By Brian Earnest
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Wayne Hogue still isn’t quite sure what possessed him to buy his 1963 Dodge 880 Custom convertible. And he certainly didn’t expect that his impulse purchase would still be with him 47 years later.
But it didn’t take long from the time he bought his Dodge for the Pelican Lake, Wis., resident to know that he really, really liked his new car, and he has taken such good care of it for almost five decades that you can hardly tell it from new these days. Dodge only built 822 Custom 880 Series ragtops for 1963, and only 515 had the push-button Torque-Flight automatic transmission. It’s a good bet the Hogues have one of the nicest surviving ’63 Dodge droptops on the globe, and they treat it as such.
“Well, we drove it for three, four years after we got it,” said Hogue. “Then somehow we saw an old ’59 Dodge, and I said, ‘Maybe we ought to buy that darn thing and put this one away,’ and that’s what happened. We bought that old Dodge and took the kids back and forth to school in that one, and we just hung onto this one.
“We never took it out in winter after that. It’s got 118,000 miles on it, but we don’t use it that much now. But we drove it everyday for three or four years.”
Hogue figures he probably never would have ended up with a convertible if he didn’t have a friend with one, and certainly wouldn’t have wound up with his white 880 Custom if a finicky dealer’s wife hadn’t turned her nose up at the car. “My buddy went to the Army and he went and bought a ’62 [Chevrolet] Impala convertible, and I thought, ‘Shoot, I gotta buy one to keep up with him,” Hogue said. “I traded a ’60 Plymouth hardtop in on this, and how we ended up with this, I don’t know, but that’s how we did it.
“It had like 63 miles on it when we got it. The dealer in Sheboygan [Wis.] got it for his wife, and she said it’s too damn big and she didn’t want it! She wouldn’t drive it, so the dealer sold it to me. It wasn’t titled or nothin’. It still had the dealer plates on it.”
The Custom 880 occupied Dodge’s top tier in the early 1960s, and the model was in its second year for 1963. The cars that year were totally restyled, giving them less resemblance to their Chrysler 300 cousins. The most obvious visual changes were on the front end, where a new convex grille treatment, new bumper design and straighter fender lines combined to give 880s a handsome and fresh appearance. Chrome rocker panels down the side were accompanied by a narrow chrome strip at the door handle level that ran from stem to stern. In back, round tail lights were set in beefy, chrome surrounds.
The top-of-the-line Dodges came standard with a 361-cid V-8, but Hogue’s car carries the optional four-barrel 383, which kicks out a healthy 330 hp. The car shifts though the memorable push-button arrangement on the dash — shiny buttons that were part of a well-appointed cockpit.
“I didn’t have any choice [of options], this is the way it was on the lot,” said Hogue. “It has the 383, power windows, but it’s only got an AM radio and front seat belts.”
The 880 Custom series for 1963 was one step up from the base 880 menu and included six configurations: four-door sedan, four-door hardtop, two-door hardtop, two-door convertible and two station wagons. The ragtop carried a base price of $3,251 and weighed in at 3,770 lbs.
Aside from a few minor fixes, Hogue’s Dodge is just as it came from the dealer. “My boy snuck it out and put a dent in the side, so we had to have that fixed, and they painted the bottom (of the panel). I’m not even sure how they did it,” he said. “The seat, the driver’s side was pleated by my fat, so I had that recovered… And the floor in the front was scuffed on that side, so the same guy fixed that. The only other thing was we put a new back window in the convertible top. It was kind of cloudy and old, and then one time we put the top down and it shattered into 100 pieces. But the top is original.”
Hogue swears that a little Armor All and some boat wax are all he uses to keep the top, paint and interior looking great.
Mechanically, the only fix has been to a cracked valve at 103,000 miles. Otherwise, the engine has never been apart. Hogue did have to fork out a few dollars for a recent tune-up, however. “It hadn’t had a tune-up in a couple years, so I took it in and told them to tune it up … Well, the guy calls me back and says, ‘Porky, I’ve got a mess on my hands. I tried to pull off all the plug wires to change the plugs, and all the wires came apart in my hands! You’re going to need new plug wires!’ I said, ‘No problem, go ahead.’”
Hogue admits he probably didn’t know how rare and unusual his car was for the first few years he had it, but he knows there aren’t many of them around today. In fact, he insists he’s never even seen another ’63 Dodge convertible. “Oh, a lot of people ask me about it,” he says with a laugh. “People don’t think Dodge ever made anything like this.”
Wayne and his wife June take their lovely Dodge survivor to the occasional car show, parade, or other festivities that call for a head-turning convertible. “My grandson played football, and one time we got to put the cheerleaders in it for homecoming,” Wayne said. “That was a lot of fun.
“We take it out in the summer, and we’ve been coming to [the Iola Old Car Show] since 1982.”
It was in Iola a few years ago that a stranger tested the Hogues’ love and devotion to their car by making them an offer they almost couldn’t refuse. “Yeah, two years ago I darn near sold it,” he said. “A guy came up, and I don’t know if he was talking out of his hat, but he says, ‘I want that car and I’ll give you 80 grand for it.’ I was gonna say all right, but the wife says ‘No!’ She said, ‘That car grew up with us, it’s part of us, and we can’t sell it.’”
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