by Jim Benjaminson • Part I of the book Plymouth Commercial Vehicles
From 1928 until 1942, when World War II ended civilian car production, the Plymouth Division of Chrysler Corporation built a confusing array of commercial vehicles, using both passenger car and truck chassis.
Despite several half-hearted attempts to enter markets such as the taxi business in its earliest years, it wasn't until 1935 that Plymouth got serious about building commercial vehicles. Even at that point, Plymouth’s commercial vehicle production was overshadowed by rivals Ford and Chevrolet.
Production of these commercial cars and trucks was not large, and their rarity has caused them to remain virtually unnoticed in the collector car hobby. Most were used, abused, and then discarded, making them among the rarest of Plymouths today.
Walter Chrysler's entry into the low priced field in the summer of 1928 (as a 1929 model) pitted the four year old Chrysler Corporation against America’s two largest automakers, Ford and Chevrolet. A smaller companion to the six-cylinder Chrysler car, the first Plymouth was a conventional four cylinder automobile.
The first commercial offering for the new car was an attempt to crack the taxi market. Although Plymouth would maintain a presence in the taxi cab market, most of the Corporation's taxi sales would come from sister division DeSoto. The DeSoto, a larger six cylinder car on a longer wheelbase, was more practical for a taxi’s need to carry more than the standard number of passengers.
Plymouth chose the name Commercial Sedan to apply to its first sedan delivery in 1930. Built on the four cylinder 30U chassis, the Commercial Sedan was little more than a two door sedan with a third door added at the rear of the body. Rear quarter windows were blanked out with removable panels. This car was aimed at the small businessman who could afford only one vehicle. With the window panels in place and the rear seat removed, it made the perfect delivery vehicle, especially in areas where real commercial vehicles were prohibited. But on Sundays, with the window panels removed and the rear seat in place, the businessman had a vehicle he could take the family to church in.
Despite its advantages as a dual-purpose vehicle, the Commercial Sedan met with little sales success; at $750 it was considerably higher priced than the $565 two door sedan on which it was based. A mid year price cut to $675 did little to help, and the Commercial Sedan was discontinued at the end of the model run after selling just 80 units.
Plymouth advertised a special taxicab on its PA chassis for 1931-32 but it, too, saw little sales success. This taxi featured a special interior that seated up to five paying customers--three sitting conventionally in the rear seat, one on a folding jump seat directly behind the driver, with the fifth passenger facing rearward in an alcove alongside the driver. Sales of the $665 taxi special were less than spectacular and it was discontinued after just 112 units had been built. Unique to the taxi was its removable taxi partition and extra seating which can be replaced with standard sedan seat equipment for resale as a passenger car.
In 1932, Plymouth started selling a factory-built long-wheelbase 7-passenger sedan — something neither Ford or Chevrolet would ever offer — many of which were sold to the taxi trade. In later years, despite low sales, a 7-passenger limousine with divider window would also be cataloged. These cars were popular in the export market, being used in the livery trade overseas.
The Commercial Sedan idea would not reappear at Plymouth until 1935; it, too, was a converted two door sedan, in this case, the least expensive flat back two door. Again, a rear seat was optional. In its work mode, snap-in window blanks covered the rear quarter windows. A single door at the rear offered access to the cargo compartment. The idea of a dual-purpose vehicle had not lost its appeal to Plymouth marketing. Like the 30U Commercial Sedan it was a vehicle that could be used in the business during the week and as a personal vehicle on the weekend. Priced at $635, this Commercial Sedan saw a production run of 1,142 units.
With the increased acceptance of the Commercial Sedan, Plymouth saw fit to give it its own special body for 1936. No longer the dual-purpose commercial-passenger vehicle, the new commercial sedan had permanently blanked out quarters with a passenger side bucket seat as the only seating option. Based on the P1 Business chassis, the price was reduced $20, and sales climbed to a record 3,527 units. It should be noted during this period Plymouth used the term business to describe its least expensive chassis, so sales catalogs showed an entire line of body styles carrying the business moniker. Buyers of the upscale series got Deluxe models. This situation was remedied mid-year 1938 after dealers complained they were losing sales because customers who could not afford the Deluxe model balked at being saddled with a business car. From then until debut of the 1941 models, the less expensive chassis would be known as the Road King.
Next: early Plymouth trucks
Plymouth 1946-1959: Introduction • Turbines • Diesels • Christine • Dream Cars • Print version1924-1945 • 1946-48 • 1949 • 1950 • 1951 • 1952 • 1953 • 1954 • 1955 • 1956 • 1957 • 1958 • 1959 DeSoto and Plymouth Buyers’ Guide: DeSoto 1929-39 • DeSoto 1940s • DeSoto 1950s • Exports
Plymouth 1928-29 • 1930-34 • 1935-39 • 1940s • 1950s • 1960s • 1970s • Valiant/Barracuda
Acknowledgements • Introduction • Top Ten Lists and Clubs
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