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1965-1968 Dodge Monaco and 500


Dodge Design in the Mid 1960s
Most full-sized Mopar two-door hardtops -- Dodge included -- came with a dramatic new roofline for 1967: a semi-fastback style with a broad sail panel as shown on this Monaco model.
Most full-sized Mopar two-door hardtops -- Dodge included -- came with a dramatic new roofline for 1967: a semi-fastback style with a broad sail panel as shown on this Monaco model.

While marketing types at Dodge fretted about names, board designers had other worries. During the mid- to late 1960s, many Detroit stylists suffered from an acute case of "Pontiacitis" -- a kind of inferiority complex brought on by being perennially outclassed by the Wide Track guys. When it came to large cars, Pontiac could seem to do no wrong.

Ford, for example, took a close look at the 1963 Pontiac -- with its vertically stacked dual headlamps and clean, architectural lines -- and produced a copycat car for 1965. Although it sold well, this imitation prompted a joke about it being "the box the Pontiac came in."

And the big 1965 Pontiacs were completely new -- with sensuous, flowing lines and Coke-bottle bodysides that blew away both the Ford and the full-size Dodge. Thus, when it came time to design the all-new "C" series big Dodge for 1967, it seemed that the Dodge studio sketched with one eye on the 1965 Pontiac catalog, where lush renderings shouted from every page, "Top this!"

"We certainly tried with the 1967 big-Dodge front end," recalls former Dodge stylist Jeffrey Godshall, "which I worked out with Bob Gale, then studio C-body supervisor. Though the barbell was still there, it wasn't so obvious." Flanking a center panel with either vertical bars (Polara) or eggcrate (Monaco) were wide, blacked-in rectangular air inlets, each bisected by a bright horizontal bar.

Headlights, two five-inch round units, sat side-by-side in circular die-cast housings at each bar's outboard end. But this appearance wasn't finalized until fairly late in the program, as Dodge continued to experiment with vertically stacked dual headlamps just like you-know-who (not to mention Plymouth's Fury, which also got them since 1965).

The center grille section ordained for 1967's Monacos and 500s can be seen in this model, too.
The center grille section ordained for 1967's Monacos and 500s can be seen in this model, too.

The bumper and hood shapes of the 1967-1968 Dodge provide mute testimony to designers' indecision on the headlamps issue. Dished upper surfaces on the bumper swept down and out toward the sides, mirrored by the leading edge of the hood and its bright accent molding. The idea was that stacked lights could be incorporated simply by notching half-circles in the outer ends of both the hood molding and the corresponding bumper surface.

"I can't recall exactly how or why we decided on horizontal lamps. I think the bumper notches required were just too difficult for Chrysler's stamping people," says Godshall. Gale recalls the horizontal placement was chosen because it made the front look wider. Designer Diran Yazejian remembers the change came with an 11th-hour decision by then-product planning chief Harry Cheesebrough. Regardless, this struggle typified Dodge's frustration at trying to top the 1965 Pontiac, whose vertical headlights looked so "right."

What did all these deliberations lead to? See the 1967 Dodge Monaco on the next page.

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