While there is a lot of sketchy stuff to be found on Craigslist, every now and then a real gem pops up. Dustin Smith, 31, stumbled upon a 1967 Dodge Dart GT in March 2018 and was so intrigued by the offer that he took a risk and bought the car unseen. Now he has transformed it into a meticulous work of art with modern muscles properly wrapped in a classic body.
The car was in Florida and the older gentleman who had put it up for sale didn’t know much about it. “I had him send me some pictures, and it was a good deal that I went for it,” said Smith, who quickly transferred the money to complete his transaction and had the car shipped to his home in southern Indiana.
Smith originally intended the Dart to be a daily driver while building a Chevy Nova, one of many he’s had over the years, but eventually changed lanes at the thought process and sold the Nova to concentrate solely on the dart.
A CNC machinist by trade, Smith is the owner-operator of Sin-Fab LLC and not only had the right equipment, but also the skills and knowledge needed to transform his Craigslist dart from mediocre to great. “I mainly do machine parts for industrial applications, but I also do a lot of turbo kits for local guys and with this car I knew I had to make one for myself,” he added of his amplified intentions.
Initially, Smith enjoyed the Mopar muscle in naturally aspirated form, as the Dart was already fitted with a nice 5.9-litre Magnum V8 crate engine. Wanting to improve the look of the car to match its performance, he invested the money he made from selling his Nova into a new paint job. “I drove around in a lot of cars until I found the perfect color, which happened to be a Dodge,” he admitted that he was dedicated to selecting the exact right shade, Hydro Blue, which he then named Gary Richey of Mr. Spray for muscle recovery over the body of the Dart.
“I took the engine out after painting it and cleaned it over the winter with new gaskets and studs,” Smith told me of what inspired him to order and install a TorqStorm supercharger for the summer of 2019. It didn’t take long. long after, though, that plans changed again.
In September, Smith had gotten a Gen 3 5.7-liter Hemi engine from a friend and was planning to update his classic ride to more modern standards. “Everyone has seen 10,000 LS swaps, but it’s rare to see a Hemi-swapped car,” he reasoned about the choice. “I could have screwed in a Hellcat blower and let it go for a day, but it’s harder to build custom headers and a turbo system in an A-body, and I make more power with less boost. It’s the setup I’ve always wanted in a classic Mopar, and the results are quite rewarding.”
On January 1, 2020, the lifelong turbocharger enthusiast began ordering the components he needed to complete the project and completed the work less than seven months later.
A “good Facebook deal” helped Smith score some counterfeit parts from a Modern Muscle Xtreme (MMX) drop-in kit, including MAHLE pistons, Molnar connecting rods, a 6.1-liter crankshaft, Comp- ridge and more, all still new in the boxes. He stripped off his engine, checked all dimensions and clearances internally at Sin-Fab to confirm no machining was required, then went to work doing the assembly himself.
Aside from the rotary assembly, Smith chose to keep the rest of the Gen 3 Hemi stock to enjoy some reliability and longevity as he cruises the streets with the Dart. Factory aluminum heads and stock valve train components keep the Hemi humming happily, along with its 10.2:1 compression ratio.
A Holley Terminator X engine management system ensures that the Hemi receives an ample and appropriate amount of fuel as needed, which is fed courtesy of a set of Fuel Injector Clinic’s 1,000cc injectors, Holley inline pump and Aeromotive regulator.
The turbo kit is a masterpiece of Smith’s craft as he built the whole thing from scratch and by hand. It was a challenge to fit all the plumbing and components into a fairly tight space, but he enjoyed the process of figuring out where all the pipes would run and how everything would come together; during assembly, Smith even made the Dart’s K member from scratch to accommodate the engine mounts in the necessary locations.
A forward-facing header setup created by Smith stands out, while the VS Racing 7875 gen II billet turbocharger likes to spool up a mild 10-pound boost when the driver gets a little pedal-happy. Likewise, the TiAL 50mm blow-off valve and VS 44mm wastegate prevent the slug from over-excitation while the compressed air is cooled by the Mishimoto intercooler before flowing through the Holley 92mm throttle body to the factory 6.1-litre Hemi intake manifold.
Initially Smith thought he would go for an automatic transmission, but he had his sights set on overdrive and wasn’t keen on installing a GM 4L80. However, a conversation with a friend inspired him to try a manual transmission instead. “Within 48 hours I had a six-speed TR6060 Magnum with a factory Hellcat clutch on my floor and I’m so glad I went that way,” he noted how much more fun the car is to drive with his Hurst- shifter in place. “I know it won’t be a track queen with the stick shift, but for what I do it’s great and the interstate handling is great.”
Although he grew up going to the track to watch drag races with his father, Kerry, Smith was tired of seeing all his friends struggle by constantly working on their race cars and knew he wanted something he could just enjoy. on the street without frustration.
Knowing that a properly tuned chassis and suspension would go a long way in ensuring a fun ride, Smith reinforced the frame rails before handcrafting the 4140 sway bar, lower wishbones and a plethora of other parts.
He then installed QA1 upper wishbones along with QA1 front coilovers to work with the factory rear leaf springs that use an offset kit, then fitted a Ford Mustang II steering rack. In the rear is a Ford 9-inch rear with 3.55:1 gears reinforced with a coil and a set of axles from Moser.
Once Smith was happy with the performance parts, he focused on the look of the Dart. Inside, the sleek black trim is accentuated by clean Holley gauges and a handy custom aluminum dashboard that Smith made himself. Outside he also manufactured the inlays for the 1968/1969 GTR hood, shaved the radio antenna and added a modified chin spoiler to accentuate the beautiful body lines.
Finally, a set of 15-inch wheels was wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber and bolted on to reveal the Wilwood disc brakes installed in the front, as well as the factor Ford discs in the rear.
For all his efforts, Smith has already been recognized with multiple “Best Mopar” awards at various auto shows since the Dart’s relatively recent completion – including “Best of Show” in the Modified Division at Holley’s first annual MoParty in 2020 at Kentucky’s Beech Bend Raceway Park.
Unfortunately, an incident in November 2020 where another driver backed up into the front corner of Smith’s beautiful showpiece meant he had the perfect excuse to add a new bonnet. “The grill had to be repaired because it’s irreplaceable, but it turns out I could get half the paintwork for free,” laughed Smith, who was delighted at the fantastic job the Corydon Auto Collision team in Indiana was doing mixing together. the repairs with the previous painting.
“I like that I built something different. This is my idea of the perfect street/strip car,” says Smith, rightly proud of the more than 1,000 hours he has invested in his craft. “I ride it on the street 95 percent of the time, and it’s very smooth and quiet. I take it to as many events as possible, both to show it off and to race.”
Smith stated that his beautiful blue 1967 Dodge Dart pumps out an impressive 668 power at the rear wheel and 712 pound-feet of torque at the rear wheel, all done by less than 14.5 psi of boost and on 93-octane pump gas. While he’s still trying to get a “good” pass out of the combination, he drove it in the 1/8-mile deep into the 7-second zone.
Looking to the future, Smith plans to work on the set-up to further improve his elapsed track time. There are certainly more car shows ahead of him as well, and his father, Kerry, who got him into racing in the first place, is still by his side. Now, decades after their first forays into the track, the two men are enjoying the one-of-a-kind Craigslist classic that not only holds up on the track, but also grabs attention everywhere.