The 1975-1989 Plymouth Fury and Plymouth Gran Fury
The Plymouth Fury started as a high performance version of the standard Plymouth, but the name was quickly applied to the brand’s full-size cars, where it stayed for most of its life. But in 1975, the Plymouth Fury name was moved to the B-body cars, replacing the Satellite (which had replaced the Belvedere). These are the Furys that probably come to mind for younger Americans.
Hill Street Blues showed Chicago's B-body Furys (and Diplomats) in their day-to-day life; they accelerated fast, looked sharp, and swung their rears around wildly whenever they went around a turn, as did most other cars on Hill Street Blues, which seemed to eschew slow-motion chases made fast by speeding up the film. This model of the Plymouth Fury was also popular on T.J. Hooker and CHiPS, and made an appearance on the movie Car Wash, where it was extensively filmed while being washed — and then left parked on-premises throughout the film.
In 1975, Chrysler Corporation made a number of changes to its unit-body construction in intermediate lines, to increase front barrier impact and help the styling of two-door models. This included a new separate front wheelhouse (rather than using welded-in fender side shields); windshield pillars and front-door hinge pillars reinforced at the roof, belt line, and base of the pillar; thick steel reinforcements added inside the body sills from the front pillars to the center pillars; steel box sections from the front door hinge pillar to absorb impact loads; lower side rails at the side of the engine compartment made of heavier gauge steel; and box-section members joining the forward lower side rails with the body side sills made of heavier gauge steel for better impat resistance.
This was the same year the Plymouth Fury was restyled and moved to the B-body platform, replacing the Belvedere, with the Gran Fury (shown in police trim above) staying on the newly redesigned C-body platform. With this change, the Road Runner was given Fury styling — but only for a single year, before moving on to the Volare, where it would finish its life with the basic concept of a rugged, pure-performance machine forgotten.
Priced ranged from $3,700 to $6,344 (Gran Fury Sport Suburban wagon). Plymouth bragged about the "good mileage," 16/23 with automatic, similar to a 2008 Jeep Wrangler or Toyota FJ Cruiser or Ford Flex (but with a more lax measurement system). Engines ranged from the slant six to 318 and 360 V8 to 440 V8.
Lanny Knutson wrote about the 1975 changes in the Plymouth Bulletin (reprinted by permission):
The popular Fury nameplate was now being affixed to the mid-sized line, making the "New Small" Fury, on paper at least, seem more fuel efficient. There was still a big Fury, carrying on with bodies that were brand new in 1974. To distinguish this car from the new "smaller" Fury, Plymouth dubbed it the Gran Fury. Applied to the top-trimmed Fury the previous three years, the Gran Fury moniker now identified the entire full-sized line.
The new "small" Fury (huge cars by today's standards) consisted of the 115-inch wheelbase coupes and the carry-over 117.5-inch wheelbase sedans and wagons, with new front clips restyled to accept the coupe's grille and headlight panel. These cars would carry on until the B-body's demise at the end of the 1978 model year.
Single headlights returned to the B-body Plymouths for the first time since 1966. Once considered down-scale from dual-headlight systems, these headlamps were enjoying a resurgence, perhaps because they evoked a certain formality auto designers were then seeking to convey. The top-of-the-line Gran Fury Brougham was also given single-unit headlights while lesser Gran Furys had to make do with the out-of-fashion duals. In 1976 the whole Gran Fury line would get these headlamps.The Fury entered 1976 virtually unchanged. A noticeable variation was an opera window/vinyl roof treatment on the Fury Sport (not Sport Fury) hardtop coupe. The traditional hardtop look remained on the Fury (no special name) hardtop coupe. The Road Runner which had moved to the new compact Volare line.
The 117.5-inch wheelbase sedan also came in two levels: the "just plain" Fury sedan and the Salon sedan, a high-line model, not a package as in the previous year. The Suburban wagon, also with a 117.5-inch wheel-base, came in base form with the Fury name only and as a woodgrain-trimmed Sport Suburban.
The 225 and 318 were the standard six and V8 engines. The 360 was the basic engine for the Suburbans. The four-barrel 360 and 400 V8s were optional on all Furys; the 400 two-barrel was available on all but the wagons.
A new electronic spark advance module called Lean Burn was introduced by Chrysler on all its 400 and 440 engines. Six sensors monitored the engine RPM, manifold vacuum, water temperature, ambient temperature, intake air temperature and throttle position, sending the data to a small computer unit mounted on the air filter housing. A pioneering version of what is under the hood of every new car, Lean Burn was designed to avoid the driveability problems of manually leaned carburetors. Although it gained approximately one mile per gallon, the primary purpose of the system was controlling emissions inside the engine; it permitted Chrysler to avoid use of catalytic converters. In 1977, Lean Burn was extended to the 360 engine.
The full-sized Gran Fury entered its second year with that name, and the third year with the body. There was some change: the 1975 Brougham's single headlight units (the first in a full-sized Plymouth since 1957) with integrated vertical parking lights were incorporated across the board.
Models were reduced to "basic" Gran Fury, Custom and Brougham (or Sport Suburban) designations. The Brougham hardtop was given a new opera window/vinyl top configuration.
Wheelbases remained at 121.5 inches on the sedans; 124 on the wagons. The 318 V8 was standard on the basic Gran Fury; the 360 two-barrel on the Custom; and the 400 two barrel on the Broughams and Suburbans. Optional, in a complex availability combination, were the 360, 400 two-and four-barrel, and the 440 four-barrel engines.
For fleet buyers, 1976 was a good year, with AMC offering a one year, 12,000 mile warranty that covered everything but tires, for defects or for wear; and with Chrysler Corporation offering a similar one year warranty, but with unlimited miles, and not covering tires or normal maintenance items like filters and wiper blades. Taxis, police, and limousine buyers got a 12,000 mile limit. Plymouth noted the 1976 Fury’s size, “smaller and less expensive than a full-size car, yet it still has room for six.” They pointed to the 4,000 welds fusing the body together; 30,000 mile spark plugs; and electronic ignition.
In 1977, a low-slip torque converter was adopted; by improving the oil path from the impeller to the turbine and back (by way of the stator), increasing the area of the oil flow path by 20%, oil flow friction losses were lessened, increasing gas mileage and torque capacity. (This was not the lockup torque converter, which was launched just one year later, in 1978.)
The company also adopted new wire terminals, a more reliable starter relay, six-pound-lighter, more durable batteries, a more efficient torque converter, and various parts designed to have higher strength with lower weight. The horrific rust issues on the Volare/Aspen, led to a running change in 1976, so that all models in 1977 had a new, more effective seven-stage autophretic coating system including baking and curing; more effective than the asphalt-based rustproofing of prior years, it used less energy and cut fire hazards and pollutants. Chrysler was the first domestic automaker to use that painting system.
Lanny Knutson wrote in the Plymouth Bulletin (reprinted by permission):
For 1977, the Fury line received minor styling alterations. Most notable were the latest fashion, rectangular quad headlights mounted in the already squared front fenders. The grille texture and tail-light design were also changed, the coupe's backup lights were moved from the tail lamps to the bumper and the "oh-so-significant" opera windows were changed from a dual to a single pane appearance. Amber turn signals were also introduced.
With General Motors downsizing all its "full-sized" cars to mid-size dimensions, the handwriting was on the wall for all land yachts, including the Gran Fury. Bowing out at the end of the 1977 model year, the big Fury spent its final season with with just two trim levels, basic and Brougham/Sport Suburban and no other changes.
The 1977 Gran Fury outsold its 1976 edition, 47,552 to 39,510.
The Gran Fury was no longer available in 1978, but the newly B-bodied Fury continued, with eight models including two door Fury and Fury Sport hardtops, four-door Salon, four-door sedan and Sport Wagon, and Suburban four-door wagon. The Fury continued to be comfortable and quiet, with a popular option being a pleasant burgundy velour fabric on the seats (with matching dash and door panels). Any engine could be ordered with the Fury in 1978 from slant six to 400 V8, and power steering and automatic were standard; in 1979, the biggest engine would be the 360. Cornering of the Fury was surprisingly good for such a big car.
After The End: The 1980-1981 Plymouth Gran Fury
1979 had no Fury, but in 1980, the Gran Fury name was brought back and applied to the R-body Chrysler Newport (an odd decision, since both were sold in the same dealerships). It came only as a four door sedan, and was intended mainly for fleets. Sales were dismal, and the Newport, New Yorker, Gran Fury, and St. Regis (the R-bodies) were all cut loose in 1981, ending Chrysler’s entire full size line — which had just come out in 1979 (admittedly, they were based on the venerable B-bodies, which wound up their long run in 1979.)
Downsized again: 1982-1989 Plymouth Gran Fury
1982 brought a new and different Gran Fury, much smaller than its predecessors. This one was basically a Dodge Diplomat M-body, closely based on the Volare (which, in turn, was based on the Valiant; in earlier days the A, F, J, and M bodies would probably all have been called A bodies). For details on this line, see our Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury page.
The Gran Fury brought Chrysler's rear wheel drive car architecture and the Fury name through to 1989; the 1982-1989 Gran Fury was essentially unchanged through its seven-year run, except for minor appearance details and the loss of the slant six. The M-bodies were remembered for their durability as taxis and police cars. They were much more popular with the police than with taxi fleets; a few were also sold to ordinary people, but not many.
The Fury was one of the best-loved (by patrolmen) police cars of all time. It was immortalized on TV in innumerable series as the squad car - in Hill Street Blues, T.J. Hooker, and many other shows. The New York City police department standardized on Plymouths after the real-life chase that was portrayed in The French Connection, where the detective's own car stayed in one piece while the criminal's disintegrated, so the Fury became ubiquitous in the city...until the Gran Fury and Diplomat replaced it.
Not until the 1990s did GM and Ford take over, and even then, the NYPD waited as long as it could - along with thousands of taxi drivers. (New York also held onto the Caprice as long as it could, finally giving in to the Crown Victoria before trying to go back to the Chevy Impala; we're waiting to see if New York returns to Chrysler with the Dodge Charger.)
Curtis Redgap wrote:
The New York Police Department always got police packages for their cars once they were made available by the manufacturers. The department is divided into two separate groups: a neighborhood patrol and a highway patrol, whose vehicles are all equipped with the pursuit packages.
In the neighborhood division, they got the 225 cubic inch slant six. At that time, the 6 was equipped for police work with dual camshaft drive chains, an extra oil ring on the pistions, dual engine mount rings, and a larger drive for the oil pump.
The highway patrol usually got a 383 cubic inch 4 barrel, dual exhaust equipped V-8, suitable for extended police work.
NYPD did not really make use of high performance vehicles, so they never really became a great requirement for them. Reliability and economy were the main considerations. Equipment wise, the Plymouths were made with the black vinyl interior, rubber floor mats, radio delete, TorqueFlite, SureGrip 3.21 rear axles, power steering and power brakes. A driver mounted spot light was standard. Special equipment was put on by the special services division at the city garage.
The 1989 Plymouth Gran Fury (and its Dodge Diplomat stablemate) was the final official Mopar squad until the Intrepid police package.
Plymouth Fury Links
- 1956-1974 Plymouth Fury
- The Dodge Diplomat/Plymouth Gran Fury squad car
- Plymouth Fury stories
- Plmouth Fury, Dodge Monaco, and Gran Fury forums
- Dodge Monaco
Plymouth Fury engines
Most information was garnered from The Monstrous American Car Spotter's Guide. Thanks to Andy Garland and Ken Soukup for their help, to Jim Jacobsen of Maine for rewriting (with substantial additions) the 1967 and 1968 sections, and to Thomas Frogh for 1970s corrections.