Luxury with more than a touch of sport was the key in the mid-1960s for Dodge's top-of-the-line full-size models, the 1965-1966 Dodge Polara 500, Monaco and Monaco 500. In fact, Dodge described its Polara 500 package for 1965 as just the answer "for special, sports-minded, fun-loving people."
Maybe so, but in the looks department, few would rank these as the most alluring Dodges ever -- or even of the decade. Some might even call them stodgy, perhaps ordinary. Yet they were eminently representative of their times, displaying the brand of straight-up, no-nonsense styling that was gaining favor throughout the industry. Body/chassis structures were closely allied to the redesigned Chryslers, whose square shapes were penned by Elwood Engel.
Finally distancing itself from the bonds of its excessively colorful and flamboyant recent past, Dodge could now focus on creating a distinguished -- yet youthful -- demeanor for its biggest automobiles. Juggling those two seemingly contradictory themes was a trick that each American automaker had to learn in a hurry.
If the goodies weren't tempting enough outside, a peek under the surface might convince skeptics that Dodge could build some interesting full-size excitement. Beneath that hood might lurk anything from the basic Polara 383-cubic-inch V-8 with two-barrel carburetor and 270 horsepower, right up to the big 426-cubic-inch "wedge" with 365 horses ready to gallop. In between was a four-barrel 383, as well as a 413-cubic-inch version of the Chrysler V-8.
Extras in the Polara 500 sports package, offered on hardtops and convertibles only, included all-vinyl front bucket seats with center console, a floor-shifted four-speed or three-speed TorqueFlite automatic, padded dashboard, and deluxe wheel covers. Like other Polaras, the 500 had a torsion-bar front suspension with anti-sway bar, curved side-window glass, and crank-type vent panes.
Polaras displayed a slim, full-width dumbbell-shaped grille made up of thin vertical bars, incorporating quad headlights. Outward-angled, Delta-shaped taillights rested at the rear. Fender skirts cost extra.
Read about interiors and options for the Polara and Monaco on the next page.
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1965-1966 Dodge Polara 500, Monaco and Monaco 500
The 1965-1966 Dodge Polara 500, Monaco and Monaco 500 offered a wide range of options and some luxury touches.
Monaco for 1965 was billed as the "Limited Edition Dodge for the man with unlimited taste." This "one-of-a-kind, best-of-everything Dodge" sold only as a two-ton, two-door hardtop, with a $3,355 price tag. Riding the same 121-inch wheelbase as the Polaras, Monaco reached even further in their quest for a mix of luxury and vigor, sophistication and spirit.
Interiors earned special attention. Deep pleated bucket seats came in soft saddle-grain vinyl with a rattan wicker pattern on the backs (and matching door panels), or a combination of Dawson-pattern cloth and vinyl.
Full-length consoles could get an optional tachometer, inset in brushed aluminum. Rear passengers enjoyed integrated bucket seats, while the driver faced a three-spoke translucent steering wheel.
Appropriate ticks on the option list brought even more pleasures, from electric windows to an Auto Pilot and air conditioning. Monaco bodies, meanwhile, came in a selection of 15 colors, which could be accented by an optional grained-vinyl roof in black or white.
A healthy helping of torque permitted the Motor Trend Monaco with the 413-cubic-inch engine to blast to 60 in a sizzling 8.4 seconds -- less than a second slower than a 426-cubic-inch Polara 500 had achieved a year earlier.
That's rapid motion indeed for a car with so many pounds to haul along, and a TorqueFlite transmission. Chrysler's four-speed gearbox with the 426 engine would contribute even more prowess. Standard Monaco mill was a four-barrel edition of the 383, rated at 315 horsepower.
Tapered taillights grew much wider for 1966, reaching into "MONACO" block lettering on the rear. Monaco 500 was the top model this time, highlighted by sill moldings and paint striping. Dodge promoted Monaco's "lavish display of luxury on the inside that some people call downright sinful."
The standard 383-cubic-inch engine with TorqueFlite now wielded 325 horsepower. Both the Polara and Monaco 500 could get a 440-cubic-inch V-8 this year, rated at 350 horsepower (365 with dual exhausts). Front-disc brakes were optional on each full-size Dodge. This year's grille had the same "dumbbell" shape as 1965, but with its thin vertical bars in an evenly spaced pattern.
Not the best-remembered of Dodges today, the poshest Polara and Monaco two-doors earned a spot in history for their clever blend of formality and frivolity. They helped bring Dodge to a decade-high production total in 1966, earning fifth spot in the sales rankings.
Both names continued into the 1970s, though the cars themselves were overshadowed by the rising popularity of mid-size muscle machines.
To see specifications for the 1965-1966 Dodge Polara 500, Monaco and Monaco 500, continue to the next page.
For more information on cars, see:
1965-1966 Dodge Polara 500, Monaco and Monaco 500 Specifications
The 1965-1966 Dodge Polara 500, Monaco and Monaco 500 were oriented as much toward luxury as they were toward sport. But they were worthy of the muscle cars that would follow in the next few years.
Engine: ohv V-8, 383 cid (4.25 × 3.38), 270/315/325 bhp
1965 Engine: 413 cid (4.19 × 3.75), 340 bhp; 426 cid (4.25 × 3.75), 365 bhp
1966 Engine: 440 cid (4.32 × 3.75), 350/365 bhp
Transmission: 3-speed manual; optional 4-speed manual, 3-speed TorqueFlite automatic
Suspension front: non-parallel control arms, lateral torsion bars
Suspension rear: live axle, leaf springs
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 121.0
Weight (lbs.): 3,765-4,315
Top speed (mph): 103-118
0-60 mph (sec): 8.4 (V-8 413)