1962-1964 Dodge Polara 500

Dodge B-Body cars
A rendering of the proposed 1962 Dodge conveys many of design details championed by Virgil Exner.
A rendering of the proposed 1962 Dodge conveys many of design details championed by Virgil Exner.

Dodge's new downsized cars -- Chrysler's first unitized "B-bodies" -- were announced on September 28, 1961, and they would be used as the basis for the 1962-1964 Dodge Polara 500. Marketed as the "New Lean Breed of Dodge," these Dodge B-body cars were also offered in Dart, Dart 330, and Dart 440 iterations. Long, horizontal blades faded into the front doors. Up front, the wrap of the fender blades was interrupted by a bold, forward-thrusting grille in the shape of an inverted trapezoid.

The high-beam headlights were tucked into bright recesses in the upper corners of the vertical grillework, while the low-beam headlights were housed in circular chrome bezels nestled under the fender blades. Thus low beams were mounted low, high beams were mounted high.

Both locations had their oddities. The grille was basically undercut, with a short wrapover at the top. In order to mount the high-beam lights, this convex grille plane had to be scooped out for the for the lamp bezels, somewhat awkward, visually. Retired Chrysler styling chief Gerry Thorley recalls that the grille texture was originally concave, with the inner lamps recessed and set in forward-thrusting bezels in what he considered to be a more-natural workout. Thorley also favored the concave grillework as an evolution of the concave grilles on the 1961 Dart and Polara.

But Dodge Division General Manager M. C. Patterson insisted on the convex grille-work because it was a greater styling change from 1961. The bright bezels on the outer low-beam lamps were also unusual in that the inner bezel was a ring of white plastic, apparently in an attempt to make the five-Inch lamps look larger than the similarly sized high-beams.

The 1962 Dodge Polara 500 two-door hardtop, the most popular model, shows off the staggered taillights.

At the rear, the staggered-lamp look was repeated in the diagonally biased arrangement of four small, circular lamps, with the inboard lamps again mounted higher than the outboard. On Darts, the lower outboard lamps housed the taillights, while the upper inboard lamps were back-up lights.

An arcing, sculpted blade in the body-side sheetmetal curved over the rear wheel and then rose rearward to meet the upper lamp. In between the sculptural front and rear, the car's midsection retained the flush body-to-glass relationship of the original design, albeit with straight side glass. The beltline was notched-up aft of the front door to reduce the height (and cost) of the rear door glass.

Two- and four-door rooflines were identical and more upright in profile, a silhouette in stark contrast to the severely sloped two-door hardtop roofs Dodge had favored since 1957. The base of the windshield was pulled further forward at the centerline to meet the rising "speedboat" cowl, styling touches deposed vice president Virgil Exner treasured.

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