Q: Greg, I remember the 1960 Dodge Polara as one fine car for its day. My uncle had a two-door hardtop that he bought brand new and it came with a big V8. (But I don't remember how big). Can you give me some background on this car and the engines available that year? George C., Illinois.
A: George, I'd be happy to. Back in 1960, the new design, top-of-class Dodge Polara came with some pretty neat rear wings and a well balanced style that made it stand out in the crowd. For 1960, some of the car designers were starting to go away from the larger, upright rear wings although Dodge kept them on the 1960 model. When combined with the sharp 2-door hardtop design, and new uni-body construction, the Polara was both a real looker and also limited in numbers built for several reasons.
One of the major reasons few Polaras were built was the availability of a cheaper, albeit not that much, Matador line (not to be confused with AMC). A second, more critical reason for fewer 122-inch Dodges was the consumers taking to the smaller, similar in looks, all-new 1960 Dodge Dart, not to be confused with the new 1960 Valiant with the or soon to come sibling Dodge Lancer in 1961.
The Polara, Matador and large wagons all rode on a 122-inch wheelbase, while the Dart was basically a re-skinned Plymouth that rode on a 118-inch wheelbase. Because of this new Dart, the sale of the large Dodge models sank to just 42,335 during 1960, down from nearly 152,000 full size Dodges in 1959. However, thanks to the Dart, overall Dodge sales more than doubled to 349,120 as the Dart sold a whooping 306,803 units its first year.
Clearly, the consumer had spoken.
As for engines, the Polara came with a 383 cubic inch, 325 horse engine hooked to a three speed Torqueflite transmission. The Matador came delivered with a 361 cubic inch engine producing 285 horses. The smaller Dart, which looked similar, came in Seneca, Pioneer and Phoenix lines and offered engines from the 225-inch Slant-6 to a 318 V8.
Rare today are the Polara and Matador full size Dodges, so if you come across one on the highway, you'll know you're looking at a car that is a very rare species thanks to the Dodge Dart introduction.