by Lanny Knutson. Copyrighted by the Plymouth Bulletin. Reprinted by permission.
Finally, Plymouth could put itself behind the disaster of '62. Downsizing from overly large cars may be the sensible thing to do; it was in 1977. But when Plymouth tried it in 1962, Ford and Chevrolet kept their big cars and it was to them that the bulk of the buyers went. The North American love affair with the big car had another decade and a half yet to go.
The smaller size combined with controversial styling came near to doing Plymouth in that year. For 1963 and '64 Plymouth tried to make the car bigger, adding an inch here and there. But mostly the stretching was done visually with long straight lines from front to back.
Now it was 1965, the long straight lines were still there, the trademark of Elwood Engel who replaced Virgil Exner as Chrysler's chief stylist following the '62 flop. But more significantly, the straight lines were found on a brand new car - a big car to compete straight across bumper to bumper, wheelbase to wheelbase, with the large Fords and Chevrolets. The car was conservatively styled, especially compared to the flowing curves introduced by General Motors that year. Yet Plymouth's conservative styling was very tastefully and pleasingly done. The front featured a fine mesh grille flanked by vertically stacked headlight, which were then an industry-wide vogue initiated by the '63 Pontiac. The rear featured segmented taillights that deliniated (some say Chevrolet-fashion) the model: one lamp on each side for the low and medium offerings; two for the higher priced lines.
It was quite obvious, with the styling cues taken from the competition, that Chrysler had given up trying to take the lead in styling. They had tried twice, with immediate success in 1957 and near disaster in 1962. From then on, styling from Chrysler would take its cue from others - mostly GM - attempting to offer their own version in a more pleasing and appealing manner. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't.
Each model of the big car line was dubbed "Fury." Deliniating bottom from top were simple Roman numerals: Fury I, Fury II, Fury III. On the top line, as in the past five years, the name Fury was preceeded by the word "Sport." The name Sport Fury meant there were bucket seats, a console and special trim with VB power only in a two-door hardtop or convertible.
The new Fury, designated AP, shared its body - called the C-body - with Dodge and Chrysler. At 119 inches, its wheelbase was two inches shorter than Dodge's and five inches less than Chrysler's. Unlike Dodge and Chrysler, the Plymouth C-body was not available as a six window sedan but it did come in a two-door sedan that was unavailable from the more expensive marques.
When it came to wagons, the three marques compromised and settled on sharing Dodge's 121 inch wheelbase for this lower production body type.
The older B-body, introduced in 1962, may have been supplanted by the new C-body Fury as the premier Plymouth, but it was hardly gone. The '64 "full size" body was given little more than new front fenders and trim and called the "new" midsized Plymouth - something it really was all along. As such, it was a bit bigger then the competing Chevelle and Fairlane, but this time it was the competition's turn to dance to Plymouth's tune as in succeeding years they increased the size of their midsize offerings.
Like the larger Fury, the "new" line, called Series AR, was given a single name: Belvedere, the name used the previous five years for Plymouth's mid-priced offerings. As with the Fury, the Belvedere line was further broken down by Roman numerals I and II (there was no Belvedere III) and the top-of-the-line equivalent to the Sport Fury was given a name new to Plymouth; Satellite, a name that would remain in use the next ten years. The one body style not carried over from the '64 lineup (when it was considered "full sized") was the four-door hard- top. The remaining bodies were identical from the cowl back, between the two years.
As would be expected, the Belvedere I line offered the basic two and four-door sedans plus a stripped down wagon. Suprisingly, the factory listing shows a two-door hardtop among them. The Super Stock hardtop coupe, with its own number of R01, was officially a Belvedere I. No production figures are given for this car but its list price of $4,671 was $1,462 more than the base price of the Sport Fury convertible!
The Belvedere's front fenders and trim were altered from the previous year to give the mid-size car an appearance of being a junior edition of the full-sized car, as was the industry-wide practice of the time. Thus the Belvedere's grille had the same fine mesh texture as the Fury's and its general shape was also the same except that the Belvedere had single headlights, properly denoting its place in Plymouth's pecking order, in surrounds of a squared-off shape similar to that around the Fury's stacked quads. Likewise, the Belvedere's taillights were of a shape similar to those of the Fury. Inside, a square speedometer, again similar to the Fury's, replaced the round instruments that had been there the previous year.
The most notable change to the Belvedere's instrument panel was the absence of transmission pushbuttons. (The heater control pushbuttons remained, seeming slightly out of place without the transmission buttons they were designed to match.) Chrysler had finally joined the rest of the industry in adopting the column-mounted automatic transmission selector it abondoned in 1955. The entire corporate lineup from Valiant to Imperial made the switch, much to the disappointment of countless Mopar loyalists who enjoyed their beloved push buttons.
Why were the pushbuttons discontinued? There are several popular theories, but one heard at the time was that the selector cost $1 less to manufacture than the pushbuttons. Based on the rationale of "build a million cars, save a million dollars," it made economic sense.
Another theory says that Chrysler was out to increase its "conquest sales" to owners of competing makes and, although liked by Chrysler devotees, the pushbuttons were annoying to people switching over from Ford or GM cars. Enough, possibly, to keep them from buying a Chrysler product.
A third theory has it that the switch was necessitated by a decree from on high - from Washington or the Society of American Engineers or both. Indeed, the selector quadrant order of "PRND12" was standardized by the S.A.E. that year to minimalize the potential of a driver familiar with a different car getting the transmission in the wrong gear.
At any rate, the pushbuttons were gone forever. However, the Torqueflite transmission itself was unchanged. For 1965 only, the column selector activated the transmission through the same kind of cable that had previously been put in motion by pushbuttons. For 1966, the transmission was changed to be activated by a positive linkage.
Under the hood, five engines were available in each series [all described in detail in our engines pages]. Both Fury and Belvedere shared the 225 slant six, and the 318, 383, and 426 wedge V8 engines. The standard V8 for Belvedere was the new 273 introduced mid-year 1964 on the Valiant line. Belvedere's 2bbl. B-block engine was a 361; Fury's was a 383. Both Fury convertibles, the four-door hardtop, Fury III wagon and Sport Fury hardtop all came with standard V8 power, as did the Belvedere's Satellite line. The Belvedere II con- vertible was the first Plymouth of its size since 1954 to be available with six cylinder power.
Also available in the Belvedere series, for off-street racing only, was the 426 hemi that had been introduced the year before.
As the 1965 model year was drawing to a close, the 14 millionth Plymouth rolled off the line (some claim this car was a 1966 model), setting Plymouth's production at an average of 370,000 cars per year since its introduction in 1928.
At 683,456 (others claim 746,4341, Plymouth's production (including the Series A V Valiants, featured in a separate article) was up nearly 19% over 1964, its best year since 1957.
Plymouth was back to the big times!
Chrysler Canada, Ltd., also basked in the excitment created by the new Fury line. The car was similar to the U.S. offering, yet, as usual, different.
The most notable difference was in the complete absence of the Belvedere series. Like its sibling, Coronet, it had a one-year hiatus until the new 1966 intermediates were introduced. Perhaps Chrysler Canada rationalized that, just as in previous years, it was offering a one" full sized" Plymouth line.
The Canadian Plymouth lineup was topped by the Sport Fury that was little different from its U.S. counterpart in appearance except for some minor details such as fender skirts which in Canada were optional, not standard. The Fury III line offered the same selection of bodies, except that all of them, the convertible included, came standard with the 225 slant six engine.
In the Fury II line, a two-door hardtop was available, replacing the two-door sedan that was offered in the United States. Interestingly, all Canadian Furys, except the Sport Fury, came with wheelcovers that appear to be a simpler version of those available on the U.S. Belvedere (which, of course, wasn't sold in Canada). Also of interest is the fact that the Dodge Polara 330,440 (two model names not used by the U.S. Dodge), 880 and Monaco used Plymouth interior appointments, most notably the dash.
There was no Fury I in Canada for 1965. Instead, the car was called the Savoy. That name, in continuous use since 1951 when it appeared on a deluxe wagon, was given a one-year longer lease on life on the north side of the border. Why? Perhaps to give the line a stronger identity since there was no mid-sized series available. Like the U.S. Fury I, the Savoy came in two and four-door sedan and station wagon bodies.
Just four engines were offered in Canada: the 225, called the "Economy Slant Six"; the "Plymouth V-8", now a full 318 cubic inches, up from the uniquely Canadian 313 size it had held since 1958; a 383 4 barrel called the "Hi-Performance V-8"; and the 413 "Maximum Performance V-8."
Since its introduction in 1960, the Valiant had been its own marque in Canada, being sold by both Plymouth and Dodge dealers as simply the "Valiant."
In 1963 and '64, this car had a U.S. Dodge Dart body with Valiant front fenders and trim. In 1965, perhaps again to offset the absence of the Belvedere (and Coronet), Chrysler Canada offered two distinctly different lines of Valiants.
The 100 series bore the complete Valiant body, but with no Plymouth nameplates. Corresponding with the U.S. V100 was the 100; and with the U.S. V200 was the Custom 100. (Plymouth had used the "Custom" name for some of its uniquely Canadian models as far back as 1939.) The Custom 100, available in convertible, hardtop and four-door sedan forms, had the same trim as the U.S. V200. It was a stainless spear that filled completely the "hairpin" vee on the front fenders and bore the stamping "Custom 100."
The Valiant 200 series bore the complete U.S. Dart body but with Valiant, not Dogde, nameplates and emblems. This series came in three lines: 200, Custom 200, and Signet. Figures are not available at this lime, but simple observation indicates that the Dart-bodied Valiant 200s far outsold the Valiant-bodied 100s. Not surprisingly, Valiant reverted to a single body style in 1966 - the Dart, again with Valiant nameplates and emblems. (After 1967, both Darts and Valiants were sold in Canada, as they were in the States, at their respective Dodge and Plymouth dealers.)
The Barracuda too was offered as in the U.S. However, on the hood and the trunk where the American nameplates said "Plymouth", the Canadian plates said "Valiant."
As in the U.S., all four engines - 170,225,273 2bbl., and 273 4bbl. - were available in Canadian Valiants.
The Canada-United States Auto Pact went into effect in 1965. The agreement made possible the duty-free shipment of cars and parts on the manufacturer level. No longer would all cars to be sold in Canada duty-free have to be built in Canada. Nor would the United States charge any duty on new cars built in Canada entering its borders if transported by the manufacturer. From now on the Chrysler Canada Windsor Plant, and others, would build a single line of cars for the entire North American market. The Auto Pact spelled the end of most uniquely Canadian Mopars. Most, but not all!
"The Roaring '65s" is what the advertising people called them. But it was the racing people who had to live up to the name.
Chrysler was heavily into racing by the mid-sixties, battling to outdo Ford's "Total Performance" claims of success on both oval and quarter-mile tracks.
Ford, taken aback by the hemi's rapid dominance of stock car racing in 1964, countered with a hemi of its own, this one with overhead cams. NASCAR, fearing that this engine could escalate the manufacturers into producing all-out racing engines, refused to certify not only Ford's SOHC but also Chrysler's hemi. The Mopar people got a double whammy when NASCAR also refused to certify the Belvedere body that had been used successfully the previous three years. Now that Plymouth had a big car, NASCAR reasoned, they could race it just as Ford and Chevy had been doing with their full size cars.
Chrysler cried "unfair", since it was not something new but something previously used and proven that was being banned, and pulled its factory racing teams, including the very popular Richard Petty. With the Mopar big boys on the sidelines, Plymouth's colors had to be carried by a few independants, such as Buck Baker, running 426 wedge engines in Fury bodies. Even with those handicaps, they managed moderate success. (This was the only time the C-body was seriously run in stock car racing. )
With nothing else to do, the Petty team built a hemi-powered Barracuda, aptly dubbed "43 Jr.", for drag racing. The car was campaigned at southern drag strips throughout the summer, with some success, until tragedy struck. The car flipped out of control into a crowd, killing a boy and ending Petty's drag racing venture.
By this lime NASCAR was relenting a bit on its ban and Petty was back to racing a hemi-powered Belvedere.
This was also the year that Plymouth (and Dodge) provided the drag racing world with a name that is now in common use everywhere. Halfway through the season, in an effort to regain supremacy over Ford, the Belvedere's (and Coronet's) axles were moved forward, with the rear wheel located where the back seat would normally be, in a successful effort to gain a traction advantage with the engine being closer to the driving wheels. (Some of these altered wheelbase cars came with a straight front axle from the Dodge A100 van.) With their wheels way out of place, these cars looked, "well, kinda funny". A new drag racing term was coined: Funny Car. In a couple of years "Funny Car" would come to mean a racing chassis with a flip-up fibreglass body that caricatured the real thing. But it began with those wild '65s from Chrysler.
These altered wheelbase cars, like the more normal Belvedere I Super Stocks, were factory built cars. So, if one shows up at a Plymouth Owners Club show in plain white paint and stock steel wheels, it will have to be judged as a "factory original" just like all the others. Because that's what it is.
Click here for in-depth looks at other years - including Dodge and Chrysler.
Chrysler Heritage • History by Year • Chrysler People and Bios • Corporate Facts and History
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All Mopar Car and Truck News
Chrysler 300 Letter Cars
The Engine Cleanup Committee