While Plymouth struggled on with its related downsized "standards," Dodge increased wheelbase to 119 inches for 1963 -- and pushed performance. What had been called Dart was now just "Dodge," comprising 330, 440, and Polara series. As before, the last included a swanky bucket-seat 500 convertible and hardtop coupe. Styling was cleaner and more conventional, though the "face" was still pretty odd.
Engines remained broadly the same, but a bore job took the 413 wedge to 426 cubes and 370/375 horsepower. But the big news was the "Ramcharger," a super-performance 426 with aluminum pistons and high-lift cam punching out 415/425 horsepower.
Dodge did field a Dart for '63, but it was a very different car: a mostly new compact to replace Lancer. (The name change was a last-minute decision.) It was basically that year's redesigned Valiant with more crisply styled exterior and five extra inches in wheelbase (111 except wagons, still at 106). Sedans and wagons made up the 170 and 270 series, with convertibles offered in 270 and bucket-seat GT guise; there was also a GT hardtop coupe.
At the other end of the scale, Custom 880s returned with new lower-priced 880 companions, all bearing grilles with fine vertical bars. With so much new, Dodge surged past Rambler to grab seventh in the industry on record volume of over 446,000 units.
The '64 lineup was much like '63's, with facelifts that continued Dodge's move back to more-orthodox looks. Darts became livelier, as Valiant's new 273-cid small-block V-8 was added to the options list, bringing 180 horsepower. That year's Ramcharger was Chrysler's fabled hemi-head V-8, returning to the performance wars in a new 426 version with 425 horsepower -- but only for racing. The top showroom power options remained wedgehead 426s, now with 365 standard horsepower or 415 with high-compression heads.
But Hemi-powered Dodge/Plymouth intermediates provided plenty of entertainment anyway, dominating the NASCAR season beginning with a 1-2-3 sweep at the Daytona 500. In the production race, Dodge swept back into sixth for the first time since 1960.
For 1965, the Coronet name returned on a revamped midsize line with more square-cut styling and a 117-inch wheelbase for all models but wagons (116 inches). These were essentially the 1962-64 "standards" logically repositioned to battle popular intermediates like Ford Fairlane and Chevy Chevelle.
But there was also a much-altered 115-inch-wheelbase Coronet Hemi-Charger two-door sedan weighing just 3,165 pounds. Intended strictly for drag racing and base-priced at $3,165, it came with the reborn 426 Hemi, of course, plus heavy-duty springs and shocks, antiroll bar, four-on-the-floor manual transmission, and strong police brakes. Performance was more than ample: 0-60 mph in seven seconds or less. Buyers in less of a hurry flocked to a civilized new buckets-and-console Coronet 500 hardtop and convertible available with wedgehead V-8s up to 426 cubes and 365 horsepower.
Capping the '65 line was a completely redesigned group of 121-inch wheelbase Polaras and Custom 880s, plus a companion sports/luxury hardtop, the $3,355 Monaco. All shared chassis and body structure with that year's Chryslers and full-size Plymouth Furys. Their conservatively square basic shape was dictated by design chief Elwood Engel, who'd been recruited from Ford to replace Virgil Exner in 1962. The Dodges were distinguished by a "dumbbell" grille and delta taillamps.
After a modest '65 restyle, Darts squared up for '66, via new front sheet metal. Coronets returned in standard, Deluxe, 440, and 500 guise, also with blockier fronts as well as curvier rear fenders and wedgy taillights. Custom 880 was renamed Monaco, and the big bucket-seat hardtop became Monaco 500. Monacos and Polaras got wider taillights and crisper lower-body contours, plus Chrysler's new big-block 440 wedgehead with 350 horsepower as the top power option.
For more on the all-American Dodge, see:
- Dodge New Car Reviews and Prices
- Dodge Used Car Reviews and Prices