Inexpensive V8 power was once commonplace in smallish cars, and you could also choose to be stealthy.
Dodge entered the decade of the 1970s in surprisingly good shape when it came to its smaller cars, with the Dart lineup and its Plymouth twins providing car buyers a lot of variety on the cheap, while also offering some hair-raising performance versions for those with a little extra dough.
While the Dodge Dart itself gained no shortage of glory with V8 power in the late 1960s—including the Hurst-tuned Hemi Darts—the ’70s brought the sprawling Dart lineup changes to maintain separation from the larger Challenger. But this didn’t prevent cars like the Dart Swinger from playing the role of the sporty offering, with V8 power underhood.
Fast forward a year, and Dodge also gained a variant of the Plymouth Duster (badge engineering being out of control during this time) dubbed the Dart Demon. And that’s the vehicle you see here.
Except, there wasn’t just one of them for the 1971 model year. You could have a choice of two Slant Six options on the Demon, with 198- or 225-cubic-inch displacement, or a choice of two V8s with 318- or 340-CID.
This is the latter of the… Four Demons of the Apocalypse, with a 275-hp V8 paired with a three-speed manual transmission. A catchy badge advertised what was under the hood, while the heavy-duty brakes and the Rallye suspension pack kept things mostly in check.
A selection of visual upgrades let The Law know that you were up to no good on a Friday night while cruising to the drive-in, but on the inside the Demon 340 would seem spartan today, with a vinyl bench seat (ideal for the yawn-and-reach-over during the film) and plenty of metal surfaces. But if you wanted a tach, that was an option you had to order.
“This year, you get our high-revving small V8. With new frenched rear lights and a clean-looking grille,” ad copy of the time promised. “All this run on heavy-duty torsion-bar-sprung Rallye Suspension; heavy-duty shocks; big brakes; and a slick, full-synchro floor-mounted box. Add a readable speedometer with resettable trip indicator and a sanitary, roomy, all-vinyl interior, and you’re ready to roll.”
And given the V8’s refinement, that sanitary all-vinyl interior just might come in handy if your movie date was prone to getting car sick.
“This may be our lowest priced performance car, but you’d never know it from the way it keeps up with the big boys,” the ad copy boasted.
Speaking of pricing, the Dart Demon 340 was indeed affordable, with a price tag of $2721 in 1971. This works out to just $20,374 in today’s money, and we don’t need to tell you how much you won’t get for that amount these days. (You will get airbags and other safety tech in your Mitsubishi Mirage that you would have desperately needed in 1971, but the point stands).
Two-speed windshield wipers and a cigarette lighter were both standard equipment, we’re pleased to report, so all the basics of driving visibility and nicotine intake were covered.
Curiously enough, the hood scoops, spoiler, and black hood were all options, so one could skip them entirely to try to stay out of sight of The Man, as this car did. But the orange paint would still give you away to some extent.
The reason you may not have seen a lot of Demon 340s in the 1970s, even if you were looking for such things at the time, was the fact that they were offered for just two model years, 1971 and 1972, with Dodge selling about 10,000 Demon 340 units for the first year, and fewer still in 1972. For 1973 the model was renamed the Dart Sport 340, and the base Demon was gone as well, given the name Dart Sport.