1965-1968 Dodge Monaco and 500


The face of the first Dodge Monaco was virtually the same as that of the companion Custom 880 and Polara Series. See more classic car pictures.

There was no denying that the Pontiac Grand Prix of the 1960s had a sense of style other automakers wished they could duplicate. Even though the nature of the Grand Prix's winning style was elusive, it didn't prevent others in Detroit from pursuing it. For Dodge, this pursuit took the form of the 1965-1968 Dodge Monaco and Monaco 500.

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However, despite their best efforts and to the dismay of other medium-priced makes, the 1960s truly belonged to Pontiac. Ever since Bunkie Knudsen tore off the hallowed "Silver Streak" hood trim for 1957, Pontiac had been on the rise. Swiftly, seemingly from nowhere, a winning combination of good looks and deft marketing lifted the "Wide Track" brand to a secure third place in total industry sales.

Two long-established competitors, Dodge and Mercury, had to scramble just to stay in the race, a race made all the more difficult by the fact that both virtually abandoned the medium-priced market tor 1961-1962, leaving all the glory -- and most of the profits -- to Pontiac. Mercury's run at Pontiac is another story, but Dodge's catch-up efforts included a new name -- Monaco -- and the labors of Jeffrey Godshall as one of the "Dodge Boys" in the styling studios.

"It was in early February 1963, during one of the coldest Midwestern winters in memory, that I achieved a goal I'd been aiming at since I was 14 years old: becoming a designer ('stylist' back then) for Chrysler Corporation," says Godshall. "It had taken a long eight months since graduating from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, but I'd finally landed the job I'd set my heart on. After a few months in a catch-all orientation studio under Dick Macadam (later Elwood Engel's successor as Chrysler design vice-president), I was transferred to my first production assignment in the Dodge Exterior Studio."

"I was lucky to get this plum position," he continues, "given the intense ongoing rivalry between siblings Dodge and Plymouth, a rivalry keenly felt by their respective stylists. In mid-1963, the Dodge studio was putting the final touches on its 1965 models, the "A" series in Chrysler Engineering-speak. Against one wall stood the clay buck for the new B-body Coronet, the most vanilla-looking car I'd ever seen. Mid-studio, work was proceeding on a nicely facelifted A-body Dart. But on a platform at the west end of the long room sat the one really new car to be seen: the big C-body Dodge."

Learn more about this C-body Dodge and the new line it would become on the next page.

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Dodge's Auto Design in the Early 1960s

By the start of 1963, the overall look of the 1965 big Dodges was very much in evidence, but the exact look of the planned flagship hardtop was still up in the air.
By the start of 1963, the overall look of the 1965 big Dodges was very much in evidence, but the exact look of the planned flagship hardtop was still up in the air.

The new Dodge C-body was the first new-design full-size Dodge since the 122-inch-wheelbase Polara/Matador of 1960-1961, when the division stormed the low-price field with the related high-value Dodge Dart. Unfortunately, Dart's runaway 1960 success led Dodge to abandon the medium-priced ranks, which were then beset by declining sales, new competition from low-priced brands (Chevy Impala, Ford Galaxie), and the recent demise of Nash, Hudson, Packard Clipper, and, of course, Edsel.

Chrysler had two other new unibody entries in this beleaguered class, the 1960 Chrysler and DeSoto. But DeSoto was dead by model year 1962, leaving Chrysler as the company's sole medium-priced line. Replacing the traditional big Dodges, at least in theory, was the Polara 500, a gussied-up version of that year's new mid-size Dart.

But while the, er, uniquely styled Dodge Dart went nowhere fast, big cars began staging a comeback. Dodge scrambled to make its mid-size more salable and was even faster to answer dealer pleas for the return of a genuine "standard." The latter was hastily introduced in spring 1962 as the Chrysler Custom 880, basically that year's Chrysler with a 1961 Polara front clip and assorted trim drawn mostly from the parts bin.

This was an ironic move indeed, because the 1962 Chrysler, itself a last-minute creation, used 1961 Polara front and rear doors, decklid, back panel, and rear bumper. The only real Chrysler parts on it were newly de-finned rear quarters, and the Custom 880 had those too.

They might have called it the 880 to imply that this patched-together product was twice as much car as a top-line Dart 440. In any case, it was a quick and easy way to restore the traditional big Dodge, leaving planners free to sort out the rest of the line. Those efforts produced a new compact Dodge Dart for 1963 (replacing the 1961-1962 Lancer); a slightly upsized, more conventional 1963-1964 mid-size; then the new big car for 1965, when the intermediate again got new styling, as well as the old Coronet name.

These three photos, from a series dated January 15, 1963, show that lots of bodyside brightwork was considered for a time.
Another circa January 1963 big Dodge concept option.

What's in a Name: The Story of the "Fratzog"

Speaking of names, beginning in 1962, Dodge cars sported a smart new emblem, triangular in shape and composed of three triangular elements. According to stylist Bob Gale, it was developed via an in-studio competition. "We all tried different designs," he recalls. "Mine came in second and Don Wright's came in first, so we used his."

Wright, a retired Chrysler design chief, remembers the event well. "The company had an outside design firm working on a new logo," he said recently, "but nothing they came up with was 'automotive.' Bill Brownlie thought we in the studio could do better, and challenged us to come up with some fresh ideas. I formed the design around elements of the 'Forward Look' emblem, repeated three times."

"I thought the design looked pretty good as a 2-D graphic," he continues, "but I never did like the 3-D version the guys in the Ornamentation Studio later came up with to put on the car. Of course, being a triangular logo, it caught the attention of Mercedes-Benz. Their lawyers and Chrysler's lawyers went round and round about the design for several years, but [unlike Studebaker in 1953] we never had to change it."

When it came time to submit a patent drawing for copyright purposes, Chrysler attorneys asked, "What do you call it?" Stuck for a name, someone in the studio came up with the nonsensical "fratzog" (which Wright still despises). Now you know.

Gain even more knowledge about Dodge designs as you explore model year 1965 on the next page.

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1965's New Dodge Designs

This January 1963 concept shows many of the features that came to be found on 1965's big Dodges.
This January 1963 concept shows many of the features that came to be found on 1965's big Dodges.

1965 was the first time since the "P" series cars of five years earlier that a big Dodge was sketched on a clean sheet of paper. The result embodied the philosophy of Chrysler's Vice-President of Styling, Elwood Engel.

A George Walker man at Ford, Engel was lured to Highland Park in the fall of 1961 by Chrysler President Lynn Townsend to replace the talented Virgil Exner, whom division managers tended to blame for the marketplace failure of the shrunken 1962 Dodge and Plymouth. In contrast to Exner's late-1950s finned wedges and his newer Valiant-style long-hood/short-deck cars, Engel favored long horizontal lines in side view, with massive front fenders, tapering rear ends, and equal-length hoods and decks. In other words, big boxes shaped to accentuate size. It wasn't a dramatic or particularly original look, but it was just what Townsend believed was necessary to put Chrysler back into the mainstream of American styling -- and sales.

The new big 1965 Dodge was a perfect reflection of Engel's dictates, being attractive but not adventurous. Doors were shared with a similarly reborn full-size Plymouth Fury. So were the uppers on most body styles, which featured curved side glass as pioneered by Exner's 1957 Imperial.

The Polara name was attached to the lower-priced model group, along with the more deluxe Custom 880s. The latter, however, included a six-window sedan that was shared with Chrysler but not Fury or Polara. All models wore a new variation of Dodge's "barbell" grille theme, which originated on the 1962 Plymouth, was abandoned and then resurrected by Dodge chief designer Bill Brownlie for the mid-size 1964 Polara. It remained a Dodge hallmark for six years.

Odd dual headlamp positionings had been a hallmark of mid-size Dodges since 1962, but the big new 1965s had simple side-by-side placement at the outer ends of the grille. In between, a lower hood and raised bumper center formed a more rectilinear barbell. Grillework was similar to that of the 880s from 1964, but it was convex rather than concave, with slim vertical boxes enclosing recessed vertical bars, all peaked in side view. Conventional, perhaps, but commercial.

High, blocky front fenders led to body-side "character" lines that tapered gently toward the rear, which bore the car's one original styling element: wedged-shaped "delta" taillights. These, too, would be a Dodge icon for the rest of the decade.

Learn more about these unique and iconic taillights, a Dodge design element for years to come, on the next page.

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Dodge's New Styling in 1965

A view of the snazzy, wedge-style taillights on a sleek 1965 Dodge Monaco.
A view of the snazzy, wedge-style taillights on a sleek 1965 Dodge Monaco.

Dodge's new styling in 1965 included a taillight treatment that was conjured up literally overnight by Diran Yazejian, who joined Chrysler in 1959 after studying at Art Center School in Los Angeles.

"I was laboring on the back end of the clay buck," Yazejian recalls, "trying to translate a sketch of mine into clay. From dead rear, the design turned downward at the ends, but it just wasn't working out and studio management was getting nervous. One afternoon, as my boss, studio manager John Schwarz, was leaving for the day, he said he'd give me until the next morning to work out something acceptable or they'd move on to another design," he continues.

"I came up with the idea of mirroring the downward shape at the ends, thereby creating a symmetrically wedged taillight. Working with clay modelers Dick Bernock and Don Kloka, we roughed it in on overtime and by next morning, when Schwarz and Brownlie came in, we had something I felt would work. Brownlie liked what we'd done, and I was allowed to refine the design, which went into production." With variations, this widely admired cue soon spread throughout the Dodge line.

Those first delta taillights carried a bright horizontal divider bar intersected by a circular reflector -- except on the new top-line Monaco hardtop coupe. There, the concave back panel was traversed by a bright horizontal die-cast piece (originally narrow, but thickened at Engel's request) that "floated" in red plastic and extended halfway onto the taillight lenses.

The idea was to create the illusion of full-width lamps. Although cost prevented any lighting behind the plastic, one determined designer, Frank Ruff, retrofitted his own Monaco with tiny bulbs that gave a continuous red glow.

The 1965 Dodge Monaco had other nice features as well -- not just taillights. Continue to the next page for details.

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1965 Dodge Monaco Exterior

The fortunately abandoned fender skirt can be seen on this concept version of the 1965 Dodge Monaco.
The fortunately abandoned fender skirt can be seen on this concept version of the 1965 Dodge Monaco.

The 1965 Dodge Monaco rode the same 121-inch wheelbase as other C-body Dodges, but was its own one-model series. Mainstream 1965s were initially labeled Polara and Polara 800, but someone evidently got cold feet, and the familiar Custom 880 name continued in the United States (but not Canada). This switch -- authorized by a Product Planning letter dated May 26, 1964 -- came so late that early 1965 Customs had no series nameplates at all.

Billed as the "Limited Edition Dodge for the Man with Unlimited Taste," the 1965 Monaco was undoubtedly inspired by Pontiac's Grand Prix, whose astonishing 1963 production of 72,959 units was a wake-up call for every product planner in Detroit.

Even Dodge's choice of name was the obvious "other half" of the well-known Monaco Grand Prix racing event. Gene Weis, a retired Chrysler planning executive, recalls that ad agency BBD&O felt that the numerical Dodge series names of the day were boring. Weis remembers that the agency created the Monaco's crest -- and probably came up with the name, too. "We in Product Planning had nothing to do with the names," he recalls.

Although Grand Prix had been quietly introduced for 1962, it blossomed as Pontiac's "image car" for 1963: an aggressively handsome hardtop with a unique roofline and concave backlight, minimal chrome, and specific grille, rear end, and interior. Tastefully elegant yet sporty, the 1963 GP cast an appealing "halo" over the entire Pontiac line. The 1965 Monaco, it was hoped, would do the same for Dodge.

But the Monaco wasn't quite a Grand Prix, although it did cost a bit less ($3308 versus $3426). Yes, that special rear end set it apart from other big Dodges, but the grille was the same as any plain Polara's. Despite an overall willingness to spend money on their 1965s, Dodge planners didn't come up with funds for designers to give the Monaco its own image-building "face." (Note that they didn't make this mistake with the 1966 Charger fastback, which used Coronet front sheetmetal but gained distinction with costly disappearing headlamps.)

And while the 1965 Dodge Monaco's bodysides were indeed dechromed -- brightwork was confined to a slim full-length upper-body molding and a ribbed rocker-panel applique -- the effect was somehow less than the Grand Prix's treatment. Some Styling record photos show that rear fender skirts were considered, but fortunately they were forgotten when the sill molding was added.

The 1965 Dodge Monaco did have some neat exterior touches, though, like fender-mounted turn indicators and special wheel covers with three-blade simulated knock-off centers. While new, the hardtop roofline mimicked the reverse-taper C-pillar introduced on the 1964 Polara. A vinyl covering in black or white was extra cost.

The 1965 Dodge Monaco included even more special features on the interior. Continue to the next page for details.

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1965 Dodge Monaco Interior

The new Monaco was chosen to serve as the basis for a full-scale cutaway designed to give auto show visitors a look at what went into the 1965 Dodges.
The new Monaco was chosen to serve as the basis for a full-scale cutaway designed to give auto show visitors a look at what went into the 1965 Dodges.

Where Dodge chose to spend its money in 1965 -- particularly where the 1965 Dodge Monaco was concerned -- was on interiors. "We reached the peak of sorts in our 1965 cars," explains former Chrysler planning executive Gene Weis. "Though a financial genius, Lynn Townsend admitted that he 'didn't know product' and consequently gave [product planning head] Bob Anderson a free rein in planning the 1965 line. We spent money on every aspect of our 1965 cars, adding content to best the competition, and targeting GM."

That certainly showed inside the 1965 Dodge Monaco. A unique three-spoke steering wheel fronted the expensive-looking padded instrument panel found in other big Dodges, with two impressively large circular gauge pods dead ahead and a full-width concave brushed-aluminum panel below.

Seating comprised buckets front and rear, available in three shades of pleated saddle-grain vinyl (red, black, and cordovan) or, optionally, with vinyl and "Dawson" cloth in blue or turquoise. The package tray was cleverly contoured to mate with the individual rear seat-backs, echoing the Thunderbird Sports Roadster of a few years before.

Like earlier Chrysler 300s, the 1965 Dodge Monaco came with a full-length center console. This provided a padded armrest/storage bin, concealed rear cigar lighter, ashtray ensemble and, where ordered, a tachometer up front. Transmission choices included the usual Torqueflite automatic or a four-speed manual, both with console shifters.

A genuine novelty was the use of rattan wicker accents on the Monaco's door and quarter panels, as well as over much of the backs of the vinyl front buckets (but not with cloth upholstery). Done in a natural light cream, the criss-cross wicker was unique and attractive. Above was a perforated vinyl headliner. And, of course, there was sparkling chrome everywhere, brightwork that literally lost its luster once the government began regulating the reflectivity of interior components a few years later.

The 1965 Dodge Monaco's standard engine was a revised version of Chrysler's workhorse 383-cid V-8 with 325 bhp. Buyers seeking more muscle could choose from two optional "wedgeheads": a revived 413 with 340 bhp, or the familiar 426 with 365 horses. All Monaco engines had four-barrel carburetors and thus demanded premium fuel.

A second cutaway look at the 1965 Dodge Monaco's engine and interior features.

Canadian Monacos offered more engine choices, starting with a standard 225-cid Slant Six, which must have labored mightily under the 3975-pound curb weight. Of the 2,068 Monacos built for 1965 in Chrysler's Windsor, Ontario, plant across the river from Detroit, a mere 40 had the six. There were other differences in Dominion Dodges. To reduce plant complexity, all Canadian-built seniors utilized Plymouth Fury interiors, including dashboards. Canadians also were offered a Monaco convertible that Americans weren't -- something that held true through the rest of the decade.

With all this effort put into the 1965 Dodge Monaco, how did it sell? Get answers to this question and more on the next page.

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1965 Dodge Monaco Sales Results

The cutaway Monaco competed at auto shows with advanced concept cars, winning Dodges from the nation's racetracks, and other 1965 Dodges.
The cutaway Monaco competed at auto shows with advanced concept cars, winning Dodges from the nation's racetracks, and other 1965 Dodges.

The 1965 Dodge Monaco sales results for the United States totaled 13,096 orders, accounting for an impressive 10 percent of big-Dodge output, but still far behind Grand Prix's 57,900 units.

Although battling the GP was tough enough, the Monaco also faced unwelcome and perhaps unwise competition from within its own family. Plymouth's big bucket-seat Sport Fury, for example, sold 44,900 hard-tops and convertibles that year. Worse, for a paltry $192 more than a Monaco, you could buy a non-letter 1965 Chrysler 300, a larger, arguably better-looking car with the added prestige of the Chrysler brand.

And if the truth be told, Chrysler was still the corporation's medium-priced mainstay. Since 1961, Chrysler had offered a Newport sedan aggressively stickered at around $3000 or less -- piranha-like pricing that helped kill DeSoto and seriously hampered Dodge's return to the medium-priced field.

According to former Chrysler planner Gene Weis, this tactic reflected the make's policy of "no junior editions," a derisive stab at the 1961 "senior" compacts from Buick, Olds, and Pontiac. Management felt it better to permit cheaper big Chryslers than dilute the brand's image with little Chryslers. Therefore, the Engel-styled 1965 Chryslers were big, attractive, priced right, and set a production record for the marque.

What did the 1966 model year have in store for the Dodge Monaco? Find out on the next page.

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1966 Dodge Monaco

Canadian 1966 Dodge Monaco 500s, as shown here, used Plymouth interiors.
Canadian 1966 Dodge Monaco 500s, as shown here, used Plymouth interiors.

The 1966 Dodge Monaco attempted to improve on the impressive debut of its predecesssor. Senior Dodges in general received a tasty facelift for 1966. The lower bodyside ridge now carried up and over the front wheel well to newly pointed fenders with taller bumper ends. The barbell grille was wider at the ends and narrower in the middle, squeezed by a new hood and bumper. Slim, vertical die-cast grille bars had a "blip" in the center, forming a subtle bright horizontal accent (as on the Charger). Designed by Dick Clayton and Carl Cameron, this classy front was typical of their work: well handled forms combined with precise detailing.

Out back, new decklid and taillight designs formed an intriguing series of broken planes, the work of Frank Ruff. The lamps were still wedges outboard of the trunklid, but tapered in toward the middle of it, where a body-color panel carried DODGE or MONACO in tall, thin letters (designed by Cameron).

Each inboard taillight section comprised two horizontal concavities. Polaras filled these with bright, vertically textured die castings. Monacos again used red lenses, only this time, thanks in part to Ruff's efforts, everything lit up to create a readily identifiable nighttime signature. With this, the senior Dodges had "barbell" graphics at each end, a nice touch not widely appreciated at the time.

In 1966, all the top-line big Dodges bore the Monaco name. Granted, Monaco had more romance to it than Custom 880, but this move only diluted the image of the 1965 specialty hardtop, which was lamely relabelled as the Monaco 500 for 1966. It was another last-minute decision, made sometime between April 23 and May 20, 1965.

This planned 1966 Chrysler Custom 880 was replaced by a Monaco series.

Equally puzzling, the Custom convertible and six-window sedan departed along with that name. This left a "regular" Monaco line with a four-window sedan, two- and four-door hardtops, and two- and three-seat wagons priced from $3,033 to $3,539. The 500 started at $3,604.

This prestige car became the 1966 Dodge Monaco 500.

Engine choices were also rearranged. Standard power for regular Monacos was a two-barrel 383 with 270 bhp. This was also a no-cost option on the 500, which otherwise came with a four-barrel 325-bhp premium-fuel version that was optional on lesser Monacos. Available for all big Dodges was Chrysler's biggest V-8 yet, the new high-performance wedgehead 440. Curiously, it rated only 350 bhp in Dodges, 15 fewer than in comparable Plymouths and Chryslers.

The new regular Monacos were not hastily rebadged Customs (which would have had Polara taillights, by the way). Rather, they were upgraded to some trim and features originally planned for the "real" Monaco -- things like a bright die-cast hood windsplit, stand-up "fratzog" hood ornament, and those impressive red taillights. Trouble was, this only further blurred distinctions between the specialty hardtop and other 1966 Monacos.

According to retired Dodge design manager Bob Gale, the Monaco 500 narrowly missed out on being more exclusive. Chrysler planners and stylists had created a new two-door hardtop roof for the 1966 Chrysler 300, with wraparound C-pillars and a smaller backlight. This was offered to Dodge, but according to a still-incredulous Gale, "Bill Brownlie turned it down. He didn't think it looked as good as the Dodge roof!"

With all this, the big sports-luxury Dodge quickly lost its special status, becoming a sort of upmarket Polara 500 (but with no convertible option). This demotion was a by-product of ousting Custom 880 for the more saleable Monaco name, which wasn't a bad idea.

After all, Chrysler had done the same thing with good success by replacing Saratogas with non-letter 300 models for 1962. But the 300 label had been around seven years at that point and had a strong performance image, whereas Monaco had no "hot car" reputation and was "traded down" after only one year.

Learn more about the most exclusive 1966 Dodge Monaco, the Monaco 500, on the next page.

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1966 Dodge Monaco 500

For 1966, the "barbell" effect of the Monaco 500's grille became more pronounced, and a forceful speedline thrust forward from the front wheel openings. Round "500" medallions and the three faux vents on the bodysides were Monaco 500 traits.
For 1966, the "barbell" effect of the Monaco 500's grille became more pronounced, and a forceful speedline thrust forward from the front wheel openings. Round "500" medallions and the three faux vents on the bodysides were Monaco 500 traits.

Names aside, the 1966 Dodge Monaco 500 was easily the handsomest of the big 1966 Dodges. This vehicle had a cleaner line, too, as the upper-body molding gave way to a simple fine-line paint stripe available in four colors. Circular "500" medallions (shared with Polara 500s) appeared on the front fenders, and smoother new full-length rocker moldings turned up at the front to match the bumper. A trio of slim chrome oblongs filled with black paint suggested louvers on the lower front fender and door.

The 500 retained the 1965 Dodge Monaco's distinctive wicker trim, but sported new "shell-type" front bucket seats. Standard upholstery was all-vinyl in a choice of seven colors (including a new olive shade named Citron); black cloth-and-vinyl was optional.

Two large dash pods continued to house essential gauges in the restyled center console nestled between the front bucket seats.

It was still a striking interior, but some "thrifting" occurred as the rear buckets gave way to a conventional three-passenger bench seat, which dictated a shorter, redesigned center console. "After Townsend grew more confident," former Chrysler planning executive Gene Weis remembers, "Product Planning came under tremendous pressure to reduce costs." There were several new options for the 1966 Dodge Monaco 500, however, including six-way power seat and a tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Deep-dish wheel covers were also new for the 1966 Dodge Monaco 500, but they were shared with Polara 500s and the 1966 Charger -- and they were only covers as opposed to the Grand Prix's aluminum wheels. Although the studio had designed a unique Monaco 500 cover with a die-cast "sunburst" applique, it was canceled before production. (The design resurfaced on the "spring special" Sundance trim package for the 1974 Plymouth Satellite Sebring.)

The 1966 Monaco 500's taillights were more pronounced versions of the delta-shaped lamps first seen on the 1965 Dodge Monaco. The base price of the Monaco 500 rose by about $250 over that of its 1965 counterpart.

The standard 1966 Dodge Monaco sold well at nearly 50,000 units for the model year -- a little over 5,000 more than the final Custom 880s. But that might have been at the expense of the specialty hardtop, because U.S. builds for that model plunged to 7,332 (some sources list 10,340). Another factor might well have been the Chrysler 300, whose 1966 two-door hardtop started $21 below the $3,604 1966 Dodge Monaco 500.

The stylists at Dodge continued to innovate and evolve their car designs throughout the 1960s. Learn more about Dodge design in the middle of the decade on the next page.

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Dodge Design in the Mid 1960s

Most full-sized Mopar two-door hardtops -- Dodge included -- came with a dramatic new roofline for 1967: a semi-fastback style with a broad sail panel as shown on this Monaco model.
Most full-sized Mopar two-door hardtops -- Dodge included -- came with a dramatic new roofline for 1967: a semi-fastback style with a broad sail panel as shown on this Monaco model.

While marketing types at Dodge fretted about names, board designers had other worries. During the mid- to late 1960s, many Detroit stylists suffered from an acute case of "Pontiacitis" -- a kind of inferiority complex brought on by being perennially outclassed by the Wide Track guys. When it came to large cars, Pontiac could seem to do no wrong.

Ford, for example, took a close look at the 1963 Pontiac -- with its vertically stacked dual headlamps and clean, architectural lines -- and produced a copycat car for 1965. Although it sold well, this imitation prompted a joke about it being "the box the Pontiac came in."

And the big 1965 Pontiacs were completely new -- with sensuous, flowing lines and Coke-bottle bodysides that blew away both the Ford and the full-size Dodge. Thus, when it came time to design the all-new "C" series big Dodge for 1967, it seemed that the Dodge studio sketched with one eye on the 1965 Pontiac catalog, where lush renderings shouted from every page, "Top this!"

"We certainly tried with the 1967 big-Dodge front end," recalls former Dodge stylist Jeffrey Godshall, "which I worked out with Bob Gale, then studio C-body supervisor. Though the barbell was still there, it wasn't so obvious." Flanking a center panel with either vertical bars (Polara) or eggcrate (Monaco) were wide, blacked-in rectangular air inlets, each bisected by a bright horizontal bar.

Headlights, two five-inch round units, sat side-by-side in circular die-cast housings at each bar's outboard end. But this appearance wasn't finalized until fairly late in the program, as Dodge continued to experiment with vertically stacked dual headlamps just like you-know-who (not to mention Plymouth's Fury, which also got them since 1965).

The center grille section ordained for 1967's Monacos and 500s can be seen in this model, too.

The bumper and hood shapes of the 1967-1968 Dodge provide mute testimony to designers' indecision on the headlamps issue. Dished upper surfaces on the bumper swept down and out toward the sides, mirrored by the leading edge of the hood and its bright accent molding. The idea was that stacked lights could be incorporated simply by notching half-circles in the outer ends of both the hood molding and the corresponding bumper surface.

"I can't recall exactly how or why we decided on horizontal lamps. I think the bumper notches required were just too difficult for Chrysler's stamping people," says Godshall. Gale recalls the horizontal placement was chosen because it made the front look wider. Designer Diran Yazejian remembers the change came with an 11th-hour decision by then-product planning chief Harry Cheesebrough. Regardless, this struggle typified Dodge's frustration at trying to top the 1965 Pontiac, whose vertical headlights looked so "right."

What did all these deliberations lead to? See the 1967 Dodge Monaco on the next page.

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1967 Dodge Monaco

The 1967 Dodge Monaco 500 put on 85 pounds, tipping the scale at 3,970 pounds at its most basic. The broad rocker panel trim design was adopted for Dodge's line leader. Free-standing numerals counted out "500" on the front fenders.
The 1967 Dodge Monaco 500 put on 85 pounds, tipping the scale at 3,970 pounds at its most basic. The broad rocker panel trim design was adopted for Dodge's line leader. Free-standing numerals counted out "500" on the front fenders.

As much as the designers wanted their 1967 Dodge Monaco to keep up with Pontiac's style, those unpredictable Wide Trackers came up with more new big-car styling for 1967, and Grand Prix was again the star.

Not only was the Grand Prix available as convertible as well as a hardtop, it wore extravagant disappearing headlamps and sneaky slitted turn signals into the fender ends above a big bumper/grille. (Dodge cribbed the latter idea for backup lamps on the 1970 Monaco.)

At least the Dodge Monaco finally got its own grille for 1967 -- or rather, its own grille center. This was a rectangle split by a horizontal bar bearing the Monaco crest ahead of a delicate eggcrate, which was remarkably similar to the textured aluminum screening on the Dodge design studio air vents.

"It was Chuck Mashigan who first used this texture for the fender vents on the 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car," reminds designer Diran Yazejian. Dodge designers embraced this eggcrate so enthusiastically that within a few years it appeared on every Dodge grille, save the Dart's.

The big 1967 Dodge vehicles, including the Monaco, looked a whole lot bigger than the 1966, and they were. Wheelbase, for example, went to 122 inches, largely at the insistence of the California Highway Patrol. Like the storied princess who could feel a pea beneath all those mattresses, those CHiPs guys must have been mighty sensitive to want a one-inch longer wheelbase for their Polara patrol cars. Overall length increased more dramatically, stretching over half a foot to 219.6 inches.

Bodyside styling was more dramatic too, thanks to Dick Watson, a talented, friendly guy whose previous work included the 1965 big-Dodge bodyside and front end. As Watson worked it out, bodyside sheetmetal was crisp. A broad, concave chamfer ran along the upper body with a widening taper toward the rear that turned down to match the rear deck plane.

The dual-gauge theme continued on the 1967 Dodge Monaco's dash, but the dials were now in square bezels more integrated into the control panel.

Along the lower character line, in the rear quarter, the surface transformed smoothly into a horizontal skag that ran back into the bumper -- a treatment influenced by the 1965 Pontiac (which had a similar full-length lower skag). On the 1967 Dodge Monaco 500, the entire lower body below a full-length bright molding was paneled with ribbed aluminum, yet another idea inspired by the Bonneville.

Vast planes of sheetmetal made up the hood and trunklid. Rear quarters terminated at a saucy angle. Bob Gale recalls that they were originally more vertical, "but Elwood made us put on more rake to the back end, exclaiming 'That's more 1967!'"

Continue to the next page to get more details about the 1967 Dodge Monaco and 500.

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The Style of the 1967 Dodge Monaco

The distinctive Dodge taillamp design became even more audacious for the 1967 Dodge Monaco. Vents below the backlight permitted flow-through interior ventilation.
The distinctive Dodge taillamp design became even more audacious for the 1967 Dodge Monaco. Vents below the backlight permitted flow-through interior ventilation.

The style of the 1967 Dodge Monaco was carefully conceived and something to behold. The delta taillights on the 1967 Dodge Monaco swelled into oversize flaring trapezoids above a notched bumper. It was the best iteration yet of the delta concept, with the big wedges giving a bold, brash look that was unmistakably Dodge. The area between the lamps' inner and outer bright bezels was painted sintered silver metallic on Polaras, taillight red on Monacos.

Uppers on the Dodge Monacos remained crisp and rectangular except on the new 1967 semi-fastback two-door hardtops. This design, conceived by Ed Westcott of the Chrysler Studio, sported a big triangular sail panel that flowed cleanly into the aft quarters. Dodge designers had struggled for years to achieve this integration of C-pillar and quarter panel, but they might just as well have retained the old design with the pillar perched atop the quarter.

The popular vinyl roofs of the day required bright finishing moldings that slashed across otherwise pristine surfaces, breaking up their continuity (At least the Pontiac stylists faced this same frustration.) The new hardtops also featured flow-through ventilation, identified by a painted air-exit grille in the upper deck panel just beneath the backlight.

Inside, the 1967 Dodge Monaco 500's hallmark wicker accents returned in the usual places, and a reclining passenger seat was a new option. The dashboard was evolved from the 1965-1966 design, with the twin gauge panels going from circles to rectangles. New wheel covers (designer Jeffrey Godshall's first such design) featured a black outer ring inset with bright radial louvers circling a raised cone with a fratzog center.

Engine choices for the 1967 Dodge Monacos remained the same except for a new Magnum 440 option. Equipped with enlarged intake ports and exhaust passages, longer duration camshaft, special valve springs with surge dampers, special four-barrel carbs, low-restriction exhaust manifolds, and a larger-diameter dual exhaust system, this "A-134" engine delivered 375 mighty horsepower. It was standard for the new Coronet R/T and optional for Dodge Chargers, Polaras, and Monacos.

Despite more aggressive styling and larger dimensions, big-Dodge volume declined for 1967. The Monaco 500 dipped to 5,237. Grand Prix, on the other hand, managed almost 43,000 sales, fortified by knock-'em-dead styling and the new ragtop.

Would the Dodge Monaco be back with a vengeance in 1968? Find out on the next page.

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1968 Dodge Monaco

In 1968, the Dodge Monaco received a limited cosmetic makeover. Toned-down taillights ran the full width of the car, and a simplified three-section grille graced the front.
In 1968, the Dodge Monaco received a limited cosmetic makeover. Toned-down taillights ran the full width of the car, and a simplified three-section grille graced the front.

Predictably, 1968 was a big-Dodge facelift year -- with new federally mandated side marker lamps an easy identification point -- and the 1968 Dodge Monaco was no exception. Side trim was revised for all models, and hardtop sedan rooflines acquired tapering C-pillars and smaller backlights, although the change in appearance hardly justified the tooling expense.

Up front, the three-section grille was recast by Bob Gale, gaining recessed, full-width inserts and prominent twin vertical struts aligned with carryover hood and bumper forms. Polaras used a horizontal-bar texture; Monacos retained eggcrate, again with a central crest.

At the rear, all these "D" series cars had a new common bumper and decklid, plus full-width taillamps flared outboard into subtle wedges. Polara lamps "hid" behind closely spaced vertical chrome ribs. For Monacos, Ken Saylor reinstated wall-to-wall taillights divided into skinny quarters by a slim "cross-hair" bar. Aligned with the decklid windsplit was a vertical central backup light, the first time Chrysler had employed this trick since the 1958 Plymouth. The Dodges finally had a Pontiac-style "split grille," even if it was on the wrong end.

Monaco 500 remained a separate one-model series for 1968, but its ribbed lower side trim was newly applied to lesser Monacos, albeit in a slightly narrower form. Cornering lamps set into the lower front fenders were a new 500 standard feature, but the interior wicker was gone. Dashboards were revised once more, while engine selections remained as before, although with some added horsepower for the 383.

Despite the relative lack of change, senior Dodge sales recovered for 1968 -- except the Monaco 500, which fell off to 4,568 even though the comparable Chrysler 300 finally had a higher starting price ($4,010 vs. $3,869). No doubt many 500 prospects ended up driving away in one of the new 1968 Chargers instead, a striking car with its long snout, "double-diamond" bodysides, and distinctive "tunnelback" roof.

Find out what the future held for the Dodge Monaco in 1969 on the next page.

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The Dodge Monaco's 1969 Demise

By 1969, the Dodge Monaco had officially met its demise. Big Dodges got their own version of the Dodge Charger's "fuselage look" for 1969, but the Monaco 500 was reduced to an option package signaled only by discreet front-fender badging.

By this time, most dealers were so busy hustling economy Darts and hot Coronets and Chargers that big cars were something of a sideline. Then too, sporty full-sizers were faltering all over Detroit. In fact, even the vaunted Grand Prix was reinvented for 1969, becoming a uniquely styled mid-size hardtop on its own 118-inch wheelbase -- a kind of "Ford Thunderbird Lite."

Have a look back at the various engine options available for the Dodge Monaco and Monaco 500 over the years with the chart below:

Handicapped at birth by inadequate funding and diluted by workaday stable-mates, the specialty hardtop Dodge Monaco was never able to play the role its planners had envisioned. Too bad. The name alone deserved a better fate than being remembered perpetually as a Grand Prix wannabe.

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