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Catching Up With the Manhattan GTS

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 5 days ago Phillip Thomas
el4a5323 Catching Up With the Manhattan GTS

New York City is a do-or-die kind of situation as everyone carves their own paths through the densest population in the US. Not only are classics themselves a rare sight, but personal daily-drivers of any kind are hard to find as the streets are more commonly flooded with delivery trucks, taxis, fire trucks, and police cruisers-- the city is often harder on its four-wheeled citizens than its two-legged ones, and it shows in how relatively few daily-driven cars there are on the island of Manhattan.

It's rare to come across a 1968 Dodge Dart GTS parked on any street, much less one in Manhattan's East Village -- in fact, while walking up to the Dart with Alex Harsley, the owner, someone was just finishing a few cell phone photos. Alex said nothing, but smiled approvingly.

el4a5310 © Phillip Thomas el4a5310

Alex has lived in New York City since 1948 (the same year HOT ROD was founded), though he was born in South Carolina about a decade before. Once settled in the city that truly never slept (especially compared to the South, where electricity was less widespread at the time), he quickly picked up a camera and began shooting the world as he saw it. While the city went through its eras and chapters, Alex was in the streets with little more than a few rolls of film. As an avid urban photographer and artist, he's seen everything from the Bronx burning to the Twin Towers' rise and fall, and his images tell stories that words can never explain. They're beautiful works of art for out-of-towners and historical record for locals.

el4a5286 © Phillip Thomas el4a5286

Around 1974, Alex picked up this '68 Dodge Dart GTS for a whopping $500, though even then he might've over-paid for it. "It was really in bad shape," he told Elana Scherr in 2014. "That first drive was to find out what was wrong with it, and everything was wrong with it! It took me 10 years to not restore it, but just to get it to where it would run." Nicknamed the "Direct Connection" by his friends, the Dart became the preferred mode of transportation for many of Alex's and his fellow artists.

el4a5302 © Phillip Thomas el4a5302

His GTS should the dictionary photo for "survivor car," as the Dart has had nearly every nut and bolt turned at some point to keep on hustlin' through the New York streets. The engine has been rebuilt once (pulled out of the Dart curbside, of course), it's been through four 727 TorqueFlites, hardware store screws have replaced the hood pins, the fender openings are mostly all-fiberglass by now, and he's still able to find rebuild parts for the original front drums. While he's driving it a little less than before, no longer taking as many upstate work trips, the Dart has clocked some 450,000 miles over the years.

el4a5291 © Phillip Thomas el4a5291

The internet has dubbed it the "Manhattan GTS," with a wealth of photo galleries online proving its 40-year lineage of street survival. You'll usually find the Dart against a curb near Alex's 4th Street Photo Gallery with a plastic penguin and owl sitting in the seats, something of a distraction he says for would-be vandals and thieves. Even though it spends a bit more time parked now, the 340 still roars to life with just a few pumps of the pedal, settling down to mild lump-n-thump thanks to a few speed parts Alex added during the rebuild. As if on cue, an old school punk even came out of the woodworks to check it out after hearing the Dart fire up -- talk about a New York Moment. With a blue jean vest that was as tattered as the Dart's body panels, the punk was geeked to finally meet the owner of this real-deal GTS.

el4a5335 © Phillip Thomas el4a5335

There's plenty of sights to see in the Big Apple, but if you find yourself near the East Village, it's worth finding this true New York icon -- we're glad we did!


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