Is this classic Dodge the Polara vortex of the 1960s?

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The muscle car era is  viewed as the glory days by lots of enthusiasts, but keeping that narrow view leaves a lot of awesome cars out of view. One example is the 1964 Dodge Polara featured in the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. By most definitions it isn’t a muscle car, but the rumble of the Max Wedge engine under this hood offers quite a counterpoint.

The Polara was the top-trimmed Dodge car for 1964, with the flashy interior and extra chrome trim. It was aligned to compete with the Chevrolet Impala SS and thus needed a stout engine under the hood. The Max Wedge 426 is not to be confused with its more famous brother with the same displacement. No, the Max Wedge was milder than the Hemi but still produced over 400 horsepower. Jay’s car is also a great example of a day two, as it has some tasteful upgrades that are a mix of period and modern.

The chrome engine dress-up kit is the first thing you notice under the hood, but the Wilwood master cylinder is also prominent. That dual master pumps fluid to four-wheel disc brakes that help stop the big red two-door. The brake pedal is only one of three though, as this particular car has a four-speed manual that Jay finds quite rare, as most of the models he remembered seeing back in the day were automatics.

Out on the street, the Polara has presence. It’s big, red, and rumbles just right. With the 2-55 air conditioning (two windows down, driving at 55 mph) in effect it sure looks like fun. The big torque of the 426 V-8 means Jay can short shift the car or put his foot down and let those cylinder pull in as much fuel as they can burn through the four-barrel carb. Open the electric cutouts on the exhaust at a stoplight and you might end up with a street race on your hands. You wouldn’t want that, would you?

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