(first posted 10/7/2016) Welcome to Part 3 of our journey exploring relatively small displacement engines used at various times in automotive history. While our last two chapters covered pickups (Part 1, Part 2), let’s venture over to passenger cars.
Much has been mentioned in these pages about Chrysler’s full-sized “fuselage” cars of 1969 to 1973 and they certainly have their fans. Today, we are going to explore a briefly advertised and seldom chosen engine option found in the Dodge Polara of 1970 to 1973.
When the new Polara was introduced for 1969, the availability of anything but an eight-cylinder engine was nowhere to be found. You could still order yourself a three-on-the-tree, but a slant six? Don’t even think about it!
If one truly desired a slant six in their new fuselage Mopar, it certainly wasn’t an impossibility as the 225 cubic inch (3.7 liter) slant six was standard equipment in the Plymouth Fury.
There are multiple references to this standard engine choice throughout the brochure for 1969.
It makes sense. At this time (1970 shown here), there were still many people who identified with the old “Low Priced Three” of Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth. Plymouth was out to find frugal shoppers and those without any pretense, such as the stay-at-home mother who needed to haul her groceries. The more upscale shopper was heading for Dodge at that time, and there was no point in offering a unexciting slant six to someone looking at a Polara.
Despite this, one could obtain a slant six powered Polara starting in 1970.
What prompted this sudden change of heart?
Here’s a hint.
Dodge introduced the Polara Special on March 17, 1970. Intended for fleet, taxi, and police duty, is was an economy model that was equipped with the 225 slant six.
Given the Fury was identical, save its two inch shorter wheelbase, this was no mind-boggling engineering feat to accomplish this. For 1970, there were 132 Polaras equipped with the 225 slant six.
The following year of 1971 was the fluke year for the six-cylinder Polara as it was the only time its availability was mentioned. Indirect reference to the slant six can be seen in the lower right of this ad.
Dodge was explicit about this availability in their 1971 brochure, which is the only time this happened. Thankfully, their including this information helps give some pretty good insight into how these cars differed from the others.
The rear gearing for these slant six cars helps reveal Dodge’s goals. The majority of these slant six Polara fleet cars likely wound up in urban settings such as New York or Chicago where a six-cylinder engine just made more sense given the stops, starts, and predominantly low speed operation. Again, Dodge delivered with the six-cylinder Polara and it had lowest standard rear gears of any sedan in the entire Dodge lineup to help provide performance that cloaked its combination of 145 gross/110 net hp and 3,800 pounds of dry curb weight – yielding a power-to-weight ratio that would be predictive of the 1980s.
While the number of six-cylinder Polaras for 1971 isn’t known, Dodge did build 308 cars specifically for taxi use. In contrast, they built 6,826 for police duty.
Neither of these numbers gives terrific insight into how many may have been slant six powered. There was still the 318 cubic inch (5.2 liter) V8 available for taxi use and many police departments, again thinking about New York and Chicago, purchased both six-cylinder and V8 police cars based upon location of assignment.
Thus, a 1971 Polara such as this police car from Chicago could have anything from a slant six to a 440 cubic inch (7.2 liter) V8.
On the other hand, this 1972 Polara is likely a safer bet for having a slant six. But there is no certainty either way.
Dodge kept the slant six around for fleet customers through the end of model year 1973; Plymouth ceased the slant six in their full-sizers after 1972. While production numbers for 1972 and 1973 aren’t readily available, it’s safe to assume the number of slant six cars produced was minute and they most likely had a life of hard work.
Related slow reading:
The Feeblest car Of The Malaise Era: 1981 Chrysler Newport Six – 42.6 lbs/hp
The largest car with the tiniest greenhouse ever made in the modern era!
Nothing more to say about it.
It might appear so from afar, but visibility was actually pretty good in these, especially the 4 doors. And, far, far better than the Chargers, 300’s and other gun-slit windowed cars of today.
Never really into Mopars, but liked these. The styling has held up quite well, certainly better then GM or Ford. Quite a change from the sharp creased previous generation. Was Elwood Engel involved in these?
When new I wasn’t impressed by these cars as I thought they were too big but they were every where and good cars to boot .
Sadly they’re mostly gone now .
I had a ’69 Plymouth Fury two door for a while, an abandoned freebie I made run in Boston (Forrest Hills) in 1976, it really was a good car . 383 W/ 4 BBL carby .
I’m on board with the styling of these cars at first, but wow did they go wrong in ’72 with that new nose. If you anthropomorphize the noses of cars, it looks like a man with a very high forehead and receding hairline. Way too much metal up top with the lights and grille set oddly low, then the ’73 looks like it’s trying to hide in the GM lineup. (Though not so badly as the ’73 Newport which looks someone put a flattened Caprice header panel on a fuselage.)
The ’72-’73 Monaco, on the other hand, looks fantastic with its hidden lamps. Very interesting divergence in style.
In any case, I imagine the performance with the six would have been…poky. A predictor of the depths of the malaise era for sure.
Fastest I have ever gone was in a ’72 Monaco with 383. 140 mph.
My family and I spent some time in a 1971 Polara 4-door hardtop as a rental in Washington, DC for a few days in the fall of ’71. I was already a car nut, so of course I remember the disappointment of not having a facelifted new ’72. But it wasn’t bad. (Four years later my folks bought their one and only Chrysler product, a new ’77 New Yorker 4-door, but its lean-burn 440 was a terrible engine and the only positive aspect of the car was its looks.)
Between a 225 slant 6 in the Mopar fuselage body and the 231 V6 in the ’75 Buick LeSabre it would be a tight race for the slowest car.
An athletic kid on a 10 speed could beat both away from stop lights.
So what good is a /6 police car? And Fuselage is way oversize for Meter Maids.
Yet /6 & Buick V6 are my votes for Greatest American Sixes.
Cars in Manhattan mostly idle.
As Jason alludes to, 6-cylinder cop cars were common in places like Metro Chicago and NY. Given the congested traffic conditions in such places, it was rare to exceed 35 or 40 mph.
My Dad was NYPD in the 1960s and 70s. He said pretty much all of the standard beat patrol cars were /6s and the highway patrol cars were 440s. The chances of getting into a high speed pursuit in downtown Manhattan were pretty slim, plus they used less gas. With a large metropolitan police department like the NYPD, fuel costs are a major expense, plus a /6 lowered the price of the car itself. Next to officer’s salaries and benefits, cars are the biggest expense a police department has so they will try and cut costs wherever they can.
As hurricane Matthew has been ripping up the Carribean in recent days, I noticed a news report from one of the islands down there, don’t remember which one, but it showed the local police car. It was a Nissan Versa sedan. When your driving a getaway car on an island, how far can you go?
Thanks; I didn’t know that, not being a downtown dweller myself. It also doesn’t help that filmmakers love high-speed urban cop chases.
I keep telling you alls about the Slant six Valiants in NYC in the 60’s & 70’s…..
It just seems that a B-body made more sense for urban patrol duty. LAPD went with the Belvedere/Satellite until the Matador arrived for ’72. I get the C-body for taxi service, bigger backseat and trunk.
The /6 was offered in Canadian market Dodges, still.
The above is a great fusie site, by the way.
Canadian Dodges never really achieve parity with US, even into the 90s.
Even though the Plymouth dash was gone after ’66, the seat trims remained.
Model series also differed to some extent.
If one is so inclined, go to the above listed site and compare the US and Can market brochures
Wow, you could get a /6 3 on the tree in a station wagon, provided it doesn’t have a 3rd row seat. Us canucks sure are (were) thrifty!
I had forgotten just when the six disappeared from the C body Mopars, so thanks for this tutorial that freshens me up on this.
I spent time in a 74 Charger with the 225, but it was at least a 3 speed car. And yes, it was slow. I also spent time in a six cylinder IH Scout II and a 77 LeSabre V6. I am sure that the Polara would have been in the same league, though the 225 had good low-end punch, at least.
Spent time including road trip in ’74 225 stripper 3 speed Duster. I actually pulled the mountain passes pretty well (new), and had decent pick up. But it weighed about 600 lbs less than a Charger ’74 stripper, a big difference. The Polara is about 1120 lbs heavier then the Duster!
Weights I found listed was 2840 for ’74 Duster, 3470 for ’74 Charger. and 3960 for ’72 Polara, all 225 automatic. (couldn’t find 3 speed stick weight listings).
That is one BEAUTIFUL car.
In the 60s and into the 70s, my father was responsible for fleet purchasing cars for 120+ field reps (then called salesmen)
Up until 1973, when they were no longer available, all of the reps got I-6 Chevrolet Bel Airs. Why not? They were cheaper, and my father wasn’t stuck driving them, so what did he care if they were slow? As cheap as he was, though, at least he didn’t stick them with the even lower Biscayne – the price difference was almost nothing on a 120-car fleet buy.
The flip side is the cars were considered used-up at 50k miles. For some of the salesmen with big territories to cover, this meant they would get a new Bel Air every 10 months!
I do remember seeing an ad for the 6 cylinder Polara back in that time frame and thought Why? I owned a ’69 Polara 2dr, white with dark green vinyl top. It had a 318 with Torqueflite and was nimble but not very fast. The 6 cylinder must have been a slow slog.
I like the picture of the ’70 at the top equipped with the Super Lite option. Has anyone done a piece on that?
The big question is how well did it work?
Pretty sure I remember reading one, but I can’t find it at the moment.
Impalas with the tiny 250 Cid were quite popular in Brazil as an affordable option as a “luxurious” true American car.
In Australia American cars HAD to come with a V8. It would have been unthinkable to offer a ‘luxury’ car with less engine than the locals.
Same in NZ for the price charged for them noone would entertain a six.
I’ve recently shot a factory RHD 61 Canadian Chev that (eventually) made its way over here. Still has its original six.
Old Pete, you’ve prompted an odd realization. Toward the end of Pontiac’s run, the only way to get a V8 was to use a Holden from Australia.
Not to stray too far off-topic, but to me it’s even stranger that the majority of new V8 sedan offerings recently are German or Japanese. Who would have predicted that in 1971?
I kinda like these cars. My grandfather had a ’71 Plymouth Fury 2dr with a 318 and that thing could burn rubber! It was his last car bought used and driven until he died in the summer of 1980.
Dodge big cars were flagging and they went after the ‘low price field’ again in ’70.
But, then trying to compete with Buick/Olds/Mercury at same time gave it a fuzzy image.
Dodge was known for trucks, Dart, Coronet, and Charger, family car buyers went to C-P dealers. Only the ‘BluesMobile’ is a famous big Dodge.
Although I prefer the A body MoPars the ’69 ~ ’72 full sizers, especially the Cop cars , were simply _amazing_ and legendary in their time .
My first rides were in the back seats of Cop cars, later on I worked on them and many friends had them , wonderful if thirsty , handled well and tool incredible amounts of abuse .
I realize I’m going on too much here but these pictures have opened the flood gates of memories for me .
Those two Polara coupes (green & red) are great looking cars. I love the bold, aggressive loop bumper front end styling and large, clean rear decks with their equally bold rear bumper tail lamp treatment. I think these are easily the best looking fullsize Mopar 2-door hardtops of the era.
Interesting info here (1971 taxi brochure); 225 & 318 both listed:
1972 Polara; again, 225 & 318 both listed as “standard” engines:
There is an issue of “Science & Mechanics” (I’m pretty sure, could also be “Mechanix Illustrated”) from sometime in the 1970-’72 timeframe in which one of the magazine’s regular writers—I think it was Joe Gutts, which is why I think it was “Science & Mechanics”—drove taxi for a day in New York. The taxis were big Dodges with the 225, out of the 57th St. Maintenance Company—an amusing name for a taxi biz, I thought, but it makes sense given that those cars all had carburetors, breaker points, and all the rest of the upkeep needs of that time, and you just know they were run on the cheapest, nastiest rotgut leaded gasoline available.
Shop foreman’s name was Joe Jaschke, who bitched that “Some of the drivers like what they call a ‘snappier pickup’, so they advance the timing”. The article went into detail about how the cars all got new plugs and points once a week(!). One of the regular cab drivers gave the writer advice first thing in the morning: “Don’t take no crap from nobody”. I’d like to be able to find the article again, though I’m not sure I really need to; I seem to remember the salient points of it.
Having spent quite a bit of time behind the weel of a ’71 Chevy taxi with the six and PG, I probably would have found the TF Dodge /6 taxi refreshingly brisk.
It was Science & Mechanics. I remember that article well. The magazine was in a cabin we rented in northern Sask circa 1973. And it was a ’70 Coronet, not a full-size.
Happen to recall the month and year? Or cover details? Lots of pics on eBay…
That I couldn’t say, sorry.
Found it! Science & Mechanics, July 1970. It’s the piece teased at the bottom of the cover:
I believe the author of this article was the noteworthy Satch Carlson?
as mentioned, here in Canada we have had some interesting variations in vehicles and two of those I owned were a 70 polara sedan and an 80 gran fury sedan, both with the mighty tower of power six.
as I remember the 70 polara actually felt more powerful. now it did have about 45 more horses than the smogged 80 but it also had a helluva lot more car to carry around. and that was it’s Achilles heel. with no power steering, a few city trips and parking attempts meant it’s very first minor breakdown it was used as a parts car for a polara convertible that needed a new front clip! I had driven trucks w/o power steering but this thing would have made Arnold refuse to come back!
but compared to the gran fury, my rwd Cadillac with the 4100 v-8 and 50hp diesel jetta, it wasn’t bad!
Having owned a ’67 Dodge Dart with a 225 /6 TF auto, a ’69 Plymouth Valiant 225 /6 TF auto and a ’70 Plymouth Sport Fury 318 V8 TF auto I can say that they are not drag racers but are nice cars with reasonable acceleration for the times they were made. But I cannot begin to imagine my Sport Fury size car with the /6. My Dart was a larger and heavier car than my Valiant and I could tell the difference that extra weight made in performance between the 2 cars using the same engine and transmission. They were both 2dr sedans. I can just imagine what a /6 in my Sport Fury would have been like. It would have keep up with my ’69 1.1L Toyota Corolla & ’72 1.6L Dodge Colt but my ’76 2.0L Dodge Colt would have beat it for sure.
Not much to add, Jason, other than that this has been an interesting series. It seems like Chrysler wants to sell you a slant six come Hell or high water! 🙂
There are a bare minimum of two more to do. Neither are Chrysler products, which is kind of a bummer. Despite my low tolerance for straight six engines (likely due to their horrifically low output during my lifetime) I’ve always been fond of the slant six.
We ended up test driving a ’64 Dodge back in ’78 with the slant six and automatic. The car had plenty of spunk compared to the small V-8’s and de-smogged engines of the day. The deal breaker was a rusted out trunk pan that would have to be put right to pass an Ontario safety exam (at a bare minimum) on an already old car.
Grew up in a neighborhood of automotive middle management. Big Jim Love, something like a chief engineer later in his career drove these big mopars… at the time, they appeared quite odd compared to the cars of the other managers from GM (Mr. Ruffing) or Ford (Messrs. Humphries, Fletcher, Laforet, Gulley, Evans, Etc.) But now I have to say I find these cars quite attractive (although the Satellite and Road Runner still look a bit odd.)
Imagine these cars with the Australian built (but US-designed) Hemi 6, especially the 263 with 203 hp (151 kW) at 4600 rpm and 262 lb-ft (355 N⋅m) of torque at 2800 rpm in standard trim. Could’ve been faster than the small block V8s and used less fuel than the slant six.
The Hemi-6 “D” engine design was begun in the states, but finished in Australia. Initial displacement was 245; a 265 version was added and, later on, an economy-focused 215.
Yes, the Hemi 6 D series motor was started in the US and finished in Australia around 1970. Initially 245 ci with VG Valiant and with new for 71 VH Valiant came standard with 215 ci in basic versions with 245 and 263 ci options.
Nothing came close to 263ci in R/T Chargers, what a motor! Even as a young boy I remember dad driving home occasionally in a Triple Webber 263 R/T Charger, the induction sound is incredible. He worked for Chrysler Australia in the early 70’s delivering new customer cars to outer metro and Victorian country dealers. He drove the bejesus out of the new cars as this was his part-time after-hours job and needed to get back to Victorian Police Training College as he was trying to get himself into the police force at the time. Only did a few cars a week. He had some great stories, one story of driving a 318 v8 top-of-the-line Chrysler by Chrysler into a creek one trip to a dealer about 30 miles out of Melbourne, in the middle of night. Crawled out of the wreck and found a payphone called boss and police. Got a bus back home before dawn. But can you imagine being the purchaser of said car and receiving news your flash new car is submerged in a local creek nearby?? Maybe this is why he generally only brought 4 cylinder cars in the years since then. And didnt want my first car to be a V8 Torana, even though it was a feeble 253 and auto.
The D-motor displacements were 215; 245, and 265 cubic inches.
I noted in the engine chart ‘Installed’ horsepower, I wonder if this is the beginning of what became the standard SAE Net horsepower ratings. For urban use, I’d think the 225 6 would be a good choice, especially if the cars with them had a lower (higher numerically).
I had the 225 6 in a Dodge D150 pickup truck with a 4 speed manual transmission. The drivetrain was fine IMO, but never towed. Interesting how the bottom right corner of the discounted model doesn’t actually say the model has a 6 cylinder. Mentioned by Bill 6 years ago was the Cadillac with the 4100 V8. My son had one. Although smooth and quiet, acceleration was as expected. Hills were a hindrance.
Meant to say lower gear ratio, Speaking of the slant 6 – Dodge Aspens and Plymouth Volares came standard with that engine, and a 4 speed manual floor shift could be had. Maybe an automatic was optional.
The ad about the discounted Polara also mentions ‘Automatic transmission’. Was the standard transmission a manual 3 on the tree?
I’m wondering if the base Aspen/Volaré came with the 4-speed as standard equipment. Seems like, by that point in the seventies, no one was offering a column-mounted 3-speed on a new car model, anymore.
I’m going to guess that was the case with the 1975 Nova and Granada, as well. In fact, the last 3-on-the-tree Chevy might have been the 1977 Chevelle.
No, the F-body’s 4-speed (“3-speed with overdrive” as Chrysler put it, which makes me roll my eyes) was an extra-cost option. Basic equipment was a 3-on-the-tree, though a giant percentage were equipped with the 3-speed automatic.
I have some Consumer Reports magazines from the 1980s. The vehicle reviews were very detailed back then, such as publishing engine rpm at highway speeds. In that era the (mostly) 3 speed automatic’s rpm was of course considerably higher than a 4 or 5 speed manual for the same vehicle. And. fuel economy was a bit better with the manual too. It’s mostly the other way around these days with the 5+ speed automatics and CVTs. Still, I usually exceed the EPA fuel economy ratings of my manual transmission truck.
In 2014, when I had some extra cash, I decided to buy another full-size car after 20 years of abstention. Back in 1994, I had sold my ’73 Chevy Impala, my daily driver at the time, and downsized to a 1980 Buick Century Limited and subsequently to a 1987 T-Bird and, in 2001, my current ride, a 1995 Buick Park Avenue. They were all very nice, especially the Buick, which has been transporting safely for almost 22 years now. Still, I missed the olden days of owning a big, hulking American full-sizer, so I checked out the ads on “Marktplaats”, a Dutch website that had plenty of offerings for sale. Why Dutch? I live in the westernmost part of Germany, so the Netherlands is just an hour’s drive away and cars tend to be cheaper there. To cut a long story short, my search revealed a ’73 Dodge Polara four-door with the Slant Six for 3,000 euros, roughly 1,800 dollars at the time. Back then, I didn’t even know the Six had still been available in those huge fuselage Mopars, so the ad caught my interest. The pictures the seller had included looked promising, so I decided to check out the car. The seller, a typical Dutchman, friendly and easygoing, told me the Dodge had been assembled in Antwerp, Belgium, and had served as a taxicab there. Made sense. Unfortunately, the real car didn’t live up to the photos. I could have accepted some rustout in the LH rear fender, but the owner had decided to jazz up the Polara by letting some backyard mechanic throw out the original steel wheels and replace them with macho mags and superwide tires. The tires were too wide to fit in the rear wheelwell, so the mechanic had raised the rear by shortening the leaf springs – by literally cutting out a few inches and reinstalling the springs in the most brutal and amateurish manner possible. The test drive was disenchanting, to put it mildly. Anyway, I declined to buy and was on my way back home. If the Polara’s owner had left the car untouched, I would have bought it. Instead, I snatched up a 1984 Mercury Grand Marquis LS a few weeks later, which in turn had to make way for a 1964 Chevy Bel Air four-door last year. The Bel Air has the 230 CID Six, which doesn’t look quite as little in the Chevy’s engine bay as the Slant Six looked in the Polara’s. Also, the Bel Air’s power-to-weight ratio (120 net horsepower/3,305 lbs) is better than the Polara’s (100 net horsepower/approx. 3,800 lbs). I haven’t tried out my Bel Air on the autobahn yet, but according to contemporary road tests, it should be able to do 0-60 in 17 seconds and hit a top speed of at least 90 mph, quick enough for me. There’s no way the Polara Six could equal that, I’m sure. Also, at 210 inches of length, the Chevy is certainly no small car, but the Polara is a whopping 17 inches longer. Wow. Still, there’s that tiny little voice in my head that says “the Dodge would have been an even greater rarity than the Bel Air”, and it’s right, of course.