1965-1968 Dodge Monaco and 500

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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