Great Red Shark: The 1960 Dodge Polara D-500

In Hunter S. Thompson’s 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the narrator, Raoul Duke, and his attorney, Doctor Gonzo, set out from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in a rented red convertible they dub the Great Red Shark, blazing across the desert, hopped up on enough controlled substances to fill a shopping cart, in search of the American Dream. The novel’s Great Red Shark was a Chevrolet, not a Dodge, but there would be few better choices for a fast run from L.A. to Las Vegas than this week’s subject: the rare and rocket-like 1960 Dodge Polara D-500.

1960 Dodge Polara fin


To Mopar fans, accustomed to the no-nonsense solidity of later Dodge products, this car will represent something of a puzzle. Later Polaras were blocky things, well-suited to the police car duty that many of them fulfilled. This car is dressed for the Vegas Strip, with enough gleaming chrome, aluminum, and stainless steel trim to make a 1959 Cadillac seem vaguely under-dressed. If your experience with Chrysler products is limited to the late-sixties B-bodies and the square-rigged K-cars of the eighties, you may be saying to yourself, “This is a Dodge Polara?”

1960 Dodge Polara badge
The 1960 Dodge Polara was Dodge’s top-of-the-line model series that year, replacing the previous year’s Custom line. All of Dodge’s model names were new for 1960, replacing the previous Coronet, Royal, Custom Royal, Sierra, and Custom lines.

If you’re mystified, you’re in good company because the people who designed and built this car seemed a little uncertain themselves about what a Dodge was supposed to be. For many years — even before Chrysler acquired the company in 1928 — Dodge had a reputation for stolid, dependable, middle-class transportation, not unlike Pontiac before Bunkie Knudsen started selling the sizzle. In short, they were respectable, but not at all sexy.

Then, Chrysler put Virgil Exner in charge of design and Dodge, like other Chrysler products, got a heavy infusion of style. By 1957, Exner’s “Forward Look” had transformed the formerly stodgy middle-market brand into a low-slung, dazzlingly be-finned rocketship with power to match. It should’ve sold like mad, but too-hasty development led to disastrous quality control, which quickly soured buyer confidence. The 1957-1958 recession sent the entire middle-class market skidding and Dodge’s 1958-1959 sales were the worst they’d been since before the Great Depression.

1949 Dodge Coronet front 3q
This 1949 Dodge Coronet is typical of pre-Exner Chrysler products: tall, conservative, and somewhat old-fashioned even for the late forties. With a 230 cu. in. (3,772 cc) straight six making only 103 gross horsepower (77 kW), it was also very, very slow, something not addressed until the appearance of the new “Red Ram” Hemi in 1953.

With its traditional niche in disarray, Dodge general manager M.C. Patterson decided to go after Plymouth, its corporate sibling. Up until the 1960 model year, most Dodge dealers had also sold Plymouths — Chrysler paired Plymouth with each of its senior divisions, to ensure that dealers always had cars to sell, even when the economy was down — but Dodge dealers had always resented the pairing and had lobbied heavily to be independent. They finally got their way for the 1960 model year, but it was clear that Dodge dealers couldn’t survive without a smaller, cheaper model to sell. As a result, for 1960 Dodge introduced the Dart (not to be confused with the later compact), which was essentially a facelifted big Plymouth wearing Dodge badges. Offering nicer styling than the Plymouth but priced only about $20 higher, the Dart boosted Dodge’s volume by around 200,000 units, although many of those sales came at the expense of Plymouth, whose big-car sales dropped by a similar amount.

1960 Dodge Polara front
As with all ’60 Dodges, the 1960 Dodge Polara’s styling was all new (fitting, given the adoption of unitized construction) and its only real stylistic resemblance to its predecessor was in the toothy grille and the quad headlamps. V8 Darts had Chrysler’s smaller 318 cu. in. (5,204 cc) “A” engine, but all of the big Matadors and Polaras had the larger “B” engine, the 361 (5,913 cc) for Matadors, the 383 (6,276 cc) for Polaras. Some Darts had the older two-speed PowerFlite transmission, but most, if not all of the big Dodges had the superior three-speed TorqueFlite.


What about the Dodge Polara? The Polara was a new flagship model, intended to retrench Dodge’s traditional position in the middle-class market. Based on its list price, its primary target was probably the Pontiac Bonneville, which offered a similar combination of luxury and sporty flair for very similar money. A 1960 Dodge Polara convertible like our photo subject started at $3,416, which was within $60 of a ragtop Bonneville.

When it came to toys and glitter, the Dodge Polara almost made the Bonneville seem prosaic. It was simply laden with the sort of gleefully absurd gimmicks that makes cars of this era so much fun, among them a transparent speedometer, a marvelous “twin-turret” clock, and symmetrical arrays of pushbuttons on either side of the dash (one set for the radio, the other for the transmission controls.) A bench seat was standard, but you could order Chrysler’s swiveling front bucket seats, which swung outward when the doors opened. Naturally, a full array of power accessories was available, as was a novel “Highway Hi-Fi” record player that used unusual 7-inch, 16 2/3-rpm discs. Standard power was the corporate 383 cu. in. (6,276 cc) “RB” engine, part of a series of wedge-combustion V8 engines that had replaced the older FirePower/Red Ram Hemi in 1958. The 383 made 325 gross horsepower (242 kW), which made the Polara a good match for even a Tri-Power Bonneville weighing over 300 pounds (135 kg) more.

If that wasn’t enough, you could pay an extra $395.20 for the rare and fascinating D-500 engine. This was also 383 cu. in. (6,276 cc), but it had two big Carter carburetors, dual exhaust, and the wild-looking “Cross Ram” induction system. (Plymouth offered the same engine under the fabulous and fun-to-say moniker “SonoRamic Commando” while De Soto called the engine “Ram-Charge.”) Despite its drawbacks (see the sidebar below), the D-500 engine was ideal for long, fast runs down the open highway. The Polara was too heavy and geared too tall for really ferocious standing-start acceleration, but it offered freight-train surge at highway speeds. It thrived at speeds above 60 mph (97 km/h) and its top speed was in the 130 mph (210 km/h) range — well beyond the limits of its tires and suspension, but eminently attainable given a good stretch of road.

1960 Dodge Polara D-500 convertible door handle
1960 Dodge Polara D-500 convertible mirror
1960 Dodge Polara D-500 convertible wheelcover
1960 Dodge Polara D-500 convertible speedometer
Top to bottom: The 1960 Dodge Polara’s marvelously tooled door handles, with their subtle ribbing, would be too expensive for most modern cars, as would the complex side mirrors. “Tarantula” wheel covers (covering 14-inch steel wheels) were optional, but add a final bit of exterior dazzle. The owner didn’t have the keys handy to let us photograph the interior, but through the windshield, you can see the novel horizontal speedometer, which shows daylight through the cut-outs for each number.
1960 Dodge Polara D-500 badge
The Dodge D-500 was originally a separate model, introduced in 1956 as Dodge’s answer to the Plymouth Fury, DeSoto Adventurer, and Chrysler 300B — and as a way of homologating the performance parts for racing use. It originally included special trim, a 260-horsepower Hemi engine, heavy-duty chassis and suspension, and oversize brakes. By 1960, it had become an option package consisting only of the engine hop-up pieces — the heavy-duty suspension and brakes had been dropped. The D-500 package was available only with Chrysler’s superb TorqueFlite automatic.


Apparently, few Dodge buyers were Vegas-bound in those days, because the 1960 Dodge Polara didn’t sell very well. Part of it was price; the Polara cost over $400 more than an eight-cylinder Dart, which was itself a roomy, well-trimmed car and arguably better-looking to boot. Although the U.S. economy was starting to pick up, buyers were weary of Wurlitzer jukebox styling. Roughly nine out of every 10 Dodge shoppers opted for the cheaper, less showy Dart. Polara sales for 1960 totaled a meager 16,278, not enough to cause Pontiac managers any sleepless nights.

1960 Dodge Polara front3q
In 1960, all Chrysler products except the Imperial adopted unitized construction. It made them stronger and somewhat lighter than comparably sized body-on-frame competitors, but more prone to rust, something that was already a problem for Chryslers of this era. The cheaper Matador shared the body shell of the 1960 Dodge Polara, albeit with far less lavish trim.
1960 Dodge Polara rear3q
The 1960 Dodge Polara shared its body shell with the DeSoto and the low-line Chrysler Windsor. It’s 212.6 inches (5,400 mm) long on a 122-inch (3,099mm) wheelbase; the Dodge Dart was exactly 4 inches shorter in both wheelbase and overall length. All Chryslers of this era had “Torsion-Aire” front suspension, with torsion bar springs rather than the more typical coil springs. Rear suspension is a live axle on leaf springs, although the axle is staggered toward the front of the springs in order to reduce wheel hop on hard acceleration. Chryslers had a firmer ride than most competitors, giving them decent handling for their time, although the pronounced body lean and modest grip are disconcerting to modern drivers. As for braking, best not to ask — Chryslers had more braking area per ton than many competitors, but its drums were still marginal, particularly considering the speeds of which this car was capable.

The Dodge Polara survived in various forms through 1973. It was downsized for 1962 with unfortunate results, and then became progressively more stolid and dull as the decade wore on. Virgil Exner, who end up bearing the blame for the mess (although he’d railed loudly against it) was fired in 1961 and replaced by former Ford stylist Elwood P. Engel, who traded the envelope-pushing style of the Forward Look for cautious imitations of two- and three-year-old GM and Ford products. As for Dodge, it never really reclaimed its respectable, middle-class niche. Byron Nichols, who replaced M.C. Patterson as general manager of Dodge in November 1960, continued the downmarket trend Patterson had begun, so Dodge would spend much of the next three decades stealing Plymouth’s lunch money. By the nineties, there was little difference between the two brands, except for trim and option packages. After the Daimler merger, Chrysler pulled the plug on Plymouth in 2001, leaving Dodge to cover the entry-level field.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is ultimately Hunter S. Thompson’s requiem for the sixties, for the energy of an era that had just ended. Much the same is true of the Polara. It represents the last gasp of a kind of fifties exuberance, a giddy futurism that was already close to its expiration date when this car originally went on sale. For better or worse, almost every subsequent Dodge has been more restrained and more down-to-earth. The Dodge Division has built faster cars and a few that were more outrageous, but it has never produced another model as ostentatious as this one, and it never will.

The 1960 Dodge Polara’s stainless steel rear fender ribbing was dubbed “shark’s gill” trim. Polaras and Matadors had these curious, truncated fins, with slim brake lamps set into their trailing edges. They were intended to accentuate the elongated taillamp pods. Darts had full-length fins, which some observers (including the author) consider better-looking.

Which leaves our photo subject as a rare and wondrous artifact. Only 1,279 Dodge Polara convertibles were built in 1960 and this is one of only three equipped at the factory with the D-500 engine. Its present owner discovered it in a darkened warehouse full of cars bound for Australia, recognizing it as a D-500 when he cut himself on the pointed fins of its decklid emblem. It was in dreadful condition, but the new owners gave it a cost-no-object restoration, mostly with NOS (new old stock) parts; they went so far as to find a license plate bracket from the now-defunct dealership where the car was originally sold. Today, it probably looks better than it did on the showroom floor, nearly 50 years ago. It remains quite a car.



Background for this article came from the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Encyclopedia of American Cars: Over 65 Years of Automotive History, (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1996); James M. Flammang and the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Chrysler Chronicle: An Illustrated History of Chrysler – DeSoto – Dodge – Eagle – Imperial – Jeep – Plymouth (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Ltd., 1998); Dave Holls and Michael Lamm, A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design (Stockton, CA: Lamm-Morada Publishing Co. Inc., 1997); Charles K. Hyde, Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation (Great Lakes Books) (Chicago, IL: Wayne State University Press, 2003); John Katz, “1967 Dodge Coronet R/T: Much More Than a Plymouth,” Special Interest Autos #156 (November-December 1996), reprinted in The Hemmings Motor News Book of Chrysler Performance Cars: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, eds. Terry Ehrich and Richard Lentinello (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2000); and Curtis Redgap, “Insider’s History of Plymouth,” Allpar, n.d., www.allpar. com, accessed 31 October 2008.

Information on the Polara and D-500 came from Arch Brown and Richard Carpenter, “1960 Dodge Polara: ‘Yesterday Once More,'” Special Interest Autos #164 (March-April 1998), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Dodges: driveReports from Hemmings Special Interest Autos magazine, eds. Terry Ehrich and Richard Lentinello (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2002); Terry Boyce, “Fury,” Special Interest Autos #10 (April-May 1972), reprinted in The Hemmings Motor News Book of Chrysler Performance Cars; Arch Brown, “Finned Flyer: Dodge’s Distinctive 1961 Dart Phoenix,” Special Interest Autos #180 (November-December 2000), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Dodges; “SIA comparisonReport: Improbable Competitors: 1960 Chrysler 300F vs. Pontiac Tri-Power,” Special Interest Autos #127 (January-February 1992), reprinted in The Hemmings Motor News Book of Chrysler Performance Cars; and “1960 Dodge Polara: ‘Yesterday Once More,'” Special Interest Autos #164 (March-April 1998), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Dodges; Ray Brock, “Chrysler 300F,” Hot Rod April 1960, reprinted in Chrysler 300 Gold Portfolio 1955-1970, ed. R.M. Clarke (Cobham, England: Brooklands Books Ltd., ca. 1992); “Car and Driver Road Test: Chrysler 300-J,” Car and Driver April 1963, reprinted in ibid; “Chrysler 300-J,” Car Life May 1963, reprinted in ibid; “De Soto,” Motor Life March 1960, reprinted in ibid; “De Soto booms into ’60 in a hot new package,” Motor Life December 1959, reprinted in ibid; Ken Fermoyle, “Driving Chrysler’s Stick-Shift 300F,” Popular Science April 1960, reprinted in ibid; Joe Godec, “The Plymouth Sonoramic Commando Engine,” originally from the Plymouth Bulletin and reprinted at Allpar, n.d., www.allpar. com, accessed 7 November 2008; Jeffrey Hass, Ph.D., “The Speed of Sound,” An Acoustics Primer, Chapter 3, www.indiana. edu/~emusic/acoustics.htm, 2004, last accessed 9 July 2016; Bob Horvorka, “Blueprint: 1956 Dodge D-500,” Special Interest Autos #130 (July-August 1992), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Dodges; Mel Jackolow, “Luxury in a Limited Edition: Chrysler’s 300G,” Cars March 1961, reprinted in Chrysler 300 Gold Portfolio 1955-1970; Dennis Jackson, “Speed of Sound,” n.d., ffden-2.phys.uaf. edu/212_fall2003.web.dir/Dennis_Jackson/ speedofsound.html, last accessed 9 July 2016; Matthew Litwin, “1960 Dodge Polara Convertible,” Hemmings Motor News 1 October 2008; John Matras, “1959 Dodge Custom Royal Super D-500 Convertible: Bargain Basement Chrysler 300,” from Special Interest Autos #117 (May-June 1990), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Dodges; “Road Test: 400-HP Chrysler 300-F,” Motor Life June 1960, reprinted in Chrysler 300 Gold Portfolio 1955-1970; “Temperature and the Speed of Sound,” NDT Resource Center, www.nde-ed. org/ EducationResources/ HighSchool/ Sound/tempandspeed.htm, last accessed 9 July 2009; “The Ram Induction System,” Chrysler 300 Club International, 27 October 2003, www.chrysler300club. com, accessed 7 November 2008; and the Wikipedia® pages for “Dodge Polara” (, accessed 31 October 2008) and “Speed of sound” (, accessed 31 October 2008). Additional Information on this specific car came from the author’s conversation with the owner at the Chrysler Performance West Fall Fling XIII show in Van Nuys, California, on 18 October 2008.

As the introduction explains, this article’s title was suggested by the 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson.


Add a Comment
  1. Mr Severson,

    The piec is extensive. I was interested to find out what the ‘red shark’ was after reading the Hunter S. Thompson book. It must be to do with my web browser but all the sentences are cut short and as a solution I pasted the writing onto a word document to read everything. I am sure others reading the article in Ireland may have similar experiences.


    Michael E. Coll.

    1. Michael,

      Ack, sorry about that. It appears there were some formatting issues affecting the way the page displays in Internet Explorer. I think I’ve fixed it; try it again in a little bit (you might need to clear the browser’s temporary internet files first) and let me know if it’s still messed up.

  2. Can anyone help me find my first car? I was sure it was a ’64 Dodge Monaco, but must have the wrong year, and maybe model! It had bucket seats, boxy like the Monaco but with beautiful fins. I would love to find it but am confused as Monacos never seemed to have fins, and the polara is too curvy

  3. I remember my older bro coming home one day with the ugliest mint green plain Jane 60 Tudor Dodge. This had a Golden Commando 361 with staggered dual 4’s though not Ram tubes. More of a plenum. I think it came out in 59. For a full-size car this beast was very fast. Most assumed it was a ‘slant 6; but were soon fooled. As were many a so called Police Interceptors. Gas? $.23 @ gal. We filled it up twice a day. Our preacher had one of those 500’s. He was humble. What a beast!

  4. Hi Aaron,

    I’v read about the Dodge, the V-16 Cadillac, and the Avanti and found your grasp of these subjects to be quite wide and diverse. I enjoyed reading about the cars from the multiple viewpoints of culture, business,
    technical, esthetics and others. I’m the guy with the red 928 and the offer of you using it for a "road test" is a standing one. The book I mentioned is called "Project 928." I found it to be a great case study in industrial design with vestigial remains of cottage industry.

    Regards, Jay Novak

  5. You understand that they are the exaggeration of the theme introduced in in 1955 with the twin stacked taillights. For 1956, Exner added the fin tower, usually with a white end insert into which the two round taillights from 1955 were inset.

    For 1956, Imperial had its own unique rear fin for the forward look. DeSoto essentially shared most of Chrysler’s tooling, but used a convex chrome housing for its three lights. Chrysler used a red plastic insert. Dodge and Plymouth, both higher volume cars received their own unique fin treatment. Plymouth got it’s hump up fin.

    Dodge got a fin upon a fin treatment. But the top fin was shorter than the lower extension of the belt line. And again, two round taillights. For 1958, it was the same treatment, with minor chrome changes.

    For 1959, Exner took the two taillights, lengthened them, place chrome housing over them on the inside of the round. But up top – like all 1959 Chrysler’s, that were in the final year of three year cycle and thus looked quite different than the previous years- drew the feature of the top fin out into extenuated top fins.

    The 1960’s Dodge’s rear quarters (Polara and Matador) where the final iteration of the theme started in 1957. By this point the round taillights weren’t tacked on the lower fender- they were the lower fender and now the bumper. The topper fin, no longer set off by two toning, were also reverse canted.

    The resulting exaggeration made the 1960 full-size Dodges look like it was suddenly 1955. The cars look bulky,skimpy and dated, and buyers stayed away from them in droves, preferring the more balance look of the Dart.

    But if you understand what Exner was doing by continuing a theme, you better understand how it happened.

    For 1961 Exner jettisoned the lower of the two taillights on full-sized cars

  6. Fish or fowl I suppose but I always thought the 1960 Dart looked pretty bad but that the Matador and Polara looked outstanding. I’ve seen the 1960 Dodge Polara/Matador 2 door HT Coupe called one of the 5 best looking 2-door HT coupes ever produced and I’d have to agree. In no way did the 1960 full size Dodges look bulky, skimpy or dated, they were among the most modern looking cars of the era… like an arrow shot from a bow.

    1. The only reason the big 60 Dodges didn’t sell well was because they cost quite a bit more than the smaller Dart series. They most definitely looked better than the Dart Series in every way… the fins were better looking, the grill was better looking, the lines just flowed better. The Polara/Matado looks like an arrow being shot down the road, absolutely stunning.

  7. Outstanding automotive journalism. I have had the 60 Dodge Fever ever since re-watching Cary Grant’s “Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation” where a 60 Dodge Polara wagon hauls the family around. I have been a Mopar enthusiast for years (in addition to my love of Packards). I have to now toast the 60 Dodge Polara convertible as Dodge’s “Packard Caribbean”! The excess of this car is sheer bliss…and I even like the “short fall” fins. Thanks for a great read and for your talent on focusing on the uniqueness of this car.

  8. Regarding my recent post, the star of “Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation” is Jimmy Stewart and not Cary Grant.

  9. Thank you for the in-depth article.
    The first ’61 Polara I ever saw was simply so ugly that I just HAD to have it!

    …one thing about the ’61 Polara that I’ve never heard mentioned is the fact that although both tail-lights can be seen when directly behind the beast, traffic one lane to either side will only see the adjacent tail-light as they are set back so far the other tail light is obscured by trunk.
    It really is so blatant that I’m surprised it ever got past the drawing board, much less DOT specs (I guess Ralph Nader was too busy with the Corvair to notice)

    1. For the record, Ralph Nader didn’t initiate the complaints about the Corvair. His book anthologizes (and served to publicize) various past lawsuits that had been filed since the Corvair’s introduction; as far as I know, he wasn’t personally involved with any of those cases. (If he was, his book really doesn’t suggest so.) The Corvair also was far from the only target of the book — it’s just that because that chapter was excerpted for a magazine, it’s the one most people saw or heard about. There was also an existing safety lobby (of which Nader became something of an emblem) in the early ’60s, so it wasn’t like he initiated that movement.

      This is off-topic, so I don’t want to get into it any more in the comments for this article, but it’s worth noting.

  10. This is a gorgeous car, and an excellent article. What a beautiful, eccentric design. I really like the truncated tailfins stacked on top of the round rocket-esque rear tail light sections. It’s unique. Also the front of this car evokes Cadillacs of similar years, but with that ornate bumper and elaborate grille it’s actually a lot more fun.

    I don’t like that many cars from the late 1950s, early 1960s – it’s before the musclecar era, and I’m not a fan of most american cars from from the 30s through the early 1960s, but every once in awhile, like with this car and the Cadillacs of the same era, there are some real gems.

    1. Danah,

      Your second comment showed up just as I was running a cleanup routine that deletes unapproved comments (among other things), so it got accidentally wiped. So, I just updated your original comment as you indicated. Sorry about that — it was just bad timing!

    2. I think perhaps the disconnect for younger people (by which I mean “people younger than the Baby Boom generation”) with cars of what we might call the “Early Modern” era (i.e., before about 1960) is that there was such a paucity of real variety compared to what we’ve become used to. There were of course different trim series and body styles, but with a very few exceptions, each marque offered essentially one basic car in several variations. The many divisions and niche items of later years — compacts, intermediates, luxury specialty cars, sporty specialty cars, crossovers, hot hatches, et al — were much fewer and farther between than they became in the ’60s and later.

      It’s a bit like what happens when someone accustomed to the phonebook-like array of menu options at most modern chain restaurants walks into a ’50s fast food restaurant and realizes there are really only five or six things on the menu, two of which are hamburgers and cheeseburgers. If you love hamburgers, you might feel nostalgic or applaud the lack of extraneous frills, but if you’re used to being able to get a chicken sandwich or a veggie burger with your fries, it starts feeling awfully narrow.

      That may have nothing to do with what you’re saying, of course, but it’s something that I’ve noticed in looking at the cars of more distant and (personally) unfamiliar eras.

  11. Aaron!
    I have to differ with you about variety…I am a premier ‘Boomer from 1946 and I am a 50’s and 60’s automobile addict.
    When you look at the offerings of (say) 1960 and compare that to what you look at today, there may be fewer different models but you will never mistake one make for another! Yes, we have so many different models around now that it boggles the mind…but it is hard to tell one from another…and I like to believe I know my cars! I am constantly mistaking one make for another…It seems that the minivans have finally become the one unique body style…Honda and Nissan in particular have some unique shapes…Chrysler is the one that looks generic.
    But in 1960 just consider the middle priced field alone:
    Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler, Edsel, Mercury and AMC’s Ambassador. Only the dying DeSoto looked like any other mid priced American car!
    The 1960 Dodge was a styling masterpiece! It was such a different looking design! The sport coupe was spectacular! Yes the Dart had its appeal, but nothing topped that Polara! I never owned one but I sure wish I had bought one instead of the 1960 Plymouth Fury or the ’61 New Yorker that I bought for cash one after the other in 1966 and 67!
    I think your take on this unique model is very well written and I am really pleased by your accuracy! Thanks and write some more!

    1. Well, talking about the 1958–1962 period specifically is a bit of a ringer because it was a uniquely eccentric phase of Detroit styling that appeared fairly abruptly and faded quickly, due in large part to public backlash. (While most 1959 cars were unmistakable, they were also polarizing, to say the least.) Moving forward or backward five or six years, that becomes much less true. Someone who hadn’t lived through that era (or hadn’t cared about cars) would have a harder time distinguishing the various domestic cars of 1954 or 1966.

      Car-loving kids tend to have the most acute awareness of the different models of the era dating from when they first become interested in cars through whatever point they become distracted enough by other things to no longer be following the changes so closely. Anything outside of that window is less familiar, so when seeing cars of other times, one tends to notice the similarities more than the differences unless one has made a particular study of the period. (The same is true of someone who never had any particular interest in cars — they may recognize certain cultural icons, but everything else is just “cars.”) If you recall being a car-loving kid or teenager with that detailed awareness of how a ’61 Chevrolet differed from a ’60 Ford, there’s a natural tendency to assume that cars outside that period look more “same-y” than the ones from that time. It’s a cognitive bias, reinforced by the fact that when you see cars from the area of greatest familiarity, they’re removed from their original context. Even the dullest and most anonymous car of a particular time looks more distinctive when viewed 30 or 40 years after its original period and something like this car stands out even more. The truth is that in any given period, a lot of consumer products look very much the same to the non-expert — some more than others, certainly, but when it comes to mainstream products, extreme distinction is more often punished than rewarded.

  12. When I was 10 dad bought a 60 Polara, and it was really cool. Having driven 40′ era Fords on back roads, he seemed to have a craving for power and I remember him contemplating getting the D-500. The 383 4 barrel had great power too, and it just seemed to build as you gained speed. When I was 18 I it was turned over to me and it lasted me through my most of my formidibil years. I hate to admit it, but one night I fell asleep at the wheel and when I woke up I couldn’t find the speedometer needle. When I was in college some of my friends called me the space man. The satelite clock didn’t keep time but it was really neat to watch the second hand in “orbit”. The space age knobs stuck out so far you would bang your knees on them. When I went camping I just slept in the huge back seat. It eventually got so rusty I was getting my legs wet when it rained. When I was 28 I finally gave it to a guy who used it in three demo derbies. He said somebody told him he had never been pushed so hard. After 28 years, 190,000 miles and the demo derbies, our 60 Dodge had finally been laid to rest. Jim Todd

  13. anybody have a picture of a burgundy 1960 polara. trying to restore a convertible to original

  14. Hi I need to no WHAT spark plugs fit my 1960 matador wagon red ram engine thank Don

    1. I’m afraid I can’t provide that kind of repair/service information — I simply don’t know, and even if I looked it up in a factory service manual, that might not help finding currently available plugs that would be appropriate. My suggestion would be to ask in a Chrysler-specific forum like the user forums on Allpar. (I’m not affiliated with them in any way, but they do have lots of Mopar data and Mopar fans.)

  15. The Polara was one of the great ones and I loved it. When I was10 Dad bought a new Polara. Although I recall him contemplating the D500 engine we got the one with the single 4 barrel. I’m rural Iowa there was lots of Highway to rip on and that’s what it did best. Tromp on it at 80 and it would still lay you back in the seat. Tube radio sounded great. In the back seat at night you could look back and relish the lit up tail fins. Dad gave it to me to drive in ’68. College buddies called me the space man as this was actually a space age theme with a “satellite” clock and the awesome and by that time outdated fins. Hate to admit it but I woke up one night and I was on the interstate. The center line looked solid and the engine was screaming. I wondered how fast I was going but couldn’t find the speedometer needle! When in my 20’s I moved around some and the fins proved to be quite functional as I could tie my dresser in the trunk and it wouldn’t fall off. Every thing I owned could fit in it. It took 18 years, 190K miles, and the demo derbies to kill it. I have Dad’s old R/T now but the Polara still stands out. Cars are better now but there is still nothing like the automotive excitement of the 50’s and 60’s. JT

  16. When I was a senior in High School (63-64) an older buddy bought a 1960 Polara convertible (383, 4 barrel, not D500). He let me drive it to school a few times and it was a real pick-up machine. Everyone wanted a ride in it. What a cool car! Eventually he traded it for a 1967 Dodge HT muscle car that did not begin to have as much style.

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