Historic Car Brands
The Plymouth brand was introduced at Madison Square Garden on July 7, 1928 and was Chrysler Corporation’s entry in the low-priced field, previously dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouth continued as a Chrysler brand until 2001. The logo featured the ship Mayflower that landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.
1928 Plymouth Model Q – Greg Gjerdingen
Plymouths were initially priced higher than the competition, but offered standard features, including hydraulic brakes, that Ford and Chevrolet did not provide.
The logic behind the Plymouth brand went back to the troubled Maxwell-Chalmers car company that Walter Chrysler took over in the early 1920s. After the launch of the six-cylinder Chrysler in 1924, he decided to create a lower-priced car, in a similar way to how he’d previously run Buick under William Durant at GM.
Plymouth 3.6-litre six – Mr Choppers
For 1926, the Maxwell was reworked and rebadged as the low-end, four-cylinder Chrysler ’52’ model, powered by a three-litre, 38hp, straight-four derivative of the new Flathead, side-valve straight-six. Its displacement was reduced to 2.8 litres for 1927 and 1928, with the same output, but was upped to 45hp in 1928.
In 1928, the ’52’ was redesigned and sold as the Chrysler-Plymouth Model Q. The ‘Chrysler’ prefix was dropped when the Plymouth Model U arrived in 1929, with an optional car radio. The four was enlarged to 3.2 litres in 1930 and put out 48hp. Engine upgrades for the 1931 PA took power to 56hp and 65hp in the 1932 PB.
The original purpose of the Plymouth brand was to serve the lower end of a booming automobile market and during the Great Depression of the 1930s the division helped significantly in ensuring the survival of the Chrysler Corporation, when many car companies failed.
Plymouth pickup – C Z Marlin
By 1931 Plymouth was number three in US car sales, helped by the Model PA that featured two-point, vibration-reducing ‘floating power’ engine/transmission mounts. Plymouth ads boasted: ‘The smoothness of an eight – the economy of a four.’
In 1933, Plymouth scored the 70hp, 3.1-litre version of Chrysler’s flathead-six engine, with a downdraft carburettor to power the Model PD. However, the wheelbase was shortened and that proved to be unpopular in the USA, so a longer-wheelbase ‘Plymouth Six’ soon followed.
Plymouths were shipped overseas to Sweden, Denmark, the UK and Australia. The flathead six that started with the 1933 Model PC, powered Plymouths until 1960.
1938 Plymouth Sedan – Becksguy
In 1934 came independent front suspension and, in 1939, the 82hp Plymouth convertible coupe was advertised as the first mass-production convertible with a power-folding top.
Plymouth won a safety award in 1940, for its interior padding, recessed dashboard controls, speedometer with coloured speed warning lights and sealed-beam headlights.
During the War Chrysler turned to arms production, making military vehicles and vital radar equipment.
1947 Plymouth Police Car – Marine 69-71
The 1942 14C model continued after World War II as the 15S, but was replaced by restyled models in 1949: the P17 Deluxe, P18 and P18 Special Deluxe, powered by the then-3.6-litre Flathead Six.
1949 Plymouth – Wikited
By the early 1950s Plymouth’s outdated styling saw its sales figures drop, so Virgil Exner was employed to rectify that issue.
The 1955 ‘Forward Look’ models were longer and lower, and powered by an optional new 4.6-litre Hy-Fire V8, or the venerable Flathead Six.
1956 Plymouth Fury – Greg Gjerdingen
‘Flight Sweep’ styling emerged in 1956 and the Fury was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show. Offered in a single paint colour, with gold side trim and grille, a special V-8 engine from Chrysler Canada, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhaust and a standard in-dash tachometer, the Fury was a statement for this builder of normally conservative cars.
1954 Plymouth Explorer Ghia Sport Coupe – Rex Gray
A Fury broke the USA’s ‘flying mile’ speed record for its displacement class at Daytona, running 124.01mph. Less than 5000 of these first Furys were sold, so they’re collectors’ items today.
1960 Plymouth Fury Station Wagon – Valder137
‘Suddenly, it’s 1960!’ was the 1957 Plymouth tagline, when Exner’s Forward Look resulted in even lower, longer and wider models. The fins grew, and the company maintained that those ‘Directional Stabilisers’ aided stability at highway speeds!
The fins kept growing and by 1960 had reached the ludicrous stage. That excessive styling, combine with rust and other assembly issues, saw Plymouths sales drop, but the 1961 Plymouth Valiant boosted sales.
Market intelligence suggested that Chevrolet intended to ‘downsize’ its 1962 models, so a significantly smaller standard Plymouth arrived in 1962. Chevrolet’s big cars were not downsized, catching Plymouth in a sales slump in a market where ‘bigger was better’.
1962 Plymouth Sport Fury – Greg Gjerdingen
The 1963 Fury, Belvedere and Savoy were slightly larger, featuring a totally new body style, highlighted by prominent outboard front parking lights. For 1964, Plymouth got another major restyle, featuring a new ‘slant-back’ roofline for hardtop coupes that proved popular.
For 1965, the Fury models were built on the new C-body platform. The Savoy line was discontinued and the Belvedere was classified as an intermediate, retaining the B-body platform used starting 1962.
The low-end series was Fury I, the mid-level model was Fury II and the higher-end models were Fury IIIs. The Sport Fury that featured bucket seats and a console shifter was a mix of luxury and sport.
1968 Plymouth Roadrunner – Greg Gjerdingen
The 1964 Barracuda fastback was the first of Plymouth’s sporty cars. Based on the Valiant, it was available with the Slant Six, or 4.5-litre, small-block V8.
The 1966 Sport Fury with a 383 CID engine and the VIP were more luxurious versions of the Fury. Furys, Belvederes, and Valiants continued to sell well during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
For 1967, Plymouth introduced the Belvedere GTX – a bucket-seat, high-style, hardtop coupe or convertible – that could be ordered with either the ‘Super Commando’ 7.0-litre or Hemi 426 7.0-litre V8 engine.
The Barracuda became available with the 426 Hemi and 440 big-block engines in 1968. The GTX, Barracuda, Road Runner, Sport Fury GT, and Valiant Duster 340, were marketed by Plymouth as the ‘Rapid Transit System’, which was similar to Dodge’s ‘Scat Pack’ concept.
The Road Runner was modestly billed as ‘the world’s fastest coupe’ , with a claimed top speed of nearly 260km/h… and drum brakes. Power came from a tuned Hemi 426 and the horn sound emulated the ‘Beep! Beep!’ of the cartoon Road Runner.
During this time, Plymouth competed in professional automobile racing. Examples include Richard Petty’s career with Plymouth in NASCAR; Dan Gurney, who raced a ‘Cuda as part of the All American Racers in numerous Trans Am events and Sox and Martin, one of the most well-known drag-racing teams of the period, only raced Plymouths after 1964.
By the 1970s, emissions and safety regulations, along with soaring gasoline prices and an economic downturn, meant demand dropped for all muscle-type models. To meet increasingly stringent safety and exhaust emission regulations, big-block engine options were discontinued.
1973 Plymouth Duster 340 – Sicnag
Higher fuel prices and performance-car insurance surcharges deterred many buyers and sales dropped dramatically after 1970 and Barracuda production ended in April 1974, 10 years to the day after it had begun. The high-performance models were marketed as ‘Cuda, deriving from the 1969 option.
Although the Valiant hardtop was discontinued in 1967, it was reintroduced as a virtual clone of the Dodge Dart Swinger for 1971, under the model name ‘Valiant Scamp’. The Scamp was produced until 1976, when it was replaced by the Volaré.
Featuring transverse-mounted torsion bars and a slightly larger body, the Volaré was an instant sales success. Available as coupe, sedan, or station wagon, the Volaré offered a smoother ride and better handling than the Dart/Valiant, but suffered quality control problems and by 1980, was selling poorly.
1977 Gran Fury Sport Suburban – Brampton80au
Realising that front-wheel drive, four-cylinder engines and rack-and-pinion steering would become the standards for the 1980s, the 1978 Plymouth Horizon was based on a Simca platform.
Big Plymouths, including the Fury and Gran Fury, were sold until the early 1980s, but mostly as fleet vehicles. Most Plymouth models, especially those offered from the 1970s onward, such as the Valiant, Volaré, and the Acclaim, were badge-engineered versions of Dodge or Mitsubishi models.
The Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries were introduced for model year 1981 and retained traditional six-passenger, two-bench seating, with a column shifter. The Reliant was powered by a then-new 2.2-litre, four-cylinder SOHC engine, with a Mitsubishi ‘Silent Shaft’ 2.6-litre four as an option.
1985 Voyager LE – Cette Une Voiture
In 1982, Plymouth downsized the Gran Fury again, this time sharing the mid-size M platform with the Chrysler Fifth Avenue and shared the Dodge Diplomat’s front and rear fascias. This was the last car to carry the Gran Fury nameplate and it remained largely unchanged for its seven-year run.
In 1984, Chrysler marketed the rebadged Plymouth variant of its new minivan as the Voyager. In 1987, came the Grand Voyager, which was built on a longer wheelbase, adding more room.
1989-92 Plymouth Acclaim LX – Ksderby
In 1987, came the Sundance that was available in a single base model. For 1988, a higher-end RS model was available. The RS model, which stood for Rally Sport, came with standard features that included two-tone paint, fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It was also available with a turbocharged 2.2-litre I4 engine.
1990 Plymouth Laser RS Turbo – Distancerunner
For 1991, the base model split into two distinct models: entry-level America and mid-level Highline, in addition to the high-end RS. The stripped-down America had previously been offered for the Plymouth Horizon’s final year in 1990.
The AA-body cars were badge-engineered triplets, as were most Chrysler products of this time. Like the K-body and E-body vehicles they replaced, the Acclaim and Dodge Spirit were marketed as mainstream variants, while the Chrysler LeBaron was marketed as the luxury variant.
1988 Plymouth Reliant Executive Classic – Greg Gjerdingen
By the 1990s, Plymouth had lost much of its identity, as its models continued to overlap in features and prices with its sister brands, Dodge and Eagle. Chrysler attempted to remedy this by repositioning Plymouth in its traditional target market as the automaker’s entry-level brand. However, this step further narrowed Plymouth’s product offerings and buyer appeal, so sales continued to fall.
By the late 1990s, only four vehicles were sold under the Plymouth name: the Voyager/Grand Voyager minivans, the Breeze mid-size sedan, the Neon compact car and the Prowler sports car, which was the last model unique to Plymouth.
1999 Plymouth Prowler – Greg Gjerdingen
From a peak production of 973,000 for the 1973 model year, Plymouth rarely exceeded 200,000 cars per year after 1990. Consequently, the merged DaimlerChrysler decided to drop the make after a limited run of 2001 models.
The last Plymouth automobile built in 2001 – a Neon
Plymouth Down Under
1951 Plymouth Cranbrook Sedan – Sicnag
Chrysler Australia Ltd was established in June 1951, when the Chrysler Corporation acquired Chrysler Dodge Distributors (Holdings) Pty Ltd – a company that had been formed in 1935 by 18 independent distributors.
The Plymouth P23 series and P24 series were assembled in Australia from 1951 and marketed under the Cranbrook name. In 1954, assembly of the P25 series began and it was sold with Plymouth Cambridge, Cranbrook, Savoy and Belvedere model names.
Australian design input was minimal, although major body panels were locally produced. From 1956 a coupe utility variant was offered in addition to the four door sedan and was available in Cranbrook, Savoy and Belvedere models.
Australian production of the P25 continued until 1957, until the closely related Australian-produced Chrysler Royal was built as its replacement.