Dodge’s 1962 model year is best known for its down-sizing, which was instantly apparent in the company’s Polara model. Dimensions for the Polara went from a 122” wheelbase and 212.5” length to a 116” wheelbase and 202” length, and sales suffered slightly despite entry prices being a bit more affordable. Standard power was provided by a 361-cid, 305-hp V-8 engine, with shifting duties handled by either a 3-speed, 4-speed, or Torqueflite automatic transmission. Body styles were limited to 2- and 4-door hardtops and a convertible.
Despite what the lower sales figures might imply, there were advantages to the smaller cars. Curb weight dropped by more than 300 pounds and the car was available with 410- and 415-hp 413-cid Max Wedge V-8s, which could transform the Polara into a exceedingly fast car. This combination was duly noted by speed enthusiasts, as the Max Wedge Polara was put to use by police forces, NASCAR teams, and street racers alike.
For 1963, the Polara was up-sized a bit to a 119” wheelbase in a bid to better compete against the larger competition. The cars’ bodies traded their exaggerated fender creases for a slight “cove” at the upper body. A pillared sedan and a new trim level with bucket seats also joined the lineup, and a full host of engines became available, from a standard 6-cylinder to 318-cid, 361-cid, and 383-cid motors. The high-revving and torquey 383 could either be ordered with 305 or 330 horsepower, with the latter being one of the best performance engines of its day. Most importantly for enthusiasts, though, Dodge introduced the famous Ramcharger 426-cid Stage III Wedge-head big-block with 425 horsepower. The engine, with a full race camshaft and state of tune, set many NHRA records—quarter-mile times were in the 12 second range with speeds near 120 mph.
In 1964, this performance theme became even stronger for Dodge. The Ramcharger 426 Wedge returned this year, with up to 415 horsepower, and the famous 426 Hemi took its debut; rated at 425 horsepower, the engine actually produced more like 550 horsepower. Factory-backed Dodges dominated drag strips, and included the Ramcharger Team, Roger Lindamood’s “Color Me Gone” and “Dandy Dick” Landy.
Cosmetically, styling changes on the 1964 Dodge Polara was largely confined to a new grille area.
Today, this era of Polara is best remembered as a drag-strip super star. Max Wedge and Ramcharger Polaras are rare and command serious money, especially if they have documentation and race history. Cars with the 383 are much easier to locate and are easier to use on a regular basis. Considering that the styling of the 1962, 1963, and 1964 Polaras was slightly out of step with the direction Ford and GM designers took, these cars tend to stand out on the street, and ultimately represent a good value given their performance potential.