Plymouth (automobile) Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

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Origins [ edit ]

The Plymouth automobile was introduced on July 7, 1928. It was Chrysler Corporation’s first entry in the low-priced field, which at the time was already dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouths were actually priced slightly higher than their competition, but offered all standard features such as internal expanding hydraulic brakes that the competition did not provide. Plymouths were originally sold exclusively through Chrysler dealerships.

The logo featured a rear view of the ship Mayflower which landed at Plymouth Rock. However, the Plymouth brand name came from Plymouth Binder Twine . chosen by Joe Frazer for its popularity among farmers. [ 1 ] (Plymouth Binder Twine was a common household item that was used to tie up various items.)


The origins of Plymouth can be traced back to the Maxwell automobile. When Walter P. Chrysler took over control of the troubled Maxwell-Chalmers car company in the early 1920s, he inherited the Maxwell as part of the package. After he used the company’s facilities to help create and launch the Chrysler car in 1924, he decided to create a lower-priced companion car. So for 1926 the Maxwell was reworked and re-badged as the low-end Chrysler 52 model.

In 1928, the 52 was once again redesigned to create the Chrysler-Plymouth Model Q. The Chrysler portion of the nameplate was dropped with the introduction of the Plymouth Model U in 1929.

Great Depression, 1940s and 1950s [ edit ]

1954 Plymouth Station Wagon

For much of its life, Plymouth was one of the top-selling American automobile brands; it together with Chevrolet and Ford was commonly referred to as the low-priced three marques in the American market. [ 4 ] Plymouth almost surpassed Ford in 1940 and 1941 as the second most popular make of automobiles in the U.S. Through 1956, Plymouth vehicles were known [ who? ] for their durability, affordability, and engineering. [ citation needed ] In 1957, Virgil Exner’s new Forward Look design theme, advertised by Plymouth with the tagline Suddenly, it’s 1960, [ 5 ] produced cars with much more advanced styling than Chevrolet or Ford. 1957 total production soared to 726,009, about 200,000 more than 1956, and the largest output yet for Plymouth. However, the 1957–1958 Forward Look models suffered from poor materials, spotty build quality and inadequate corrosion protection; they were rust-prone and greatly damaged Chrysler’s reputation. [ 5 ] [ 6 ]

In 1954 Chrysler started its decade long unsuccessful attempt to develop and market a viable car powered by turbine engine when it installed an experimental turbine they had developed specifically for vehicles in a Plymouth. [ 7 ]

1960s — 1970s [ edit ]

Although Plymouth sales suffered as a result of the quality control problems and excesses of Exner-styled models in the early 1960s, people bought enough of the cars to keep the division profitable. Starting in 1961, the Valiant compact became a Plymouth, further boosting sales. Under the impression that Chevrolet was about to downsize its 1962 models, Chrysler introduced a significantly small standard Plymouth for 1962.

As is known, Chevrolet’s big cars weren’t downsized, catching Plymouth in a sales slump in a market where bigger was better. The ’63 Fury, Belvedere and Savoy were slightly larger and more substantial, featuring a totally new body style, highlighted by prominent outboard front parking lights. For 1964, Plymouth got another major restyle, featuring a new slantback roofline for hardtop coupes that would prove extremely popular.

Many enthusiasts consider the ’64s to be the most attractive of the early ’60s Plymouths.

For 1965, Plymouth got a totally new platform. The ’65s were the biggest Plymouths ever produced, The Savoy was discontinued, and Belvedere became an intermediate, but it was basically a restyled ’64. All big Plymouths became Furys for 1965.

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The low end series was Fury I, the mid-level models were Fury II, and deluxe models were Fury IIIs. Above Fury III was the Sport Fury, which featured bucket seats and a V8 engine, a la Ford Galaxie 500/XL and Chevrolet Impala Super Sport. Ford and Chevrolet introduced special luxury editions of their big cars for 1965, the Ford Galaxie500/LTD and the Chevrolet Impala Caprice.

Plymouth responded in 1966 with the VIP, a luxurious version of the Fury. Furys, Belvederes, and Valiants continued to sell well during the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Of note are the Plymouth muscle cars of the late 1960s. Many consider the Barracuda fastback of 1964 to be the first of Plymouth’s sporty cars. Based on the Valiant, it was available with a durable Slant Six, or 273 cubic-inch small block V8. For 1967, Plymouth introduced the Belvedere GTX, a bucket-seat high-style hardtop coupe and convertible that could be ordered with either the Super Command 440, or Hemi 426 V8. Looking for an advantage at the drag races, 1968 saw a stripped down Belvedere coupe, the Road Runner, which featured a bench seat, a minimum of interior and exterior trim, but was available with Chrysler’s big-block engines, and a floor-mounted 4-speed manual transmission.

The Barracuda, originally a compact sporty car aimed at Mustang and Camaro, because a genuine muscle car in 1970 when it became available with the 440 and 426 monster motors. Few ‘Cudas were ordered with the Hemi, but the handful that were built became rare and highly desirable collector cars. The GTX, Barracuda (and more muscular ‘Cuda), and Road Runner continued into the 1970s, but as that decade wore on, emissions and safety standards along with soaring gasoline prices and an economic downturn, spelled … for these gas guzzlers.

Nonetheless, the compact Valiant sold well, built an enviable reputation for attractive styling, durability, economy, and value. Although the Valiant hardtop was discontinued for 1967, it was re-introduced as a virtual clone of the Dodge Dart Swinger for 1971 under the model name Valiant Scamp. The Scamp was produced along with the Valiant, Dodge Dart and Swinger until 1976, when it was replaced with the Volare.

Featuring transverse-mounted torsion bars and a slightly larger body, the Volare (and its Dodge twin, the Aspen) was an instant sales success. Available as coupe, sedan or station wagon, the Volare offered a smoother ride and better handling than the Dart/Valiant, but unfortunately suffered quality control problems and by 1980, was selling poorly.

Realizing that front-wheel drive, four-cylinder engines, and rack-and-pinion steering would become the standards for the 1980s, Chrysler introduced a new compact car for 1978, the Plymouth Horizon/Dodge Omni twins. Horizon sold well, but unfortunately suffered from a scathing report by Consumer Reports, which found its handling dangerous in certain situations. Plymouth continued to sell the Horizon until 1987, when a gaggle of front-wheel drive compact cars made up the line. Big Plymouths, including the Fury and Gran Fury, were sold up until the early 1980s, but mostly as fleet vehicles. While attempting to compete with Ford and Chevrolet for big-car sales, Plymouth was hurt by Chrysler’s financial woes in the late 1970s, when both its competitors downsized their full-size models.

Plymouth’s attempt at downsizing the Gran Fury in 1979 was a poor seller, and dropped by 1981. By the 1980s, Plymouth as a distinctive division within Chrysler Corporation was no more. Its cars were simply re-badged Dodges.

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