Alex Weitzman describes his hot rod Dodge as a “ratty 72 Dart Swinger named Tracy”. And it’s true that the car’s body work is not quite ready for the next Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. But in every other aspect, Alex has built Tracy into a classic muscle car.
How Alex became a Mopar fan is very interesting. “I was originally a Mustang guy,” he said. “I still am. I love Mustangs. I have an old classic ‘69.”
Alex’s brother’s friend’s Dad had a 1972 Duster that proved to be pivotal. “It was a true 340 car,” Alex said, “and he’d totally customized it exactly as he wanted it: tunnel ram with dual quads, 4-speed, Dana 60. When he took me for a ride in this car… I thought, ‘Man, I want me a Mopar now.’”
So Alex started looking for a Mopar, concentrating on A-bodies, and Darts seemed to be the best option for his budget.
Alex found Tracy 10 years ago. He was in college and working part-time at a car wash.
“It was raining one day, and I saw the ad. I’d been watching that car for a month. At first it had no engine in it, then they updated the ad after they put an engine in it. I made a phone call and arranged to go look at it. I could go look at it since it was raining and no work at the car wash. So I think that maybe this was meant to be.”
The grandfather of the family that was selling the car was original owner of the car. He had purchased it new at Stockton Dodge. When his grandsons started driving it, they spun the main bearings on the original engine. That was when they decided to sell it.
Alex and his mom – she has always had an active interest in Alex’s hot rodding – drove three hours to Tracy, California to take a look at the Dart. It had some issues. Alex knew that it hadn’t really been put together like it should have. He drove it and told the sellers he and his Mom were going to get some lunch. They went to a nearby In-and-Out Burger to discuss if this was the car Alex should invest his money in.
“They were asking $2,200,” Alex recalled. “We started talking numbers. I told them ‘I have $1,975 dollars and this is literally all I have.’ Whatever money I had at the time I pulled it out. I showed it to them. I literally bought one dollar bills with me because I worked at a car wash.” The sellers walked away for a minute and then agreed. Alex loaded Tracy, the first and only Dart he looked at, on to his trailer and brought her home.
The good news was that Tracy had no rust. The bad news was just about everything else. It barely ran. The engine was a 318 that had come out of a wrecked Duster. The suspension had a bent control arm. “It needed a lot of work,” Alex summarized. “It was a labor of love and blood sweat and tears after that.”
The first phase of Tracy’s rehabilitation was for Alex to get her running and use it as a daily driver. Getting her running right involved a complete tune up, a new carb, setting the timing, updating the PCV system to fix a vacuum leak. Alex also rebuilt the front end and the brakes. The Dart, an original disk brake car, had a drum brake master cylinder mistakenly installed. Alex’s brother’s friend’s father, the one with the 340 Duster, really helped get the Dart running right. The only hot rodding Alex did at this time was to add a dual exhaust with Challenger T/A-styled side outlets.
And then he drove it, pretty much every day. And then the car wash had another impact on Tracy’s story.
“I drove it to work at the car wash every day,” Alex told me. “This guy who happened to have a Hemi Orange 72 Dodge Dart Swinger stopped by one day. My coworkers told me, ‘Hey Alex, go check out this guy who just pulled up in a ‘72 Dodge Dart. He’s looking at your car and is wondering who owns it.’ I went over and started talking to him. His name is Troy. We became best friends and we’ve stayed connected.”
Troy and Alex hung out together, talking about all things Mopar when they did. Troy had some parts that Alex did not. And he taught Alex a lot about Mopar engines – “what they like and don’t like,” Alex explained.
When Troy decided to build a new engine for his Dart, he offered to sell his current 360 to Alex. “That’s when the modifications started happening,” Alex said. The engine build and swap kicked off a larger set of modifications that gave Tracy an almost complete make-over.
The only bad news was that the extent of the modifications, and the limitations Alex was working against, sidelined Tracy for quite a while. “I was going to school,” Alex explained, “and I was working part-time. I was only able to work so much to earn the money to put into the car.”
The engine Troy sold to Alex was a long block – however it did not have a camshaft or an oil pump or pan. The heads were stock Mopar, but had some port work done on them. The friends went to work on building the engine at Troy’s house.
“I wasn’t into anything too radical,” Alex said. “Something streetable.” Alex chose an Edelbrock RPM manifold and Holley 600 cfm four barrel on the intake side, and Hooker long tube headers to take care of the exhaust. Despite being designed for Tracy’s power steering and power brakes, Alex reported that the headers were a really tight fit. “It was a pain in the butt,” he said, “you had to get your trusty hammer out and start beating it to get them to fit.”
A Champion radiator keeps the small block cool. Alex is still running a Mopar points activated ignition system, and has no plans to switch over to an electronic version. “It’s never once given me a hiccup,” he said.
The drivetrain also got a refresh. Alex had a custom torque converter built by SMI. It drives the TorqueFlite A904 automatic he rebuilt. He found a true A-body 8¾ rear end at swap meet. These rear ends specifically designed for A-bodies – not narrowed from another body style – are very hard to find. Alex has 3.23 gears in it.
Alex has stayed in touch with the person he bought the 8¾ from, they’re now good friends, and later also bought a 4-speed from him, which Alex plans to install in Tracy at some point.
The suspension is still the stock torsion bar front and leaf spring rear, wIth Moroso competition shocks, giving Tracy a classic stance and rake. Alex does plan to upgrade Tracy with some QA1 components in the future. The stock disk/drum power brakes are now activated by the correct master cylinder.
The Mopar-style Rallye wheels are from Summit Racing. Alex is running a staggered wheel set up, with 15×8 wheels in the back and 15×7 front. The wheel offsets are different as well, with a 4″ backspace in the rear and 3¾” up front.
“There’s not much room on Darts, compared to Dusters, because of the way the fenders are set up in the back,” Alex explained. “The wheel backspacing I chose only allows a certain size tire. I’m running 225/70/15 tires in the rear, but by putting it on an 8″ wheel, it gives the appearance of a 235 or 245 because of the way it sits.”
Tracy’s interior was also completely refurbished. Alex basically replaced the original interior with one from a parts car he had, including swapping the original bench seat for a pair of buckets.
The rebuild also included some body work, including a new vinyl roof. Alex started telling me about the roof project with a sentence familiar to many hot rodders, “One night I was having a beer in the garage.”
“I noticed it was bubbling under the roof seams. So I took a knife and I cut it. I ended up cutting the roof off with my knife.” He sanded the roof down to bare metal and sealed it before installing the new vinyl.
The Dodge’s body is rust-free and all-steel. Tracy lived in a carport most of her life with her original family. The hood and the driver’s side fender are original. Alex added the Hemi scoop he got off ebay.
What Alex describes as “the ratty-ness and the dents” are on the Dart from the doors back. That damage came from the original owner, the grandfather, driving the car. As he got older, he started hitting things: mailboxes, fences, even his house. That’s why his family eventually took the car from him.
At this point, Alex isn’t interested in repairing those dents and dings. They’re part of Tracy’s history. “I’m going to leave the car the way it is,” he said. “It’s just from beating and banging on the car for 50 years. She’s earned her battle scars.”
In total, Tracy was off the road for three years while Alex completed the rebuild. But once the work was done, Alex had her right back out on the road, driving her as often as he could. “I love driving it,” he told me.
Alex and Tracy cruised happily for years after the rebuild. “I’d been driving the car for 5 years straight,” Alex recalled. “Just enjoying it. I’d turn the key on this car and drive it anywhere. I have no fear of this car breaking. I don’t even take tools with me. That’s how much trust I had in it.”
Last April, Alex was out doing his normal cruise in Tracy. They were on their way back home – 30 yards from Alex’s house in the car. And then, Alex said, “It just quit. No warning signs whatsoever. I popped it in neutral. I was still rolling and I tried to do a restart. It shot out a backfire through the exhaust where I had 3-foot flames coming out of my pipes.”
Alex towed Tracy the remaining 30 yards back to his house. He tore down the engine and saw that the timing chain had stretched over half an inch and the cam timing jumped 180 degrees. Alex suspects the small block is toast. He’s been evaluating various options for the rebuild, with a crate motor currently being the leading candidate.
Alex and his wife have a new house and some other non-automotive upgrades going on in their lives, so Tracy is on the back burner right now. But Alex said, “It’s not going anywhere. I told my wife you can take it to my grave and bury me in it.
“What I love about this car is that I made it my own. The car has its own character that I made from the images in my mind. To drive it, and take it to shows, it’s something I enjoy because it’s something I put together with the help of friends and family.”
And as much as he enjoys driving and showing Tracy, what Alex appreciates the most about having his Dart is the friendships he’s built along the way.
“I can’t believe how many friends I’ve made with this particular car,” he said. “Our Mopar group is very close knit. If I can’t figure something out, my friends help me out. The friendships I’ve made are unreal.”
There’s nothing ratty about that.
All photos courtesy of Alex Weitzman
Click here to see more photos of Tracy
You can follow Alex on Instagram via abody_al72