EXTENDED DODGE DART TEXT: JAVIER MARTIN / PHOTOS: LA ESCUDERÍA
Spain's relationship with the automobile is, to say the least, turbulent. From the very beginning of this industry, our bull skin it has always been in the queue. Good ideas, but, except for honorable exceptions, difficult to materialize. At least in terms of development (let's not forget that we are the ninth largest car producer in the world), in Spain we are a little behind, and we could be the milk: Imagine if we put as much effort into producing sports champions ...
In any case, there has always been someone who, in one way or another, has hit the nail on the head, thus marking the way for other adventurers. This is the case of, for example, Mateu or Armangué, Hispano-Suiza handymen and David, respectively. Many of these pioneers ended up in ruins and almost in oblivion, like Francisco Bonet, but many others left their mark in history serving as a pillar for the development of the automobile industry in our country. It is certainly the case Eduardo Barreiros, a man from Orense who was recognized by none other than the New York Times as one of the most influential men in Europe in the 60s.
It may seem exaggerated, but nothing could be further from the truth. He had to face great adversities: The time in which he lived was not the best for industrialists who, like him, went on their own. Even so, managed to create an empire.
Barreiros and the Dodge Dart, the most luxurious car in Spain
The history of Barreiros gives to write several books and in fact, there are; Above all, it will always be remembered for its versatility and its ties to the automotive industry. The first important activity, that of diesel engines, was the true sustenance of the company for many years: Famous are the Diesel Barreiros and, without going any further, the company would become known as Barreiros Diésel SA Then came the industrial vehicles: Trucks, buses, tractors ... And cars in 1963, when Don Eduardo reached an agreement with Chrysler to bring to Spain what would be its flagship, the Dodge Dart, el haiga national. Later the Simca would disembark. However, the latter was an agreement that sadly marked the beginning of the end.
Barreiros' expectation was to sell about 20.000 Dodge a year but eventually placed 5.000 in four. It did not succeed, also suffering some of the units from manufacturing defects and important finishes; and the Yankees also failed to fulfill their part of the agreement, which was to export their trucks and tractors. The Spanish boss fell under its own foot and due to its enormous stock in a trap by which it went bankrupt, and Chrysler bought an established and renewed manufacturer by means of the recent injection of 20 million dollars. Dear or not, a possibly round play for the Americans.
Seen in perspective, and despite the pioneering market studies that accompanied the launch of the colossus, it is perhaps logical that not so many units of the colossus were sold. Dodge Dart. The Americans certainly thought so, and so they advised a gradual launch; excited, Barreiros ignored them. In those years, the best-selling car on the market was the SEAT 600 (on sale since 1957), a machine much loved by all Spanish fans and that cost about 60.000 pesetas. Meanwhile, the normal Dart started at 240.000 pesetas.
It is not necessary to calculate inflation and convert it to euros, the abysmal price difference, even more so when the average salary of a worker in those years was around 8.000 pesetas. The Barreiros sedan was the most luxurious vehicle sold in Spain in the 60s, not counting those foreigners who were imported officially or through the gray market.
El Dodge Dart that Barreiros made in Villaverde, Madrid, was not really a luxurious car with great charisma outside of Spain: The little one from the American firm, here it was almost monstrous for size and performance. It was one of the largest cars on the road, even compared to the SEAT 1500, one of the highest-status models that could be bought at the time. And the engine looked just as massive, with an inline six cylinder and 3.700 cc capable of delivering up to 145 hp. A figure that subsequently rose, in 1969, to 160 hp with the Dodge Dart GT.
By 1966, the vast majority of parts of the Dodge Dart They were manufactured in Spain, as required by the regime, reducing those from the US to a minimum. It was from this year when the Dart de Barreiros adopted the square headlights and lost the side band that ran from the front to the rear of the car ...
Dodge Dart GT Lengthened: What a gem!
Knowing the history of the model, Barreiros Diesel itself and the historical weight that the Spanish Dart has, everything got a little out of hand when our colleague Miguel, out of simple curiosity, showed us an announcement from a sale page in the that appeared a strange Dodge Dart GT. A model from 69 little usual. Looking at the photos and information, it quickly caught our attention: It was a long, spectacular saloon, and also relatively close to home. We soon contacted its owner, Manuel Valiente, with the intention of going to see it live and inspect it.
As the appointed day arrived, research on the creature began to occupy our time. We found a post on Facebook, on the Barreiros Foundation profile, where the car was clearly in need of restoration. Apparently Manuel bought it in 2015 and, in his Los Yébenes workshop, got down to work. Neither short nor lazy, we contacted the Foundation to obtain more information about it, without much success. As discussed below, this car is a real mystery even for the custodians of the patron's legacy.
The day came and we set off. Manuel was waiting for us with his enigmatic Dodge dart gt lengthened to two hours away. When we had it in front of us we could not avoid the surprise: Live it is much more impressive than in photos, and you cannot stop thinking about How huge it would be in the eyes of a little Spaniard in the late 60s. Even today, used to huge cars, this Dart is big and long, very long. The straight lines that American designers gave it have a lot to do with it, as the entire side line is parallel to the ground and a crease that runs back from the direction indicator on the front wing reinforces that image of an infinite machine.
While we were taking the rigorous images we got lost in its cabin, capturing details and enjoying that smell that only "old cars" have. In the meantime, its owner was telling us curiosities: Apparently it was in a meadow, where a friend found it and gave it to Manuel, who proceeded to put it in order, also administratively. Its first owner was unknown and there were only gaps in the story, so there was work ahead.
The ITV, for example, put many drawbacks to rehabilitate it, since elongation was not in the historical record. This is because, as far as we know, in those years, when a transformation of this type was carried out, it was done, period; It was not noted on the technical sheet, nor was it approved, it was simply made the transformation and the car circulated without further ado.
Obviously that also means that the mutation was not Barreiros' thing. The cars left Villaverde like a Dodge dart gt standard and then they were extended by an external company, one of the many that were born around SEAT, FASA and Barreiros itself, among others. That was one of the most important contributions of the brands to the national automobile scene: The creation of an auxiliary industry made up of a multitude of industrious small and medium-sized companies that made up the fabric of Spanish industrial motorsport.
Limousine, town taxi or something else?
Returning to our elongated Dart, we had to try to find out which body or workshop carried out the modification, even more so when Manuel claimed that it was a unique example. The Barreiros Foundation tried to help us, but they had nothing in their file. However, they consulted external experts: Apparently, Dodge were bought cheap second-hand because they devalued a lot, going to the hands of many taxi drivers that, in the villages, they bought them to extend them and offer a better service by being able to accommodate a whole family. And we attest to this, the space behind is a lot and it has additional seats that can be folded up, turning the cabin into a limousine. They were also very popular cars among the bullfighting gangs.
However, this type of work was carried out with the basic versions, the cheapest, and in this case it is a 69 GT version with certainly quality upholstery on all its seats, wood on the dashboard and center console. … In addition, he wears stamps on his windshield from having traveled all over Europe. It could have effectively been the car of a bullfighting gang or the whim of a Spaniard with enough money to undertake the purchase and transformation of the car with a view to touring the continent. We do not know. Nor have we been able to know exactly which company or individual was responsible for the lengthening.
On the one hand, the source provided by the Barreiros Foundation speaks of a workshop called "Carrocerías Villamil", an establishment that also carried out this type of transformation on a Chrysler 180 or SEAT 132 base. For our part, we found another name, "Carrocerías Paulino Moreno ”, but we cannot affirm that this company was responsible for the modification. Finally, we have not been able to confirm if it is a single unit, but we are inclined to think that, if not in their style, and taking into account that they were handcrafted, yes it is unique in itself.
On the other hand, we can credit its great condition after restoration and tuning carried out. Actually, underneath the grime and wear of the paint, and amen of certain corroded areas, everything was quite original. And goes well. This time we did not get behind the wheel, but Manuel gave us a ride that he Dodge Dart took the opportunity to testify why it was a superlative car in Spain in the 60s. The colossus moves with striking ease despite its age and size, with a suspension that gives the feeling of being pulling hard (an effect of the crossbows) but that offers good comfort and good manners. The sound of the engine also attracts attention thanks to the lack of filters and, above all, because it allows to circulate in current traffic with complete normality.
Thus, it is possible for us to understand what the Dodge Dart de Barreiros meant at the time, surrounded by cars such as the aforementioned SEAT 600, Renault 10, Citroën Dyane 6 ... Vehicles with contained benefits and engines of no more than 60 HP, compared to a monster of 160 HP in its latest versions, capable of passing them only using the raw power of your engine. And if it was also an elongated unit, surely admiring glances were the order of the day.
* We thank Manuel Valiente for his willingness to carry out this report. On the other hand, we inform you that he has this Dodge for sale. Let's see if we can all find him a father!