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.