Queensland customer, Dave Roberts, has always had old cars. He started out with a 1966 Vauxhall Viva, then moved onto a GTS Monaro, three Chargers, and a couple of Escorts. Now, he’s got this 1961 Dodge Phoenix.
The 1960s was a cool time to buy a car in Australia. With the increasing desire for power and sex appeal, this drove the auto design decisions. If you look back in time, the new muscle cars, as they were called, were truly the supercars of the day!
The engineers at Chrysler had recognised this new market and announced the 1960 Phoenix. Based on the Dodge Dart, it derived its name from the upmarket variant of the USA, which luxuriated in the triple-barrel handle of Dodge Dart Phoenix. The Dodge Phoenix did very well in Australia’s 1960s car market and attracts plenty of admiration to this day.
Dave is a fan of wings and was originally looking for a 1959 Chevrolet. “I was looking at absolute buckets of rust for five to ten thousand… I’m talking submerged vehicles that were absolutely useless, but you’d still be paying that amount because it’s a Chev.”
He was reading Just Cars magazine one day and sure enough, there was the Phoenix. Although not what he originally had in mind, it had wings and it was unique… Of course, this ticked all of Dave’s boxes! It was in Syndey, and a young guy had bought it with the plans to hot it up. Life happened, and the guy got married and had kids, so the Phoenix ended up sitting in his garage.
“It virtually had chickens living in it, but still thought, “Yeah, I gotta have it”, Dave explains.
Dave knew the Phoenix was something different, but the drawcard for him was that he didn’t have to go searching the four corners of the globe to find parts for it. When he bought it, only minor parts were missing, the paint had been redone in a modern grey, the dash had been painted and the seats and carpets were re-upholstered. The carbs and chrome air filters are now new and not in original condition.
After giving his Phoenix a bit of a tidy up here and there, it is now in a nice mechanical condition and runs and drives well. With a mix of its powerful good looks and throaty sounds, this Phoenix definitely turns a few heads on the roads!
The Dart line was originally offered in three trim packages: ‘Seneca’ which was the basic trim package, ‘Pioneer’ which was the mid-range trim package and the ‘Phoenix’ which was the premium trim package.
The 1961 Dodge Phoenix was top of the line for its year and fewer than 4,000 models were produced.
The unit got a facelift and was restyled, inside and out, with new fabrics and door trim, a new instrument panel, and colour-keyed steering wheels. Designers at Chrysler restyled the vehicle to emulate the mid-sized Polara.
The 1961 Phoenix was a monocoque design and was advanced for its day – using independent torsion bar suspension up front and semi-elliptic out back. The styling was dramatically revised from 1960 with a wide concave aluminium grille encircling the dual headlights.
The Dart had lived a long production lifespan and has endured multiple aesthetic and mechanical changes through its 16 years of production. Dodge evolved and adapted the Dart to all of the different trends, safety and emission concerns and Government regulations that the market had to offer.
They had the undeniable reputation for longevity, durability and value. It’s safe to say that the Dart’s had a good run!
“She brings some major 1960s The Jetson’s Space age vibes to the table,” Dave confirms when asked what he loves most about his Phoenix. The Jetsons represented a nostalgia for the future, and perhaps more oddly, it still represents the future to what Dave grew up with. The wings on his Phoenix brings back vivid memories of the spaceship from watching the show as a kid.
“I guess you could say that my Phoenix is an incredibly preserved time capsule!”