When the Chrysler Corporation introduced the Dodge Dart in 1960, it wasn’t intended as a premium performance car. In fact, the idea of an American muscle car had yet to be pitched and Dodge was merely trying to compete with their Plymouth cousin. But that all changed in the late 60s and early 70s when the race for sales sky rocketed in the famed muscle car era. Cars like the Charger, Challenger and Daytona all catapulted into fame as the Mopar muscle cars of the era, but not unnoticed was the unique Dodge Dart Demon 340.
Attempting to give the once low-budget Dart a jump into the muscle car market, Dodge introduced the Dart GTS in 1967, produced only in a limited run due to its late release in the year. In 1968, the GTS model was fitted with Dodge’s 340ci V-8.
The following year, the Dart acquired names like Swinger and Swinger 340, in addition to the once again limited run GTS models fitted with massive 440ci V-8s. In 1970, the Swinger 340 became the top performance Dart model, fitted with the top-of-the-line 340ci engine after the optional 383ci engine was discontinued.
Building an A-body Monopoly and the Controversy That Ensued
By 1971, the Dart lineup changed again- this time introducing the famed Dodge Dart Demon and Demon 340 to the mix. But the Demon series wasn’t just another Dart trim level. In fact, in 1971, Dodge received a version of the Plymouth Valiant-based Duster to increase interest in their A-body designs, which Dodge used as the new Dart. Plymouth also received a new A-body model, a version of the Dodge Swinger which they rebadged as the Scamp.
Originally, the newly acquired Valiant-based Duster was to be rebadged as the Beaver for Dodge’s line-up. Ironically, however, Chrysler’s marketing department found out soon after their name choice had been disclosed that “Beaver” was actually slang for a part of the female anatomy on CB radio waves all across the country.
Not wanting to stir up controversy, they decided to name the new model the Demon instead. Unbenounced to them, however, the new Demon nameplate continued to pave the road to unwelcome controversy.
Having a religious background or not, one might be able to discern why the Demon name tag struck certain groups as support of an anti-Christ. Although not intended as such (in fact, the historic reasoning behind the name was in correspondence with getting people to come in for a look at the car, as in “Come in for a Demon-stration”), the name instantly hit a sore nerve with some groups, which immediately started pressuring Dodge to change the vehicle’s name. Dodge refused, of course, and continued on with their new Demon models.
To fit the new Dart Demon into the lineup, Dodge shifted the Swinger name over to the custom 2-door Dart model and introduced the Swinger Special name to replace the Dart Swinger moniker.
Dodge’s Devil Child
Introduced in two levels, the Demon came with either a 198ci slant-six or a 340ci V-8. The larger of the two engines went hand in hand with the Demon 340 moniker, complete with cartoon devil and trident decals on the car.
The 340ci engine featured a hot cam, hydraulic lifters, and a 10.5:1 compression ratio. And although it wasn’t of the big block variety like many competitors were equipping their vehicles with, it certainly gave any competitor a run for its money with the car weighing in at just 3,165lbs.
In addition to the 275hp 340ci engine capable of producing 340lb-ft of torque, the 1971 Demon 340 was equipped with a synchronized floor-shifted 3-speed manual transmission, dual exhaust, all-wheel drum brakes, a Sure-Grip differential, and wide-tread bias belted E70X14 Goodyear Polyglas GT tires wrapped around 14-inch wheels. A special high-performance Rallye suspension was also standard equipment on the Demon 340, featuring heavy duty torsion bars and a stablizer bar in the front, as well as springs, oversized shock absorbers and anti-sway bar in the rear.
Other features that became synonymous with the Demon 340 were the special blacked-out dual scoop hood and additional spoiler package, both optional for the 340, as well as eye-popping exterior color options like Go-Green and Citron Yella. The ’71 Dart lineup, including the Demon 340, was also among the first vehicles to include a cassette player in their interior.
Demon 340 owners could also opt for a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission in place of the standard 3-speed manual gearbox.
Other optional equipment included bucket seats, a 6,000RPM tachometer, and Rallye wheels, as well as different mirrors, interior, tires and a thick rimmed, 14 1/2-inch “Tuff” steering wheel with the high-end Demon Sizzler package. A choice from several rearend gear ratios, ranging from 2.94:1 all the way up to 4.10:1, were also available to Demon 340 purchasers.
By 1972, the Demon had proved to be less popular than expected, but Dodge continued on with the model through the 1972 model year. For the second year of the Demon, the car received the same base slant-six engine and added a 225ci slant-six, but the 340ci V-8 was detuned due to government emission regulations to boast only 240hp and 290lb-ft of torque.
A decrease in power along with a not-so-popular run in the first place caused the Demon much trouble at the end of the 1972 model year. Adding injury to insult, many Christian groups were still after Dodge for the car’s nameplate and subsequent cartoon devil logo, some even going so far as to protest against the car as well as the Dodge brand.
After a two-year fight, Dodge changed the name of the car in 1973, offering the Dart Sport and Dart Sport 340 instead of the Demon and Demon 340.
Although the changed model name appeased angry religious groups, it didn’t increase the car’s popularity and the Dart Sport line only ran for three more years. By the end of 1976, all Dart models were pulled from the American automotive market.
While the Dodge Dart Demon 340 may not have been the most popular performance car of its day, it has become highly sought after due to its uniqueness and rarity in the industry. In 1971, only 10,098 Demon 340s were produced in comparison to 69,861 base Demons and 102,480 Dart Swingers.
In 1972, even fewer Dart Demon 340s were produced, with only about 8,700 coming off of the factory floor. Because of this, seeing a true Dodge Dart Demon 340, be it a 1971 or a 1972 model, is becoming rarer and rarer by the day.
Lucky for us, we ran into the ’71 Demon 340 you see pictured here at a recent KBPI radio event at Bandimere Speedway in Colorado. Decked to the nines in almost completely original equipment, this Demon was a pure joy to be able to experience up close and personal- a true treat for a true Demon 340 enthusiast for sure!
For more pictures of this amazing Demon 340, check out the Gallery Below!