Though body sheetmetal was unaltered for the 1963 Dodge 880, a new taillight was conjured up to fit in the existing fender opening. A chrome-plated die casting incorporated a round taillight above a rectangular back-up lamp.
The 1963 Dodge 880 featured a single-height seat
rather than a high driver's seat.
Why round? For one thing, it was different from the 1962 Newport. For another, Dodge had featured round taillights on most of its cars since 1955.
The extended surface of the bezel casting that rode atop the fender was detailed with long, fine ribs. It was a bit much, but the designers did what they could to infuse a Dodge identity, even if all they had to work with was a taillight.
The rest of the rear end was cleaned up by removing the bright molding from the edge of the decklid and incorporating the trunk-key cylinder into the fratzog ornament. An understated Dodge script was fitted to the right side of the decklid, mimicking similar new scripts on the front fenders.
The bodyside was also simplified via a new full-length bright molding that was narrower in section and placed higher on the body, terminating in a reverse hook on the rear quarters (except on wagons and the new base sedan). The new molding intersected the door handles, making the handles appear less conspicuous and more integrated. The star ornament was stripped from the C-pillars of four-doors.
Sometime in spring 1963, 880s received Chrysler's new "maker's mark," a gold-colored Pentastar. Created by the New York-based corporate identity specialist Lippincott & Margulies, the tiny badge appeared midyear on all the company's automobiles, but on the curb side only.
According to then-Lippincott & Margulies design director Robert Stanley, Engel wasn't happy with this bit of "not-designed-here" ornamentation on his cars, nixing initial proposals for a larger Pentastar on the rear-quarter panels before reluctantly agreeing to the smaller front-fender-mounted mark.
The corporation invested $2.9 million in new tools for the 880 facelift, spending most of that on the new front end. Immutable timing requirements for fabricating the new hood, fenders, and grille tooling meant that the introduction date for the 1963 Custom 880 had to be delayed until November 14, 1962, a month and a half after the debut of the other 1963 Dodge lines on October 2.
Even so, the fact that the new front end was designed and tooled in just 10 or 11 months was an extraordinary achievement, especially considering that the 1963 Dodge 880 wasn't in the cards when that year's Dodge lineup was first being planned.
While certainly not "modern" compared with the sheer-lined new Chrysler, the Dodge 880 was much better looking than in 1962. Moreover, with the redesign of the Chrysler, the Dodge 880 was now "its own car," if only by default.
For 1963, Dodge planners expanded the product offerings, retaining the six-model Custom 880 lineup while adding a three-model base 880 series consisting of a four-door sedan and four-door pillared wagons for six or nine passengers. (Dodge called them sedan wagons.)
At $2,813, the base Dodge 880 sedan was priced $151 less than an equivalent Custom 880 or Chrysler Newport. The wagons had a similar price spread. Still, customers preferred the Custom 880s overall by almost 2-to-1. Among Dodge 880 models, only the six-passenger wagon outpaced its Custom running mate, and by just 80 units at that.
Since there was time for interior changes, new trim styles were designed. Customs got new vertically ribbed two-tone door-trim panels with carpeted lower kick panels, while base 880s had horizontal ribbing in one color and no carpeting on kick panels.
Custom 880s also had longer armrests and pleated seats in a "Jacquard body cloth fabric with nylon warp and spun rayon fill highlighted with silver metallic yarns." Cloth-and-vinyl seats in five colors were offered in the sedan and two-door hardtop, while all-vinyl trims, also in five colors, were featured in the four-door hardtop, convertible, and wagons. The high-back driver seat, a comfort feature introduced in 1960, was replaced by a conventional single-height front seat.
The instrument panel was tweaked, with the speedometer, minor gauges, and the new all-transistor radio receiving black dials, white numerals, and red pointers. New steering wheels with series-specific round centers were introduced; Custom Dodge 880s had a two-tone rim and full horn ring. Custom models also sported a bright aluminum overlay along the lower edge of the instrument panel, a detail absent on plain 880s.
External trim cues specific to Custom 880s included bright trim moldings on the upper door frames of the four-door sedan, rear-bumper outline, and rocker panels. On Dodge 880s, Chryslers, and Imperials, a new acrylic enamel paint that could be buffed after baking was introduced.
For 1963, there was now a choice of "LB" V-8 engines: the unchanged 361 or a newly optional 383-cid job. The latter put out 305 bhp at 4,600 rpm and generated 410 pound-feet of torque at 2,400 revs. Both powerplants had a two-barrel carburetor and single exhaust system.
The 383's higher 10:1 compression ratio mandated the use of premium fuel. Through-gear acceleration from 0 to 60 mph was improved an estimated 17 percent over the standard engine. Motor Trend's test of a 383/TorqueFlite convertible resulted in an average 0-60 time of 9.9 seconds. (For police applications, a high-performance 413-cid V-8 was made available.)
A parking sprag was added to the TorqueFlite transmission, allowing the new parking brake to operate on the two rear-wheel service brakes. The elimination of the long-standing transmission output shaft parking brake permitted the use of a new floorpan, lowering the transmission hump 1.63 inches and providing more foot room. Brakes were enlarged, too.
All Dodge 880s came with Chrysler's new industry-leading five-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Production of the 880 line increased to 28,266 cars in 1963, a 61 percent increase over 1962. With Chrysler still scrambling to get Plymouth and Dodge cars into distinct compact, intermediate, and full-sized categories for the 1965 model year, the Dodge 880 would enjoy one last hurrah.
Though the Dodge 880 may have come late to the party, the company, to its credit, continued to spend money updating the car. Having redone the front end in 1963, Dodge stylists attacked the rear for the 1964 model year.
Quarter panels, decklid, and taillights were new. There were restrictions, of course. To save money, use of the 1963 Chrysler rear bumper was specified, which in turn meant that the back-up lights and license plate moved from the body into the bumper. As the fuel filler remained in the center rear, a separate access door was required in the new lower-deck panel.
The stylists had to carry over the rear-wheel openings and, most important, the rear doors on four-door models. This meant that the horizontal flare on the rear doors had to be once again carried into the new quarters.
In place of the backward-leaning Newport quarters used previously, designers chose to make the ends of the 1964 rear quarters angle forward in side view, reinforcing the effect with a new black-paint-filled bodyside molding that angled downward parallel to the sloping quarter ends. Attention to the new sheetmetal was enhanced by large individual letters that spelled out Dodge on the rear flanks.
For more on the 1964 Dodge 880, continue to the next page.
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