BEDFORD, N.S. — The soundtrack of his youth fills his car as Gerry McNamara cruises by Kearney Lake as the sun sets on a warm June night. But it’s not music he’s listening to: It’s the sound of the engine revving on his restored 1969 Dodge Dart.
“It has a radio in it. I think I turned it on once to see if it worked. I like to listen to (the engine). My kids call it my noisy car,” said McNamara, who lives in Bedford.
This isn’t the first ’69 Dart that McNamara has owned. He bought the original on a Friday night in 1970 when he was 17.
“I only took it out as more of a lark for something to do. I was bored and said that looks like a nice car to drive.”
He was hooked and $2,650 later he was the proud owner of a six-month-old B5 blue Dart Swinger model.
“It was a fun car to have. I didn’t get myself in a lot of trouble with it but it was one of those things that it seemed to find me with it,” said McNamara with a laugh. “I really enjoyed that car and had a lot of stories and a lot of good memories with it growing up (in) with my teens.”
McNamara eventually sold the car and got married. He started a family with his wife and they raised three kids. But the memories of summer drives down the highway and the unmistakable sound of the Dart’s engine always stuck with him. So when his kids were wrapping up university and starting to leave home, he started thinking more about the car he had back when he was 17.
And with that, the hunt was on.
“I thought if I could find another ’69 B5 blue 340 Dodge Dart, it’d be fun to restore it,” said McNamara. “I wasn't going to get a red one and paint it blue. I wasn’t going to get a black one, automatic.”
1969 Dodge Dart Swinger Edition
Factory four-barrel carburetor
A-833 four-speed transmission
Rated from the factory at 275 horsepower (It’s a well-known fact they were very underrated for insurance reasons)
After restoration, McNamara estimates it has 340-350 horsepower
It had to be an exact match of his old car. It wasn’t easy to find.
He scoured the at internet daily for about eight years with his younger brother, who shares his love of cars. Eventually his brother located one in California. Once McNamara verified that the car was essentially a clone of his original Dart, he bought it sight unseen, which he said was a sort of brave and foolish thing to do.
He had it shipped to Ontario where he was living at the time. The car had never been restored and it needed a lot of work. With some help from friends, McNamara did a full rotisserie restoration.
“We removed everything. It was nothing but the bare shell of the car on a rotisserie. (It’s) very similar to what you do with a chicken when you cook it.”
Everything on his “new” Dart is original.
“I did my due diligence on the restoration to make sure I didn’t miss something or put a piece on that was from a different year or different model,” said McNamara.
The Dart doesn't have power steering or power brakes, so McNamara says you’re going to get a workout every time you drive it.
“They don’t steer worth a darn and they don’t stop worth a darn, but they will go fast in a straight line in a hurry.
“It just always stuck with me, those days of my youth that were a lot of fun, and I thought you know, I can do this again. I don’t drive it like I did back then but enjoy it probably more because of the work that went into restoring it.
“Now, it’s just really cool to get out and take it for a little spin and say yeah, I had a part in putting this together.”