A Look Back at Dodge’s Iconic Devil Car: The Demon
You’ve undoubtedly heard that the Dodge Dart nameplate will be resurrected in 2013. With the reintroduction of a name like Dart into the automotive market, we can’t help but think what that may mean for the Dart sub-models of the muscle car era, especially the Dodge Demon. While it may strike up another controversy and some religious groups may not appreciate a remake of Dodge’s iconic “devil car,” we’re routing for Demon and the Demon 340 to make a long-awaited comeback.
The Demon sub-model came late in the Dart’s life. After the Dart’s success in the Sports Car Club of America in the late ‘60s, Dodge refreshed the model in 1970 with new front and rear styling.
The 1970 refresh also attached the Swinger name to all 2-door hardtop Darts, except for the Custom series vehicles. Wanting to avoid competition within the Dodge brand with the newly-released Challenger, the convertible and 383cui engine were discontinued for the Dart model.
After the refresh, the only performance vehicle that remained in the Dart line-up was the Swinger 340, a 2-door hardtop coupe with a 340cui V8 under the hood, front disc brakes, Rallye suspension and a 3.23-to-1 rearend gear ratio. The Swinger 340 also came with a laundry list of available options, such as vinyl bucket seats, power brakes, power steering and a 6000RPM tachometer.
In 1971, the Swinger name was shifted to the custom 2-door Dart and the basic Dart Swinger became the Swinger Special. As a marketing move for both Dodge and Plymouth to keep interest in their A-body cars for 1971, both companies received a model from their counterpart for that model year. Plymouth received a version of the Dodge Swinger, which they named the Scamp, and Dodge received a version of the Valiant-based Plymouth Duster.
Dodge’s new Duster model was to be named the “Beaver” until the company found out that the word “beaver” was a slang term used by CB radio users for part of the female anatomy. So the Dodge sales department decided on the name Demon, as in, “Come in for a Demon-stration.” The new Demon model went on sale for the 1971 model year.
The new ‘71 Dodge Demon was available in two different models. The base Demon came with either a 198cui Slant-Six or a 318cui V8 engine. Those individuals looking for something a bit more potent opted for the Demon 340, the model that took the place of the Dodge Swinger 340 that year.
The performance Demon model boasted the same 340cui V8 that the Dodge Swinger 340 had had previously. This engine pushed out a respectable 275hp and 340 lbs-ft of torque and came matted to a floor-shifted three-speed manual transmission in standard form.
Dodge equipped the Demon 340 with their high-performance Rallye suspension, which made use of a stabilizer bar and heavy duty torsion bars in the front, along with springs and shock absorbers in the rear. All-wheel drum brakes came standard on the Demon, as did wide-tread bias belted tires and 14-inch wheels.
Available options for the Demon included 14 color choices with four “high impact colors” for an additional price. Demon owners could also order either a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission, bucket seats, 6000RPM tachometer, special blacked-out dual scoop hood and a rear spoiler for their car. For an upgraded look, a Demon Sizzler option was available, which included different mirrors, trim, tires, steering wheel and interior.
Due to new federal regulations on gas usage and compression ratios, the Demon 340 fell victim to a decrease in horsepower and torque when its 340cui V8’s compression ratio was changed from 8.5 to 1 for the 1971 model to 10.5 to 1 for the 1972 model. The ‘72 Demon 340 was only rated at 240hp with 290 lbs-ft of toque.
A decrease in power wasn’t the only trouble the Dodge Demon faced in 1972. Although the name was innocent enough, many Christian groups objected to the Demon nameplate when it was attached to the car in 1971, and further objected to the smiling devil and pitchfork emblem that appeared on the vehicle. Some of these Christian groups were so against the Demon name that they even protested against the car and the Dodge brand.
For two years, Dodge fended off complaints about the Demon name from religious organizations but was so overwhelmed by their outcry that the Demon name only lasted through the 1972 model. In 1973, the Demon was renamed the Dart Sport with the Dart Sport 340 taking the place of the Demon 340.
The name change appeased the religious groups but didn‘t make the model any more popular. The Dart Sport ran for only three years and was discontinued as a separate model in 1976. After the 1976 model year, all Dart models disappeared from the North American market.