The 1960-1961 Dodge Polara/Matador had an interesting beginning. As the "Soaring Sixties" dawned, Chrysler Corporation seemed to be its own worst enemy. Design chief Virgil Exner, so masterful with the corporation's 1957 styling, had since conjured some truly bizarre things that made one wonder about the executives who approved them. Highland Park had definitely lost the tight, solid workmanship it had evidenced before 1957.
Chrysler still boasted great engines and the world's best automatic transmission, but these were no help in the 1958 recession that shriveled the medium-price market like a prune, sent buyers dashing from performance to economy, and boosted demand for funny foreign cars like a Redstone rocket. Chrysler did move with the market's swing to compacts, right along with GM and Ford, but its 1960 Valiant didn't sell nearly well enough to reverse a worsening sales situation.
Retrenchment seemed wise, so Chrysler consolidated from five divisions to two, then axed stalwart but slow-selling DeSoto at the end of 1960 -- the third major American make to disappear in as many years. That culminated a long "squeezing out" process in which Dodge moved steadily upward into DeSoto's price territory even as Chrysler moved downward. A greatly expanded 1960 Dodge line and the low-price 1961 Chrysler Newport dealt the final deadly blows.
Dodge actually stomped on DeSoto's grave for model-year 1960, moving from eighth to sixth in industry production with more than double its 1959 volume. The vast majority of this -- fully 88 percent -- was owed to the new low-price Dart, a three-series line of Plymouth-based cars replacing Coronet.
Up in the middle ranks, where Royal and Custom Royal had been, were two senior Dodges, the 1960 Matador and Polara. These shared a slightly larger, 122-inch-wheelbase platform with 1960 DeSotos and Chryslers, all newly engineered with Highland Park's highly touted unibody construction.
Keep reading to learn about the styling and sales success of the 1960-1961 Dodge Polara/Matador.
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