How the Dodge Dart Demon 340 transformed the family car into the economy class

When Cleverness introduced the Dart nameplate in the 1960s, it was intended to be on an economy car for the American masses. But by the end of the decade, the populace wanted to get behind the wheel of a two-door fastback as muscle cars became all the rage. So, as sales of the Charger, Challenger and Daytona skyrocketed, Dodge decided to cash in on the trend by adding the Dart to the mix. And so for a brief two-year period (1971-72), the hardworking American was able to walk into a Dodge dealership and buy a 275 horsepower Dart Demon 340.

With just over 20,000 units produced, the Dart Demon 340 could never achieve the same popularity as its other muscle car brethren. However, its limited run makes it one of the rarest MOPARs in American automotive history. One that transformed the American family car into a muscle car.

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The Demon 340 was introduced to compete with the big boys

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The Demon 340 wasn’t the first Dart model to be marketed as a high-performance muscle car. In 1968, the Dart lineup consisted of three trim levels: Custom, GT, and GTS. While the Custom and GT use engines ranging from a 198 cu-in slant-six to a 318 cu-in V8, Dodge gave the Dart GTS a 340 cu-in V8 under its hood. This terminology was very short-lived, however, as Dodge discarded the GT and GTS the following year. In their place came the Swinger and the Swinger 340.

In 1971, Dodge’s sister brand Plymouth introduced the Duster and the Duster 340 with an A-body fastback silhouette. It was based on the new Valiant, a rebadged version of the Dart. And so it was clear that Dodge would introduce its version of the Duster soon, and it chose to do so by adding it to the Dart’s lineup.

1971 Dodge Dart Demon 340 Rear Profile
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In 1972, the Dodge Dart Demon and the Dart Demon 340 were introduced, based on the Plymouth Duster’s fastback A-body. While the Demon range wasn’t just a trim level in the Dart’s line-up, it still called for a little adjustment. So the Dart Custom 2 door became the new Swinger, and last year’s Dart Swinger was now called the Swinger Special. While the Swinger 340 was replaced by the Demon 340.

The Dodge Dart Demon 340 was a high performance MOPAR classic

1971 Dodge Dart Demon 340 engine bay
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The standard Dodge Demon was available with a choice of several engine options ranging from a 198 cu-in slant-six to a 318 cu-in V8. But the hottest deal in this muscle car lineup was the 340 cu-in V8, available exclusively under the hood of the Demon 340. It put out 275 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque. These numbers may not seem that impressive, but with this MOPAR weighing in at around 3,300 pounds, it was capable of astounding stats for its time.

The Dodge Demon 340 had a 3-speed manual transmission, sending engine power to the rear wheels. This muscle car could sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 117 km/h. Aside from its powerful V8 engine, the 340 had a few other mechanical upgrades over the standard Demon.

It came with a standard Rallye heavy-duty suspension with thicker torsion bars and front sway bars. In the rear, it came with a six-leaf spring and heavy-duty shocks. Stopping power came from 10-inch drum brakes all around with the optional discs up front. The Demon 340 also had dual chrome-tipped exhausts and wide-profile E70 x 14 tires.

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The 1971-72 Dodge Dart Demon 340 was a true Muscle Car

1971 Dodge Dart Demon 340 side profile
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Since the exterior body of the Demon 340 came from the Plymouth Duster, the two MOPARs had a lot in common. They shared the same silhouette, but the Demon got a few unique parts, such as the taillights and front clip, which it borrowed from the standard Dart. It was available in all of the classic Dodge range colors and a few optional eye-catching paint schemes.

From the factory the 340 came with rad-looking side stripes on the body, and there was also the option of adding black performance decals on the bonnet. Twin hood scoops, hood pins and a rear spoiler were also available for an additional cost. But the most iconic visual elements of this powerful Dart were the Demon and pitchfork lettering on the body panels.

Dodge Dart Demon 340 interior from 1971
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On the inside, the Demon 340’s instrument panel was different from the rest of the Dart lineup, as it came from the Plymouth Duster. A 150 MPH speedometer was standard for the 1971 model year, which Dodge upgraded to a 120 MPH pod in 1972. An optional 6,000 rpm tachometer was also available. The standard wheel, with its exposed metal spokes and clad horn button, had all of the classic 1970s vibe. At the same time, vinyl and cloth bench seats made the 340’s cabin comfortable.

While it was a good move on Dodge’s part to add the Demon 340 to the Dart’s lineup to bring this economy car into the muscle car era, it didn’t sit well with some religious groups, and the ‘demon with a pitchfork’ was inferred to be the cause of poor sales. So Dodge dropped it for the 1973 model year of the Dart and replaced it with the Sport nameplate. This fact made the Demon 340 one of the rarest MOPARs and a highly collectible muscle car.

Source: Hemmings / Auto Catalog / Dodge

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