been employed beneath Dodge Dart models through the years. Let’s remember, the Dart nameplate was first affixed to a one-off show car in 1956 which was called…the Dart, before being lightly face lifted in 1957 and re-named the Diablo. This Italian-built showpiece was designed by legendary stylist Virgil Exner and constructed by Ghia. And yes, its Chrysler Fire Power Hemi exhaled through a dual exhaust system – a rather brutal looking set of chromed straight pipes jutting boldly out from beneath the gently rolled rear valance panel, parallel to the tarmac. Please note, this particular Dart – the first of the breed – is correctly described as a Chrysler offering since it was funded by Chrysler Corporation and based on a Chrysler Imperial chassis. This wonderful million dollar creation still exists in the hands of a collector and was recently displayed at the prestigious Pebble Beach event.
Stop back next week on Wednesday, and we’ll take a deep dive into the Dart and its long history with dual exhaust. –Steve Magnante