From one of the biggest perceived screw-ups in Ma Mopar's history emerged a lineup of "full-sized" cars that were considered hideously ugly by some, but were really a neat feat of engineering and became a vital part of both the Dodge and Plymouth line-ups for many years.
That screw-up? Downsizing the all-new-for-'62 "S-Body" platform that Dodge and Plymouth would share, one year before the start of production-but one year after the designs were finalized.
We're guessing this photo...
We're guessing this photo was snapped in the pits at Lions Drag Strip in Long Beach, California, during the '62's racing heyday.
In the summer of 1960, newly-appointed Chrysler President William Newberg was at a Detroit-area social event when he overheard some Chevrolet execs talking about the new "small Chevy" that was in the works for '62. With this info, and knowledge that Ford was bringing out cars sized between their compacts and full-size models, Newberg ordered that the S-Body Plymouth and Dodge be shrunk-drastically.
E.T. slip from Irwindale Speedway...
E.T. slip from Irwindale Speedway attests to Dart's mid-12 history. Legendary strip was replaced by big Miller brewery in '80s.
Dodge tried to put the best spin on it, calling it "The Lean New Breed of Dodge!" On the day the '62 Mopars were shown to the dealers, a dozen Dodge dealers quit on the spot. They'd had trouble selling the '61s, with their weird-looking "reversed" fins, and they saw this...this...thing as something they'd never sell. The remaining dealers told Ma Mopar in no uncertain terms to get a real full-sized car in the lineup ASAP, or they'd be gone too. (Thus was born the '62 1/2 Dodge 880, with the '61 Dodge's front sheetmetal bolted on to the finless '62 Chrysler Newport body.) Chrysler styling chief Virgil Exner got the blame for the '62's styling-and the boot for it-but he and his stylists were merely following orders from the top.
By then, Newberg was out as Chrysler's president, in a conflict-of-interest scandal that broke just a couple of months after he moved into the company's top job.
But something interesting happened: Someone noticed that the new-for-'62 Dodges and Plymouths were pretty fair performers, when equipped with regular production engines like the 225 Slant Six, the 318 Poly and 361-cubic-inch B-engine.
But, put in a higher-performance engine in those lightweight "full-size" cars, and those B-Body cars would fly!
The original 413 block was...
The original 413 block was replaced early in the '62's lifetime, but the rest of the engine components are either original or era-correct.
Meanwhile, Chrysler's RB engine platform had been getting plenty ofperformance upgrades since its introduction in '58, especially when it came to carburetors and intake manifolds-culminating in the "long ram" dual four barrel intakes that were optional on the letter-series Chrysler 300s and Dodge D500s.
Somewhere inside ChryCo, the decision was made: 50 Plymouths and 50 Dodges would be built with a special 413-inch RB, intended for the Stock and Super Stock wars on the nation's dragstrips. There would be two versions-one with "low" (11.25:1) compression, putting out around 390-400 horsepower, and a high-compression (13:1) version, good for 410 horsepower. Both would wear a special "short ram" intake with two four-barrels. Transmissions would be either a floor-shifted Borg Warner T-85 three-speed manual, or a 727 Torqueflite with the same dash-mounted pushbuttons as regular-production B-Bodies.
The Plymouths were built first, at Lynch Road Assembly, in the early spring of '62. About a month later came the Dodges, out of Hamtramck Assembly.
The car you see here was the first of the Max Wedge Dodges built.
Jeff Miranda has always been a fan of the early B-Body, and he'd owned Max Wedges before, including an unrestored '62 Dart, a '62 Belvedere, and one of the factory lightweight '63s. "I've always had a love for Max Wedge B-Bodies," he says. "I've always either had a real one, or I've built clone cars. The '62-'64 B-Body cars are my favorite cars of all times-my preferences are '62, '63, and '64 Dodges and '62 Plymouths."