1962-1964 Dodge Polara 500

Dodge's 50th Anniversary

The 1963 Dodge Polara 500 was made in low numbers; only 1,580 convertibles were built.
The 1963 Dodge Polara 500 was made in low numbers; only 1,580 convertibles were built.

Nineteen sixty-four was Dodge's 50th anniversary as an automaker and the division celebrated in a couple of ways: A special exterior body color was offered, appropriately named "Anniversary Gold," and a special concept car named "Charger" was created for the auto-show circuit. Based on the 1964 Polara 500, this first Charger (which still survives in private hands) was a two-seat, candy-apple-red roadster with a frameless, cut-down windshield and a squat roll bar with faired-in headrests for driver and passenger.

It was powered by the 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8 introduced in February 1964 to propel the mightiest Dodges and Plymouths destined for circle-track and dragstrip duty. Chrysler exec Elwood Engel drove it home one summer night, all of his stylists secretly hoping it would rain. It wasn't that they hated Engel or wished him ill, but the thought of "the boss" stuck in the rain in slow-moving traffic in this fancy, topless car was too delicious a picture to ignore.

Introduced at the 3,305 Dodge dealerships nationwide on September 20, 1963 (the earliest intro in Dodge history to that point), the 1964 B-bodies were a resounding success. Some 248,700 units were produced in the model year, just 26,000 units behind the related Plymouth. Furthermore, when Dart and 880 assemblies were included, the division topped the 500,000 mark for the first time in its 50-year history, a nearly 12 percent gain from 1963. After the debacle of two years earlier, Dodge was finally smack dab in the middle of that "mainstream" so eagerly sought by Engel and Chrysler president Lynn Townsend.

Still, the 1962-1964 efforts to create a Dodge personal-luxury car "on the cheap" failed. Objectively, given the division's other problems, the Polara 500 was never more than a sideline. The car was displaced in 1965 by the new premium bucket-seat Monaco heading the all-new 121-inch wheelbase Dodge.

An attempt to make the Monaco Dodge's personal-luxury entry was derailed a year after its launch when the Monaco name replaced the Custom 880, downgrading the renamed 1966 Monaco 500 to trim-variant status. Although a 500 package remained optional on Polaras through 1969, it was never the same. Forsaking personal luxury, Dodge planners instead turned to creating muscle cars like big-engine Coronets, Chargers, and Challengers.

From a collectibility perspective, in general, the 1964 Polara 500 is the least desirable. Not only was the 1964 the most-numerous 500 (and thus lacks exclusivity), it was also the least-distinctive from an appearance standpoint, reflecting its diminished status as an option package rather than a model in its own right. Additionally, it has the smallest standard V-8.

As for the 1962 and 1963, it's a much closer call. Both had distinctive side ornamentation and were separate models. The 1963 was produced in the lowest numbers, but from direct front or rear, is indistinguishable from lesser Polaras. The 1962, with its blacked-out grille and exclusive taillight/backup lights, is the most-distinctive from an ornamentation viewpoint. The 1962 Polara 500 has the most-unusual styling, but its standard engine was the 361 V-8, while the 1963 had the larger 383.

Of course, as a collector car, any 1962-1964 Polara 500 with a 413 or 426 Ramcharger V-8 would be the most valuable, although not as drivable as the more-tractable standard V-8s.

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