One of the most radical of these factory one-offs is shown here; an A-Body machine called the Daroo I. According to Juliano's extensive research on this particular Dodge, the car was created for display at major car shows during the '68 and '69 seasons, with Dodge's chief stylist, Bill Brownlie, laying the groundwork for its construction. The actual work was performed under contract to Chrysler by George Barris of North Hollywood, California, whose shop was considered one of the trendsetters in automotive modifications.
"We wanted to convey the feeling of a real dart in motion, even while the car was standing still," stated Brownlie in a formal press kit from the '68 season. "The intent was also to give a tough performance image compatible to the style concept."
Daroo, I began life as a red '67 Dart GT convertible, one of the few built that year with the 383 Magnum for power. The engine was left unmodified, as was the stock 111-inch wheelbase. However, Barris added a 17-inch nose extension to the body and removed 10 inches from the rear for a new, overall length of 202 inches. The convertible top was removed, a lowered windshield was added, and the body's beltline was redesigned, giving the car an overall height of 42 inches. Suspension changes were limited to cutting the leaf springs at the axle and mounting a single coil above the 831/44 axle housing.
A V-configured body massaging that runs from the new nose of the car to the rear spoiler was added to this package, blending the elements to realize the pointed vision Brownlie had. Hidden headlights and carefully blended road lights keep the nose of the car clean, while the windshield features deep tinting. Inside, the custom interior not only features functional gauges that are directed toward the driver but also specially designed seats and other touches.
Of course, it didn't come completely together until deep coats of candy apple lacquer paints were applied, leaving Barris Kustom City in deep orange with black accents. The finished product featured a set of nonfunctional longhorn injectors and side pipes for show-floor savvy. The car began touring the major show circuit as part of the new-for-'68 Dodge Scat Pack.
The following year, another Daroo showed up-or did it? Actually, no. While there was a Daroo II (see the sidebar The Ugly Sister), the original Daroo received some changes for the '69 season. Chrysler repainted the car using candy apple green paint with gold accents, and the longhorn injectors were transformed into shorter, more realistic straight stacks. The car then resumed its tour. Mileage was limited since the car was only put on the show floor. Once the car retired from the show circuit, it was placed in storage until it was sold off by the company.
The car was in obscurity until Juliano and his pursuit of the most amazing Mopars on the planet happened upon it. The person who had bought the car from Chrysler still had it, and Juliano tells in his own words how he ended up owning it.
"By 1996, I had already found the three RTS show cars and the topless Supercharger. The Diamante (featured in Mopar Muscle last year) and the Swinger hadn't turned up yet, but while looking through my original auto show photo collection from 1968 and 1969, I saw an orange Daroo I from 1968 and a green Daroo I from 1969. I was confused until I obtained the press kits from the show circuit and discovered they were the same.
"I ran some want ads but got word by networking with some Mopar enthusiasts that the car had been at the Mopar Nationals in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1985. I located the owner, who, together with his son, had about 20 cars in a building on his property. He had no interest in selling this 143-mile show car, but we "danced" a little, I begged a little (OK, I begged a lot), and he finally gave in, priced it, and we struck a deal. It was important to him that the car be reunited with the Supercharger after all of these years, though his son couldn't understand that.
"There was one thing that depressed me about the Daroo I, though: It had only 143 miles when I found it, but it was painted red! This car was purchased from Chrysler wearing its original candy apple green paint. The proud, new owner then displayed the car at a show in Michigan where George Barris was in attendance. Barris walked up to the car and was confused by the Daroo I's green paint job. Barris had delivered Chrysler an orange show car in 1968, but unbeknownst to him, Chrysler had repainted it green for the '69 season. The owner was now as confused as Barris and asked George what was the correct, original color. Barris responded, 'Red'; the car had been a red Dart. The candy apple green was stripped off, and red was applied. I couldn't believe it, and obviously, I needed to fix that despite the mileage."
Despite that, how original is it? The odometer on the '67-vintage chassis now shows only 144 miles since new! The 383 engine (which, it should be noted, was always in the Daroo I; the 340, mentioned in the formal press materials, was never in it) is untouched, complete with all the original hoses, filters, wires, and belts. The car still sports the then top-of-the-line Firestone racing tires it wore in its public appearances.
Most of us would be happy to own this car, but the truth is that Juliano's pursuit of the excellent has made it possible for nearly all of the best-remembered Chrysler concept cars of the muscle era to be reunited. Juliano has graciously displayed some of them at Carlisle's All-Chrysler Nationals for the last few years so that people can see such cars as the Daroo I and the Daytona-based Supercharger roadster for the first time since the Scat Pack shows of the era. In addition to cars, Juliano has also amassed a spectacular array of original dealerships and show car displays, paperwork, and memorabilia, hoping to create a museum someday to display everything. Mopar Muscle has plans to let you see part of that treasure trove in the future.
The Daroo I was a big hit when it made its show circuit debut in 1968 but had one small problem: It could be in only one place at a time. So Chrysler decided to try its hand at creating another Dart show car. This particular car was built by Imperial Customs in Oklahoma, who were also building Funny Car bodies for Chrysler-backed racers. However, Daroo II failed to attain the drama of the Brownlie/Barris design (most likely due to financial considerations). So while the Daroo I was living large at Cobo Hall in Detroit, the big show in Chicago, and New York, the Daroo II was on the "Motel 6" circuit, appearing at the Fort Worth County Fair; the York, Pennsylvania, Auto Show; and at a dealer opening in Florida. The crowds were less than awed by the Daroo II, and this ugly sister to the Daroo I was mothballed early in its career; it wasn't shown again after March 1969. -Steve Juliano