Now for the Second Million: Plymouth cars of 1934
Following the dramatic sales performance of the 1933 Plymouth in which it had captured one quarter of the new car market, it would have been simple for Walter Chrysler to sit back and rest on his laurels. Not so - for 1934 Chrysler would market a new car, one which would feature more luxury items of the "high priced" class than the competitors in the low-priced field. Included among the list of items the new car would boast was independent front suspension along with Plymouth's familiar all steel body, hydraulic brakes and countless other features.
Production of the 1934 models began late in December or 1933 with a public announcement date set for January 13, 1934. The car was shown one week early at the New York Auto Show which opened January 6th. The car was very well received and the crowds gathered around to look at Mr. Chrysler's latest car. Shortly after the New York show came the Detroit Auto Show and it too proved to be a success. 370 new cars were sold on the auditorium floor at Detroit.
Dealers received a letter from Chrysler Corporation General Sales Manager Joseph W. Frazer (later the Frazer of Kaiser-Frazer) advising them that volume production of the '34 models would not begin until after January 15th. However Frazer did urge them to place their orders for the new models as well as place their orders for the current models. Strange as it may seem it was possible to order both new '33 and new '34 models at the same time! Perhaps slow delivery of the '34 models was a means for the factory to unload undelivered '33 models still in stock.
By January 30th the dealer network received another letter, this time from Plymouth General Sales Manager Harry G. Moock advising them that production had now reached 1,500 cars per day. By early March demand was so great the factories were working day and night six days a week to keep up. Before the end of the year Plymouth had passed two milestones in production. On July 26th production of the 1934 models had surpassed the total production of the 1933 models and on August 8th the one millionth Plymouth rolled from the assembly lines with Walter Chrysler on hand for the festivities. At years end 320,171 1934 Plymouths had been built.
Shortly after the one millionth car was completed the car was taken to Chicago and put on display at the Century of Progress Exposition. Upon hearing the news of the one millionth car, Mrs. Ethel Miller of Turlock, California wired Walter P. Chrysler. She asked if she could purchase this car, as she had been the purchaser of the very first Plymouth built. Mr. Chrysler advised her she could buy the car and Mrs. Miller drove her '28 coupe to Chicago where she took delivery of the '34 PE four door sedan. The '28 was then placed on display at the Exposition. Upon taking delivery of the car Mrs. Miller asked Chrysler if he would reserve the second millionth car for her when it was built. She took delivery of that car in 1937! In only six years Plymouth had built one million cars. It had taken Henry Ford twelve years to build a million cars and Chevrolet nine years.
Only two Plymouth models were initially introduced in January. These were the Deluxe Plymouth PE on a 114" wheelbase and the New Plymouth PF on a 108" chassis. Body styles in the two series included a two door and four door sedan, a business coupe, a rumble seat coupe and a convertible coupe on the PE chassis only. An interesting model available to dealers at announcement time was the Flame Cars, so named because of their burnt orange color (the factory called it Carrotee No. 3). The cars were unique. In addition to the flashy paint the cars came with specially lettered tire covers and windows advertising the dealership. It was reported that some cars even had mirrored windows so the driver could see out but no one could see in! This special demo package cost the dealer $13.
Early in March the PG series was launched bringing for the first time three distinct models to the Plymouth sales lineup. The PG shared the 108" wheelbase of the PF series but unlike the PF, which had an independent front suspension, the PG went back to a drop forged I beam front axle. The PG was the business series and as such was the cheapest car in the sales lineup. The PG was available only in two body styles, a coupe and a two door sedan. 62 PG four door sedans were built but that body style never reached mass production.
With the introduction of the PG series, prices of the PF cars went up. The advertised selling prices of the PF coupe and two door were now the prices of the PG coupe and two door. These prices went into effect February 17, which was the dealers' announcement date of the PG series.
Dealers received an announcement in a letter dated March 19 that a new body style was to be made available. Touted as the "smartest model ever offered on a Plymouth chassis" the Town Sedan came into being. It was described as a close coupled model, slightly shorter from rear window to windshield. The really striking features of the car was the built in trunk at the rear and the blanked out rear quarter windows. The formal public notice of the Town Sedan was in April. Available on both the PE and PF chassis it was the most expensive factory body style.
On April 13 another new model was made available. Called the Westchester Semi-Sedan Suburban, it was in reality a wooden bodied station wagon. Although it was first thought the '34 Westchester was the first wagon offered on a Plymouth chassis the factory announcement said we are "once again pleased to offer" such a body style, It is known at least one wagon body was mounted on both a '32 PB and a '33 PD chassis. Only 35 Westchesters were built in 1934.
Bodies for the Westchester were built by the U.S. Body & Forging Company of Buffalo, New York. Actual construction of the bodies was done in the company's facilities in Tell City, Indiana. Utilizing a PE chassis equipped with heavy duty front and rear springs the 7-8 passenger body was constructed of white ash with oak flooring. The door panels were made of cottonwood panels and a red gum belt moulding ran around the car. Three sets of seats upholstered in Spanish grain leather were included, with the two sets of rear seats removable. The sheet metal on all the wagons was painted black and no rear bumper was used. Free wheeling transmission and automatic clutch were not available on the Westchester and the final price fob at the Tell City plant was $820.
Again on May 29 another series of cars was launched. This car was dubbed the New Plymouth Special Six and although it was stressed that this was not a new model it has commonly come to be known as the PFXX model. Starting with the basic PF the PFXX came equipped with Accessory Group C. This consisted of steel artillery wheels (wire wheels became optional in June), 5.25x17 tires, dual trumpet horns, dual taillamps, chrome windshield frame, chrome headlamp shells, Valchrome (satin finish) grill and an interior sun visor. In addition the PFXX was factory wired for a radio antenna (it was a $1 option on the PF) and the dash was modified to accept a glove compartment and an ash receiver. The PFXX sold for $5 more than a Ford Deluxe V8 and was heavily advertised.
After the introduction of the PFXX it was decided the dual horns and twin taillamps added so much to the appearance of the '34 models that a service package was offered so dealers could "update" cars presently in stock. (These items were also offered factory installed as Accessory Group B.)
The big engineering news of the year was the introduction of independent front springing. Plymouth was the only car in the low priced field to utilize such a system. The front coil springs, made from a rod of spring steel originally 12 feet 3 inches long, combined with double acting shock absorbers to achieve a much smoother ride than had been possible before. In the rear, Oilite leaf springs were used. The springs had a rubber cushion mount at the front of the spring while the rear was fitted with a silent U shackle.
The 201 cubic inch six-cylinder engine was now in its second year of production and it was mounted in Plymouth's famous "Floating Power" rubber engine mountings which was pioneered on the PA model of 1931. With a bore and stroke of 3 1/8" by 4 3/8" the engine developed 77 horsepower with the standard cast iron head and 82 horsepower with the optional aluminum head. The engine also featured four main bearings, a seven counterweight crankshaft, a silent timing chain, downdraft carburetor, a manifold heat control system, an oil filter, full pressure lubrication, 4 ring pistons, a by-pass thermostat control system and exhaust valve seat inserts. An automatic choke was optional!
Only the PE series was fitted with the free wheeling transmission or an automatic clutch. The automatic clutch operated on engine vacuum and allowed the drivers to shift gears without using his left foot on the clutch pedal. Depending on the vacuum in the manifold unit either engaged or disengaged the clutch. The only movement required on the drivers part was to shift the gear lever. The vacuum clutch was an $8 option and at the start of production was included on every PE built but by February it had to be specifically ordered by the dealer to be included on the car.
The free wheeling transmission allowed the driver to release his foot from the accelerator and allow the car to coast while still in gear. In effect the free wheeling prevented "engine braking" and the engine was allowed to run at idle speed while the car coasted along on its own momentum with the transmission still in gear. When the driver wished to speed up all he had to do was step on the throttle.
New to the PE series was the "perfected Ventilation" system. The front vent windows could be swung out and the front door window rolled down—or by locking both of them in the closed position and throwing a lever, the entire mechanism could be lowered into the door. The rear quarter windows of the sedan were also of the wing out type and the windshield could be opened as well. In addition all cars were equipped with a cowl ventilator.
As with cars sold today the advertised selling price and the actual price differ greatly. Many items that are considered standard today were extra cost in 1934. Periodically Plymouth would mail dealers a Schedule of Estimated Cost to Retail Purchaser Chart. These charts were made for specific geographic regions. An example of such a chart for the New England and Midwest states of Iowa and Minnesota reveal what a prospective buyer would have to pay for a PF and PE rumble seat coupe on January 10, 1934:
|PF R-S Coupe||585.00||PE R-S Coupe||615.00|
|Bumpers, spare tire, tube||21.00||Bumpers, spare tire, tube||22.00|
|Tire cover (enamel drill)||1.50||Tire cover (metal)||6.50|
|Radiator ornament||3.50||Radiator ornament||3.50|
|Handling and Delivery||10.00||Handling and Delivery||10.00|
As is all too common today, the prices of the new Plymouth increased throughout the year. The prices increased on April 2 but were rolled back somewhat on June 5 after the government threatened action.
An extensive advertising campaign was undertaken for the '34 models and the cars appeared in several movies as well. One such movie was filmed at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition and featured stunt drivers Barney Oldfield, Billy Arnold and Harry Hartz. The movie, entitled "Death Cheaters' Holiday" recounted the performances of the trio of hell drivers who systematically rolled over new Plymouth's all steel bodies.
As if not to be outdone, Californian Fred Luther took a factory fresh PF six cylinder engine and transmission and mounted them in a modified Henderson X motorcycle frame in an attempt to set a motorcycle speed record of 300 miles per hour. He completed the motorcycle in 1935 and took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where the PF engine, now hopped up to 125 horsepower, propelled the bike to a 160.33 mile an hour two way average. On the return run the Plymouth engine blew at 180 miles an hour while it was still in second gear. Luther parked the bike and never again attempted the speed record although he always felt the bike did have the potential to reach the 300 mile an hour mark.
With the great variety of models offered throughout the year the restoration of a '34 Plymouth can become a nightmare to those tackling their first car. Early cars vary greatly from later cars and many individual items vary as well. A guide to restoration will appear in Allpar at a later date.
1934 Plymouth production by body style
Plymouth 1934 prices by model
|Chassis||$390||Coupe||$540||Town Sedan||$695||Town Sedan $655|
|Chassis||$425||R-S Coupe||$630||R-S Coupe||$590|