Saturday, November 9, 2013

Livermore Street Sighting - 1963 Dodge Polara Convertible

Regular readers here know that I'm not exactly a Mopar fanboy. By that I mean I like a lot of Chrysler products, but there are also a lot of models and model years I don't particularly favor. Much has been said about Chrysler's amusing gamble to downsize their 1962 Dodge and Plymouth models on short notice, and how it left their formerly fullsize cars roughly the size of their competitors' intermediate offerings. The end result was a line of ungainly vehicles with scaled-down styling cues meant for larger bodies. Chrysler executives fired designer Virgil Exner for the unpopular goof, even though downsizing wasn't his plan and he wasn't actually involved in the reinterpretation of his original design. Elwood Engel was brought in to "fix" things for '63, and the result was the Dodge Polara you see here.

The 1963 Polara is a relatively conventional design, one which abandons the long protruding "hips", random swooshes and chrome ribbing that defined the '62 Polara. Instead of canted round taillights mounted in pods, the car has plain rectangles inset surprisingly far from the rear corners. Side trim is a simple chrome hockey stick with three black-painted rectangular accents. The front is probably the most distinctive design element, with 'canted' headlamps slightly reminiscent of the 1961-62 Chryslers. Interestingly, the 1962 Dodges had reversed the canted light trend, installing the inner lamps higher up in the grille instead of lower. Aside from the headlight positions and dramatic inward tucking of the grille where it meets the bumper, the front is fairly conservative. Elwood Engel was known for restraint in design, with his 1961 Lincoln Continental one of his best-known (and many would say prettiest) creations.

I spoke with the owner of this car, and he showed me around it for a little while. I don't recall which engine it had, but the presence of a single tailpipe suggests possibly the small 318 V8 underhood. The interior was a very nice turquoise-blue vinyl that was all original except for the carpets. I believe the paint may have been the original Aqua. The owner had replaced the convertible top some years before and installed a new motor for the lowering mechanism.

I've seen this car driving around since it was photographed, which makes me happy knowing that it gets out and about instead of hiding in a garage. Early '60s Mopars have become so uncommon it's a treat to find one anywhere.

1 comment:

  1. Jay, very interesting and really good auto journalist reporting on this nicely preserved '63 Dodge Polara. Excellent photo work too. I noticed you took pains to walk around the car working to keep the camera level as you took your shots. NICE JOB! :) This makes it fun when I run the row of pictures back and forth. The car looks like it's on a turn table. The only thing that is missing is the is the right (passenger) side of the car. No doubt because the tree was in the way. Still, thank you. Even if your not a big fan of the moniker.

    A buddy of mine and I are fans though, and we always are joking about Mr. Exner's unfortunate, perhaps even unfair termination from the corperation. However, I didn't know that Mr. Engel was called in to replace Virg because he was More a conservative designer. As you might know Elwood was the man in charge of the '68 through (I believe) '70 Dodge Charger, a design that still stand up to the test of time. Again thanks.