When you think of imports and domestics, most would agree that a 1969 Dodge Polara would fall firmly into the “domestic” category. However, if you happen to be a gearhead in love with American iron, but live across the Atlantic, like Michael Lehnigk, from Belin, Germany, Muscle Cars fall into the “import” category. Being from the land of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz, Michael has chosen a route less traveled by deciding to import a 1969 Dodge Polara and turning it into an impressive street car.
His journey started a decade ago, when he found the car for sale in Texas. As soon as he got the car, he knew the existing V8 wasn’t what he wanted. “When I got the car, I sold the 440 that was in it, and I decided it needed a Hemi,” Michael said of the start of the project. “The problem was, a Mopar C-body never came with a Hemi, so nothing fits.”
While transplanting an engine into a chassis that was never designed for it might not seem too daunting a task for a custom shop, Michael was doing everything himself. That included building a 572 cubic-inch Hemi to sit between the framerails. “I hadn’t built an engine before this, but with a lot of reading and research, it worked,” related Michael. Two years after the car first arrived on German soil, it was running; but like every other enthusiast, there is no such thing as good enough. Over the next eight years, the car changed considerably, multiple times. “I’ve done everything on the car at least twice,” Michael laughed. “I’ve done the fuel system three times.”
As it currently sits, the car is powered by an Indy Maxx aluminum 572 cubic-inch shortblock, with Indy HiPO Hemi heads outfitted with monster 2.40-inch intake valves for a 10.25:1 compression ratio. A Bullet flat-tappet cam controls the valves while a Ray Barton-ported Dominator intake and a 1200 cfm Pro Systems Dominator carburetor top off the combination. Providing the fuel for the thirsty engine is an Aeromotive Eliminator dynamic fuel system. A full-manual TorqueFlite 727 outfitted with all the A&A Racing parts sends the power back to the Dana 60 rearend with 3.72 gears. Calvert Racing suspension, with mono-leafs and Cal-Tracs bars in the rear, helps the car get around town and down the dragstrip.
While Michael prefers to drive the Polara on the street, he does take the car to the dragstrip a couple times a year. He puts a set of slicks on the back and lets her rip, to the tune of 11.69 seconds in the quarter-mile. A feat made even more impressive when you consider the weight of the car, which Michael affectionately calls “the elephant”. “It really doesn’t make a lot of sense to run the car on the drag strip because it’s so heavy,” Michael said. “But it sure is a lot of fun and is one of the cooler cars at the track.”
Michael’s 1969 Polara would stand out even at a Mopar meet as cool and unique, so running around the streets outside of Berlin, the car garners serious attention – deservedly so. His drive and enthusiasm for Mopar power easily matches the enthusiasts found stateside, and is a testament that the good old-fashioned hot-rodder spirit isn’t exclusively an American trait.