In late 1958, Chrysler styling chief Virgil Exner began groping toward the next "Forward Look": a new design theme to leapfrog the competition and bring profits rolling in like his 1957s had done. Exner's designs inadvertently led to the introduction of the 1962-1964 Dodge Standard.
This "S-series" program envisioned a totally new 1962 corporate fleet styled like the forthcoming compact Valiant and wild "XNR" show car, both 1960 developments. That meant long hoods, bladelike front fenders, sharply slanted windshields, quirky beltline and window shapes, sculptured "chicken wing" rear flanks, and short, sloped, finless tails.
Exner also stirred in some of his beloved "Classic" elements: big square grilles, freestanding head/taillamps, and trunklids bulged to simulate spare tires (the infamous "toilet seat").
Final styling models were ready by February 1960, and newly elected Chrysler president Bill Newberg blessed them for 1962. But he was soon forced to resign in a scandal, and "Tex" Colbert returned to power. Tex looked at the S-series and had second thoughts.
By year's end he'd not only ditched DeSoto, but the S-series Chrysler and Imperial as well (in favor of "definned" 1961s). But he couldn't stop the new Plymouth and Dodge.
The result was a sales disaster. Here were "standards" that not only looked like compacts but were almost as small: chopped six inches in wheelbase, up to seven inches in overall length, they lost hundreds of pounds of road-hugging weight.
No matter that interior room was hardly affected, or that performance and mileage benefited from the reduced poundage: Buyers wanted full-size cars to be full-size-and nothing less. Of course, there was a market for the "intermediate car." Indeed, Ford's newly shrunken Fairlane sold quite well in 1962.
Keep reading to learn about the styling and sales success of the 1962-1964 Dodge Standard.
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1962, 1963, 1964 Dodge Standard
The 1962, 1963, 1964 Dodge Standard struggled for sales numbers. Plymouth, though, fell to eighth in 1962 model-year production, its lowest rank ever. Dodge managed to remain ninth despite building 39,000 fewer cars than it had in 1961, but would have fared worse had it not revived a true full-size model at midyear. Despite a short selling season, this 122-inch-wheelbase hybrid called Custom 880 accounted for over 17,000 sales.
Most 1962 Dodge standards were called Darts, after the division's successful full-size 1960-1961 junior line. These included base two- and four-door sedans and a four-door wagon, the same plus a hardtop coupe in midrange 330 trim, and a 440 four-door sedan, wagon, hardtop coupe and sedan, and convertible.
Topping the list were bucket-seat Polara 500 convertible, hardtop coupe and (later in the year) hardtop sedan. Darts could be ordered with a 225-cubic-inch Slant Six, or 318 and 361 V-8s; Polaras came with the 361. All models offered big 413 wedgehead V-8s with up to 420 mighty horsepower, courtesy of Ram Induction manifolding.
Funny they may have looked, but the lightest high-power Darts were soon taken very seriously on drag strips, where they trounced bigger, heavier rivals.
The 1963s put on some 45 pounds while growing three inches in wheelbase to 119 inches, thus matching full-size Chevrolets and Fords. Exner, in one of his last jobs at Chrysler (he left in 1962), applied square, Thunderbird-style rooflines to hardtops and a slightly less bizarre "face" to all models.
Dart transferred to Dodge's 1963 compact line (replacing Lancer), so standards became 330, 440, Polara, and Polara 500 models without a sub-marque name.
The 361 and 413 engines departed. Polara's standard V-8 was a 318; 500s came with a 305-horse 383. But the big news -- literally -- was a squadron of 426 wedgeheads for the quarter-mile crowd, with up to 425 bhp in twin-four-barrel, ultra-high-compression (13.5:1) "Ram Charger" tune.
Dodge leapt to seventh in industry production as model-year volume soared some 194,000, though most of this came from the handsome new compact Dart.
With ex-Lincoln designer Elwood Engel firmly in charge of 1964 styling, Dodge standards were fully reskinned, becoming cleaner and more conventional. Styling cues included a slightly lower cowl, the first of Dodge's distinctive "dumbbell" grilles, and a rakish new hardtop roofline with vee'd C-pillars and "bubbled" backlight.
Models and engines stood basically pat. Chrysler as a whole now climbed out of its early-1960s financial hole, and Dodge claimed sixth in production with over half a million cars -- almost twice its volume of just two model years earlier.
In all, these Dodges emerge as a classic case of sows' ears being made into profitable silk purses. And with yet another restyle, they would sell even better for 1965 under the revived Coronet badge, which testifies to their inherent design qualities. Too bad they still get such a bad rap, but that's what poor timing and oddball looks will do.
Keep reading to learn about the specifications of the 1962-1964 Dodge "Standard".
For more information on cars, check out:
1962, 1963, 1964 Dodge Standard Specifications
The 1962, 1963, 1964 Dodge Standard helped boost Dodge's sales and bring it to sixth in production with half a million cars.
Engines: ohv I-6, 225 cid (3.40 x 4.13), 145 bhp; 318 cid (3.91 x 3.31); 230/260 bhp; ohv V-8, 361 cid (4.12 x 3.38), 305/310 bhp (1962 only); 383 cid (4.25 x 3.38), 305/320/325/330 bhp; 413 cid (4.19 x 3.75), 410/420 bhp (1962 only); 426 cid (4.25 x 3.75), 365/370/375/415/425 bhp
Transmissions: 3/4-speed manual, 2-speed PowerFlite and 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, longitudinal torsion bars
Suspension rear: live axle on semi-elliptic leaf springs
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 116.0 (1962), 119.0 (1963-64 except wagons)
Weight (lbs): 2,965-3,640
Top speed (mph): NA
0-60 mph (sec): NA
Production: 1962 Dart Six 43,927 Dart V-8 17,981 Dart 330 Six 11,606 Dart 330 V-8 26,544 Dart 440 Six 3,942 Dart 440 V-8 42,360 Polara 500 12,268 1963 330 Six 51,761 330 V-8 33,602 440 Six 13,146 440 V-8 49,591 Polara Six 68,262 Polara V-8 40,323 Polara 500 (V-8) 7,256 1964 300 Six 57,957 330 V-8 46,438 440 Six 15,147 440 V-8 68,861 Polara Six 3,810 Polara V-8 66,988 Polara 500 (V-8) 17,787