The following letters were sent to us as readers reflected on their own "insider's history" of Plymouth.
I love your History of Plymouth. ... My first car was a 48 Plymouth business coupe with a 1955 Dodge "polyspherical" engine with a 2-speed powerflite. Next was a 1962 Sport Fury with the 413 - 410 hp Package. Stock from the factory with slicks and open headers it ran 107.91mph @ 13.06 at Lyons Drag Strip, Long Beach, California.
Next was a 1965 Chrysler 300-K with the 413 - 390 hp engine. I still have a garage full of parts from the 1960s. The Plymouth was the start of a funny car series know as "Pete's (Pete Everett is my dad) Little Demon," a fiberglass dodge demon body on a Keith Black frame with a blown-injected 426 hemi.
With all of the disclaimers at the top of each installment [of the Insider's History], one would presume these stories to be fiction. But I suspect there is more actual life experiences in there than you might desire to admit to. If not, it sure seems that way to me.
Regardless, I have greatly enjoyed reading your stories. I consider them to be more fact than fiction as that is my gut feeling.
My first automotive memory was in a 1951 Plymouth sedan that my parents bought new. It was a reliable car as best I remember (although I wasn't that interested in those things back then). The next was a 1956 Savoy 4-dr sedan (white over brown metallic with another white panel under the chrome on the side). It was a basic 6-cyl 3-spd car with base radio and heater. As time wore on, although it was a reliable vehicle, it began to have mechanical problems.
At that time, the Dodge and Plymouth dealer was the same with Chrysler, DeSoto, and Imperial being another dealer. When the Plymouth began to have problems after the warranty period, the head mechanic determined that it had parts from previous years of cars. As I recall, he said the exhaust manifold (which had cracked) was from an earlier model than what other 56s had on them. Then the rear axle sagged. It began to use oil and was needed to have the block bored and something about the ring grooves in the pistons were worn out also. In spite of these problems over the years of ownership, it got us where we needed to be in typical Chrysler fashion, comfort, and style.
In the mean time, my parents were trying to get some help from the factory rep. As seemed to be normal, they were extremely elusive. Letters to corporate got no action or the dealer might have told the rep that everything was being taken care of when it wasn't. In the meantime, the dealership closed and his brother got the Dodge store to go with his Lincoln-Mercury store and the Chrysler dealer got Plymouth. He tried to stay out of the warranty deal but did what he could.
The head mechanic from the other store became his lead mechanic and later service manager. Mr. Harlan Foster was a Chrysler guy from way back as he remembered the old Dodge Brothers cars from his native Pennsylvania (he never lost that accent in all of his years in Texas). I dare say he was one of the greatest Chrysler product guys of all time!
In 1962 we traded the Plymouth to a local neighborhood grocer for a 1961 BelAir sedan. When he was married, he kept his wife in a new Chrysler and when he wasn't, he drove basic Chevys. The one we got was similar to the Plymouth except it had no radio. We took it to the local Chevy dealer and got a manual tune radio installed. It didn't have the product problems of the Plymouth but had it's own set of unique Chevrolet problems.
In the mean time, the grocer had remarried and put his new wife in a yellow 1965 Newport Town Sedan with matching cloth interior. A truly beautiful car! Then he got her a 1966 Newport Town Sedan the next year. It was white with the brown cloth interior. We tried to deal on the 1965 but that was not to be. But we did get the 1966.
Seems he had a deal with his buddy the Chrysler dealer (Forrest Lindsay) that he had to have the first one sold in town. And that was the way it was. The 1966 was purchased for $2995.00 with the Chevrolet traded-in. Talk about a mo ve up!
Back when we had the Savoy, my uncle bought a two-tone green Belvedere 4-dr sedan. It was a pretty car with automatic, push button radio, etc. For two cars to be only one year apart, they really didn't seem that similar. Each had their own styling neat things that I liked, but I liked the fins on the '56s better.
My other uncle had a 1956 Buick Special 2-dr sedan (white over black with red interior) that they bought in New Jersey on their way back from a tour of duty in New Foundland. It had rear axle problems from early on--don't think they made it back to Texas without it having problems. They later bought used LeSabres and we had Chryslers. The 1955 Belvedere was traded for a 1959 Impala 4-dr hardtop which was later traded for a new 1963 Polara 2-dr hardtop.
When we had the 1956 Savoy, my dad's banker (who he roomed with in junior college) bought a new 1957 Fairlane 500 4-dr sedan. It was beautiful in blue and white with the gold side trim. Dad thought a lot of him and I thought a lot of his Ford and started liking Fords. That decreased when we got the 1966 Chrysler!
The Chrysler was what I took my driving test in and later took to college. Those were some great vehicles! But all Chryslers have always been great vehicles (in spite of some of their problems). The torsion bar/leaf spring suspension was one of the best suspensions ever used with their own unique ride characteristics. Many talked about how rough they rode but I believe that if the road noise had been better filtered, they would have been as good as the GMs of that day with vastly superior handling. The were one of the few cars that seemed to enjoy turning corners on a twisty country road and distinctly liked to cruise in the 75mph-90mph range.
I had another uncle that said that one of his coworkers always drove Chryslers. He said he claimed that if you ever drove one you would buy one. For those who like to drive (and not just profile in politically correct vehicles) there is no better vehicle to do it in than a Chrysler--even today.
Although your family was obviously a great dealer, there were many that were not. Here in DFW, TX there were few dealers that lasted more than 5 years before the name on the store changed. There were a few older, more established dealers that had been around, but they were the definite minority. There has been more stability since then.
When I went to Lubbock, TX to college, I had my service work done at Fenner Tubbs (in business from the mid-40s and recently sold to someone else). That was when I became aware that when you had a stable dealer, the product penetration went up dramatically. There were more Chryslers per capita in Lubbock than in Dallas/Fort Worth. Similar in Amarillo and other parts of west TX where there was an established dealer.
I could go on about how neat Chrysler products are/have been just as I suppose you could also do. I wished that I could have been a dealer's son back then. If I had been, there would have been some neat cars on the lot! And it would have been fun doing it!
After I got out of college, I had a few jobs and ended up in the parts dept. of the local Chevrolet store. That was over 23 yrs ago and we now have all GM lines except Cadillac and medium-duty trucks (I understand the state judge just approved us for a Cadillac store last week). It has given me a different perspective on the car business and supported my Chrysler habits rather well. I have some GM cars also but the passion is still with Pentastars.
Professionalism requires that I not let my hobby interfere with what pays the bills. Since I have a 1977 Camaro that I bought new out there (now with over 507,000 miles on the un-rebuilt 305 -- I did put a timing chain in it at 92,000 miles) people at work normally associate me with those cars. I am also in the local chapter of the Buick Club of America as the Assistant Director of the Chapter. But I am a charter member of the North Loop Dodge Performance Team (renamed "Cowtown Mopars" when Allen Samuels did a corporate realignment such that all of his stores have his name on them) and have been pretty regular to the Mopar Nats, etc. Going up there tends to get my batteries recharged and a neat reason to "get out of town". Not to mention renting a new Chrysler product to drive around in.
I realize this has gotten a little long, so I will get on for now. Keep up the neat writing and I look forward to seeing more in the future!
Click here to go back to an annotated index for the Insider's History of Plymouth series
Chrysler Heritage • History by Year • Chrysler People and Bios • Corporate Facts and History
Walter Voss, AMC/Jeep/Dodge racingInside stories from Bob Sheaves
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