Final Year 4-Speed
Ultra-rare 1969 Polara 500 383 4-speed Convertible Left to Decay
With so much attention paid to the compact A-body DOdge Darts, mid-size B-body Chargers and Coronets, and fun-size E-body Challengers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the full-size C-body Polaras and Monacos get lost in the shuffle. While it’s true most C-bodies were built as four-door and station wagon family haulers, it was possible to get a C-body with plenty of muscle and a sleek two-door body configuration.
In this installment of Dodge Diamonds in the Rough, let’s explore an ultra-rare example of full-size Dodge muscle, a 1969 Polara 500 convertible with a factory-installed 383 and 4-speed manual transmission.
1969 brought an all-new body design to the Dodge C-body lineup. Replacing the sharply creased lines of 1968, the new body featured tubular flanks that drop inward at the rocker sills, earning these 1969-73 C-bodies the “fuselage” moniker. Of the 117,152 Polaras built in 1969, just 1,495 were convertibles, making this discovery a 1-in-78 proposition.
A step above the base Polara, the Polara 500 came with these exotic die-cast metal front fender vent ornaments and most importantly, front bucket seats instead of the ho-hum base-level front bench seat. The top-level Monaco wasn’t offered as a convertible in 1969. Knowing the youth market didn’t want or need a full-size car, Dodge never unleashed an R/T “muscle” version of the full-size Polara, so this 500 is as hot as it got.
Though missing on this abandoned example, a sleek center console and floor shifter once resided between the Polara 500’s standard front bucket seats. The rectangular vent in the center of the dash pad tells us this one was ordered with optional H51 air conditioning, a $395 upcharge. The driver side door panel shows remains of P31 power windows, a $105 option. A close look under the dash reveals something special…
…a clutch pedal! Though a column-shifted 3-speed manual transmission was base Polara equipment, this Polara’s smooth collar steering column tells us it was born a 4-speed. The A833 4-speed take rate on full-size Dodge vehicles was minuscule. In fact, the Polara/Monaco factory sales brochure didn’t even list the 4-speed as being available for 1969. But the pedals don’t lie. 1969 was the final year buyers could ante up an extra $197 for the D21 4-speed manual transmission. After 1969, 4-on-the-floor C-bodies were a thing of the past.
All 1969 Polaras (and Monacos) were V8 powered; the engine lineup consisting of the 318 2-barrel, 383 2-barrel, 383 4-barrel and 440 4-barrel. The VIN shows engine character H (in the fifth spot), telling us this one was originally equipped with the 330-horsepower 383 4-barrel. Priced just $138 more than the base 318, the H-code 383 delivered an extra 100 horsepower. Imagine how much fun the owner of this car had rowing through the gears on a warm summer day with the top down and the dual exhaust 383 rumbling underfoot.
What’s that, a fifth headlight? Located only on the driver side of the Polara’s grille are the remains of a Super Lite. We’ll tell you all about Super Lite in the next installment of Dodge Diamonds in the Rough.
The 1969 dealer sales brochure called the Polara “what other cars want to be when they grow up.” Resembling an aircraft carrier, the Polara’s decklid is significantly larger than any A-, B- or E-body. Buyers of full-size convertibles had one final year (1970) before Dodge cancelled the body style in 1971.
The odd contraption affixed to the underside of the decklid is option P45, a vacuum operated lock release. The rubber hose directs engine vacuum to a diaphragm that rotates the lock barrel when a button is pressed inside the glove box. This handy item was standard issue on the 1970 Chrysler 300 Hurst because its custom fiberglass trunk lid lacked a conventional key hole.