Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Marla Yoho is about 35 years and a half a continent removed from the 1970s California surf scene. Actually, the Brainerd, Minn., resident grew up in the Midwest and was never much of a beach bum to begin with.
But Yoho has apparently always been attracted to that groovy SoCal vibe — at least when she’s been behind the wheel of her delightfully wacky 1975 Dodge “Hang 10” Dart.
Never heard of a “Hang 10” Dart, Hodaddy? Don’t feel bad, they were scarce back in 1974 and ’75 when they were coming off the Dodge assembly line, and they’re really hard to spot today. “There were only 700-some of them made in ’74 and the first half of ’75,” said Yoho. “Nobody realizes this is a factory edition. Everybody just assumes we did all of this ourselves and just decided to make a surfer car. And that’s not the case at all. It’s a factory-original car, and they we just trying to get some of that younger market.
“They got me! I was young then, but I’m not now!”
Yoho is almost certainly one of the few who have owned more than one of the special edition Darts. Her first Hang 10 was her daily transportation years ago, and she remembered it so fondly she wound up getting a second one as a hobby car — a surprise Christmas gift from her husband Trevor — six years ago.
“I had a ’74 with the big eight[-cylinder]. It was originally a Wisconsin car,” Yoho recalled. “There was a deputy sheriff that owned the car and I had bought it at a dealership in Duluth in about ’77, and I had it from ’77 until about ’80.”
Yoho eventually found another Hang 10 Dart for sale on eBay and asked Trevor to bid on it while she was gone. “I had to go to a wedding and I told him to bid on it for me,” she said. “Well, he didn’t bid, because he still didn’t know what I was talking about. Well, he felt so bad when I showed him what we missed out on … So he found this car at a place in Clearwater, Fla, and he gave it to me for a Christmas present. I knew he felt really bad he didn’t get that one on eBay, but I didn’t know he was looking for another one. It was a very nice surprise.
“Of course, I bought him a ’57 T-bird when he retired, I helped him restore a few, so I earned one!” she added with a laugh.
The fun-loving Hang 10 Darts were designed to put anyone in a good mood when they were unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in 1973. The cars were available at mid-year in 1974 and came as a $254 option package (A63) for the Dart Sport.
The 1970s had more than its share of wild and crazy-looking automobiles, and the Hang 10 Dart definitely stood out in a crowd. The cars were painted all white and given a patriotic blue-and-red pinstriping decal down the side. “Hang 10” was spelled out the in the decal just in front of the doors, and at the tail the striping morphed into a groovy stick-figure surfer dude riding some heavy waves. The hood had similar red-and-white surfboard-shaped decaling with “Hang 10” spelled out at the hose.
The fun continued inside, with a blinding red-white-and blue interior that included bright vertical cloth striping on white vinyl seats and solid red carpeting. Even the console was red and white.
And if you really did want to take your surfboard with you to the beach, you were in luck. The Hang 10 Darts featured the fold-down “Convertriple” rear seat arrangement that Dodge made available on its Dart Sports. The set-up used a rear bench seat that folded down flat, and a hinged door between the back seat area and the trunk. You drive with the rear seat up, rear seat down with the trunk closed off, or you could open things all the way up and have a pseudo-station wagon. With the seats folded down, a surfboard would actually fit — the Yohos prove as much with a surfboard they like to take to shows.
Marla remembers using the extra room for more motherly duties. “In my other one, when my daughter was about 7 years old, we’d travel from Duluth to Minneapolis all the time and she would play back there all the time,” she said. “She’d go back there and play with her dolls and whatever she wanted to do. Now today, I’d be in court on child endangerment charges!”
The 225-cid, 95-cid “Slant 6” and a 318-cid V-8 that produced 145 were the two standard engines for the Hang 10 cars, although buyers could pony up for the 360-cid V-8 with dual exhaust if they wanted a little more gusto. Overall, the six-cylinder power plants were much more popular among Dart buyers than the V-8s.
An extra $178 would get you a sunroof on your Dart, and $88 would buy a half-vinyl top, which Yoho has on her car. “I call it a ‘Landau’ top,” she said. Her car also has air conditioning.
Yoho’s car has the slant 6 under the hood attached to an automatic transmission. It also has air conditioning. She admits her previous car with the 360 was a little more fun to drive, “but we did put racing headers on here and a new manifold, so it really goes a lot faster [than it did],” she added.
There appear be no definitive production figures for the 1974 and ’75 Hang 10 Darts, but there appear to be less than the cars remaining from the 700 or so that were originally built. The Hang 10 Registry has 56 1974 models and 39 1975 examples listed.
“There are probably 200, or 250 still out there in various stages,” Yoho said. “Not all of them are looking original, or course.”
Yoho’s car is, however. She may well have one of the nicest remaining examples of the rare breed. The paint and decaling is in fantastic shape, and even the Yohos can’t tell if the car has been repainted. “Not that we know of,” Marla said. “We can’t find signs of it being repainted at all. Sometimes you can tell a bad paint job and you can see things here and there. We can’t find any of that on this car, so we don’t know. We have not done anything to the paint, that’s all we really know.
“Decals, as far as we know they haven’t been replaced. The only thing we did, decal-wise, is on the dash, all the gauges were black-faced. And I’m old, and the numbers stand out a lot better on white, so we found a kit that replaced the face of the gauges with the white.
"Other than that, everything is just the way it was. We had to replace the front seat covers. They were a little worn, and we had to replace the carpeting in front. Other than that, it’s the car we bought. Legendary Fabrics actually had some of the original [seat] fabric, so they were able to get the two front seats re-done. The back seats are still the original fabric. You wouldn’t know one from another.
“The only other thing we did was replace the rearview mirror with a surfboard.”
The Yohos have 14 cars in all, so they don’t take the Dart exclusively when they go to shows, but Marla drives it as often as she can when the weather is nice. The car has 67,000 miles on it, with about 17,000 of those coming in the last six years since the car moved north to Brainerd. A nice chunk of those came when Marla piloted the car to the Iola Old Car Show in July. “It drives very, very well,” she said. “I still love to drive it, and we take it to some shows and it’s won a few prizes, which is nice.”
Marla never really forgave herself for letting go of her first colorful Dart, and she clearly isn’t in a hurry to make the same mistake twice. This one, she figures, will be her keeper.
“I’ve always had seller’s remorse!” she laughed. “ I’ve always thought this was just the cutest car. I just like cars that are distinctive. I just think they should be different, and that’s the fun thing about the ones from the late ’60s and early ’70s. They did so many fun interiors, and nothing was quite the same.”
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