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Beauty or Beast? 1963 Polara had a look all its own

The Polara was considered the top trim level Dodge back in 1963. There aren't that many of them around today, but they are easy to spot. Some would say they have a face only a mother would love!

When I asked Kevin Pfaff to list the features his ’63 Dodge Polara two-door hardtop was known for, he told me people appreciated its sound, dual-quad carburetor setup, racy stance and glitter-with-class, ’60s Mopar-style vinyl interior. Then he thought for a minute and added — “Oh, and the front end; you know, this car has a ‘face’ that’s very hard to forget.”

Pfaff bought the Dodge Polara three years ago, put a bit of work into it and has already taken second-place awards at several local car shows. A printer in Ripon, Wis., by trade, Kevin put a lot of energy into detailing the exterior and interior of the cart. In addition to the cosmetics, he completed a drive-train rebuild (with some upgrades) and also had the push-button TorqueFlite automatic transmission gone through so it works the way it should.

With a 119-inch wheelbase, a 208.1-inch overall length and more than 3,000-lb. curb weight, the big ’63 Dodge Polara hardtop might be hard to think of as a muscle car today. However, road tests recorded when the car was new could easily change your mind. Motor Trend’s technical editor, Jim Wright, tested a Dodge Polara with the 383-cid, 330-hp V-8 and he managed the 0-to-60 trip in a mere 7.7 seconds. The quarter-mile took him 15.8 seconds, by which time the big, open-top Dodge was moving at 92 mph.

“Barring the all-out drag-strip engines, there aren’t many that can stay with the 330-hp ‘383’ in acceleration,” Wright wrote in his article. Pfaff loves hearing that, since his Polara hardtop has a 440-cid engine that’s been tweaked to 485 hp. He enjoys quick getaways and snappy performance, although the restored car’s street racing days are history. To aid acceleration, Kevin installed a big 8-3/4 Sure-Grip rear axle with 4.30:1 gearing and a Super Stock leaf spring rear suspension (which also explains the car’s stance).

The Polara was considered the top trim level Dodge back in 1963, and for 1963, an even higher-level Polara, dubbed the Polara 500, returned. The Polara 500 outshined the base Polara with special wheel covers, additional exterior trim behind the rear wheel opening and bucket seats. The basic Polara two-door hardtop, such as Kevin’s car, listed for just $2,806 and weighed 3,280 lbs. That was with the base 318-cid V-8. Wright’s test car had 340 lbs. of extras, including a Sure-Grip differential, power steering, power brakes, electric windows, an AM/FM radio, a heater, a Sun tachometer and seat belts. Pfaff’s car is set up very similar to Wright’s test car, except that it has crank windows. Still, it’s probably tipping the scales at around 3,600 lbs.

Single-stage enamel paint in very-near-factory Polar White has been sprayed on the body, and the eye-catching two-tone teal-and-white interior has seen a lot of tender loving care to bring back its great new-car look. The car is one of just 8,716 made. It’s notable that, of those nearly 9,000 1963 Polaras, only 545 were built with Slant-Six power. V-8 engines in displacements ranging from 318 cubic inches to 413 cubic inches were under the hoods of the rest of the cars.

The low production total could explain why Pfaff doesn’t see a lot of similar cars in backyards and allies. He has spotted a few, though. They are easy to pick out when you see them. They have that face that’s hard to forget!

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