The Little Engines That Could, Part 3: A Fuselage Dodge Rated For Thirty Degree Performance


(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