1963 dodge custom 880

At first carrying a 1961 Dodge front end grafted to a 1962 Chrysler body, the Dodge Custom 880 got cleaner, more integrated styling for 1963, with round taillights and a simple grille design.

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Marketing aside, there was nothing new about the 1962, 1963, 1964 Dodge Custom 880. The numerals related to nomenclature in the 1962 mid-size line, and if an 880 wasn't twice the car a Dart 440 was, it was pushed hard as a full-size machine of the type many buyers craved. "Big" was the operative word: "Big room, big ride, big power!!!!" screamed one ad. Another blared, "Overall length almost 18 feet" (more precisely, 215 inches for wagons, 213.5 for other models).

That "big ride" naturally reflected Chrysler's proven "Torsion-Aire" suspension, which also still provided Detroit's best big-car handling. Power was courtesy of a corporate 361 V-8 trumpeted as "high performance" but also "surprisingly economical" (two-barrel carb). There were "no optional performance engines; no need for them," Dodge boasted, though this was probably to keep prices down.

Trim was limited to one level in four-door sedan, hardtop coupe and sedan, convertible, and hardtop wagon models (the last left over from 1960-1961). Three-speed manual transmission was standard for all, but most were ordered with optional TorqueFlite automatic as well as power steering (which reduced turns lock-to-lock from a cumbersome 5.5 to 3.5).

Big "Total Contact" drum brakes, seven-stage rustproofing, and newly extended 32,000-mile lube intervals were included at prices pegged within a few dollars of Newport's. Performance was naturally close to the Chrysler's as well, and respectable. Workmanship, on the other hand, remained far below Ford/GM levels, and Highland Park products still had a deserved reputation for early rustout.

Nevertheless, the Custom 880 earned its keep, so it returned for 1963 with little-changed prices and a minor restyle incorporating round taillamps and a simple flat-face grille composed of fine vertical bars. More importantly, styling was no longer "me-too," as Chryslers were heavily reskinned with the "Clean, crisp, custom look."

Models regrouped around three base-trim 880s and five Customs. But despite a full season, sales rose by less than 11,000-still far behind Newport's. The advent of cleaner, slightly longer 1963 standard Dodges was the likely reason.

Deliveries improved to near 32,000 for 1964, when the old 1960 bodies received a final face-lift marked by wraparound taillamps and an evolutionary concave grille. Model choices stayed put, prices rose a paltry $13, and options expanded to include four-speed manual transmission (rarely ordered) and Comfort-Tilt steering wheel.

Motor Trend tested a Custom convertible, judging it "a top-rated package," happily reporting that "close inspection ... didn't turn up any flaws caused by careless workmanship."

With 1965 came totally new full-size Dodges that included 880s, after which the name was retired. Today, the 1962-1964s are forgotten by all but the most ardent Dodge devotees, and that's a shame. If not the greatest American cars of the 1960s, they had a lot to like. Come to think of it, they still do.

Keep reading for 1962-1964 Dodge Custom 880 specifications.

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