1963 Dodge Polara 500
Bill Huston wrote:
I saw this car for the first time back in August '92 at the Mopar Nationals in the swap area. It was a basket case, but appeared to be relatively complete at a quick glance.
I knew the owner from buying and swapping parts around northeast Indiana. I looked at the car, but passed on it at the time because, although it appeared to be solid except for a few dents, the passenger front fender was wiped out and I wasn't into the body style.
Two years later in the fall of '94, a friend expressed interest in finding a '63
Dodge. Not knowing what he was looking for, I suggested that we take a Saturday
morning and look at this car if it was still available. He looked at the car
and realized that it was just too much work to tackle. (A pretty smart guy now
that I think in retrospect!) He was looking for a car that was together and
needed a little body work. Anyway, at this point I start getting the bug. Yes
the car was in pieces except for the shell, but the bodylines and that wonderful
front end were growing on me. We returned home and for the next two weeks, all
I could see in my sleep was this '63 Dodge with a max wedge scoop and original
trim and paint! I had started buying parts and restoring a 1969 1/2 Roadrunner
that wasn't hiding any of its problems. The Roadrunner needed everything. And
all I really needed was another project. I'm just lucky that I am single.
After a couple of weeks thinking about it, I couldn't stand it any longer. I
called the guy and he told me that he would sell me the car for a couple hundred
less than he really wanted. He thought the car was rare enough that it was more
than worth his price. I didn't have a clue at this point what I was looking at
and whether or not it was really that rare. I didn't really care either. All I
knew was that I really wanted this car!
We agreed on a price and time to pick it up. What I agreed to purchase was a much rougher version of the car you see in these pictures.
It was a 1963 Dodge Polara 500 with 95k miles. The original
330 h.p. 383 c.i. 4 bbl V8 and the Borg-Warner 4 speed transmission were in the
trunk. The seller told me that the car belonged to some hillbilly who had the
car painted in 1976. This guy tried to trailer the car home to put it back
together and it got loose from the trailer and damaged the front fender and the
floor pan area under the rear seat. At that point, the hillbilly lost interest
and parked the car. The seller found it in a barn a couple of years before I
saw it at the Mopar Nationals. I took his word that all of the trim for the car
was inside. After laying it all out at home, I was missing just one pot metal
tip for the passenger fender. I got lucky.
I left the car sitting for about 18 months before starting the restoration in
1996. The car was not as solid as I had expected. (Are they ever?) It required
extensive sheet metal replacement from donors from the west and south. It is
now a very solid, all steel car. The underside of the car is finished with the
same level of detail as the topside. (I really didn't want a trailer queen and
I admit that I got carried away!)
Dan's Automotive in Burket, IN handled the paint and bodywork. As for the hardware, trim, and interior, EVERYTHING had to be refinished. I cannot emphasize the word everything enough. Someone worked really hard to hide the fact that this car was a complete disaster. You
wouldn't believe where we found bondo.
Chrisman's TRANZACT of Indy built the original block to 460 cubic inches. It is
set up with a 4 inch stroke crank, short steel rods and 11 to 1 JE pistons. The old
'324 casting number heads are maxed out with a full port job, port matched to
the M1 intake and set up with 2.19 inch intake and 1.81 inch exhaust valves. A Cam
Motion custom grind cam works the valves through Crane pushrods and roller
rockers. The oiling is handled with a Milodon pan and external pump pick up.
The fuel system is a Mallory Comp 140 pump and regulator pumping through a 1/2 inch
stainless steel line from Fine Lines to a Holley Pro Series 950 carburetor.
Ignition is an old Direct Connection mechanical advance, tach drive distributor with
Taylor wires and an MSD 6AL box and Blaster 2 coil. Exhaust system is a set of
Hooker fender wells that have been Jet-Hotted, 3 1/2 inch pipes and Flowmasters. I am
running a Lakewood bell housing and a 10 1/2 inch aluminum flywheel with a custom
Kevlar disc and pressure plate from Fort Wayne Clutch. The transmission is a
rebuilt 18 spline 4 speed with a very nostalgic Mr. Gasket Verti-gate shifter.
The rear axle is a hodge podge of new style 8.75 parts with the 489 center
section set up with 4.10 gears and the early clutch style case. Axles are Moser
31 spline with 3 inch wheel studs. Wheels are the American Racing ARE-505's (Torque
Thrust II's), 15 x 4 in front and 15 x 8 in rear. Tires are P185/75R15 Kelly
Springfield's in front and B.F. Goodrich Drag Radials in the rear. I have a set
of Hoosier Quick Time Pro's on 15 x 8 steel wheels for slightly more serious
traction. I have updated the brakes with a newer dual reservoir MP master
cylinder and swapped on some discs in the front with 10 inch drums on the rear.
Battery is in the trunk.
I have retained a completely original interior appearance except for the shifter, Moroso tachometer, Autometer gages and an MSD shift light. Door panels and dash are by Just Dashes and the upholstery and carpet are from Legendary. Marquart's Custom Creations of Fort Wayne, IN fitted the upholstery.
I think that should handle 90% of the details.
Now if I can just get it finished so that I can drive it!
Wow, Bill, you have a real beauty going there!
I especially enjoyed hearing about the image of the 1963 Dodge sneaking into your dreams. :-) There certainly is something seductive and tantalizing about these Mopars!
Keep us posted as to your progress and, fear not, there WILL come a time when you flip through the 4 speed gears of your 500! :-)
Draft page created April 3, 2000; revised April 13, 2000; May 4, 2000; January 16, 2004