by Lanny Knutson. Copyrighted by the Plymouth Bulletin. Reprinted by permission.
Despite cutting commentary about Chrysler’s habitually poor lack of timing, Car & Driver writers had to admit that “when Plymouth product planners got the bat off their shoulders, they really uncoiled.”
This was not the kind of praise Plymouth was expecting back in 1971 as they began planning the 1974 models. Having just revised their tepidly-received fuselage body Fury, introduced in 1969, they were anxious to get a more conventionally-styled full-sized car on the market. They were certain the Fury they had planned for 1974 was just what the public wanted. They were right...at the time. What they hadn’t (and couldn’t have) counted on was the 1973 oil embargo that caused, was used to cause, a tripling of gasoline prices that sent the buying public scurrying for economy cars.
Back in 1972, Plymouth’s planners assumed they could forego a scheduled updating of the Valiant, concentrating, instead, on the big Plymouth. Given what happened, they should have done it the other way around... or developed a subcompact to battle Pinto and Vega.
It was more from lack of luck than foresight that Plymouth had a brand new full sized car and a seven-year-old compact at the time. They offered what they had, in the best way they could.
An all-new Fury greeted the Plymouth buyer for 1974. The conservatively styled car was elegantly attractive with square lines and straight sides. Its front, as forecast by the 1973 Fury, included a grille made up of narrow horizontal bars set between quad lights in bright rectangular bezels. On the opposite end, rectangular “ribbon” tail lights dipped into slight recesses in the bumper.
The full sized car was sold as a four-door sedan, a hardtop coupe and sedan, and two- and three-seat wagons. The Fury I, II and III nomenclature designated Plymouth’s Fury pecking order, as it had since the C-body’s introduction in 1965. The Sport Fury and VIP had long been replaced by Gran Sedan and Gran Coupe as the top Fury lines. For Fury, things were to get even more “Gran” in years to come.
The Gran interiors were resplendent with individual side-bolstered split front bench seats finished in brocade cloth and vinyl upholstery in blue, black, gold, green and parchment colors. A double center armrest split bench was available as was a passenger side recliner seat on four-door models. An oriental rug-patterned Tangier cloth was optional. All-vinyl upholstery was a no cost option.
Tilt and telescoping steering wheels were optional, along with a digital chronometer (certified by the Swiss government), eight-track stereo, automatic speed control, power windows, seats, door locks and sun roof, and a new automatic temperature control air conditioning system.
The mid-seventies opera window fad hit Plymouth that spring as the Gran Fury hardtop coupe was modified with vinyl-covered panels in which the small side windows were set.
A few years earlier, vent windows were considered so old fashioned automakers couldn’t wait to get rid of them. Omitting them also reduced manufacturing costs. But a persistent group of buyers, especially of non-air conditioned cars, wanted them. So front vent windows were an option this year. Being old fashioned cost extra money in ’74.
The 225 six was again available on base Furys. The 360 was the base V8, but cars could be ordered equipped with the 318. The 400 2bbl became the Gran Fury and Suburban standard engine. A 4bbl. 440 was optionally available. The three-speed Torqueflite was the only transmission available. zzz
The Satellite coupes were only slightly changed for their final year, with a similar patterned grille that was more recessed than in 1973. The rear bumper lights were triple square lens unit, the inside lenses serving as backup lights.
Springtime brought the Sundance, a spring special coupe. Its Aztec Gold or Spinnaker White body was set off by ornate filigreed gold stripes that incorporated a sunburst design on the Capillars. Of course, this is the special package that lent its name to a Plymouth model 13 years later.
Since 1971, the Satellite series had offered two platforms, the 115-inch wheelbase coupe and the 117-inch wheelbase sedan. The Satellite sedans received a new bi-section recessed grille of thin horizontal bars. Plymouth’s catalog words, “the Satellite Custom and the Satellite Sedan’s spacious interior and luggage compartment dimensions proved comfort and convenience that you will appreciate,” sum up the car’s low-profile position in the ’74 lineup.
The base Satellite was available as a fixed-rear window coupe, four-door sedan and two-seat wagon. The mid-scale Sebring and up-scale Sebring-Plus came only in hardtop coupe form in which all side windows rolled down. The Road Runner, reverting to its ’68 origins, was a fixed-window coupe only. The Satellite Custom was the top sedan, but among two- and three-seat wagons the Custom was only mid-scale. The top-scale wagon, in both two- and three-seat forms, was called Regent, a name once used by Canada’s Plymouth-bodied Dodge.
A full range of cloth and vinyl and all-vinyl upholstery was available including an eyecatching red (or black)-and-white Wimbledon plaid cloth in combination with red shag carpet. It would probably match a used car salesman’s jacket in a few years.
The round dial Road Runner Rallye Cluster dash was also made the Sebring-Plus instrument panel once the requisite woodgraining had been applied. The three-spoke thickly-padded Road Runner Tuff steering wheel was an option for lesser models.
The Satellite electric rear window defroster featured wires in the glass as do ’90s cars unlike the hot-air type on the Fury lines.
All Satellites except the Road Runner came standard with the 225 six. The V8 selections included the 318, 360, and 400. The big 440 4bbl remained a Road Runner-only option. A seldom-seen three-speed manual was the standard transmission. A four-speed manual was optional on the coupes. Most Satellites came with the three-speed Torqueflite automatic.
As for carburetors, the line was one barrel for the 225, two for the 318, and four for everyone else. The new Holley 1945 was used for the 225s, while Carters were used for the rest.
In its tenth and final season, Barracuda bowed in with a continuation of its 1973 cars with a couple of changes. The rear side windows on the base Barracuda were fixed, making it a coupe like the Duster.
The ’Cuda now had a 360, rather than the old and powerful 340, for the moment carrying much of the same high-performance internals. It was available with a color-keyed grille. All Barracudas were V8 powered, albeit from a two-barrel, single-exhaust, mildly-tuned 318 (unless one optioned for the 360) — a far cry from 1971’s panoply which led to a 426 Hemi at the top. An all-gears-syncronised, floor-shift three-speed manual transmission was standard, with options of a four-speed (still with a pistol-grip Hurst shifter) manual and a Torqueflite automatic.
With a production of 11,734, the Barracuda soon became history.
Plymouth’s troubled captive British import became history during the 1973 model year, never to be seen again in the United States market. Chrysler Canada, however, moved the nameplate to created a Plymouth version of Dodge’s popular Colt, its captive import from Japan built by Mitsubishi.
The market was going in a different direction, causing Plymouth to reenter the “truck” market after a 33-year absence. The Voyager and Trail Duster were rebadged renditions of the Dodge Sportsman “window” vans and Ramcharger sport utility vehicles. Both carried the Plymouth name boldly across blacked-out grille centers.
Since Plymouth had enjoyed success since 1971 using the Dodge Dart body for its Scamp hardtop, the division decided to appropriate the Dart sedan body as well for 1974. This body’s 111-inch wheelbase provided greater interior and trunk room. Buyers approved of the move, purchasing more than twice the number of Valiant four-door sedans as in 1973.
The flagship among the sedans was the Valiant Brougham, a mid-year addition to both the sedan and hardtop lines (shown at the very start of this page). It featured crushed velour upholstery and many other luxury interior appointments. Color keyed or simulated wire wheel covers were offered. Vinyl roofs, chrome grilles and stand-up hood ornaments were standard equipment.
Reviewing the mid-year Valiant Brougham luxury compact, Car & Driver had nothing but grudging praise. “With ‘formal’ styling being all the rage, the Valiant’s square corners and upright greenhouse (of 1967 origin) look almost contemporary.” The Brougham’s interior was “truly lavish. It easily overwhelms the competition, both in quality of materials used and the tasteful way they are arranged.”
Government bumper protection requirements forced the abandonment of the Scamp’s (and Dart’s) taillight-bumper combo. New strip tail lights were installed above the bumpers of the Scamp and the “new” sedan.
Government requirements also dictated rubber bumper guards on the rear of the Duster coupes. Otherwise, save for tape stripe treatments, the Duster remained unchanged.
The Gold Duster, Space Duster and Twister packages (shown in red above) continued.
The 340 engine—devoid, because of emission requirements, of its former powerful glory—was dropped in favor of a 360 cubic inch version of the same block. Its net horsepower was set at 245, five more than the 340 it replaced.
Valiant production shot up to 470,817, thanks to the buying public’s continuing gasoline crisis concerns and Plymouth’s efforts to provide variety to the expanding compact car market. One of every four compact cars sold in the U.S. during 1974 was a Valiant.
“We see the Valiant Brougham as a veteran car—its personality fully developed-that has been dressed in a new suit of clothes. An automotive Uncle Ernie from Hamtramck. Who, according to the sales reports, just happens to be a lot of peoples’ favorite uncle in spite of some of his coarse habits.” — Car and Driver, August 1974
There were two slant sixes, the 198 and the 225. Satellite Custom, Sebring, and base cam with the slant six or 318 V8 standard; all other Satellites had a standard 318. The 198 was standard on Duster and all Valiants, with 225 and 318 also available. The 360 was standard on all the Furys and wagons, then named Suburban, optional on Road Runner, Barracuda, and ’Cuda, standard on Duster 360. Finally, the 400 and 440 were optional on various Furys, Suburbans, Road Runner, and Satellites.
As was normal for the time, most cars had 14 or 15 inch wheels. The heavy duty trailer towing package, available on everything but Valiant and Barracuda, allowed for towing up to 7,000 pounds total trailer weight, and included 14 x 6.0 wheels on Satellite and 15 x 6.5 wheels on Fury, along with an auxiliary transmission oil cooler, heavy duty cooling and electrical, and far more. The light trailer towing package, on all but Barracuda, allowed for up to 2,000 pounds of towing.
Interested in reading about more historical Plymouths? Visit our main history page or the Plymouth Owners' Club.
Chrysler Heritage • History by Year • Chrysler People and Bios • Corporate Facts and History
All Mopar Car and Truck News