For 1963, Dodge shuffled its product lineup, dropping the old Lancer compact and applying the Dart badge to an all-new product called the “senior compact” line. This latest Dodge Dart slotted into the traditional compact category, but with extra size, features, and style that placed it at the top of the class.
The wheelbase was lengthened from the Lancer’s 106.5 inches to 111 inches to provide more cabin space, especially for rear seat passengers. A 170 cubic-inch Slant Six with 101 horsepower was standard, while a larger, 225 cubic-inch Slant Six rated at 145 hp was available for $50 more. Only six-cylinder engines were offered in the Dart’s first year; for 1964, the engine compartment was redesigned to accommodate a new 273 cubic-inch V8.
Available transmissions included a three-speed manual and the famed TorqueFlite automatic, which featured the Chrysler Corporation’s signature push-button shift control. Instead of a gear-selection lever on the steering column, there was a vertical row of buttons on the left side of the dash. This distinctive, easy-to-use feature is still fondly recalled by car enthusiasts today. Available options included power steering and a transistorized, “instant-on” radio. Don’t laugh: Before this innovation appeared, passengers had to wait a minute or two for the old-fashioned tube-type radios to warm up.
To appeal to a young, sporty audience, fabrics and colors were bright and jazzy, complementing the bold new body design. The 1963 Dart was a big hit in the showrooms that year, outselling the previous Lancer compact by nearly 100 percent.