Brothers John and Horace Dodge were master machinists who built transmissions for the early Oldsmobiles and engines for the early Ford automobiles. In 1914, they began building and selling their own "Dodge Brothers" cars. That first year 249 cars were manufactured.
After the Chrysler Corporation acquired the brother's company, the "Dodge Brothers" name was dropped in 1938. The 50th anniversary of the brothers starting their own car company was celebrated in 1964 with "Dodge" spelled out along the circumference of the horn button at the hub of the steering wheel.
Mike Fogerty owns a 1964 Dodge Polara 500 convertible. He first saw the car while attending an antique car show in 1997 and purchased it a week later. The odometer at that time had registered 95,200 miles. Since the car was located not far away he decided to drive it home to Manassas, Va.
"It quit on the way home," Fogerty recalls.
Following some roadside maintenance he managed to breathe life back into the V-8 engine. Once home Fogerty gave the 17.5-foot-long Dodge a thorough physical and discovered a restricted fuel flow. A new 20-gallon gasoline tank and fuel line corrected the problem. He says that the filter in the fuel line was replaced and, to be on the safe side, he installed a second filter. The ever cautious Fogerty now keeps extra fuel filters in the console between the front bucket seats.
Records indicate that 17,787 cars like Fogerty's were manufactured during the 1964 golden anniversary model year with a base price of $3,227. The Dodge Polara comfortably rolls on a 119-inch wheelbase drawing power from a 318-cubic-inch V-8 capped with a two-barrel carburetor. It delivers 230 horsepower.
"Most of these cars had larger 383-cubic-inch V-8 engines," Fogerty says.
The speedometer can register speeds up to 120 mph. Fogerty is quick to point out the impractical location of the 6,000-rpm tachometer at the ankle-level console beneath the dashboard. The tachometer has no warning red line.
The shift lever controlling the automatic transmission sprouts from the center console. An AM radio occupies the center of the dashboard. Only the steering and brakes are power assisted. Typical of the era when practically everyone smoked, this Dodge is equipped with four ashtrays.
Visually stretching the Dodge is the unique brushed finish chrome beltline molding on either side of the Bermuda Turquoise paint. Only on rare occasions does Fogerty raise the white convertible top with its clear plastic rear window. The top is usually found beneath the low profile boot. Optional extras on the 1964 Dodge were the rubber guards on both chrome bumpers.
"The rear guards were there but the front ones were not," Fogerty says.
Following a lengthy search for replacements for the rubber guards Fogerty eventually located a complete new front bumper with the rubber guards installed. Courtesy lights are plentiful and the light treatment is carried over to the exterior. At the rear of the car a pair of backup lights are each flanked by two tail/brake lights. The unusual arrangement of the headlights is achieved by placing the two inboard headlights within the perimeter of the grille. Vent windows are located on both doors, and only the driver side has an exterior mirror.
Dodge sales literature from 1964 states: "With chair high seats, Dodge restores dignity and comfort to human beings. These are seats that let you sit up and take notice, or stretch out and relax."
The mileage figure on the odometer is now approaching 98,000 miles. In 2014, Dodge will be celebrating a century of automobile production. Fogerty is planing to happily take part in any celebration in his 50-year-old Dodge Polara 500 convertible.
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