Works in Progress
1963 Dodge Polara
My body man and friend Dan Amburgy of Dan's Automotive in Burket, IN found this car on a tip from a friend. He and his wife were visiting their son in Tulsa, OK and decided that while in Oklahoma City for the day, he should check out the lead on an all-Mopar salvage yard. At the time, I was desperate for a solid donor to replace the rotted and rusted metal in my '63 Polara 500.
Dan took my truck and his trailer back to OK City in February '99. He bought this car to cut up and fix my 500. The guy at the yard running the loader wanted to load the car by punching the forks through the side glass and picking the car up by the roof. I'm glad Dan talked him out of it, because I took one look at this car and told him that there was no way I'd let him cut it up. All he ever said was that he thought he was afraid I'd say that right after he left OK City with the car in tow. As far as cosmetics go, the car had been in an accident from the door hinge pillar to the rear quarter panel on the passenger side. The door hinge pillar was in probably one half to one inch.
The salvage yard had already begun selling parts off this car some years before I got it. The radiator, pulleys, front brake drums, and front rims were missing. There was evidence that the hood had been up for a number of years in all seasons, as there were rust lines down the fenders from water dripping from the edges of the hood. The paint was completely worn away. Under the hood, the wing nut for the air cleaner was rusted onto the stem and the rubber hoses were so brittle, you could break them with a hammer. Even with all that, I wanted to know if the 383 2bbl Polara showing 53k miles on odometer would still run. After checking the oil, I stuck a fresh battery in, hooked up the terminals, and gave the key a bump. The thing actually turned over.
Now I was really on a mission.
After spending about 10 minutes on the wing nut with a pair of pliers and WD40, I proceeded to remove the mouse nest under the air cleaner and free up the carb linkage with WD40. Another 20 minutes and the linkage was moving free as new. Of course the fuel lines and carb were plugged with gunk that was once gasoline years earlier. After pouring fresh gas in the vent hole above the bowl, we poured a few drops down the venturi. To my astonishment, we hit the key and this thing fired on around the third rotation. It was rough for a couple of minutes as the lifters were pumping up again from being completely collapsed. It was like awakening a dinosaur from hibernation! It was at this point that Dan knew he would be painting two '63 Polaras.
After that, I re-installed a pair of front drums, installed new tires and Magnum 500 rims, re-cored a radiator and rebuilt the gas tank and installed new stainless fuel lines from Fine Lines. I rebuilt the carburetor and installed a fresh set of plugs. The car had a set of JC Penney spark plugs! How long ago was that!?! Working on this thing was like getting caught in a time warp. I also installed a 3.23 sure grip.
I drove the car on and off from the late summer of '99 until June '00 when I put it in storage. It ran great. All that time, it still had the oil filter, plug wires, points, condenser, cap and air cleaner element that it had from it's salvage yard days.
In April 1999, I found a Polara 4 door hardtop at Desert Valley in Phoenix that had enough structure and sheet metal to fix both cars.
|The Dodge was returned from Oklahoma City to Indianapolis,
(the '63 was originally sold by Palmer Dodge in Indianapolis,
so it was a temporary homecoming of sorts)...
and then trailered to California.
The car was completely disassembled during Christmas '01 and now has the undercarriage refinished via the use of a rotisserie. An incredible glass-like finish of PPG black urethane was sprayed in late August 2002. I brought the car out to Southern California where it awaits a garage to be built so that it can be finished.
I'm changing the interior color from white to red. Also, the original drive train is being replaced by a very mild 400 block stroked to 472 c.i. and backed up by a '65 transmission equipped with slightly higher stall speed and a lock-up converter. Joe Chrisman's TRANZACT of Indy is building both the engine and transmission. The original 8 and 3/4 axle is being replaced by a unit from a '66 Charger. I also have all the parts to install power windows, power frt. seat and A/C.
This is a long-term Work-In-Progress. Maybe I'll have the final product ready to show in 5 years!
October 20, 2002