When Val Enders saw the 1970 orange Dodge Dart Swinger in the showroom window of Kodiac Motors, it was love at first sight. The perfect combination of great body, nice looks and mega muscle.
Gleaming chrome, big 340 motor, hood scoops and lots of power (up to 150 mph on a test drive.)
Enders had found what she was looking for. Then came the hard part paying for it.
She laughs now at the sacrifices she made and the long hours she worked, even collecting bottles, to make the car payments.
“When I first saw it, I said I’ve got to have that car.’ It cost $4,200 to get it on the road, including tax and license plate. That was a lot of money back then.”
The purchase set her apart from peers and she took a bit of ribbing.
“All my girlfriends had kids. I had a car. We’ve known each other since Grade l, we all went to Buckhorn Elementary then to Blackburn Junior High. Recently we had a reunion at the China Sail and they were all showing off pictures of their kids and grandkids. I showed pictures of my car. They were just amazed I still had it.”
Back in 1970, the car’s original orange paint cinched the deal, she said.
“I fell in love with the colour. Purple is my favourite colour but to me this car looks best in orange. The Swinger also came out in lemon yellow, lime green and a purple called plum crazy. They were popular cars and you’d see them back in the 70s cruising around town in all colours but I still like the orange best.”
Years ago, the car was restored, repainted in its original bright orange colour and returned to its mint showroom condition.
” Merv Pidherney and I worked on it as a winter project, stripping it down to the frame so basically it was just a shell,” said Enders.
“Everything is original or stock except the tires. They are radials, put on for safety because they handle the road much better. The car came with polyglass 14-inch tires and it still has the original brakes.”
Factory headers and air forced into the hood scoops ensure the Swinger has even more power.
Enders also likes its bright, sporty look.
“I get in and I still feel like a teenager,” she said, which may explain why her car too seems ageless. “The chrome is 38 years old but it still looks like new.”
The black vinyl roof was put on locally and Trim Line Graphics did the black bumble bee stripe on the back.
Enders had her Dart Swinger on display at last weekend’s downtown Father’s Day Classic Show n Shine event.
She was more than happy to talk cars, her favourite subject, with visitors. These days more women are entering the trades and learning to do mechanics but she was ahead of her time.
“My car had a 340 four barrel carburetor, so I decided to take a carburetor course at CNC. The class was all guys. When I walked in, the instructor said to me, “‘I think you’re in the wrong room.’ I told him I had a four barrel carb and had to know about it.”
She proved her stuff, she said.
“The guy I paired with for the class and I got the top marks in our class.”