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Plymouth Savoy: 1951-1964, from high-end to entry-level

The Plymouth Savoy debuts in 1951 as a Plymouth Concord model

The 1951 Plymouth Savoy was just a sub-model of the Concord — a premium station wagon. It debuted in the same year that Plymouth assigned distinct car names to every trim level (Concord, Cambridge, Cranbrook, and Suburban), replacing alphanumeric codes and Deluxe / Special Deluxe trim. All Plymouths were still the same car with different trim, sharing a single engine.

savoy logo

The car had a conventional design, with a welded steel body on an arc-welded frame with double-channel box-section side rails and five crossmembers (the convertible had an X-member frame). The floor pan was channeled and ribbed, and there were box-section reinforcements around window and door openings. A baked enamel finish completed the package, with the final car tipping the scales at around 3,184 pounds.

powerflow six engineLike GM and Ford, Plymouth used springs up front and leaf-springs in back; steering used a worm and ball bearing roller gear, with symmetric idler arm linkage, rubber-isolated pivots, and ball-joint steering knuckles.

The Savoy’s engine was the Powermaster-6, largely unchanged from 1950. Savoy buyers gained chrome trim around the windshield and on the window divider strip, with more brightwork on the beltline areas, sides, rear fender stone shields (stainless steel), and tailgate hinges; and full wheel covers with whitewall tires. Due to Korean War time restrictions, which hit chrome especially hard, not all options were available at times.

The cost of the 1951 Concord Savoy — which used the Suburban body and seating layout — was a hefty $2,182.

The Plymouth Savoy gets nameplates

The 1952 Savoy officially became a separate model, though it was still a dressed up Suburban wagon. Plymouth cars claimed some 46 improvements, which included a redesigned engine combustion chamber; improved launching due to changes in the transmission; better brakes, shocks, wipers, and washers; and an overdrive gear, added in spring 1952.

1954 Plymouth Savoy
Weight: around 3,000 lbs (1360 kg)
Engine: 230 cid / 3.8 liter, 2 valves/cyl.
Horsepower: 110 hp (81 kW) @ 3,600
Torque: 190 lb-ft (258 Nm) @ 1,600
3.25 x 4.63 bore x stroke, c/r 7¼:1
3-speed manual, 3.90:1 final drive
193.5 long x 73.5 wide x 61.7 high

Production figures for the Savoy were lumped in with the overall Suburban wagons; 76,520 of these were made. The 1952 Savoy listed for $2,287, and weighed in at 3,165 pounds.

The 1953 Savoy moved into the higher class Cranbrook series in 1953, as the Concord had been dropped; it now used Belvedere interior styling, with better materials for the upholstery and trim. Brightwork was similar to the Cranbrook. A two-tone option gave the buyer a white roof and solid lower body coloring. The fuel filler cap was moved from the rear to the left rear quarter panel. The base model sold for $2,187, and weighed 3,170 pounds.

Plymouth also added “Tip-Toe shifting,” what many have come to know as Plymouth’s Fluid Drive Transmission (not a full automatic). There were 12,089 wagon models produced by Plymouth for 1953 across all models, with no breakout for the Savoy.

The Savoy breaks out of the wagon

1953-1954 Plymouth production figures
Chart courtesy of the Plymouth Bulletin

The 1954 Savoy was shuffled around again and given a $5 price cut, as the Cambridge and Cranbrook were renamed. The Savoy was now just above the base model (the Plaza), and was now sold in sedan form (“Club Sedan”) and as a coupe — the base Savoy Club Coupe sold for $1,835, and weighed 2,986 pounds. Options included a two -tone paint scheme, with the roof being the lighter color; a fully automatic transmission (the 2-speed Powerflite); power steering; and in March of 1954, power brakes.

Plymouth Hy-Style cars - styling touches

The Club Sedan production total for 1954 was 25,396 units, and the Club Coupe drew 30,700 sales. Overall, though, 1954 was not a good year for Chrysler Corp, nor the Plymouth Division, which suffered nearly a 40% drop in sales.

1955 Plymouth air conditioning - Belvedere

The 1955 Chryslers were dramatically different in styling; the Forward Look styling, created by Virgil Exner, put Plymouth back in fourth place for 1955. The Savoy coupe was dropped, but the Club Sedan was joined by a four-door sedan; the Club Sedan accounted for 74,880 units sold, and the four-door Sedan accounted for 162,741 units sold.

1955 Plymouth Savoy

The brakes were good, the front drums increased to 11 inches, the rears remaining at ten. Power brakes were an option, as are air conditioning, power windows and power seats, but all were rare on Plymouths.

dashboard

Somewhat controversial was the new dashboard, which put two gauges in front of the passenger for symmetry; the shifter was built right into the dashboard. Dashboard-mounted shifters would be a minivan standard in the 21st century, but not behind the steering wheel. It was a one-year placement.

1955 plymouth savoy

Another new option in the 1955 Savoy line-up was the V-8 engine, in 157, 167, and 177 horsepower versions; it joined the flathead six.

1956 Plymouth Savoy

The 1956 Savoy now had a base 180 horsepower, 270 cubic inch engine for V8 buyers, as well as a 12-volt electrical system, pushbutton-controlled automatic transmission, and auto record player (which took special records to avoid skipping). The six continued.

1956 dashboard

The 1956 Savoy lineup was the Sport Club Coupe, the Club Sedan, and the four-door Sedan. The Sport Club Coupe was a Hardtop, in base model trim, selling for $2,233, weighing 3,275 pounds, and sold in both the six and V-8 versions, with 16,473 units sold. The Club Sedan listed for $2,086 in base trim, and sold 57,927 units for that year.

1956 Plymouth Savoy

The six cylinder Savoys had a horizontal bar through the rear trunk medallion, and the V-8 models had a V emblem on the Hood, and a V through the Trunk Medallion. Once again though, the four-door outsold all other Savoy models, bringing in 151,762 orders for the 1956 model year. The price for the base model Savoy four-door was $2,129, and it weighed 3,295 pounds.

dimensions

The 1956 Savoy also gained a dashboard redesign, keeping the same appearance but moving the gauges back in front of the driver, replaced by heater controls, with two gauges replaced by warning lights to fit within the design. The car made it harder for lone drivers to adjust the heat.

1956 Plymouth Savoy dashboard

A major restyling took place across the Chrysler product line-up for 1957, and a brand new front torsion-bar suspension system was employed. So successful was this new front suspension system that it remained the mainstay of Chrysler front suspension design, until well into the 1970s.

1957 plymouth savoy

The 1957 Savoy and its companions jettisoned the outmoded styling that had characterized Plymouth since 1950, and shot forward three years — “Suddenly, it’s 1960,” claimed the ads, and for good reason. GM’s famed styling boss, Harley Earl, was called onto the carpet when the Plymouth catalogue arrived at General Motors’ headquarters. Ford was caught equally off guard.

Plymouth Savoy

Unfortunately, the cars were rushed into production, and while they sold extremely well, they also made many enemies and permanently destroyed Chrysler’s reputation for quality and reliability. Rust was everywhere, parts broke off, and customers were lost. Chrysler would have been much better off in the long run had the 1957s bombed in the marketplace — or, more to the point, if they had done a late launch, but fixed the problems before release.

1958 chassis

The 1957 cars were also the first with the TorqueFlite automatic transmission, which opened up Plymouth to many new buyers who rejected both manual transmissions and the two-speed PowerFlite. The TorqueFlite dominated automatic transmissions for the next two decades, and was sold to American Motors and to high-line European makes; technology was reportedly licensed to Ford. The TorqueFlite earned a reputation for durability and efficiency which remains to this day, allowing automatic-equipped drag racers to win against manual-transmission cars.

Hy-Drive semi-automatic transmissionOther new items for 1957 included a longer wheelbase for the Suburban wagons, four inches longer than for the other cars. The Savoy was sold with the Flathead six or a 301 cubic inch V-8, with two barrel (215 hp) or four barrel (235 hp) versions.

The 1957 Savoy was still a step up from the Plaza. Club Sedan production for 1957, was 55,590, the cost in base trim was $2,364, and the coupe weighed 3,335 pounds. The two-door hardtop sold 31,373 units, cost 2,329, and weighed 3,335 pounds. The four-door Hardtop Savoy accounted for only 7,601 units porduced, sold for $2,417 in base model trim, and weighed in at 3,480 pounds. The production leader for the 1957 model year in the Savoy model, was the four-door Sedan, which sold 55, 590 units, sold for 2,364, and weighed 3,340 pounds. The V -8 models carried a V emblem on both front fenders, just ahead of the wheels.

specifications

For 1958, there were few apparent changes, and they were largely to address problems. Quality was dramatically improved, as it had been through the 1957 model year. The lower bumper pan was replaced by a lower grille matching the upper section, and real dual headlamps were built in, with the parking lamps moving to a small spot above the twin headlamps.

pushbutton automatic

While 1958 wasn’t a banner year again for car manufacturers, Plymouth did manage to hang on to its third place sales position in the industry. The Savoy was back again, offering a 2-dr Sedan, a 2-dr Hardtop, a 4- dr Sedan, and a four-door Hardtop. Engine choices were the carry over Flathead six, and the 318 V -8. The 2-dr Sedan sold 17, 624 units, was priced at $2,362 without any options, and weighed in at 3,360 pounds. There were 19,500 2-dr Hardtop Savoys built, which listed at $2,436 with the V -8, no figures available for six cylinder versions, if any were produced. The four-door Sedan Savoy accounted for 67, 933 units produced, was priced at $2,413 with the V-8, and weighed in at 3,400 pounds. The four-door Hardtop version of the Savoy, sold only 5,060 units, was priced at 2,507, and weighed in at 3,475 pounds.

Savoy cars

The 1959 Savoy was suddenly the base Plymouth; there was no more Plaza. V-8 engines included the 318 again, in two and four barrel versions, along with a Golden Commando V-8, referred to as the Golden Commando 395 (it had 395 foot pounds of torque). Transmissions were a three-speed manual, two-speed automatic, and three-speed automatic. Options included swivel front seats, a headlight dimmer, and a self dimming rearview mirror.

Savoy offerings included the 2-dr Business Coupe, accounting for only 1,051 units produced, selling for $2,143 and weighing in at 3,130 pounds, the Savoy 2-dr Sedan, which sold 46,979 units, at a base price for the V-8 version of $2,352, and weighing 3,425 pounds , and yet again the top seller, the Savoy four-door Sedan, which had a production total of 84,274 units, and equipped with a V -8, was priced at $2,402 list in base model trim, weighing 3,390 pounds with the V -8. Basic options were Power Steering, Power Brakes, and Automatic Transmission.

plymouth cars
Brand new for 1960 was the Slant-Six straight six cylinder engine. V-8 engines now included a 383 and 361 V8. The 1960 Savoy’s main technological feat was conversion to a unitized body (six cylinder cars with automatic transmissions had an aluminum case as well). 1960 was also the last year for Chrysler to use generators; the Valiant had a standard alternator and all other Mopars would, too.

1960 plymouth savoy

The Savoy came basically in two forms for 1960, the 2-door, and 4-door sedans. There were 26,820 2-dr Savoys built, they sold for $2,379 in base model trim, with a V-8, and weighed 3,490 pounds. The four-door Savoy came in with a total of 51, 384 units built, sold for a list of $2,429 in base trim, with a V-8, and weighed 3,500 pounds. My 1960 Plymouth four-door Savoy, with a slant six and Torqueflite automatic, listed for $2,675, and my Dad paid $2,100 for the car at the time of purchase on June 13, 1960.

plymouth controls

The 1961 Savoy would still only be a sedan; it was positioned above the commercial Fleet Series. Under 19,000 two-doors sold, with under 45,000 four-doors. The four door weighed 3,465 pounds; pricing started at $2,381 with a V8 two-door. The PowerFlite was now history, with only the Torqueflite carrying on. (The following chart is from Plymouth.)

1963 Plymouth specifications

The 1962 Savoy added a wagon to the lineup; 12,710 wagons were sold with a starting price of $2,717, and 3,390 pounds of heft. 18,825 two-doors and 49,777 four-doors were sold in 1962, with engines carried over. Four door production rose somewhat, while wagons and two-doors remained fairly constant. Options included power steering and brakes, and the rare air conditioning, which may not actually have been installed in any Savoy.

The 1964 Plymouth Savoy was the last, but Plymouth tried. It had a new front and rear, and a revised instrument panel; under the hood, buyers could get the new, “lightweight A” 273 V8 and a four-speed floor-shift manual transmission. The two door, with a higher production of 21,326 units, started at $2,332 with V8, at 3,205 lb; the four-door sold 51,024 units, starting at $2,388 and 3,210 pounds; and the six and nine passenger wagons sold 12,401 and 3,242 units respectively, with the six passenger starting at $2,728 and the nine-passenger at $2,829. The nine passenger wagon was a hefty 3,600 pounds.

1964 slant six

The Plymouth Savoy enjoyed a 13 year model run. Like many Chrysler Corporation vehicles, its positioning was not always consistent; and it was dropped while still moderately popular. By 1964, though, the Valiant was far and away Plymouth’s big seller.

Thanks to Don Butler’s Plymouth-Desoto Story | See Ben’s 1960 Savoy | 1951-1959 Plymouth Savoy details


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