Radical change was in the wind way back in 1964. The nation was reeling from the death of President Kennedy. And as Lyndon Johnson began his run for the White House by default, Senator Barry Goldwater was initiating the rumbles that began the conservative revolution, but a louder sound at the moment was the Beatles and the 'Stones rippling from across the pond. The conflict in Vietnam was getting warmer, and dealings with the Soviets were staying colder. Meanwhile, the name of the game on the streets of America was performance. At Chrysler, it was exciting restyling ideas for the B-body line-up, and a new race motor that they called the Hemi.
Of course, at this juncture, the Hemi was still "only" a race engine. What that meant was that, if you wanted one in your new Dodge Polara or Plymouth Sport Fury, you basically had to be ready to step up into a full-tilt competition car. If you wanted any kind of street comfort, you opted for the 365-horse 426 Street Wedge, a detuned version of the race mill that preceded the Hemi design.
The year 1964 was the 50th anniversary of the Dodge nameplate, and was a very good sales year for the brand. The car seen here, now owned Mike and Carroll McCabe of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was one of almost 40,000 Polara/Polara 500s built that year. The restyling that year gave the Polara a rolled-over grille, design lips on the tops of the front fenders, and brush-finished trim work. There were now three small tail lights on each side of the rear tail panel, instead of just one. The car had a clean, business-like air that had not been evident in the 1962-1963 designs.
Not a Class-sanctioned racer,...
Not a Class-sanctioned racer, Mike was able to take some liberties when rebuilding the engine.
Reproduction and aftermarket...
Reproduction and aftermarket parts save on cash during the rebuild, and usually work better than used factory parts anyway.
Interior looks stock, with...
Interior looks stock, with the added performance goodies like AutoMeter gauges and a Hurst shifter.
After coming down the assembly line in April, this car was bought new in Memphis, Tennessee, and was immediately used as a race car despite not getting the Super Stock package with a Hemi. Under the hood was the new-for-‘64 426 Street Wedge, topped with a single four-barrel on a cast-iron intake and 10.3:1 compression pistons. This was similar to the motor available in the larger cars, with somewhat restrictive heads and manifolds. The new owner had both the radio and heater deleted from the order, and also asked for the brand-new, fully-synchronized Chrysler four-speed, which was stirred though the floor.
Mike had worked on and occasionally driven a Max Wedge car back in the early days. Even though the decades passed with him not actually owning one, he still wanted a Max Wedge Mopar that he could drive on warm evenings rather than race. Back in 2000, Mike heard that Gary Ball of Ball Restorations had a Polara that was in a semi-finished shape, and Mike and his wife Carroll agreed that this 13,000-mile rarity would be a great basis for such a project.
Mike tells us, "After getting back into the Mopar hobby, after 30-plus years, I immediately concluded that, I couldn't afford a real Max Wedge car and, real Max Wedge cars are not very good street drivers anyhow. So, when this car became available, and I was sure it was a factory 426 car, I bought it with the intent of making it into what we wanted...a driveable Max Wedge clone. I don't want to misrepresent the car in any way! It was built as a 426-powered, four-speed, bench seat, radio delete Polara hardtop. But, the original 426 motor was a 365horsepower Street Wedge, not a Max Wedge. By the way, both the color and the interior are correct for the car."
Mike admits that he and Carroll put about a 1,000 miles a year on the car these days, enjoying some short cruises near home. He and Carroll get a lot of compliments about the car wherever it goes, and as a combination of rare options and modern technology wrapped in a streetable package, we'd agree that it was worth the wait.
'64 Dodge Polara
Mike and Carroll McCabe
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
- Engine: The biggest change to the engine was the conversion to Stage III Max Wedge status. Since this car was not going to be run in NHRA-legal Stock or Super Stock racing class, it was possible to make some easy changes from the scarce OEM parts. An A&A-sourced reproduction max Wedge manifold supports two Edelbrock 500-cfm carburetors on the Mopar Performance intake, the heads are not the huge-port race-only Max Wedge versions but a set of Mopar Performance replacements, and the compression is not all the way up to the factory 12.5:1. This makes it possible to take it down to the Dairy Queen without worrying about flame-outs or overheating. Hedman headers and Dynomax mufflers handle the exhaust chores, while ignition duty is ably accomplished with some late-model MSD equipment.
- Transmission: It's fitting that a car like this came from the factory, and still has the row-your-own 833 with a Hurst shifter.
- Suspension: For riding duty, a set of Super Stock springs, one of Chrysler's favorite factory tricks, are under the 8-3/4, and factory big-block torsion bars support the front end.
- Wheels/Tires: Mike had a pair of factory rims widened by Stockton Wheel to 15x8-inches on the rear, with Firestone 275/70/15 radial tires. Stock 15x5-1/2-inch rims are up front with Firestone 215/70/15 radials.
- Paint/Body: The sheet metal work was handled by Ball Restorations, including the replacement Max Wedge-type hood scoop. Ball's covered the body in WW White. Overall, the car looks like a bone-stock restoration.
- Interior: Inside, the car looks very close to stock, but there is an AutoMeter tachometer, an oil pressure gauge, and a Hurst Competition Plus shifter jutting up from the floor in front of the H4X black bench seats. The special 50th anniversary steering wheel remains in place.