by Curtis Redgap. Special to allpar.com
Plymouth’s primary sales maker in 1962 was the Fury; the one pictured is a rare and special breed. It has all the go-fast goodies such as Red Line high speed tires, bigger brakes, special suspension bits, changed Torqueflite shift points, and a host of options that could either be added or, more importantly, deleted at the factory level. There is also one more option that makes this unusually special.
I recognized this model, and the disaster it was for Plymouth commercially. This particular car is stored in a warehouse in my home city. I happened upon it by accident when the owner was cleaning the warehouse one afternoon; it was parked in an empty parking lot, where I spotted it from the main drag. A couple of U-turns, and I was able to scoot up quite near it. I took out my cell phone that has a handy camera and clicked a couple of snap shots. It was then I noted the open doored warehouse, wherein danced some mighty pretty shadows of paint and metal things on wheels. Curiosity got the best of me, like any big kid.
The Plymouth wasn't the only prize inside that building, by a long shot. As I stood just outside the place, a sort of disembodied voice, in a not too friendly tone, asked me, “what do you want?” I explained who I was, and that I wanted to review his cars for a e-zine. He wasn't too thrilled with the concept. He noted that it was a private collection of some very pricey and one-of-a-kind of automobiles and trucks, some fifty of them, inside that warehouse. His concern was the affect on the commercial value that a story might have on the vehicle. He had absolutely no interest in talking about any sales of any of the vehicles, though story would probably generate a few offers. He also did not want his location or name disclosed. It was his call. In exchange for the car’s history, signed with my blood oath, and the promise of giving up the inheritance to my first born son, I got to keep the pictures of a few of the cars, along with his history of some of the vehicles.
As you can tell by the photograph, this 1962 had been tenderly cared for. The claimed actual mileage is 15,252. Some restoration of suspension pieces, tires, and appearance items had to be taken care of, prior to his acquisition of the car. He bought it at an auction in December 2006, for over $25,000 — above normal, according to Old Cars guidelines, but they do not list the single option that sets this apart, making undoubtedly worth more today.
The interior is claimed as being original.
There is some evidence to support this as original contention. At it is presently, there is some small wear on the brake pedal, and a small heel wear spot on the rubber pad at the base of the accelerator pedal. The paint, "Cherry Red," was also claimed as original. It looked about a foot deep, so to speak. The older MoPars did have a better paint finish after 1960 when the seven step deep-dip process was used to prep the raw metal, as well as preserve the bodies over the long haul.
The 1962 Plymouth was dead on arrival at the annual Dealer Meeting. After the very busy styling on the 1960 Plymouth, which was an attempt at remaking the 1957, and the very odd styling on the 1961 Plymouth, with the front end that resembled the monster that ate Cleveland (and a sales total of 207,210 units), everyone was looking to the 1962 models as a salvation from two years of convoluted metal images with Plymouth name plates on them.
There was a roar of disapproval and balls of wadded-up paper aimed at the stage, thrown by exasperated dealers as the 1962 model rolled out in the pre-introduction dealer review. In utter disgust and anger, 20 franchise dealers quit right on the spot. More would follow them later in the year. Shortly after the car did come out in public, it was pretty obvious that is was going to be a strained, underwhelming year. Even excellent reviews by the top auto tester of the time didn't do much to enhance sales.
McCahill characterized the 1962 Plymouth: "It was raining like tears in an Onion Cannery when I performed the road test on the '62 Plymouth. I don't know of a car in its class that can top Plymouth. If offers the best roadability in its class, and this tied up with good brakes makes it just about the safest. The slightly Teutonic looks of the Valiant, enlarged on the '62 Plymouth, stand out like a hip flask in a bikini."
Doing what "Uncle Tom" did best, he took the Plymouth for a road test. The originator of the mark to rate cars by, the 0 to 60 mph test, ran the 1962 Plymouth in an 8 second time. Top speed was a bit over 125 miles an hour. Using his "secret" road, he ran the Plymouth out at 16.0 seconds over a quarter mile with a terminal speed at 90 miles an hour. This model was equipped with the optional 361 cubic inch V-8 that made 305 horsepower and generated 395 foot pounds of torque at a lazy 3,000 rpm.
It could have been a whole lot better. The truncated designs that emerged after a panicky order for Plymouth (and the even wilder incantation for sister Dodge) in 1962 were laid at the feet of Chrysler's Vice President for design, Virgil Exner. Nothing could be further from the truth. Exner had suffered a massive heart attack. Barely surviving, he had to recuperate at home for a long time. During his absence a sort of attempt at a design coup were under way. Throw into the mix the panic-stricken William Newberg, then Chrysler's CEO, who had overheard Chevrolet’s Ed Cole openly discussing a short wheelbase Chevrolet, around 115 inches. Not verifying the information, and acting solely on his own, Newberg, in sheer panic, ordered that the 1962 models, nearly completed, be completely redesigned for a shorter 116 inch wheelbase. Even worse, he ordered that the firewall had to be the same size as the Valiant! The firewall is the base from which a model is built. Besides shrinking the wheelbase, now the designers had to pinch the width as well. For the first time in Chrysler history, the design bureau went into overtime, sometimes working 24 hour shifts for weeks at a time!
Exner had completely set the 1962 lines, including the defunct DeSoto. All of the Chrysler lines were restyled completely. A chance to sweep the industry again, like Chrysler under Exner had done in 1957. In total secrecy, Exner built a car that he had labeled the "Flite Sweep." It was this secretly built model that when shown to upper Chrysler management ended the in-house revolt and sent the members of the attempted coup packing. This put Exner firmly back in control. Many years later, a designer insider admitted that there had been three prototypes already built that were running around at night at the Chelsea Michigan Proving Grounds owned by Chrysler. He further firmly stated that two of the three were DeSoto models!
The Plymouth was the most striking of all, on a 119 inch wheelbase! As well, the center piece for the Plymouth was a stunning 2 door coupe, in the Fury line, called the Super Sport! Plymouth could have had it on the market some months before Chevrolet.
I have been asked time and time again, how such completely ugly cars could have ever made it to the production line for 1962 sales to the public. Especially, if you view the picture above of the model that Mr. Exner meant to go into production. Although I can not claim any insight into the workings of the Chrysler Corporation Board, who ultimately were responsible, I can say that I have a reasonable explanation, which is based upon years of gathering bits and pieces from that time.
Right at the time Mr. Exner was trying to recovery from a massive heart attack, the head of Chrysler Corporation was embroiled in the battle of his corporate life. In 1958, a small group of stockholders, headed by a lawyer named Sol Dann, publicly accused Mr. Colbert, along with other Chrysler officers, of having outside interests in suppliers to the Chrysler Corporation. Mr. Colbert was shocked. He didn't believe the allegations. When Dann was challenged, he retorted with insults, rude noises, and childish sarcastic responses. Consequently, he was not noted, particularly by the Detroit News, an organ that did not want to incur the wrath of the car companies. Since Chrysler lost $35 million dollars in 1958, Dann was considered a wag and a rabble rouser, exhibiting sour grapes.
In 1959, again at the annual stock holders meeting, Sol Dann rose again with the same allegation of sweetheart deals for some suppliers connected to Chrysler Corporation officers. Chrysler lost $5 million in 1959. So, again, Dann was simply not believed and ignored as being disgruntled.
William Newberg was a protégé of Mr. Colbert, on a "fast" track. The only one that disputed his assertion that Chevrolet was downsizing was Virgil Exner. He just simply did not believe it. Yelling from the sidelines was brushed aside since he was ill and not "in the game." The final product was termed "plucked chickens" by Mr. Exner.
In the end, Ed Cole had been describing the Chevy II, which was a totally different line. The big Chevrolet continued on. On the record, Virgil Exner was totally against the 1962 Plymouth and Dodge cars. He extracted a promise that he not be held responsible for them.
At the 1960 Chrysler stockholder meeting, Mr. Colbert reported that Chrysler had earned $32 million in profits; that probably saved his job. Sol Dann rose at that same meeting with incontrovertible proof about Chrysler officers having sweetheart deals. Besides having several inside connections himself, the newly appointed Chrysler president's wife, Dorothy Newberg, made a small fortune from a seat spring supplier totaling some $455,000 in 1960 dollars. The situation erupted into acrimonious accusations, investigations, and sarcastic swipes at Mr. Colbert, and the entire Chrysler Board as well as its officers. Newberg hired a set of attorneys who worked up a deal to keep him out of jail, or even being charged, ending the total scope of the investigation. In return Chrysler got a complete resignation, without any pension or any further contact. Eager to be shed of the man, Mr. Colbert recommended acceptance to the Board. They also gratefully accepted the proposal. Newberg was President for 64 days before Mr. Colbert resumed the Presidency.
With all that going on, no one, absolutely no one, was paying attention to the design bureau. With Exner recuperating at home, and no one in charge, the mice will play. That is where the coup was attempted, and a revolt contemplated. In the meantime, the grind to put together the completely redesigned Plymouth and Dodge cars went on with increasing pressure to get it done, yesterday. In the end, the bureau just simply ran out of time to make it any better than what they had.
Sales were poor for the 1962 model. In an effort to raise interest, Plymouth brought back a moniker that it had used in 1959, when it decontented the Fury. That model, used for one year, was the Sport Fury. Basically, the 1962 Sport Fury, a January 1962 introduction, was an exercise in trim, rather than actually being a pumped-up job. You have to know the car to spot the differences. It did generate a smattering of interest, but sales still lagged. Unfortunately, the fastback Super Sport model that more likely would have had a real effect on sales, simply disappeared into obscurity. In an attempt to raise its desirability, Plymouth advertised the Sport Fury as being a "limited" production item. That was almost laughable in light of the slow sales. In all only 4039 coupes were built, and 1516 convertibles. The top of the Plymouth line included a bucket seat interior, front console, special wheel covers, unique exterior trim, and made a 2 barrel, single exhaust 318 cubic inch V-8 as the standard engine fare.
The 1962 engineering staff was not standing still. The TorqueFlite transmission weighed 60 pounds less, and gave the driver full manual control for the first time. If you selected first, it stayed in first until you selected another gear, or something expired! It also incorporated a "park" position, for the first time, that was operated by a small lever to the left of the push buttons. The interior received a reduction in the front hump for more room. This allowed elimination of the driveline emergency brake, and a redesign of the rear wheel assembly that encompassed the Bendix brakes that were self adjusting. The front sub assembly, that had been a part of the unit body, was now a separate unit that was welded onto the body at the cowl. As a result, the cars were 250 to 500 pounds lighter than anything previously built. Reaching out to reduce routine maintenance costs the steering linkage, clutch linkage, and tie rod ends were all permanently lubricated at the point of assembly. The only grease points were the ball joints, and that was stretched from 3,000 miles to 32,500 miles! The oil change intervals were extended from 2,000 to 4,000 miles. In another engineering move, the interior room actually increased despite the being smaller on the outside.
Lynn Townsend moved up to become President of Chrysler in April 1961, while L. L. Colbert moved back to his Chairman of the board position. Mr. Colbert would not last when Newberg raised his ugly head. Townsend was a numbers cruncher. However, he was a "car guy" at heart. Or at least he tried hard to be. He had the unfortunate duty of letting Virgil Exner go when the board demanded it. He managed to hire Elwood Engle, a designer at Mercury, to take over Chrysler design. Mr. Exner stayed on a few months as a consultant.
At the time, Lynn Townsend had two teenaged sons. When he asked them how Chrysler products showed on the streets, like Woodward Avenue in Detroit, they replied, "like, they don't exist!" Townsend was very unhappy with that. He instituted a series of programs to rectify the visibility of Chrysler Cars. Some would have an almost immediate effect.
Late in February 1962, the cover of Hot Rod magazine was splashed with images of the 1962 plain Jane Plymouth. However, on a stand next to it was an orange engine, with a set of upward swooping tuned exhaust headers, and twin chrome air cleaner covers that sat staggered on the intake manifold.
It was based from the corporate 413 cubic inch V-8. The engineers took this engine to the extreme in a very short time. Using technology gained from previous engine work on intake ram manifolds, Chrysler designed a cross ram of 15 inches, with staggered 4 barrel carburetors feeding opposite banks. This was a pure racing engine, with no heat crossover for the manifold. It was never "mild" but two different versions of the engines were offered. These engines were pure race, never meant for regular street operations. They had mechanical valve trains, special heads with a 2.08 inch intake valve that had been ground to a tulip shape. One version had a 11.1 compression. Horsepower was stated by the factory to be 410 with 460 foot pounds of torque. The wilder model had 13.5 compression, and the factory rated that at 415 horsepower and 470 foot pounds of torque. Outright, the numbers sounded plausible, but in a few short weeks, it was obvious that the numbers given at the factory were utterly ridiculous. Tom Melrose driving a 413 Super Stock '62 Plymouth achieved what up to that time had been considered impossible. He took the stock car to a new quarter mile race record of 11.93 seconds @ 118.57 miles an hour. It had been believed, like the sound barrier, that no stock car would ever be able to bust through the 12 second barrier. Once that myth had been evaporated by the Plymouth, records continued to fall, through 1963 and 1964. Plymouth became the absolute terror of drag strips everywhere.
There were other engines that were introduced along with the "Super Stock" Plymouth 413, and the "Ram Charger" 413 over at Dodge. These were largely overshadowed by the screaming orange 413s. The enthusiast magazines stuck the label of Max Wedge on the race ready 413, however, that was not a factory nomenclature. Quietly, the corporate 383 was made available in the 1962 Plymouth line. There were two versions available in the 383 form. One had a single 4 barrel, while the other had two 4 barrel carburetors. Motor Trend tested the milder form of the single 4 barrel in a 1962 Plymouth. It produced 15.9 second quarter miles with a trap speed of 95 miles an hour. Motor Trend also praised the Plymouth brakes, calling them the "strongest set of drum brakes that we have ever witnessed."
To ensure that the 413 made its presence known, two street versions were also made available, although they didn't receive much attention. One was a street ready engine with an 11.1 compression ratio, and a single 4 barrel carb. It made 365 horsepower, and 400 foot pounds of torque. For those wanting a bit more, a twin 4 barrel version was offered, producing 380 horsepower, and 455 foot pounds of torque. In essence, the street wedge were upgraded versions of the corporate 413 used to haul big Imperials and large Chrysler around in quiet servitude. It was easily achieved, since the 413 was the engine that powered the Chrysler 300 letter series of cars since 1959.
With the racing introduction of the Super Stock 413, sales did actually take an upswing. However, most of the model year had already gone by. It was just too late. Sales were the lowest in decades at 182,520 units, slipping Plymouth to 8th in production overall, the lowest of the low points in its history.
There was another engine. A special edition, issued by the factory. Unfortunately, no numbers were made available on the number of any of the engine options built. The featured car here is equipped with a twin four barrel 361 cubic inch V8. It was available at the beginning of the production run. This particular car was purchased new in Atlanta, Georgia in late January 1962. It is not known if the original owner was upset when the 413 Super Stock came out. It was raced "occasionally." No further explanation of that indicated was offered or forthcoming. I didn't press it.
The car in its present state is race ready. No numbers were available as to what it would do. The factory stated that the engine had a 9.1 compression ratio, produced 310 horsepower, and 390 foot pounds of torque. We say probably not. We do know that the same engine in the DeSoto Adventurer produced 345 horsepower. That is probably closer to the truth. The Plymouth shown here weighed about 1,250 pounds less than the big "D". Motor Trend said the 361 equipped DeSoto was "whip" quick, hauling the 4,380 pound DeSoto hardtop to 60 in 7.7 seconds. This red Plymouth seemed somewhere "in the middle" according to the present owner. He stated that he had run it at a local track and got a 15.5 time at 99 miles an hour. Probably, he went on, with expert tuning it would do much better.
The 361 twin-four barrel V8 is the rarest of the rare. Barely visible in the photo above is the single line unassisted brake master cylinder.
A 1962 Plymouth Savoy, special ordered through my Dad's dealership, arrived in late March 1962, with delete everything, meant for only drag racing. It was cherry red, like the color of the car featured here. It had the 13.5 compression ratio engine. The upswept headers went down into a collector box, right behind the front wheels. The box had a joint that routed the spent gas to either a stock set of pipes with mufflers, or, you could open a cap that was angled so as to smoothly vent the exhaust cleanly to the sides of the car. The uncapped 413 sounded like an aircraft engine when it was let loose. A female driver was hired, trained, and received her NHRA driver license. Sarah brought the little Savoy to track in early April 1962. Everyone had heard the buzz, however, this was the first "goat" (slang term attached due to "ram" manifold) that anyone had seen in action. She took her time, however, she eliminated the top two contenders. Her final test came when she went up against my brother. That was the real occupation that my Dad had from the beginning. My brother was racing a 1960 Chevrolet with a tri-power 348 V-8. His best time came that day, not before he anxiously did a burnout that broke an axle; someone had a 1959 Chevrolet and graciously pulled the axle from his car and loaned it to my brother. All was fixed under the mandated 45 minute competition rule in effect by the NHRA at the time. While he was engaged in getting his car fixed, Sarah's "crew" uncapped the exhaust headers. They had not been in her previous races. They also put on a set of slick tires from M & H, the "Racemasters."
My brother's next race was against a new 406 powered Ford. He beat him with a 14.7 second, 98 mile an hour pass. He was supremely confident now he could whip that little red "goat."
Sarah started the 413 gingerly. The exhaust was loud, but not barking or backfiring. They were tuned after all. She didn't do a "burn out." No one thought much about heating the slicks at that time. She idled up to the line and then staged. The 413 was rumpling but not bellowing. My brother pulled up, but kept screwing around, trying to psyche Sarah out, by not staging. Instead, jacking up the Chevy against the brakes, then dropping it back. She just sat there, staged, and waited. Finally after 6 or 7 false jumps, the NHRA starter pointed his finger at the line. With a powerful movement, he shot his index at the ground. My brother immediately staged. Without any hesitation whatsoever, when the yellow stage light shown brightly on his side, Sarah immediately jacked the Plymouth against the brakes, holding the 413 at 1800 rpm. The effect was startling. The 413 bellowed, and roared. My brother did a visible double take. The grandstand crowd jumped to their feet. Pit crews who had not been interested before were running to the edge of the walls. The Plymouth kept right against the brakes, and the engine noise did not falter at all.
Holding the starter switch above his head, the NHRA official waited about 3 seconds and pulled the trigger. The starting light pole counted down, then flashed green. The cherry red Savoy suddenly sounded unlike any other stock car that had gone before. It literally made a huge bellowing sound as it left the line. It drowned out my brother's Chevy. He did manage to get a small hole shot, but at the 600 foot mark the Savoy was a car length ahead, and Sarah never looked back.
Someone described the way that the "goats" ran on the track. About halfway down the quarter mile, the cars lifted up their rear ends, sorta looking like "a mule with a bee stung butt going for the barn." That is how that little Savoy looked that day. My brother had the clearest view of anyone there of that raised Plymouth rump, coming in @ 14.8 and 96.3 miles an hour. The red "goat?" Set a new track record. 13.02 seconds@ 106.1 miles an hour at the trap.
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