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1962-1964 Dodge Polara 500

1964 Dodge B-Body Cars Design
The extensive facelift of the B-body for 1964 included a new two-door hardtop roof.
The extensive facelift of the B-body for 1964 included a new two-door hardtop roof.

The 1964 Dodge B-body cars, including the 1964 Dodge Polara 500, had a new roof for racing purposes. After the plainer, more-vertical pillars used previously, the new B-body roof seemed rakish enough, though in fact the design wasn't nearly so aggressive as the heavily promoted semifastback roofs added midyear on the 1963 Fords and Mercurys. These radically sloped roof-lines were driven by the need to improve the aerodynamics of the big cars for NASCAR racing. But the inevitable comparison with Ford got Dodge chief stylist Bill Brownlie in a bit of a pickle.

One summer day in 1963, Brownlie returned from a press preview at the Chrysler Proving Ground in Chelsea, Michigan, informing his designers that while the automotive reporters liked the new hardtop roof, there was a problem. One had asked innocently, "What do you call it?" and Brownlie had no answer. He was due back at the preview the next day and wanted a name -- quick. Stylists spent the better part of the day trying to figure out a suitable moniker, but nothing clicked. In the end, the new roof remained nameless.

The windshield was also new. Though not initially in the program, Chrysler design vice president Elwood Engel, anxious to expunge his predecessor Virgil Exner's "speedboat" cowl, was able to solicit the money necessary for a new cowl panel, one of the most-expensive parts of a car to tool. Since the new, flatter cowl did not rise to meet the windshield, a new windshield was required. Glass area thus rose to 1,304 square inches, compared to 1,147 in 1962-1963. The new windshield was also less-slanted than previously, while the A-pillar became narrower and moved slightly forward at its top.

These expensive changes added $3.60 to each car built and were one reason the tooling costs of the 1964s -- $24.7 million -- were nearly as much as the heavily reworked 1963s. Fortunately, these costs could be spread out over two model years and four good-selling cars -- the 1964 Dodge and Plymouth, and the 1965 Coronet and Belvedere intermediates.

The new cowl required a new instrument panel. Engel, disdainful of Exner's minimalist motif with its free-form cluster pod, mandated a board-straight, full-width design with an overhanging lip that was padded on the Polara 500. Instruments, dials, and controls were laid out in an unimaginative assortment of circles and rectangles.

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