All About the Dodge Polara: The Carmaker's First Muscle Car

The Dodge Polara was one of the first muscle cars. What made it so special?
Written by Katie Dyer
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Mar 3, 2022
Ah, the 1960s. The era of the muscle car. When you picture an early muscle car, it's likely you picture something like the
Dodge
Polara. Great performance and luxurious interiors in a large, able-bodied package easily made the Polara a
classic.
This successful muscle car came on to the scene in 1960 and stayed there until 1973. 

Early Dodge Polara features

As
Hot Cars
pointed out, the Polara was named after the star, Polaris, to evoke the 1960s obsession with the space race. Detroit was really honing in on what consumers wanted. Bucket seats were becoming more popular as customers focused on interior appointments, and powerful performance engines never went out of style. So, Dodge opted to combine the two in the Polara. 
The 1960 Dodge Polara was a top-of-the-line full-size unibody sedan offered by Dodge. The Polara was larger than the existing Darts with some changes in styling. The fins were tweaked from older style Dodges, with round taillights housed in “jet pods” to evoke futuristic spacecraft. You could get a Polara as a coupe, a 4-door sedan, a 4-door station wagon, or a convertible. 
In 1961, Dodge overhauled the exterior of the Polara on a redesign that was unlike anything else on the market at the time. Customers were not impressed, and sales plummeted. 

A comedy of errors

According to
How Stuff Works
, the next step was a famous miscommunication and series of mishaps that resulted in a hasty decision to shorten the wheelbase of the upcoming 1962 Polara. 
The president of Dodge’s parent company, Chrysler, thought he overheard a Chevrolet executive discussing downsizing the full-size Chevy cars. Since the main competition for the Polara was the Chevrolet Impala and the Ford Galaxie, Dodge raced to shrink the entire line of full-size cars to compete with Chevy. 
It turns out, Chevy wasn’t shrinking their full-size cars, but rather developing a new mid-size car. So, Dodge unveiled their small versions of their line-up to some degree of derision. 
These were known as Chrysler’s B-bodies, and the 1962-1964 Dodge Polara 500s were built on them. Dodge marketed them as the “New Lean Breed of Dodge”. 

Power and performance

Dodge didn’t want the public to have to choose between personal luxury and heart-racing performance, so the Polara 500 had a 305 hp V8 engine with a high-lift camshaft and dual exhausts. It had a four-barrel carburetor to add even more power. Later, additional engine options were offered, with the biggest option topping out at about 410 hp. 
The drive was praised for its acceleration and smoothness.

Style and luxury

The 1962 Dodge Polara 500s were distinctive-looking. Instead of the 1950s era fins, the body was sleeker, with oval portions at the B-pillar and curved glass sections to continue with the jetliner aesthetic. At the front, the narrow bars of the grille were blacked out, leaving the wide bars visible. 
The Polara 500 was meant to be a personal luxury vehicle. Bucket seats with pleats and multiple colors in the front as well as a “bucket looking” rear bench seat dialed up the style. 
The front bucket seats had a center console, which was rather new at the time–most cars had bench seats up front to seat three people. Some were worried that it would take the Polara off the list of great
family vehicles
since your kids could no longer pile in the front seat! My, how times have changed. 
The following years saw numerous facelifts and changes. The third generation Polara went back to the full-size sedan bodies with a great degree of success. The fourth generation was released in 1969. The market did eventually shift toward smaller cars with the oil embargos and energy crisis in 1973, and the Dodge Monaco began selling better than the Polara. In 1973, the Polara was dropped and the 1974 Monaco replaced it. The Polara is now a classic collectors’ item. 

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