Last year, when Steve Hinckley took his ’69 Polara on the HOT ROD Power Tour, he didn’t expect to turn heads with it. “It’s a Polara, and I didn’t think that many people would notice,” he recalls. “A lot of people noticed, and when they’d hear me shift, I’d get another double-take.”

Shift, as in go through the gears manually -- something that couldn’t be done with factory Polara powertrains after 1968. Declining sales, where four-speeds were going into less than one percent of full-size Dodges and Plymouths, led Ma Mopar to make the A-833 an A-Body/ B-Body-only option for 1969.

But that didn’t keep the idea of having one out of Steve’s mind, especially when he’d known about a ’69 Polara 500 hardtop. It was factory-equipped with a 383 hooked to a 727, Airtemp air conditioning and bucket seats, and it was owned by the Parts Manager of the other location of the Dodge dealership whose parts department he worked in -- and still does after 31 years.

Steve kept his eye on it until 2005. “I got the call that he wanted to sell it. For a price, I couldn’t say no, and I needed something to drive,” remembers Steve. “So the deal was done.”

He had what he’d wanted -- but it was far from perfect. “The car was tired,” he says. “It had 270,000 miles by then, but still ran and drove well.” Eventually, its aging 383 got so tired that it couldn’t climb the hill near his house. “I had a 440 and had started acquiring parts to build what I wanted, except the pedals,” says Steve of how his project began.

I’m a different kind of person, so it fits right in.

Unfortunately, the unibody had seen better days. “I was putting the headers in,” recalls Steve, “when I see insulation hanging down from the floor.” A major drawback -- but a minor setback. “I came across an ad for a ’69 Polara hardtop in Nebraska,” he says. “I bought it and had it shipped [home], thinking I could use it to fix the other. I ended up using that body shell, and everything else is from the first car.” Except for the pedals -- which he eventually tracked down.

Transplanting the good parts from the rusted-out body to the solid one, and dropping in the 440 that he already had, before long Steve had a drivable Dodge, with a Pistol-Grip-shifted 833, bench seat, and steel wheels with dog-dish caps. “I loved the look of how it all turned out, but it didn’t look finished,” says Steve, who then swapped in a 496-inch RB, 3.91 rear gears, American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels on taller tires, and a 1969-vintage Hurst shifter. “Boy, is it fun to drive!” Steve recalls. “I drove it from Salt Lake City, to Las Vegas, 400 miles each way, to Mopars at the Strip with this setup.”

But a big-block with 11.4:1 compression was tough to keep cool, and hard on clutches, per Steve. The 3.91s were replaced by a set of 3.23s, and the 493-inch RB gave way to a mildly-built 440 with cast iron heads. The 440 utilizes a 10.0:1 compression ratio and a mild Mopar Performance camshaft. Steve also reconnected the A/C. That’s what powered it on 2012’s HOT ROD Power Tour. “The car was awesome,” he says. “I put 5,000 miles on it in two weeks.”

Are there any other updates or modifications in the works? “It is really close to where I want it right now,” says Steve. “I’m probably going to update the air conditioning to the newer-style compressor so that it works better and takes less power to run.”

Needless to say, Steve’s Polara -- just a shade under 19 feet long -- gets plenty of attention whenever he drives or shows it.

Fast Facts
1969 Dodge Polara two-door hardtop
Steve Hinckley - Lehi, Utah

Mopar Power

Engine: Steve (and Clegg’s Automotive Machine in Orem, Utah) built the Polara’s 440, using a stock block, a forged steel crankshaft, KB hypereutectic 10.0:1 pistons, a Mopar Performance hydraulic camshaft and valvetrain, factory 906 heads with a multi-angle valve job and hardened valve seats, Weiand Action Plus intake with a 770-cfm Holley Street Avenger carburetor, Mopar electronic ignition, tti headers and exhaust pipes, and DynoMax mufflers.
Transmission: Goodbye 727—hello 833 four-speed, thanks to Steve and Gears Transmissions in Lehi, Utah. Shifter’s a Hurst unit with a 1969-correct woodgrain knob.
Rear: Stock 1969 8¾-inch rear, with an open differential and 3.23 gears

Sure Grip

Suspension: Rebuilt stock at both ends—front torsion bars, rear leaf springs, and tubular KYB shocks all around.
Brakes: Rebuilt ’69 Polara front disc/rear drum, power assisted
Wheels/Tires: Period-correct American Racing Torq-Thrusts (15x7 inches front, 15x8½ inch rear) wear Firestone Firehawk blackwall radials (235/70R15 front, 255/70R15 rear)

High Impact

Paint/Body: Steve found a ’69 Polara hardtop that was rust-free, and transplanted parts to it from his first ’69.
Interior: Early-’69-vintage interior (minus head rests) was restored by D&M Upholstery in Bountiful, UT. Sound system by JVC.