The Dodge Polara and Chrysler Newport
The Chrysler Newport and many years of the Dodge Polara were, like the Plymouth Fury, Chrysler C-bodies, or full-sized cars (but not as full-sized as the top-of-the-line Chrysler).
At first, the Dodge Polara was the top trim level of the “standard sized” Dodge Dart, running a shorter wheelbase than the Newport. The Polara used rear wheel drive, a standard V8, and "unibody" construction which had separate subframes connected by the body, but no full frame.
When introduced, the Dart-based Polara retained vestiges of the Forward Look styling begun in 1957, and included “jet influenced” tail lamps and shortened tail-fins. [1960 Dodge Polara and Matador details]
The styling included much sweeping and chrome. Sales for the first year were fairly dismal due partly to the remaining Matador; in 1961, dropping the Matador and making a large number of styling changes should have helped sales, but customers preferred the more conventionally styled and cheaper, but otherwise similar, Dart (until 1963, the Dart was not Valiant-based).
In 1962, the Dodge Custom 880, a thinly disguised Chrysler Newport, was brought out at the top of the Dodge line. This did well enough to convince Chrysler’s management to move the Polara over to the larger body (though the similar Dodge Monaco would head the Dodge lineup).
In 1962, Dodge moved to a shorter 116 inch wheelbase, as Chrysler executives rushed to meet Chevrolet’s anticipated downsizing, which turned out to be the addition of smaller Chevrolets to the existing lineup; sales remained dismal and Dodge rushed a version of the Chrysler Newport, the Dodge 880, to capture missed buyers.
The Polara (now dubbed Polara 500) continued on with a sportier look. Not until 1965 did the Polara name get put onto a longer wheelbase, in this case 122 inches — between the “standard sized” Coronet at 117 inches and the Chrysler at 124 inches. It was fully restyled, allowing the 880 to disappear (on the down-side, the transmission pushbuttons gave way to the column shifter). The 1965-68 models had squared off edges and were in some ways an over-reaction to the earliest rounded models.
|1962||Starting Price||Min. Weight (With V8)|
The Monaco was brought out in 1965 as a model of the Polara; in 1966 it would become its own marque, albeit on the same basic body. When the Monaco was first introduced in 1965, it was only offered as a 2 door hardtop in the US (Canada had Monaco convertibles as well, but these were never offered in the US). It appears to have been conceived as a specialty hardtop along the lines of the Pontiac Grand Prix and Olds Starfire. This was the top of the Dodge line in 1965; other C-body Dodges included the Custom 880, Polara 500, and Polara. The Monaco was most readily distinguished from lesser C-body Dodges by its unique taillight treatment, a tradition that continued as long as there were C-body Monacos.
|Dimensions||1966 Coronet||1966 Dart||1966 Polara-
|Length (except wagons)||203||196||213.3||220||225|
|Approx. weight (lb)||4240-4455|
|Wagon length (2-3 seat)||208/209||190||217/218.4|
|Front seatback to tailgate||92”||84||96”||99”|
|Rear opening max height||30.4”||26||29.5||29.0”|
|Width between wheel-wells||45.3”||43.5||44.9||48.5”|
|Max cargo volume||88 cu. ft.||68 cu ft||97 cu ft||104.2”|
In 1966, the interior was restyled somewhat, and the automatic was given a reverse lockout button; and telescopic/tilt steering was added, along with thin shell bucket seats and four-passenger seat belts with optional front shoulder belts. In another safety inspired move, the previous years' door handles were replaced by handles mounted at the front edge of the armrests where they looked very much like the seatbelt latches. This feature, which would remain on Chrysler cars for years to come, reduced the chance of a door accidentally opening if the handle was caught on clothing or used as an unintentional hand grip. Gauges were kept in two huge round pods, and the dashboard maintained its lines all the way from right to left with the exception of those pods.
The 1966 Dodge Polara was nearly identical to the Monaco on the outside, with the most noticeable difference being the rear tail-lights: both had the same openings, but Monaco got full tail-lights (extending to the trunk area) while in the Polara, the tail-lights were confined to the body and the trunk lid got metallic fills instead. A modern buyer could be easily forgiven for mixing them up. Interior were similar, with a standard 383 again (economy minded buyers could get a special Polara 318, with the smaller LA engine in place of the big, thirsty B engine). A vinyl interior was optional in hardtops and the sedan, standard in the wagon and convertible; chrome was still much in evidence but not quite as prevalent as in the Monaco, and the standard seat was a bench, rather than buckets (buckets were available as an option). A Polara 500 was available, with standard front buckets. The automatic transmission had a console-mounted shifter.
|Head room, front/rear||40||38|
|Leg room, front/rear||42||37|
|Shoulder room, f/r||60||60|
In 1967, the Dodges featured, depending on the model, convex, concave, and convex-to-concave side styling; the Polara and Monaco both grew six inches longer than in 1966, and more of an attempt was made to differentiate the models. Every V8 engine in the Chrysler lineup was available for the Polara and Monaco; disc brakes were available across the board on these models, and were standard on wagons.
The instrument panels on the Polara and Monaco were redesigned to cluster common controls together, and to eliminate projecting knobs for safety in a crash, replacing them with pushbuttons, toggle switches, thumb wheels, and slides.
The instrument panel was recessed as well, and the dashboard painted with nonglare paint. Weatherstripping was improved by fastening the rubber to the doors with plastic fasteners going into predrilled holes, rather than having it hanging off the door frame. Flow-through ventilation was standard, with air changing four times a minute. Weight ran to around 4,000 - 4,500 pounds.
1969 brought the Fuselage Look to Chrysler’s entire lineup, with rounded sides that would not be out of place on today’s cars. In addition, 1969 marked the debut of the Super-Lite on Polara and Monaco; the Super-Lite was a controlled-pattern auxiliary driving light that primarily illuminated the right side of the road, to aid vision without affecting drivers of oncoming cars. The $50 option was the first reported use of the modern day quartz-iodine automotive headlamp that is in wide use today. (Thanks, Bernie Hanssen).
The 1969 Dodge Polara also held the record for the fastest top speed of a four-door police car (147 mph) until 2006, when it was broken by the 2006 Dodge Charger.
1970 jumped the Polara up into the newly redesigned C-body chassis. These sold around 80,000 units in Polara, Custom, and Special models.
In 1971, the base Polara — heralded as “luxury-sized elegance without extravagance” — came with a base slant six, with the 318 optional (standard on Custom) and a two-barrel 383 powerplant for Brougham or Monaco. Optional engines were the 360, four-barrel 383, and four-barrel 440; transmissions were a three-speed manual (base across the line) with an optional three-speed TorqueFlite automatic. All models got cloth and vinyl trim, a glove box lock, dome light (with built in map light on Brougham), day/night rearview mirror, fifteen inch wheels, hubcaps or wheelcovers, electronic voltage regulator, ventless front windows, two-speed concealed wipers, heater/defroster with three-speed fan, 11 inch rear brakes, 23 gallon gas tank, dual braking, padded instrument panel, and front and rear seat belts. Options included FM radio with stereo tape player, bucket seats (Brougham), cornering lights, clock, electric locks, front power disc brakes, power seats, power windows, power steering, rear speakers, and Sure-Grip differential (among others).
In 1971, the Chrysler Newport (and Newport Custom) was the same car with lower trim: most dimensions were the same, but the styling again was different in front and back, and a 383 cubic inch engine was standard rather than the 440. The TorqueFlite automatic was optional on the Newport, instead of being standard as it was on the other Chryslers; interior choices were similar to the 300 but with bench seats instead of buckets, and an added 3-in-1 divided cloth-and-vinyl bench seat. The battery dropped down from 70 amp-hours to 59, unless the 440 was chosen, and the base engine itself dropped down from 440 to the 383; otherwise features and options were similar to 300 and New Yorker. A Newport subseries was also brought out in 1971, at the bottom price range; it was the only Chrysler to use the new LA series 360 V8. The Newports, together, sold over 100,000 units, and were by far the most popular Chryslers, led by the four-door sedans.
New for 1971 was the Torsion-Quiet Ride suspension; a new type of rubber isolator was used in a large number of suspension locations in front, in rear, and along the steering gear.
The 1972 model year started out with a standard 360 under the hood, a compromise between the lighter, cheaper 318 and the big, heavy 383. Buyers wanted no part of it, and shortly afterwards, the 360 was replaced by the 383 as the standard engine.
In 1973 Polara was similar to the Monaco, with nearly identical rear styling but a unique grille; it offered most of the features and space of the Monaco, but with a lower price tag. In a swipe at competitors’ ads, Dodge wrote: “Some cars are built for chauffeurs, diamond cutters, and handwriting experts - Polara is built for drivers like you.”
They noted the independent, adjustable torsion bar springs, special rubber cushions, and quiet interior. Standard equipment was somewhat more limited, but included power steering and power front disc brakes; Torqueflite automatic transmission; armrests; cloth and vinyl front bench seat; interior hood release; faux wood trim; day/night mirror; and two-speed wipers. Powered by an economy 318 V8, the Polara could also be purchased with the 360, 400, or 440.
Tom Merjanian wrote, “There is an extremely rare model called the Polara Brougham. I was working for Chrysler in the New York Zone Office, Distribution Department at the time. The Polara Brougham was almost a Monaco. In fact, only two interior colors were offered, one of which was a dark brown, called “Chestnut.” Chestnut was available in vinyl and was the interior color of choice because it was the only Big Dodge, as we called it, model to offer this color. The only other car in the 1973 full size lineup to offer this interior color was The Imperial! The Polara Brougham used some interior panels that it shared with the Imperial. It priced out slightly less than a Monaco. So, it had a unique exclusivity to it. ... the few Polara Broughams that we had to build I usually loaded up, as they became cheaper-than-Monaco Monacos and were the only car in the lineup to offer the chestnut interior trim. It was an attraction to buyers of this lineup that was not a big seller in any case.”
Despite a bump in sales, 1973 was the Polara’s last year. While Polara was still selling well, indeed, at near record levels, sales were divided across numerous body styles, cutting profitability. The base Polara saw just 25,000 sales, split between four-door sedan, two-door hardtop, and four-door wagon; Polara Custom saw most of the sales, with the four-door hardtop, four-door sedan, and two-door hardtop splitting the bulk of the sales, and the two wagons taking another 12,000 sales. Monaco, which would remain for 1974, did not sell anywhere near as well, with a total of 35,712 sales. It is possible that Polaras were selling at a heavy discount while Monacos commanded a premium; second-guessing decisions from three decades in the past is a past-time of debatable merit.
|Newport||C||383||383 4V / 440 TNT||2.76||3.23||21.2||n/a||n/a|
In 1973, Dodge Polara taxis were sold with the slant six engine — though buyers could step up to the 318 V8.
|Shoulder room, F/R||63.2/62.7||59.2/59.3|
These were very large cars by today's standards, with a wide range of engines from very low performance to very high performance, and a huge range of options. They were of unit-body construction and had surprisingly good handling, especially given their era and their comfortable ride.
Dominick DePaolo wrote: "The Monaco was basically an upscale version of the Polara. They looked very similar on the outside with slight modifications to the grill and tail lights. The 383 V8 and all-vinyl interior was standard on the Monaco. It also had front floor and rear seat courtesy lights, standard."
For 1974, the Newport was downsized - one inch lower, one inch wider, and a full five inches shorter than in 1973. Sales still fell as a result of gas shortages, even though Chrysler allowed buyers to swap a 360 V8 for the standard 400 V8 starting mid-year 1974. New for 1974 was an upper-level vent system that kept fresh air moving around the passengers, and individually adjusting 50/50 bench front seats.
Standard features included wheel covers, rear-seat ashtrays, dual horns, thick, color-keyed carpeting, power front disc brakes, and a big, 400 cubic inch engine. Thermostatically controlled climate control was optional. The Newport also used a modular instrument panel, with related controls placed together.
Newport sales were higher than the more expensive New Yorker, with over 70,000 Newports sold in 1974, and over 60,000 Newports sold in 1975. The vast majority were four-door sedans.
In 1977, the biggest Chryslers were the Newport and the New Yorker Brougham, with their 124" wheelbase. These had different front and rear styling but similar sides; both continued with velour seats, dual folding armrests, reclining passenger seat, and optional leather. Only two and four door hardtops were available, the wagons having been dropped.
John Hagen wrote:
My father, a Dodge field rep, at one point in 1960 had 2 field cars, a white Polara and a red Dart Phoenix, both two-door hardtops. Talk about having nice cars in the driveway! They were both really sharp cars. The Polara had four-bar "flipper" wheel covers (different fron the Lancer caps of previous years) that would make musical sounds at low speeds due to the air turbulence they caused.
The Polara had a four barrel big block, I think a 383 but Dodge also used 361s in the Polara/Matador line. It was not the high performance version as it had single exhaust. It was a torquer motor and could move the car along okay. In late 1960, dad got a 1961 Dart Phoenix with a 383 ram inducted motor. That car was quick!
Dominick J. DePaolo wrote:
My name is Dominick. I live in Concord, NH, but this personal Polara history takes place in Enfield, CT, where I grew up.
Ah yes, the 1969 Dodge Polara. My very first car and the one car that I miss the most out of all the cars I've had. I was 12 when my Dad bought the Polara. He found it in 1980 on the trade-in lot of a Dodge dealership in Westfield, MA. for around $1700. It was still in pretty good shape and ran like new. Admittedly, it was a bold move - buying such a gas thirsty vehicle when the gas crunch was still so fresh in our memories. Regardless, my dad wanted to replace his 68 Coronet Wagon with something comparable from the Chrysler family.
I acquired the Polara in 1985, during my senior year of high school. My father had taken good care of it in the five years he drove it so it was still in pretty good shape. Small spots of surface rust here and there. Driving out of the DMV with that car legally registered in my name was one of the greatest feelings of my young life. I'm 31 now and the good times I've had in that car seem like they only happened yesterday. It was a four door hardtop with a 383 and aqua paint. This car was the ultimate sleeper too. Many a Camaro owner were shocked and dismayed to only get a view of my trunk & tail lights every time they decided to be a tough guy at a traffic light. The car gave a ride like you were hovering over the ground too. Unfortunately, it met its demise in 1988 due to a spun bearing (which I believe happened while I was racing my friend Matt. He had a 70 Newport 383). I attempted to rebuild the motor but ended up scrapping the project and had the car hauled away.
Dodge Polara models and options
1969 Models available:
- Polara 2 dr. hardtop or convertible
- Polara 4 dr. hardtop or sedan
- Polara 500 2dr. hardtop or convertible
- Polara Station Wagon
- 318 cu. in. V8 (optional 383 or 440 Magnum V8)
- 3 speed manual trans.
- Cloth-vinyl interior trim in Polara Hardtops and sedan
- All-vinyl interior trim in Polara convertibles and station wagons
- Front bucket seats, with center cushion/folding armrest (in Polara 500 models)
- Concealed windshield wipers
- Deep pile carpeting
- 3-Spoke steering wheel with padded hub
- Cigarette lighter
- Glove box door lock
- Power top (Polara and Polara 500 convertibles)
- Foot-operated parking brake
- Link-type sway bar
- Quiet door latches
- Choice of 17 exterior colors
- Deluxe wheel covers (Polara 500 models)
- Crank operated vent panes (ventless door glass standard on two door hardtops with AC)
- Rear seat foam cushion pad
- 24 Gallon fuel tank (wagons, 22)
- Roof mounted air deflector (wagons)
- Dual action tailgate (wagons)
- (For 4 dr. Polara. Other body styles may vary in some degree)
- Wheelbase: 122"
- Track: front 62.1", rear 60.7"
- Overall Length: 220.8"
- Overall width: 79.3"
- Overall Height: 56.8"
More 1969 Dodge Polara enthusiasm from Mike Harris
I too enjoy the rare company of a 69 Dodge Polara. A few years ago I acquired one with around 35K - and was garage kept. What a beautiful piece of equipment. Specifically my beaut is classified as a "White Hat Special." She's the light blue, two door, black hard-top - power windows and the power bench seat. She still smells like the show room. Currently she's sitting in a heated storage unit with a nice warm cover. Every now and then I'll fire her up and just sit and listen to the purr. Mustangs and Camaros alike - "BEWARE" the land sled will leave you in her tracks!!!
How she came into my possession is truly a fairy tale. You see, one day I was in my Grandmother's garage and saw this large shape under a pile of dust and boxes. It came to my understanding that it belonged to her neighbor that had shared the double garage. Moreover, the elderly woman had never possessed a driver's license. Her husband had passed away a few years after he ordered it. She never drove it since - she never learned how. It hadn't been moved since 1972. I hear he never drove it in the rain. Anyway, I found the receipt and the carbon copy of the order form in the glovebox - still in the dealers' monogrammed envelope. I won't tell you the price I paid, because I don't know. Now, it came to me as a gift - from my grandparents one fine day.
2 barrel 383 Engine Specs:
290 hp @ 4400 rpm Torque = 390 ft lb. @ 2800 rpm Compression Ratio - 9.2:1 Bore and Stroke - 4.25 X 3.38 Single Exhaust
Total cost due on delivery - $3592.92
The Decor Group that was purchased included:
- Wheel Lip moldings
- Sill Moldings
- Upper door frame moldings (all chrome)
A happy 1967 Dodge Polara wagon tale
Recently I turned 18 and became economically independent, and consequently needed to find transportation a tad cheaper to insure than my 98 Ranger. And so it happened that one fateful day when I was feeling extra visionary, to what should my wandering eye should appear but a perfectly straight 67 Polara wagon sitting at the bottom of an embankment with 15 years' worth of leaves and dirt piled against the starboard panels.
Inquiring of the local farmer, I learned that his grandfather had purchased the car brand new in 67, died a couple of years later, and it was used primarily as a church-mobile until 84, when the running vehicle was parked with partial primer and mismatched paint spots in the orchard it presently occupied with 42,000(!) on the odometer.. The wagon was slated to be towed in late 99, but when I popped the squealing hood to reveal that breathtaking big block 383, rat nestings and all, I offered on the spot to take it off his hands.
We agreed on the selling price of $20 (no, not $200, $20). Once my feet returned to the firmament, it struck me that towing this beastie to...well...anywhere, would put quite a dent in my monetary funds, so it occurred to me that perhaps I could perform an on-site resurrection. After $2.50 in fuel line, a $15 carb rebuild kit, a $26 water pump, a $15 set of plug wires (the plugs had a little carbon, but were functional), a $5 coil, a $2 point set, a battery donated from a friend's totaled big block dodge truck, two days, an impromptu carb rebuild on the tailgate, reintroduction of all essential fluids donated from the garages of multiple friends, and $6 of regular (which ain't all that much in Southern California), 383 cubes of mopar big block roared to life like it was sitting in the garage overnight. All that remained was to pop it in reverse and a nudge of the pedal and she climbed right out of the axle-deep sludge and compost without so much as a whimper. Free tires (from the same dodge truck, which was, sadly, hauled off for scrap later that day), an oil change, and a couple of new belts and hoses and a new master cylinder are all that remain to prep my wagon for some pavement-pounding excitement.
In the works are a 4 barrel Holley off a friend's parts Camaro 350, a couple of coats of black primer, dual 3" Flowmasters, and some fatter tires and spring relocator kit for the back to give it the ultimate muscle-car intimidation stance. All things considered, I think I blew away those so-called budget rides you always see in hot rod magazines. Speed Beater for Under $1,000? Hah! Try under $200 WITH the purchase of the non-operative vehicle! And so began my love affair with all which is Mopar.
Paul Brodie added his Dodge Polara story:
I read your section on the Dodge Polara with great interest as I owned one and it was my all-time favorite car and I have owned more than 30 cars.
In 1982, I came across a 1963 Dodge Polara for sale for $200. It was in near perfect condition, except for more than 80,000 miles and faded paint. It was a navy blue, 2 door hard top with light blue interior. It was very plain with only a little chrome. It had long, straight lines with a boxy rear end with a rather upright rear window and two, single, round headlights mounted high and all the way out toward the side like frog's eyes. The front bumper was a little low and rather large. It went straight across and protruded a little bit and reminded me of the way the collision bumpers were made and mounted on the 1974 Plymouth Duster, without the protruding bumpers. The grill was a rounded off rectangle between the headlights. The wheels were standard steel wheels with plain wheel covers. I really liked the plain look because it was a real sleeper, especially after I changed the engine to a 1968, 440 Magnum.
This car came with a 2 barrel 383 'B' engine and a push-button torqueflite transmission. The '62, '63, and '64 Polara's were built on the 'B' body platform, not the 'C' platform like the ones from 1965 on and were comparatively light weight. I thought that this car handled very well for a car of this size and from that time period. It had large wheel wells and I was able to put some pretty wide modern tires on it. I have some old time-trial cards from the drag strip and with the good, wide, modern tires and the 440 Magnum engine, it completed the 1/4 mile in 12.57 seconds. They didn't measure the MPH.
A friend of mine had a 1964 Polara and the '64 had a completely revised front end that did away with the frog-like headlights. Many people thought this was an improvement but I thought the headlight treatment was very distinctive on the '63 and I personally liked it a lot better. I had the opportunity to purchase the '64 Polara but decided to stick with my '63. I saw another '63 Polara at the dragstrip that had the Max Wedge engine with the cross ram intake manifold with 2, 4 barrel carburetors. I've forgotten if it was the 413 or 426 cubic inch version. The owner told me that it was an all original Max Wedge car. Another friend owned a 1963 Plymouth Belvidere and it shared the same general silhouette as the Polara but had a completely different front end treatment. I have to say that the 1963 Dodge Polara was my all-time favorite car out of more than 30 I have owned over the years, mostly Mopars.