Standing pat with the outdated 1961 Polara front end for the 1963 Dodge 880 was not commercially viable. A new front would have to be designed, approved, and tooled for the 1963 model year, which was a scant nine or 10 months away. (At this time, the product program for the other 1963 model lines was done and the stylists were busy with the 1964 changes.) A new face for the 880 meant yet another crash program for the designers in the Dodge Exterior Studio.
In order to introduce some discipline to the process, it was decided early on that the new 880 front end would employ the front bumper designed for the 1963 Chrysler. This bumper had much to recommend it.
The basic bar was a simple design, clean in section. It was also nearly flat in plan view, without ins and outs tied to any specific design, and therefore "anonymous." The amber parking and turn signal lamps were recessed into the outer ends, taking these lights "out of the equation." Perhaps best of all, the bumper was already designed and tooled.
Settling on the bumper immediately established the plan view of the 880's new front end and hood so that the stylists each had a common starting point for their sketches. As finally released, the new front fenders were "normalized," with the forward humps, the tapering speedline, and the forward-thrusting wheel opening of the 1961 Polara replaced in each instance with simpler designs.
Fendertops incorporated a subtle windsplit that faded out as it moved rearward. The hood surface was raised and made flush with the fendertops, its contours relieved by a slightly recessed center depression that then spread across the leading edge of the hood and onto the upper fender ends. A stand-up fratzog hood ornament rose above tightly grouped block letters that spelled "Dodge."
Framed by bright moldings, the grille opening was essentially rectangular, but rounded at the ends to accept the headlamps. The grille itself was composed of numerous delicate diecast chrome-plated bars. The arrangement of the convex bars was quite intricate. Every third grille bar went top to bottom while the two bars in between formed upper and lower rectangles, separated by a gap in the center.
Though the new grille had a tonier appearance than the original 880's cheap aluminum stamping, improved quality wasn't the prime motivator in choosing to do a diecast part. While more expensive piece for piece, the diecast parts were easier and faster to tool, critical considerations in a time-constrained program like the 1963 Dodge 880. Also, stamping tools are more expensive and more complex, requiring both male and female dies and large presses to stamp out parts.
Compared to the unruly exaggerations of its predecessors, the new front end was dignified and quietly self-assured, even stately. While not exactly original, the 880's new visage transformed the car's appearance.
The new look was also greatly admired within the Dodge Studio, becoming the inspiration for the 1964 Polara and 1965 Coronet front ends. With the new design, overall length grew slightly to 214.8 inches (216.3 inches on wagons).
To learn more about changes made for the 1963 Dodge, see the next page.
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