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by Lanny Knutson. Copyrighted by the Plymouth Bulletin. Reprinted by permission.
Any typographical errors are our own!
The cute little heart with its a new-tipped tail was everywhere in Plymouth's advertising that year. Done up in the Mod Art style in vogue at the time it suggested that, cupid-like, Plymouth's heart was reaching out to win your own. If you were an owner of a competitive make--especially if that competitive make's name was Pontiac, holder of the third place in sales Plymouth so coveted--Plymouth was out to win you over.
For the first time in its 39 year history, Plymouth was offering four lines; with three of them completely redesigned. Plymouth, confident it could fulfill its advertising pledge, was all set to win over the competition.
The renewed flagship of the Plymouth line was due for its first restyle after wresting styling leadership from General Motors in 1957. Chrysler had tried it again in 1962 but with nearly disastrous results From then on Chrysler more or less conceded tyling leadership to G.M. and was quite willing to follow the General's lead. When Plymouth's re-introduced full-sized car finally appeared in 1965, it bore the long straight lines and square corners that sold a lot of cars for General Motors in the early sixties. Ironically, at the same time, they discovered that G.M. had switched to a curvaceous flowing style. With the usual threeyear lead time necessary in designing a car, Chrysler would have been unable to respond to the new style by 1967 even if it wanted to. But it did "want to" enough to soften the lines introduced in 1965. The Engle trademark knife edge running along the fender tops from front to rear was still there but with a kickup over the rear wheels interrupting the straight line.
The tops of the front fenders were slanted inward which, together with a similar indentation in the bumper, surrounded the headlamps. These headlamps remained stacked vertically, a style that was becoming passe. Introduced by Pontiac in 1963, it was abandoned by its Grand Prix in 1967 and the rest of the line (and Ford too) in 1968. Plymouth and American Motors' Ambassador followed suit in 1969.
At the rear, the flat trunk lid displayed an interesting "beak" at its center (or was it a vestigial Mat-tail reminiscent of the speedsters of the thirties?). Under the lid ran a taillight panel front side to side. On the upper scale VIP, Sport Fury and Fury III cars this panel was nearly filled with taillights (three per side with the middle segments containing backup lights). The section right tinder the beak contained aluminum trim that bore red reflective material when mounted on VIP and Sport Fury cars and was plain when installed on Fury Ills. The lower line Furys I and II bore two segments per side with the inner lenses bearing the standard backup lights. The body sculpting of the previous two years was replaced by slab sides which were broken up by larger wheel openings and a full-length indentation at bumper level.
No rear fender skirts were offered in 1967. Instead, the wheel openings of the Sport Fury were outlined with bright moldings. On the VlP, they were highlighted by a wide trim molding nmning from front bumper to rear. line only sheet metal to remain from 1965-66 was found on the sedan and station wagon roofs. Early two-door hardtop prototypes—as shown on one brochure picture—bore an unchanged 1965-66 roof. However, by production time the triangular lines of the C-pillar became parallel. Standard on the VIP and optional on the Sport Fury was a new Fast-Top. With wide C-pillars and Barracuda-like rear side windows, it gave the appearance of a fastback. Instead of meeting the rear deck with a definite crease as did the standard hardtop, the Fast-Top joined it with a gentle curve. [he four-door hardtop's roof was also redesigned to completely surround the rear window, giving it a more luxurious formal appearance that was especially desirable for the upscale VIP. Also shared with the Fury Ill, the roof on that car was not met by little triangular trim pieces mounted on the rear doors.
At the base of the rear windows of both the four-door hardtop and Fast-Top was a vent not unlike that found on the front cowl. This was the exit vent for the newly introduced flow-Though ventilation system. Entering at the cowl, air would fully change four times a minute at 60mph with no sensation of wind movement, then it exited through a vacuum controlled valve and out the rear vents. Though ingenious, the system did not prove to be very popular or useful. Owners of the upper scaled ears on which flow-through was installed tended to prefer air conditioning.
The new driver-oriented dash featured Safe/Nite instrumentation that was lit by external floodlighting (an old concept from the early days of the automobile refined to be more effective than inside-the-instrument lighting). Toggle or roller switches lessened the possibility of injury of occupants not belted in. For those who were, optional shoulder bells were offered, as were headrests. The standard crushable steering column could be topped with Tilt-a-Scope steering providing both tilt and fore-and-aft adjustability.
In addition to AM and PM/AM rddios the brochure says "the real connoisseur may choose a Stereo tape cartridge player and rear seat speaker."
A the top end of the Fury engine lineup was a new 375 hp 440 replacing the 365 hp 440 first introduced the previous year. The extra ten horses came from heads redesigned with smoother passages and bigger valves. Actually designed for the new Belvedere GTX, the heads were given to the Fury as well. The 440 engines installed in station wagons produced only 350 horsepower.
On the other end of the V8 engine scale was a new 318. It looked little different from the 273 V8 introduced for the mid 1964 Valiant and it did, in, fact share the same heads and other external components. Internally the new LA-block 318 carried the same crankshaft, rods and pistons as the old A-block introduced in 277 and 303 cubic inch forms in 1956. Externally, it used the same water pump. This engine was standard for all VIPs and Sport Furys and the Fury II and Ill hardlops and convertibles. The 225 Slant Six was the standard powerplant for all Fury I, II and III sedans.
Not much change here except for three little letters.. plus three numbers: GTX 440. But that was enough! All new the previous year, the Belvedere was in line for much more than trim changes. The only sheet metal variation on for 1968 was found on the tnink lid where a concave lion ran from taillight to taillight matching the same shape of new lenses. The remaining changes were limited to trim such as an argent painted lower panel on the Satellites done in the same fashion as on the `66 Signet. The single headlamps were exchanged for duals with the high beam lamps taking the place of the previous years parking lights which, in line, were moved down to the bumper.
There were two new Belvederes, one each at the bottom and top of the price scale. With the demise of its Valiant wagon, Plymouth attempted to replace it with what it called the Belvedere wagon (no roman numerals). They managed to get the price down close to the level of more expensive of the two 6 Valiant wagons and it did outsell the Belvedere I wagon but a compact it wasn't. The Belvedere wagon was dropped after one year.
But on to the three letters. They were in reply to questions used by people like Hot Rod Magazine's Eric Dahlstrom, `How can you tell it's a hemi?' One possible problem with the Street Hemi, the most powerful engine to come out of Detroit in 1966, was that it was installed in cars that, except for discrete "HEMI" badges, looked no different from those powered by 318s and slant Sixes. "It pays to advertise," claimed Dahlstrom, and that's what Plymouth did for `67.
The two-door hardtop body was outfitted with fibreglass simulated hood scoops and optional racing stripes, a blacked out grille and on the rear fender a racing style pop open gas cap. Inside was a 150 mph speedometer and optional electric tachometer unfortunately mounted out of the way on the optional center console.
Standard engine for the GTX was the 440. Chrysler prepared the engine for its first appearance in a mid-sized car by raising its horsepower rating from the 365 hp it produced for the `66 full-sized cars to 375. The increase was accomplished by heads redesigned for bigger valves. The optional engine was actually 14 cubic inches smaller but with its legendary hemi heads, dual four-barrel carbs and slighfly higher compression ratio, the 426 Herni produced 50 more horsepower. It was also a bit less "streetable,' making the 440 a more practical choice.
Hemis were installed in 125 GTXs, 14 in convertibles (10 with Torqueflite; 7 with four speed transmissions) and 108 in hardops (48 Torqueflites; 60 four speeds). Road testers had a field day determining which would win cubic inches or horsepower. ("Aw shucks, somebody's gotta do it!") Generally they discovered that the Hemi would win on on the quarter mile but since the 440's 480 lb-ft of torque peaked at 3200 rpm and its 375 hp at 4800 rpm while the Hemi had to wait until it reached 4000 rpm for its 490 lb-ft of torque md 5000 rpm for its 425 hp, a race was a often tight and a well-driven well-tuned 440 could beat a Hemi on any given race.
The Hemi was available only in the GTX in 671, unlike the previous year when it could theoretically be installed in any Belvedere body. (One Hemi in fact, was actually factory installed in a `66 Coronet four-door sedan!) A good number of buyers went for all-go-and-no-show, spending their hard earned cash on a Hemi engine installed in a lowly stripped-down two door sedan body. To get the same engine in 1967, the buyer had to pay for the fancy GTX body. This situation left many little guys out in the cold, Hemi wise. Thus, while 1510 Hemi-powered Bolvederes were sold in 1966, only 125 were produced in 1967.
The availability of the 440 took away some Hemi sales; the lack of a low-bucks body took the rest. This problem Plymouth would address with a vengeance in 1968. (hint? Beep-Beep!) There was, in fact, one non-GTX Hemi-powered Plymouth available in 1967. Not many were seen because it was sold only to select drag racing teams. It featured lightweight front end components and a higher output Hemi engine. Although designed strictly for off-street use, some of the cars did, according to some reports, did appear on the streets. No matter what its engine the GTX was a car, said Car Croft magazines Dick Scntchfield, "that can be driven to the strip and back home again, with a trophy!"
Although last--introduced Nov. 25, more than two months after tine other Plymouths' Sept. 19 introduction--Barracuda was hardly least. "Unquestionably the best-looking car in 1967.' said Car and Driver. "One of the toughest looking cars this year," said Hal Rod's Eric Dalquist; "probably the best composite of lines and curves ever issued from Chrysler.. why in he world didn't they let these designers loose a lot of years ago?'
The new Barracuda, fine product of the design team of Plymouth Chief Stylist Dick McAdam, represented Chrysler's first application of the flowing-curves style introduced by General Motors in 1965. It was the perfect candidate because, unlike like other Plymouth hues for `67, Barracuda didn't have a sedan to compromise ifs sporty styling.
The first generation Barracuda was basically the opposite, a fastback roof grafted on Valiant body. After three seasons, Barracuda was on its own, the hardtop coupe and convertible that had been Valiant's were moved over to the new Barracuda line. The fastback. nevertheless, remained the flagship of the Barracuda line. Indeed, the new Barracuda seemed purposely designcd for the Fastback style and, in a reversal of 1964, the hardtop and convertible seemed afterthoughts.
With the three ody styles. Barracuda matched Mustang which had been marketing lmrdtops, fastbacks and convertibles since1965. However, Plymouth decided not to match Mustang's long hood/short deck dimensions that had also been adopted by the new-for-'67 Cougar.
Camaro and Firebird which had just entered the sporty car field. For all its new good looks, the Barracuda seemed a bit out of style. Although it was separated from the Valiant line, Barracuda still shared Valiant's chassis platform plus its cowl and windshield which not only dictated its fore-and-aft dimensions but also its height. A driver sat higher in a Barracuda than in its competitors--comfortably practical but not as sporty as when you're sitting low with your feet straight out. (Ironically, it was Plymouth who earlier championed the it long-hood/short-deck style on its 60 Valiant and `62 Plymouth. But after the sales disaster of `62 it was quickly abandoned only to be picked up by Ford's Mustang two years later. When Barracuda finally adopted the accepted sporty car dimensions in 1970, its profile -appeared similar to that of the `67 Camaro while in another irony, the new `70 Camaro sported a fasthack roof that seemed to be a direct decendent of the `67 Barracuda. Had the `67 Barracuda had been designed in the long-hood/shortdeck style, General Motors might never have introduced its `70 Camaro/Firebird for fear of accusations of blatant plagiarism!
Buyers, too, seemed to agree the Barracuda was designed to be a fasthack. The Sports Fastback (as Plymouth officially called it) nearly matched the sales of the hardtop Coupes (also official nomenclature) and convertible combined. Although welcome additions to the Barracuda line, the latter two, with their high cowls and conventional hood and deck dimensions, seemed to be more sporty compacts than sporty car competitors to Mustang, et. al.
An titanic rear window featuring a concave curve near its upper edge was designed for the Hardtop Coupe. Whether it was because of a greater manufacturing expense or because people just found it strange, the window was replaced by a conventional unit the following year.
"If they'd only put a 383 in it,' the auto editors chorused when we first saw the car," wrote Eric Dahiquist. "`It would fit, too; the body's two inches wider than in `66. but they probably won't. You know Chrysler"' They didn't know Chrysler very well, Dahlquist had to confess because "that's exactly what they went and did." The two extra inches provided just enough room for a 383 under the Barracuda's hood. Restrictive exhaust manifolding helped keep its horsepower down to 280, compared to its 325 hp counterpart in the bigger Plymouths. (The 325 lip version apparently did become available in the Barracuda later in the model year).
The big engine left room for neither air conditioning nor the power steering that would have been especially welcome in such a front-heavy car. And changing spark plugs on a hot engine was "almost suicidal" according to Dahlquist. More appropriate as a high performance mill for the Barracuda was the 273 Commando. Although putting out 45 less horsepower, the LA small block was much lightcr--100 pounds, to be exact--and provided for a much better balanced driving machine. Since it was a carryover from the first generation Barracuda which had no chassis room for dual exhausts, the Commando 273 still carried its low-restriction single exhaust system with its large square resonator. Although its new chassis did have space for duals, which were standard on the 383, Plymouth chose not to spend development dollars for 273 duals. In 1968, the 273 Commando was set to be replaced by a much more potent 340 small block destined for legend status.
A required option on all 383-equipped Barracudas was the Formula S package. It featured bigger torsion bars, a front sway bar, heavy duty shocks, six-leaf rear springs, 5.5x14 wheels with wide oval fires, ten-inch brakes and, of course, round front fender medallions. Disk brakes, also a required option with the 383, were available on all Barracudas, the standard Barracuda engine was the 225 Slant Six. A 273 two-barrel was the standard V8.
Transmission choices included a column-shifted three-speed manual, a Torqueflite with either column or floor console (if so equipped) controls and a floor-shifted four-speed manual. the latter was no longer available with the six cylinder engine. "Guess it's time to start buying American again," said a limey sports car driver' to Dahlquist in his 383-powered Barracuda test car while they inched ahong the Hollywood Freeway. Perhaps it's time for Barracuda once again.
The Canada-United States Autopact-which allowed fully built cars to cross the border either way, duty free--was in its second full year by 1967. The Belvedere line, built only in the U.S., was one car taking advantage of the pact, crossing the border on the way to Canadian dealers. The Fury line, together with other full sized Chrysler products, was built at the Chrysler Canada Windsor plant and continued to show differences from its US counterpart. Most significant of the differences appeared under the hood of 318-powered cars. Instead of the new LA-small block, Canadian 1967s still used the old A-wide block 318. Also, all Furys except the Fury III three-seat wagon could be ordered with Slant Six power, even the convertible.
Other uniquely Canadian models included a Fury I three seatV8 wagon of which 77 were built; a Fury II two-seat six cylinder wagon; and a Fury II two-door hardtop of which 2,405 were sold. Production: Better, but still fourth...
A shallow drop in the U.S. economy in 1967 led to a 13.9% drop in passenger car production for the calendar year. Chrysler fared slightly better than average, dropping only 5.7% and actually increasing its share of industry production, which rose 1.56%. Plymouth managed to keep its decrease to no more than 4.7% by cutting into Ford, Chevrolet and Rambler sales. Yes, Plymouth did win a few over.
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