1962-1964 Dodge Polara 500

1964 Dodge Polara 500

The 1964 Polara 500 option cost $170, bringing the starting price of a convertible so equipped to $3,227.
The 1964 Polara 500 option cost $170, bringing the starting price of a convertible so equipped to $3,227.

On May 8, 1963, Chrysler's Technical Data Department issued a booklet describing the salient features of the 119-inch-wheelbase Dodge for 1964. The 1964 Dodge Polara 500 described in this internal publication was far different from the one that reached production.

As originally planned, the 500 had unique side trim. A diecast, horizontally ribbed texture nested in the U-shape on the front fender, from which flowed a single molding that traced the length of the undercut body-side contour line. Bright sill and wheel-lip moldings were carried over from 1963, except the bumper extension casting was discarded in favor of lengthening the sill molding aft of the rear wheel, where it then outlined the bumper end. The Polara 500 nameplate was integral with the front-fender casting.

There were additional differences. The hood windsplit molding was all bright (instead of silver and bright). Out back, triple square taillights, three per side, were set inside a carwide textured chrome panel, with vertical backup lamps flanking the license plate.

Regrettably, this austere, clean-limbed 500 was never produced. On May 23, a letter was sent to recipients of the original report informing them that in 1964 "the Polara 500 will be marketed not as a separate premium-line automobile, but as a sport option on the Polara highline series. ..." All of the 500's unique exterior trim was thus cancelled.

Production 500s instead used the more-cluttered Polara side trim designed by ex-Packard stylist George Krispinski. This used the low-line 330-series "trace" molding with a wider, black-paint-filled double-rail molding a few inches below that ran the length of the bodyside, ending in an enlarged portion containing the series name.

On Polara 500s, the black was replaced with an engine-turned silver insert while a separate "Polara 500" nameplate was added to the front fender. The chrome lower deck panel was retained, but it was added to all Polaras. Red/white/red taillight groupings smacked quite a bit of Chevy's Impala. (At least new convex wheel covers with fratzog spinners were 500 exclusives.)

Even worse, the letter went on to explain that, "Since an engine is not included in the package, the [230-horsepower] 318-cubic-inch V-8 is the standard powerplant for the new Polara 500 sport option." Sticker price for the 500 package was $170, with the two-barrel 383-cubic-inch V-8 available for another $71 and the four-barrel job offered for $122 extra.

The reason for this seeming demotion was simple economics. The "take rate" for the Polara 500 had dropped dramatically during 1963, so Dodge product planners felt that the tooling required for the originally planned ornamentation on the 1964 500 was no longer a good business decision. In the end, they were justified; 17,787 customers opted for the less-distinctive-but less-expensive-1964 Polara 500, more than double that of 1963.

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