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1964 Dodge Polara

May 2016 Mopar of the Month

The many faces of LeRoar, — or the life of a test mule

1964 Dodge Polara, front in parade
1964 Dodge Polara, as bought

In 2001 while passing through Cairo, NE on a family trip, I spotted a 1964 Dodge by the road with a for sale sign and remarked that I had not seen one for years. My first new car was a 1964 Dodge 330 two door post car w ith a 383 and four speed stick shift. My wife told me to turn around and go look at it. The next day I drove it home for $1100 and a shotgun. That was the start of my relationship with LeRoar, aptly named by my wife as a take-off on Leroy, my middle name.

 1964 Dodge Polara<q>LeRoar,</q> graphic

In the early 1970's my love of hot rods pushed me to take all the autoshop classes available at Saddleback Community college. I loved the engine building best. So over the years I have been doing what-if and how can I mechanical work on LeRoar. There have been many engine combo's tried to see how they worked. Originally I had a couple 440 engines I planned to use as sources for an engine transplant but, due to financial issues, I thought it cheaper to go with what the Dodge had presently and avoid all the changes required. I am glad I went that route as the 318 poly engine has proven to be not only a great power base but also a great crowd-pleaser. The Dodge definitely isn't a mundane 350 vanilla cruiser.

1964 Dodge Polara engine transplant

I had always built engines on the slightly upper end of practical but never pushed the limits. I felt that it was time to be a bit crazy and not worry about practical. I have lost count of how many times I have pulled the engine out of this Dodge over the years, but it has been a frequent activity. Many times it has been a semi-party event with my 1962 to 1965 Mopar Mail List friends, among others. I built the bottom end as a base for the future configurations. My changes where primarily with camshaft and fuel delivery systems. The original internals still remain but even they have been tweaked a bit. My crank was good and has been zero/zero always. I have replaced the bearings a couple times due to a few water issues and, of course, rechecked the crank at those times. The pistons were .040 over custom forged aluminum by Ross and after one major water issue where a ported head was a bit too ported. I had the pistons ceramic/moly coated. I highly recommend this! I figured I should do everything possible to keep the engine cool so from day one there was a FlowKool water pump and I later added an aluminum radiator, handmade stainless steel fan shroud, B&M trans cooler and a Milodon #16406 high flow 180 degree thermostat. I have always used the stock oil pump. I chose Eagle SIR6123CB rods as they were stronger and lighter than stock and very close to the same price as reconditioning stock. A no-brainer in my opinion. Of course, the engine was balanced and I had a Powerforce harmonic balancer and a JW Performance XHD SFI flex plate. TTI headers, Super Dyno-Max mufflers, Mopar electronic ignition, Cloyes double roller adjust a hex chain, Mopar windage tray, Fel-Pro gaskets and a Summit #SUM-820337 mini-Starter with a heat shield blanket are used. I did install a 1970 GTX 489 rear with 3:90 SureGrip gears and had the transmisin built with a Trans-Go kit and used a Engine Dynamics 3000 stall converter. An extra leaf was added to the rear springs and heavier torsion bars were used. I rebuilt the front end with poly/graphite bushings and added manual disc brakes.

I began my quest with a Weiand WPD4D dual four barrel manifold and a pair of Edelbrock 1404 500cfm carburetors. The initial cam was a Schneider hot street 264deg/.450" lift 222deg@.050" solid lifter. It was a real eye-opener when the engine had a hellacious backfire which blew the ends out of the original cheaper mufflers. It seems I always managed to put the distributor in 180 out. After the first cam break-in, which was done without a tachometer and probably varied from 2K-4K rpm's, I went to back out and try driving the Mopar around and, since it was just idling and not needing much fuel, the carburetors began to spew gas like Old Faithful. That's when I realized the Holley mechanical fuel pump put out between 9-11psi and the carburetors could only handle 6.5psi max. So I had to reset the floats as they were severely mangled and I added a Holley fuel pressure regulator. Issue solved. As time went by I learned to tune the carburetors but overheating was always an issue. The carburetors were so hot from the engine even with the Swirl Torque aluminum spacers that they would evaporate the bowls empty in a short time after shutting down. At the time the only spacers I could find for the bolt configuration of my manifold were made of aluminum so I made my own 1 and 3/8" plywood spacers from MDX and that reduced the bowl temps from 180 degrees to 110 degrees! One of the best things I did for the fuel system. My Holley mechanical pump blew out a check valve which caused me to die at the starting line at the dragstrip. Bummer! So I updated to a Holley Blue electric pump and I installed a 3/8" fuel line from the tank. I re-routed the line in the engine compartment so as to run up the passenger fender to the pressure regulator. The line was also heavily insulated from the firewall forward. The fuel lines from the regulator crossed above the engine via braided -6AN lines to the carburetors. I initially used a single line to a custom made fuel block but later switched to a line for each carburetor. The headers caused the paper label on my oil filter to burn off, so I made an aluminum shield which fixed it. The heatshield for the starter needs to be replaced every couple years as it eventually gets fried from the heat. I had also made a heatshield for the mechanical fuel pump as suggested by our old ally Don Dulmage.

1964 Dodge Polara Poly 318 2 x 4

After a few years with the original setup I decided to push it further and I purchased a Schneider 284deg/.510" lift, 242deg@.050" solid lifter cam. I also got a set of highly ported heads with 1.94 intake and 1.675 exhaust. One head turned out to be an issue as it was ported a bit too much on one cylinder and turned LeRoar into a Stanley Steamer. The head was replaced and that was the point where I had the engine inspected, installed new bearings, lightly honed the cylinders and had the pistons coated. A few oiling modifictions were done at that time, which included a few extra holes in the oil filter plate, additional oil holes in the crank and a plate over the holes above the camshaft below the intake. The plate was to prevent oil splash on the bottom of the intake for temperature control. When this combo hit the track it was awesome right out of the box! The Poly loved rpm's and 7200-7500 was my shift point area. The 264 cam was about 6500 rpm's. I only got a few runs on this set-up, unfortunately, as it was too much for the transmission and busted the rear tailshaft housing. The 264 cam had a best in the 1/8th mile of 9.75 seconds. The 284 cam ran 9.15 seconds without any carburetor tuning. The Mopar was also much more streetable and did not overheat at all. I actually swapped in a stock 195 degree thermostat to warm up the engine more. This was the prime set-up for the dual-quads in my opinion. I wish I had been able to work on it awhile as I am positive it would have gotten into the 8's.

1964 Dodge Polara stock 2 barrel manifold

At this point I had turned 70 and decided to start driving LeRoar and retire the racing option. I sold off my dual carburetor stuff, including the converter, and I went with a basic OEM hydraulic, (note hydraulic, not a solid cam like all the other camshafts). I swapped back to my original heads which were set-up with hardened seats. I even installed my stock 2 barrel manifold and carburetor. The transmission had been replaced with a 1965 cable shift from a 1965 Plymouth Belvedere owned by Michael Harding. So I had a new driveshaft made for the ball and trunion to u-joint configuration and bought a new stock converter. This did not last long. I hated the combo. I tried a 7503 Weiand with an Eddy four barrel and it was no better.

1964 Dodge Polara single four Weiand manifold

So I bit the bullet and decided to go back to the 264 cam with the 7503 Weiand. I was thinking I wanted EFI and had swapped a brand new stock 7503 for a dynamite re-done 7503 with EFI bungs and fuel rails. Magnificent work by Kevin Mignosa. I got involved with the new Windtunnel Poly SS-X manifold and had to have one. So perhaps the final set-up will be this one with the SS-X manifold, the 264 Schneider cam, a 2000 stall converter, 3:23 SureGrip gears and soon the new cast valve covers. I have not had the car out much yet but I can tell it is a very nice driving street set-up and it feels quite strong when you push the go pedal. The torque seems very much improved at this point. I will not be racing regularly but I will have to run LeRoar a few times so I can make a comparison with previous set-ups.

1964 Dodge Polara single four Windtunnel Poly SS-X manifold

So the bottom line is that I have been only concerned with the drivetrain and particularly the engine up to this point. Now I will finally shift my focus to the interior and body. I doubt that the body will ever get done but I need to do the interior for better comfort. A/C would be nice but again I can live without it. I have been lucky to have found the 1962 to 1965 Mopar Mail List and the 318 Poly Yahoo group who have been so supportive and helpful with my efforts. It has been an old teenager's dream to get his car shown in the media. Wild About Cars (May 2012), Street Legal TV digital magazine ( September 2012) and Chrysler Power Magazine (May 2016) have made my day. I even run across the old picture of my poly in mock-up mode in my basement on quite a few places on the Internet. LeRoar was also shown on Street Legal TV magazine again when they did an article on What is a sleeper? and the Polara spent a winter on display at the SAC Air and Space Museum in Ashland, NE.

 1964 Dodge Polara, rear

It has been fun and I am ready for more. smile!

Contact  1964 Dodge owner contact

Read more and see additional photos of this Polara: Part One and Part Two

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