Home Car Stories One Owner 1971 DODGE Polara Custom- Burnaby, BC
1971 DODGE Polara Custom- Burnaby, BC PDF Print E-mail
Written by Double Dragon
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 16:41

1971 DODGE Polara Custom- Burnaby, BC


Writing and photography copyright D. S. Brown, except photos of order form, DAA sticker, BC inspection sticker, vinyl roof, package tray underside, and gas cap courtesy and copyright G. Cox.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc logo

Dodge chose a name for their big travel car that evokes an interstellar journey to the star Polaris. The Polara was introduced for the 1960 model year right when the 'space age' and 'jet age' was beginning to take off. Oldsmobile had the Starfire and Jetfire full size cars; Ford had their Galaxie full size car and Mercury their big Meteor and the little Comet. All these great names from an optimistic time reflect the striving for greatness USA was reaching towards, perfectly symbolized by the 'Space Race'.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc front nose

The Polara was a gigantic car which devolved from full size top model to intermediate sized and then back to full size but now as the entry level car. In 1969 all of the full size Chrysler 'C bodies' took on elegant style with the introduction of Chrysler's 'fuselage' bodies. Plymouth Fury, VIP, Dodge Polara, Monaco and Chrysler Newport, 300 and New Yorker shared this body shell. Chrysler dubbed these cars the 'fuselage cars' due to the way the glass and bottoms of doors and fenders curved inwards similarly to the rounded shape of an airplane.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc front driver angle

The 122 inch wheelbase, spacious interior and massive trunk make the Polara an ideal long distance cruiser. Overall length was 220.2" for Polaras although the brochures state slight differences exist between bodystyles. A few fractions here or there don't change the monstrous carrying capacity of these cars. 1973 was the last year for the 'fuselage' styling on the big full sized 'C' body Chryslers and the last year for the Polara name. Too bad, because it is a great car.

The new 1974 Chrysler full size cars had a lower beltline and larger greenhouse. This improved driving visibility but made the cars less stylish. The bodies also took on a more squared formal appearance as the domestic auto industry ushered in the era of padded vinyl roof, front hood ornament and boxy shapes.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc pass side

Even as it came to showrooms as the fuselage style for the 1969 model year the Polara concept was being slowly squeezed out of the market through a confluence of factors. By the late 1960s the full size car was losing ground to the great looking easier to maneuver and park intermediates. The king of family cars for the 1960s was the full size Chevrolet Impala. By the 1970s the intermediate sized Oldsmobile Cutlass took over the title.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc side

The Apollo moon program carried on for a few years after the first man walked on the moon in 1969 but the fascination with space exploration waned in the public arena. When economic and political shadows set over USA in the 1970s most of the space age names were retired. This 1971 Polara was already living on borrowed time as a remnant of the optimistic bigger is better 1960s. Polara didn't return after 1973. In 1974, the Monaco name was the only game in town if you wanted a full size Dodge. Ironically, the Monaco name began as a sub series of the Polara and eventually became the top rung version of the Dodge 'C' body.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc driver rear

Back in 1971 although the Polara's star was on the wane, people still did buy full size cars and often it was to tow boats, trailers and so on. That was the case with William who was in his early 50s when he ordered this 1971 Polara Custom on May 8, 1971 from Brentwood Dodge Ltd. See the story of Brentwood Dodge in the DEALERSHIPS section of this website. To preserve privacy Bill's last name and signature is removed from the order form shown below.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby order form

Bill lived in Burnaby, British Columbia and owned a daily driver Mustang that he used for his Federal government job. He didn't intend to use the Polara for commuting; he just needed something to pull his trailer on vacation getaways. With a 1966 Chevrolet Impala 4 door sedan that was getting long in the tooth as his trade-in he began putting together a wish list for his new car.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc dash

Bill chose the 2 door hard top body style which is a sleek looking car. The Polara Custom may have been selected for utilitarian purposes but it didn't need to be a 4 door sedan while doing it. The unusual color Bill specified is named Gunmetal Gray Poly. Despite the 'gray' in the name it actually has a turquoise tinge to it like the blued barrel of a gun that has been heated through repeated firing.

The Polara Custom model is a step up the hierarchy of Polaras nestled between base Polara and top line Polara Brougham. The Custom name first appeared in 1970 as a replacement for the old Polara 500 name which had clearly been designed to compete with the full size Ford Galaxie 500. As can be seen in the photo above Bill chose an all vinyl interior which cost him an extra $26.95.

The majority of options are oriented around towing but Bill did spring for AM radio ($48.10), front and rear bumper guards, vinyl roof and accessory light package ($27.90) which includes a handy trunk light (this package came standard on the higher level Polara Brougham).The remote control driver's racing mirror is not listed on the order form but is on the car as is coded in the fender tag.

Note the under dash tow brake controller.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc trailer controller

The trailer brake controls connect the foot brake via a switch to illuminate the brake lights on the trailer. Based on the size of the pin plug in at the rear this system probably has the capability to also activate electric brakes on trailers in response to application of the car's brakes.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc trailer brake light

The rest of the options are of a heavy duty nature: an upgrade from standard Polara Custom 318 engine to the 383 for $96.15. Believe it or not, the standard base Polara was equipped with the slant six 225!. Bill only went for 2 barrel and single exhaust on his 383 since low end torque was more important than peak horsepower numbers for towing.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc 383 engine

In the photo of the 383 taken from the side the distinctive exhaust manifolds that seem to ride up alongside the block can be clearly seen. Note the original factory coil, heater hoses and clamps. The heater hose part number is 3441 274 83044.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc 383 manifold

On the invoice the Heavy Duty Torqueflite automatic transmission is listed at a special price as part of the towing package and cost a mere $76.85. The trailer towing package cost $52.75. The heavy duty trailer towing package includes the load leveling hitch and remote brake for the trailer and all the lighting connections.

Other upgrades include power front disc brakes ($78.70), and a 26 inch radiator coupled to a 7 blade fan for improved cooling. Note that although the upper rad hose has been replaced the radiator is the factory original.

71 dodge polara custom burnabyy 26 inch radiator

Stamped into the top on the right side of the radiator the owner is admonished, "Use Chrysler Antifreeze". On the left top of the radiator numbers are stamped 3343 953. Towards the radiator cap the numbers 18398 are so faded it seems they must be some old casting number common to many Chrysler radiators.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby brake master cylinder

The only part underhood which is really rough is the master cylinder which seems to have experienced some serious corrosion from the brake fluid. It almost looks like a coral reef up close. The scorched metal carries over to the power booster which appears to have a factory original sticker on it that says '85'.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby hood insulation

Note that the underhood insulation pad has a hole in it which correlates with the position of the air intake for the air cleaner snorkel. The heat stove carries exhaust heat up to this part of the air cleaner during warm up phase and perhaps melted away the insulation.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc dr ft tire

Other optional upgrades for towing duty include H78 x 15 inch white wall fiberglass belted tires on heavy duty wheels (G78s were standard on Polara Custom). The power steering option was $126.95. When the options were totaled the car cost $4,951.40 which was a lot by 1971 standards. Bill's salesman Ray Foy allowed $1,521.80 for the Impala trade in. A $300.00 deposit check is noted for May 11, 1971 and the balance was paid in full also by check exactly a month later on June 11, 1971.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby bc door sticker

The first few digits of the VIN DL23L1D2xxxxx decode:

D= Polara

L= Low cost

23= 2 Door hardtop

L= 383- 2 Barrel engine

1= 1971 Model year

D= Belvedere, Illinois final assembly plant.

2xxxxx= Sequential number not shown here to protect owner privacy

71 dodge polara custom burnaby fender tag rad

The fender tag (actually located on the radiator support) is decoded from the bottom left and works its way across and up.

E61= 383- 2 Barrel 290 HP engine (note the different HP rating further along)

D32= Heavy duty automatic transmission

DL23= Polara Low price 2 Door hardtop

L1D= 383- 2 Barrel 275 HP 1971 engine (this HP rating is the usually accepted one for 1971)

2xxxx= Sequence number (not shown to preserve owner privacy)

GA8= Gunmetal Gray Poly exterior paint.

L2B2= Trim low, vinyl bench seat

000= Full door panels (ie no paint on inner doors)

525= May 25, 1971 build date

B20381= Order number

V1X= Black color full vinyl roof

C= Built to Canadian specifications

A01= Light package

A13= ?

A35= Heavy duty trailer towing package

B41= Power front disc brakes with standard 10 inch drum rears (brochure says 11 x 2)

G33= Remote driver's side outside racing mirror

H42= Non day/ night inside rear view mirror (the day/night was standard in Polara Brougham)

L25= Trunk lamp

M85= Front and rear bumper guards

R11= Solid state (2 Watts) AM Radio

V01= Monotone paint treatment

V5X= Black body side moulding

Y14= Sold car (ie it was ordered by a customer, in this case William)

26= 26 Inch wide radiator

The Polara was put into vacation duty soon after purchase. When driving long distances it is reassuring to have membership in an auto club.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby DAA sticker

In the USA the AAA had become established as a large successful organization and Canada set up an organization that emulated many of the AAA features which was established in 1948 as the Dominion Automobile Association. In the passenger rear quarter window this old sticker is displayed.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby speedo

William didn't drive this Polara much outside vacation towing duty racking up 64,637 miles. Defying the absence of interior mats, the carpet is still in excellent shape with no rips or significant wear on the inbuilt driver's rubber foot pad. The pedals show some wear but are still pretty clean and lacking in scuffs. The pedal dress up chrome goes a long way towards preserving the pedals and prevents premature scuffing off of the brake pedal rubber on the corner.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby pedals

The seats are in great shape and have no rips or tears even in the most used one, the driver's. Note the full door panels. Even into the 1970s many Chrysler products had partial door panels with the top 6 inches of the door frame being painted metal. The plush padded door panels in the Polara Custom extend right up to the base of the window.

71 dodge polara custom front seat

The rear seat is quite inviting and plush with a cutaway in the top center which was often found in full size cars of the 1960s and 1970s. Bill retired in 1980. The Polara had never been a commuter car but with more time to travel the Polara continued to see action. British Columbia briefly had a vehicle inspection program in place. The sticker in the bottom right corner of the windshield here is dated 1982.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby 1982 BC inspect sticker

Note the aftermarket third brake light installed in the rear package tray. This bears testament to the fact the car was still on the road after 1986 which was the year the third brake light was introduced in North America.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby rear seat

Despite low use and always being garaged out of the weather the car is not entirely free of wear. As seen below the trailing edge of the driver's interior door pull/ arm rest has worn away to the stuffing. Also note how time and UV light has caused the door pull to discolor over time due to its different composition from the door panel.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby inner door pull

Other minor scuffs show on the exterior. There are minor scrapes and scratches here and there on the fender edges doubtless from encounters with tree branches when parking in camping spots.

The bottom rocker extending back from the front wheelwells and including rear quarter panels have rust reaching up about 1 or 2 inches from the bottom in places. The Pentastar logo behind the front wheelwell is missing on the driver's side. As can be seen in this photo of the underside of the package tray the car has been mainly dry despite the presence of some rust at the bottom edge of the rear window. The 2 metal rods crisscrossing in the picture are the trunk spring rods.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby package tray underside

Two small lumps of rust can be felt on either edge of the vinyl top along the chrome rear window moulding. The car was sitting in rain for 2 straight months when these pictures were taken but water had not made its way into the trunk.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby vinyl roof rust

The Polara was driven in winter conditions as proved by the presence of minor rust and a bias ply snow tire serving duty as a spare.

The only significant under hood rust was the master cylinder and booster. The power steering pump is dry and seems to have a leak somewhere, otherwise most of the underhood items except for master cylinder are in good shape. The engine oil and transmission fluid are clean and don't leak.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby gas cap

Behind the original license frame holder (spring loaded) is the original gas cap with a raised prong on the car to help turn it. Most of the caps on cars that went through the 1970s were replaced with lockable caps in response to gas siphoning when gas became expensive. This car was parked inside a garage overnight and hence wasn't in jeopardy from gas theft.

Inside the trunk however, things look much better than usual in a car of this vintage. All but one of the original plastic drain plugs are still in place and the trunk floor retains original primer and splatter paint which was applied about 1 foot inwards of the inner fenders.

The spare snow tire is a vintage one sized H78 15 which matches the tire size and type listed on the bill of sale. The presence of a bias ply snow tire in the correct size format now serving duty as a spare indicates that Bill did use the Polara in winter conditions earlier in the car's life. Snow tires are necessary if you venture into the interior of British Columbia during winter months and also for travel down the coast during winter .in order to reach warm vacation spots some icy snowy mountains often need to be crossed.

The other deduction possible to make is that since the snow tire is a bias ply tire with plenty of tread left on it, the Polara only saw limited use in snow since bias ply tires were generally phased out by the time the 1980s drew to a close. The DOT code on this tire is 167 which probably means it was manufactured in the 16th week of the 7th year of the decade= 1987.

Bill kept the car running even after he could no longer drive. Bill went out and started up the car and ran it for 20 minutes at regular intervals. The Polara was kept garaged the entire time it was in Burnaby and again after a move to White Rock, BC. Bill died Jan 1, 2010 at age 91. Bill owned the Polara for 38 and a half years. The Polara was trailered to dry storage following his death . The Polara hasn't been registered to anyone since then so it is still technically his car as of 2014. Bill's daughter is too intimidated by the size of the car to drive it and doesn't want it to get dented up. In Summer, 2014 the car was displayed outside to entice buyers and for the first time in 38 years it was exposed to outside weather for longer than a 3 week camping trip.

The Polara sold in mid December, 2014 meaning it was in the original owner's name for 43 years and 6 months.

71 dodge polara custom burnaby back end

Last Updated ( Thursday, 18 March 2021 14:20 )