Dodge 440 convertible a real head-turner

by Larry D'Argis . Sep 28 2018
Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressShelley Daniels shows off her 1963 Dodge 440 convertible. She purchased the rare specimen from another classic car enthusiast in the city.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Shelley Daniels shows off her 1963 Dodge 440 convertible. She purchased the rare specimen from another classic car enthusiast in the city.

The auto market developed very differently here in Canada than it did in the United States. With our economy not as strong, the less-expensive vehicles tended to lead in sales. That led to some creative marketing and cost-cutting builds, to help dealers have a greater range of products to meet the narrow market share.

At Chrysler Canada, Plymouth was a sales leader and more expensive Dodge was a tougher sell. Following the Second World War, Chrysler adopted a formula where the Plymouth would be used as the base vehicle for the Canadian Dodge. Plymouth bodies with Dodge front sheet-metal, trim and some interior appointments would carry uniquely Canadian model names or simple model number designations.

Models were limited to basic sedans, hardtops and station wagons, while those wanting a convertible had to pay an import duty for the top-down model. In 1963, Chrysler Canada began producing the Dodge convertible. Not to be confused with the American Dodge Polara, Canada’s Dodge 440 used the Plymouth dashboard and interior trim, yet looked very similar to its American cousin.

Shelley Daniels of Winnipeg has always had a passion for classic cars going back to her 1971 Monte Carlo and, more recently, her 1969 Pontiac Beaumont. When a friend approached her this spring about selling the Beaumont hardtop, she was torn. “It did need some work and I knew it would be taken to the next level with the new owner, but it was hard to let it go,” Daniels said.

Selling the Beaumont left Daniels on a quest to find another classic ride for the summer. After poring over the online advertising, she saw a 1963 Dodge 440 convertible for sale. Owned by Ed Kostyniuk of Winnipeg for the past 21 years, the Dodge was originally sold by Radics Chrysler in Brandon.

“I had lots of interest in the car, including plenty of tire-kickers and low-ball offers, but I wanted to sell it to someone who would look after it,” Kostyniuk said.

The red convertible was in very good condition, wearing a presentable 20-year-old paint job, but had been driven very little over the past 12 years, so it did require some maintenance.

“After meeting Ed and going over the car, he included some spares and all of the original parts for the car in the sale,” Daniels said. “Truly, when I saw the car, it was the grille that got me.”

Other than a few seals and gaskets that needed replacing, the car was road ready. Red with a white top and matching red and white vinyl interior, it has a generous list of optional equipment and added extras, including a split bench seat with centre armrest, deluxe AM radio, tinted glass, Autometer tachometer and gauge package, power steering and power front Wilwood disc brakes.

Under the hood, there is a 318-cubic-inch Polyspherical V-8 equipped with a Weiand aluminum intake manifold with a 600 c.f.m. Holley four-barrel carburetor, K&N air filter, Pertronix electronic ignition and custom dual exhaust system. Backing it up is a push-button activated 727 Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission leading to a 3.91:1 geared Sure-Grip rear axle. For added road appeal, the Dodge wears a set of American Wheel chrome five-spoke wheels shod with BF Goodrich T/A radial tires.

A member of the Manitoba Mopar Association, Daniels has been enjoying the convertible with several top-down local summer cruises and shows. Instead of referring to the car simply as a Dodge 440, Daniels calls her sultry red ragtop “Verna”.

Chrysler Canada produced 17,287 full-size Dodge models in 1963. Among them is this Dodge 440 convertible. Allpar.com is the largest and most complete online resource for Chrysler-built vehicles, and it lists the vintage production numbers for the Canadian-built Dodge 440 convertible at a scant 108 units. While there is no breakdown in the production of six-cylinder or V-8 powered cars, it’s safe to say Verna is one rare and classy convertible.

57ford@mymts.net

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressThe interior of Shelley Daniels’ 1963 Dodge 440 convertible features red and white vinyl upholstery, a split bench seat with centre armrest, deluxe AM radio, tinted glass, and Autometer tachometer and gauge package.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

The interior of Shelley Daniels’ 1963 Dodge 440 convertible features red and white vinyl upholstery, a split bench seat with centre armrest, deluxe AM radio, tinted glass, and Autometer tachometer and gauge package.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressLurking under the hood is a 318-cubic-inch Polyspherical V-8 equipped with a Weiand aluminum intake manifold with a 600 c.f.m. Holley four-barrel carburetor, K&N air filter and Pertronix electronic ignition.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Lurking under the hood is a 318-cubic-inch Polyspherical V-8 equipped with a Weiand aluminum intake manifold with a 600 c.f.m. Holley four-barrel carburetor, K&N air filter and Pertronix electronic ignition.