1962-1964 Dodge Polara 500

1963 Dodge B-Body Cars

Except for station wagons, the Dodge B-body wheelbase was stretched to 119 inches for 1963.
Except for station wagons, the Dodge B-body wheelbase was stretched to 119 inches for 1963.

The 1963 Dodge B-body cars benefited from a bigger package than their 1962 introduction. The wheelbase was enlarged to 119 inches, the same as the Chevy Impala and Ford Galaxie. This was accomplished by moving the rear wheels back three inches, which, in turn, moved the rear seat rearward, adding 1.5 inches of legroom for the rear-seat passengers, (Wagons, however, retained their 116-inch wheelbase.) Overall length was increased 6.1 inches.

Using the new front fender as a starting point, stylists developed a long, smooth bodyside that flowed continuously from front to rear, eliminating the "start and stop" look of the 1962's blades. The undercut detail that began at the headlight grew gradually deeper as it moved rearward, finally angling down sharply in side view to meet the new rear bumper. The various bodyside moldings followed and highlighted this character line to express further continuity.

The bodyside shape of the 1963 Dodge was a lot trickier than it looked. A subtle vertical peak centered above the outboard headlight widened into a vertical plane whose height increased as it moved rearward, becoming flush with the new C-pillar and forming the visual upper sides of the trunk. Below this plane, the body surface rolled outboard to meet the undercut described earlier, forming a sheetmetal shoulder that developed gradually from headlight to taillight.

New roofs featured wide, sloping C-pillars in frank imitation of the Ford Galaxie's Thunderbird-inspired roofline, a course GM was also pursuing. At the 1963 auto shows, Ford taunted its competition by proclaiming the Galaxie look as "The Roof That Tops Them All" -- and they were right!

At the rear, the Dodge's new decklid was wide, low, and flat, again in an effort to make the car look as big as possible. Usable trunk capacity was 10 percent larger than in 1962.

In the rush to upsize and "normalize" the car, most of the tooling money was spent on the outside. Consequently, not much was done to the interiors, which made do with new door panels and seat styles, a reworked instrument cluster, and more-conventional round-hub steering wheels. Tooling costs for the 1963 B-body program for Dodge and Plymouth combined totaled $26.7 million, compared to $87.5 million for 1962.

Overall, these new Dodges were a good-looking lot. When they finally arrived in showrooms on October 2, 1962, they would prove -- in size and styling -- to be a lot more "commercial" than the much-maligned 1962 Dart/Polara. What deposed Chrysler styling exec Virgil Exner thought of them isn't known.

Certainly they were a total repudiation of his original styling direction. Still, they were designed under his leadership and were virtually complete when Elwood Engel, his replacement, arrived in Highland Park in November 1961.

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