1965-1968 Dodge Monaco and 500

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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