Written by Chrysler Corporation in 1966. Materials provided by J.P. Joans.
Plymouth had a lot of bragging rights for its first cars, built in 1928, with their new “Silver Dome” high-compression engine that took “any gasoline,” a top speed of over 60 mph, “characteristic Chrysler acceleration,” a smooth idle thanks to special engine mounts, and the class-unique hydraulic four-wheel brakes.
With Walter P. Chrysler’s comment “Give the public something better and the public will buy,” the first Plymouth car was made on June 11, 1928. By the time the year was out, 58,000 Plymouths had been shipped. To meet demand a new Plymouth plant was begun on 40 acres of Detroit real estate in October, 1928, to be completed (in record time) in 1929.
Sales of the 1929 Plymouth U soared by 50% over the original 1928 Q, as word got around. The F.O.B. (price without delivery) price was $655 for the coupe and $695 for the sedan. Although the original tires were 4.75 x 20 inches, these were changed later to 4.75 x 19 inches.
1930 PLYMOUTH 30-U: The Great Depression hit hard, but Plymouth sales doubling from 1929. A fuel pump replaced the vacuum tank; buyers of closed-roof cars could get radios, and hydraulic shock absorbers replaced the friction-type for a smoother ride. An electric gasoline gauge was another new feature for Plymouth.
1931 PLYMOUTH PA: The 1931 PA brought free wheeling (friction-free coasting) to the low-priced car market, along with the famous “Floating Power” engine mountings and a new vacuum spark advance with automatic control. The PA was the first completely new Plymouth since the original Model Q, and resulted from a $2,500,000, two-year program of research, testing, and retooling.
1932 PLYMOUTH PB: “Ride in All Three” was Plymouth’s advertising slogan. A new rigid X member frame tightened the body, and the oil filter became standard equipment. New brake drums with cast iron fused to outer rims of steel helped dissipate heat. Wheelbase grew by three inches as part of an effort to make it look less like a four cylinder.
1933 PLYMOUTH PD: A new L-head six cylinder engine with a Plymouth high of 70 horsepower helped sales; the selling price of the Plymouth Six, $495, was quite a contrast to the 4-cylinder 1928 Plymouth that sold originally for $735. $9,000,000 was spent for design, experimental engineering, and retooling the Plymouth plant for this car.
1935 PLYMOUTH PJ: Plymouth engines in 1935 incorporated water jackets that extended the full length of the cylinder bores. The benefits of balanced weight distribution, the ride stabilizer bar, and “Chair-Height” seats were introduced on Plymouth after having been successfully adopted on Chrysler the preceding year.
1934 PLYMOUTH PE: The PE gained an independent coil spring front suspension. Buyers must have liked it; on August 18, 1934, the one-millionth Plymouth came off of the production line, to be sold to Ethel Miller.
1935-1936 PLYMOUTH P-2: Jim Benjaminson wrote, “Plymouth engineers and designers literally started with a clean
sheet of paper with the PJ.” The company moved to a fully jacketed engine for better cooling, and made many changes for longevity and convenience; they also created a brand new transmission. A specially engineered Plymouth could be converted from passenger car to hearse to ambulance in a few moments for only $40 more than the standard sedan. Ten different body styles were sold. Oddly, they dropped their pioneering independent front suspension — but DeSoto added it! (The two cars shared the same plant).
Perhaps most important, as a result of Airflow research, engineers moved the
engine forward about 8 inches and returned to a tube type front axle, greatly improving handling and smoothing the ride.
1937 PLYMOUTH P-4: The “luxury Plymouth” gained a safety instrument panel with recessed controls and a rounded bottom edge raised above knee height. The top of the front seat back had a well-padded roll, Even the door handles were curved inward to prevent clothes snagging. Hidden blower units and defroster vents for directing air over the windshield made their Plymouth bow.
1938 PLYMOUTH P-6: The tenth anniversary of Plymouth saw it solidly in third place in sales. A rumble seat coupe still was available, but open touring cars and phaetons had long disappeared. One of the optional items offered was a rear seat radio speaker -- attached to the back of the front seat.
1939 PLYMOUTH P-8: A new safety signal speedometer would flash a green light at speeds up to 30 mph, amber from 30 to 50 mph, and red beyond 50 mph, Wet-weather ventilation became a reality when a rain trap was introduced into the screened cowl ventilator. The gearshift lever was moved to the steering column, and power convertible tops were quick to catch on with the public.
1940 PLYMOUTH P-10: For the second year Plymouth received a special award in safety design. Sealed-beam headlights appeared in the Plymouth picture along with rotary door latches, and vacuum operated windshield wipers now pivoted from the bottom of the windshield. Plymouth sold an unusual-for-low-priced cars seven-passenger sedan. Some buyers had a Philco Model C-1708 pushbutton radio; a hot-water heater was also optional.
Chrysler was finally able to launch a brand new Plymouth P-18 in 1949, the last of the Big Three to create a true postwar car. New in design but conservative in looks, it had a longer wheelbase, yet was over four inches shorter than the P15 — an efficient space-saving design, when Americans only wanted longer, lower cars.
All Plymouths had stunning instrument panels, with three circular white-on-black dials right in front of the driver, a new key-start ignition, and rotary knobs. Optional heater systems were designed to blend in. Windows were engineered for full travel in one and a half turns of the handle for safety. Cushions were thickened and seats raised to “chair height.” There was higher compression for greater power, better piston rings, a true automatic choke, weatherproofed ignition, and resistor plugs.
Chrysler’s 1966 retrospective noted: “Plymouth again offered a 9-passenger car called the Special Deluxe Station Wagon. It had exterior wood trim and removable second and third seats. A new introduction, the 6-passenger Deluxe Suburban, had a folding second seat ahead of a 42-inch flat floor, and became known as the first all-steel body station wagon. Automatic turn-the-key ignition was born to a low-priced car.”
1950 PLYMOUTH P-20: Plymouth remained alone of the major low-priced cars with an electric automatic choke and oil-bath air cleaner. The Plymouth came in two different wheelbases: 111 inches and 118.5 inches. The shorter wheelbased car was 186.5 inches long which put it in a class with the compact car Valiant to be introduced some 10 years later.
1951 PLYMOUTH CRANBROOK: Such time-honored names as Standard, Deluxe, and Super Deluxe fell by the wayside. Into their respective places now came the names Concord, Cambridge, and Cranbrook to begin a newer era in car identification. New electric windshield wipers operated at a constant speed whether a Plymouth engine ran fast or slow. The Cranbrook Belvedere became Plymouth’s first two-door hardtop.
1952 PLYMOUTH CRANBROOK: Following one year of successful usage, the Oriflow shock absorber with “sea-leg” mounting became well known for its contribution to Plymouth’s level, comfortable ride. Overdrive was made available as optional equipment; with overdrive, the engine made three revolutions for each rear wheel revolution (versus four, without overdrive).
1953 PLYMOUTH CRANBROOK: The series line-up was revised, eliminating the Concord. The old two-piece windshield was replaced by a new one-piece curved glass. Also new for two-door hardtops was the division of the front seat back one third of the way across instead of in the center to allow two people to remain seated in the front and still permit access to the rear compartment. 1953 also saw Plymouth adopt a torque converter transmission called Hy-Drive.
1954 PLYMOUTH: The Plymouth line-up now read Plaza, Savoy, and Belvedere. Power steering and a two-speed automatic transmission called PowerFlite made their Plymouth bows. On March 25, Chrysler Corporation disclosed that an experimental turbine engine had been developed and successfully road tested in a production model Plymouth hardtop — an American automotive “First.”
1955 PLYMOUTH: Two tone paint reached the zenith of its popularity. For the first time in its history, a Plymouth could be purchased with a V-8 engine. The new V - 8 was advertised at 157 horsepower. Air conditioning was a new luxury item made available on the low-priced Plymouth.
1961 VALIANT V-200: For increased performance, a Valiant Six Hyper Pack had a 4 -barre1 carburetor and other modifications which raised the horsepower to 148. Valiant and Lancer were the only compact cars of the Big Three to offer factory-installed power steering and power brakes.
1962 VALIANT SIGNET 200: A sportstype Signet series with front bucket seats was introduced as the premium car in the Valiant line-up, and an optional 225cubic inch six-cylinder engine with a die-cast aluminum block was offered. The Society of Illustrators named the Signet 200 as the winner of their styling award for design excellence.
1963 VALIANT SIGNET 200: An entirely new body design, the first since its inception, was the big news for Valiant. Unit construction was continued, and fuel tank capacity raised to 18 gallons from the original 13. The new body was two inches longer than before, and a convertible was offered for the first time. The Signet hardtop also could be bought with a black or white vinyl roof covering.
1965 PLYMOUTH Belvedere I: A new intermediate - size product line called the Belvedere was unveiled for 1965. Satellite was the name given to the premium car of the line. The Belvedere was three inches shorter than the 1964 Plymouth, yet had essentially the same interior compartment space.
1965 PLYMOUTH VALIANT SIGNET: To the first 273-cubic inch V-8, offered by Valiant the previous year, was added a high-performance option that upped the original horsepower rating to 235 at 5200 rpm. A new flat-profile air conditioner could be factory-installed. All-vinyl seats were standard in the low-line Valiant 100.
1966 PLYMOUTH Belvedere II: A completely new body -- the first since Belvedere was introduced as an intermediate size car--heralded 1966 production. It had sculptured body lines, curved side glass, parallel windshield wipers, and could be purchased with a new 426-cubic inch hemi-head V-8 option that developed 425 hp @ 5000 rpm.
See our list of Plymouth engines, 1928-1966.
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