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A Plymouth By Any Other Name: Branding Exported Chryslers, 1932-1972

1932 dodge dmChrysler Corporation began to market Plymouths under different names in foreign countries in 1932, during the Depression, with the Dodge DM series. Only 1,173 units were made (all in Detroit, Michigan).

The Canadian version looked similar to the U. S. Dodge lines, but, in the first year, used a complete Plymouth PB drivetrain — including the engine and chassis — with Dodge bodies riding on top. These were the last 4-cylinder Dodges built in North America until the introduction of the Omni in late 1977; and they were only sold in Canada.

1933 brought Chrysler Canada’s Dodge DQ and DP, Plymouths with Dodge nameplates and ornamentation, a practice which would last in the Canadian and many overseas markets until the end of the 1959 model year.

The reason for the unique Dodges was to provide entry-level cars (Plymouths) to dealers who would not otherwise have them; and to sell Plymouths in markets where a “senior brand” (Dodge, DeSoto, or Chrysler) was already established, but there was not enough volume to justify introducing Plymouth. The Plymouths were less expensive, and in nations where vehicle registration taxes were based on horsepower, a smaller bore engine could increase their attractiveness. Thus, Dodge (or DeSoto) grilles were fitted to the Plymouth bodies, along with other minor changes.

1939 Dodge D12 from Australia

The DP was built in Detroit, using the Dodge Six; the DQ was a DP with less fancy trim. The parts book shows all body, chassis and engine parts interchangeable between DP and DQ, until the DP wheelbase was increased from 111 inches to 115 (the DQ staying at 111 inches).

1939 Dodge D9Prewar Plymouth-based Dodges included a 1939 four-door convertible sedan, which was a Plymouth exclusive in the U.S. At least one of these was sold new in Hawaii, and still exists today.

Dodge-badged Plymouths continued under the Kingsway name after World War II in some markets outside North America up to 1959, when they were replaced by the original (full-size) Dodge Dart. 1959 was not the end of the story in Canada, however; Dodges continued to be marketed with Plymouth dashboards and drivetrains until the 1967 model year.

One exception to the Canadian Dodge using the Plymouth dash was the 1962 Dodge Dart; both the Plymouth and the Dodge Dart in Canada used the American-style Dodge Dart dash and interior in 1962. A friend had a 1962 Plymouth Belvedere, complete with the “fratzog” on dash and embossed on the door panels, just like the Dart 330.

1958 dodge regent

Plymouth-based DeSotos

loading 1956 DiplomatConverting Plymouths into DeSotos began in 1937 and continued through the end of the 1959 model year, followed by two years of full-size Dodge Darts (and, in South Africa, compact Dodge Lancers) marketed as DeSotos overseas.

In its first two years, the DeSoto (or should we call it a PlySoto?) was based solely on the less expensive Roadking chassis. Just prior to World War Two (it came to Europe two years earlier than the U.S.) both U.S. based chassis were converted.

At the time Chrysler maintained final assembly plants in England, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. By September of 1939 these were all closed because of the war.

After the war (1949 to be exact) Plymouth converted its cars into three series of cars for both Dodge and DeSoto. The Dodges were the Kingsway, Kingsway Deluxe and Kingsway Custom while the DeSoto was the Diplomat, Diplomat Deluxe and Diplomat Custom. In later years, every body style Plymouth built was offered as either a Dodge or a DeSoto.

There are some oddities, such as the 1939 Dodge Convertible Sedan from Hawaii. Brochures show this model as a DeSoto for 1939 as well, although it is doubtful that any were built.

1953 Plymouth based DeSoto Diplomat

1953 DeSoto Diplomat

1953 DeSoto Diplomat from Sweden


By 1959, with DeSoto sales falling like a rock, the export DeSoto finally received a real DeSoto front clip attached to the Plymouth body. All of this nonsense came to a halt with the 1960 model year. Plymouths were no longer disguised as Dodges; the new Dodge Dart now became the basis for the DeSoto Diplomat, with little more disguise than a few pieces of chrome trim and the nameplates and hubcaps. Dodge also provided the basis for the 1961 DeSoto Diplomat. How many were built is unknown but its possible it equaled or even exceeded production of the real DeSoto.

1959 Diplomat
Andrew Hodgson's 1959 Diplomat (England). The only difference from
original is the modified side trim (from a Belvedere) and the colour.

The Canadian Lancer (Bill Watson)

The Canadian Lancer was exported mainly to the Commonwealth countries, other than Great Britain (mainly shipped Australia, New Zealand, and the Caribbean countries). Canada had Commonwealth preferential trade ties with these countries at that time. I am not sure about South Africa, although after 1960 it is extremely doubtful, since that was the year that Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker led a movement to have South Africa drummed out of the Commonwealth for apartheid.

Plymouths sold as Chryslers

Plymouths rebadged as Chryslers are not as well known, but existed in the Thirties, particularly in England. The first Plymouth sold in England was the Q, in 1928; the 1930-31 Plymouth 30-U was a direct descendant of the previous four-cylinder Chrysler, which was itself a direct descendant of the pre-Chrysler Maxwell. What we knew as Plymouths may have been seen as continuations of the Chrysler Four line under the Chrysler name, but I do not know that for sure. I do not know when this practice ended, but there appear to have been no Chrysler-badged Plymouths after World War II, unless one counts the 1957-64 Australian Chrysler Royal, which was basically a 1953-54 Plymouth with a series of heavy facelifts. Canadian and overseas Chrysler dealers also sold the Dodge truck line under the “Fargo” name from 1936-72 (longer in some markets). [More to be added soon.]

According to information provided to me [Jim] by a European researcher/writer, the name Plymouth was not well thought of in England — how accurate that statement is may be open to debate, as other Chrysler models were sold under different names as well as Plymouth.

The English Plymouths were sold as Chryslers, in this case the Chrysler Kew and the Chrysler Wimbledon, both suburbs of London by the way. The Kew was fitted with the small bore export engine, while the Wimbledon had the regular U.S. built engine. Only in 1939 did Plymouth market a car as the Plymouth, this an equivalent to the Roadking model in the U.S. It had a floor shift transmission. Next in line was the Kew and then the Wimbledon, available in a 7-passenger body type or as a U.S. based convertible coupe although a Carlton bodied four place convertible victoria was offered.

1939 was the last year for the English built “Chryslers.” The assembly plant had been on Mortlake Road, in Kew, Surrey, near the world famous Kew Gardens. Even the real Chryslers were renamed—including Richmond—and in one case, the “real” Chrysler Eight was sold as a Dodge!

Plymouth-Based Dodges and DeSotos: Chart

Photos of the cars in this chart!

Plymouth Dodge (export) Dodge (Canadian) DeSoto
DeLuxe (1946-50) Kingsway DeLuxe Kingsway Diplomat DeLuxe
Special DeLuxe (1946-50) Kingsway Special DeLuxe Regent Diplomat Special DeLuxe
Concord (1951-52) Kingsway Kingsway Diplomat
Cambridge Kingsway DeLuxe (1951-53) Crusader Diplomat DeLuxe
Cranbrook Kingsway Special DeLuxe Regent (1951-53) Diplomat Special DeLuxe
Belvedere Kingsway Custom Mayfair (1953-58) Diplomat Custom
Savoy (1954-58) Kingsway DeLuxe Regent Diplomat DeLuxe
Plaza (1954-58) Kingsway Crusader Diplomat
Fury (1959 only) Kingsway Custom Viscount Diplomat Custom
Sport Fury Kingsway n/a Diplomat
Sport Fury (1959) Lancer n/a Diplomat Adventurer
Belvedere (1959) Kingsway DeLuxe Mayfair Diplomat DeLuxe
Savoy (1959) Kingsway Regent Diplomat

(We now have a list of all these vehicles by serial number - click here!)

Dodge in Canada used the Kingsway name in 1940, 1941, 1951 and 1952. The 111" wheelbase 1949-1950 Dodges were DeLuxe, while the 118" models were DeLuxe or Special DeLuxe. The 123" and 137" models were sold in Canada as Custom in 1949 and 1950, the Coronet name not being adopted until 1951. The Wayfarer and Meadowbrook were not sold in Canada in 1949-1952.

Dodge-Based DeSotos

Dodge DeSoto
Dart Seneca ('60-'61) Diplomat
Dart Pioneer ('60-'61) Diplomat DeLuxe
Dart Phoenix ('60-'61) Diplomat Custom
Dodge Lancer ('61) Rebel (South Africa only?)

The equivalent model charts cover the basics, but there are some exceptions. For example, Crestline's "The Dodge Story" shows both a 1956 Regent (Savoy) and 1956 Mayfair (Belvedere) with Belvedere Sportone trim installed. I seem to recall the implication that the '56 Regent was equivalent to a Belvedere 6, while the '56 Mayfair was the V-8 version of the same car.

According to Bill Watson, The Dodge Story is incorrect. The D43-3 was the Dodge equivalent of the mid-year Plymouth Belvedere and was not the wagon series. In Canadian newspapers on April 15, 1953, ads for both the Plymouth Belvedere and the Dodge Mayfair appeared - both in sedan and hardtop, and both with the new 228 cid engine, and the new optional Hy-Drive. The D43-3 Mayfair is also listed in Chrysler Canada parts books for 1953.

The 1955 Dodge Regent hardtop was available with Mayfair-style side trim, updated and repeated in 1956.

Dodge-badged cars appear to have used Plymouth front clips with Dodge emblems and grilles until '51, which appears from the illustration to be a Dodge front clip grafted onto a Plymouth body. '51-'54 looks as if it could have been a Dodge front clip, or a Plymouth clip with Dodge emblems and grille; I can't really tell from the illustrations I have. '55-'59 was definitely a Dodge front clip on the Plymouth body.

The bottom-line 1949-'52 Canadian Dodges shared the "Kingsway" name with the overseas models. Other Canadian Dodges had unique names.

More about the Diplomats

Photos by Philippe COURANT (1957 Crown convertible)

desoto diplomatDiplomats kept the Plymouth front clip with DeSoto grillwork until '57, when the introduction of the Dodge-based DeSoto Firesweep finally created a DeSoto front clip which would fit the Plymouth body. This continued through '59, when the Firesweep got front fenders which looked more like those of the senior DeSotos ('57-'58 Diplomats, like Firesweeps, used Dodge front fenders). 1959 is therefore the only year where Diplomats and senior DeSotos shared the same frontal appearance.

Automotive lighting expert Daniel Stern added:

Aftermarket lights were added near the headlamps on these cars sold in France, because the factory lights were too close together for local law. The add-on lights might provide a turn signal function, but they were more likely single-function front position lamps (“parking lights”). At the time, by law and common practice in France and many other countries, the headlamps were for use only outside built-up areas. In towns and cities, night driving was done with the front and rear position lamps (first click of the headlamp switch, Americans would say “parking and tail lights”). The law required front position lamps to be near the edges of the car, so pedestrians and bicyclists and other motorists could judge its width.

European headlamps had replaceable bulbs (as most modern ones do), with a built-in front position lamp, a small 4- or 5-watt bulb in its own socket protruding into the headlamp through the reflector or attached to the headlamp socket and visible through a slot in the headlight bulb’s base. American headlamps were sealed beams, with no provision for a built-in front position lamp. Therefore, position lights were added. The problem could have been solved more cleanly.

Metal-bodied station wagons seem to have used Plymouth nomenclature, with the exception of the bottom-line Diplomat 2-door wagon (and probably the Kingsway as well, though I was unable to find documentation) going by the name "Commercial Utility".

The Plymouth-based (pre-'60) Diplomats apparently differed enough from their siblings by virtue of their DeSoto frontal treatment that derivation from standard Plymouth trim was only necessary when the DeSoto wheelwell differed markedly from the Plymouth, as was the case in '57-'59.

1958 KingswayThe Dart-based '60-'61 Diplomat appeared identical to the Dodge on which it was based when viewed from the front and the rear, with the obvious exception of nameplates. (The '61 Diplomat Custom may have had an exclusive emblem in the center of a grille, in the manner of the '61 Polara and '62 Custom 880; the pictures I have are B&W copies of original brochure illustrations, and I can't make that part out for sure.) Side treatment was what differentiated the last Diplomats from their Dart cousins. The senior '60 Diplomats had a lower quarter panel moulding not unlike that seen on the '57 DeSoto line. The senior '61s had what appeared to be the '61 Pioneer moulding with an additional "thunderbolt" piece down below, continuing to the back of the car; a strange add-on to what was already in many eyes a strange looking car.

I have never seen a picture of a Rebel, and so I have no idea how much it differed from the ’61 Lancer, but I've been assured by a South African MoPar buff that all three compact makes were offered in that market...

Dave Homstad added:

In 1956, Dodge sold a Canadian Dodge Custom Royal based on the US Custom Royal [whose only visible difference was] a 1956 Plymouth V8 301 in place of the 56 Dodge 315. This summer I bought a brochure that I thought was for a US Custom Royal, but turned out to be for the Canadian version when I read the engine specs and business address. [Bill Watson wrote: It used the 303 cid V8 engine, which was also used in the Canadian Chrysler Windsor and exported to Detroit for use in the Plymouth Fury.]

Phillippe Courant added:

Notes about Diplomat and Kingsway serial number (infos from « le Catalogue des catalogues 1964»):

It'll be interesting to verify if the canadian models (Regent, Mayfair, Crusader&Mac183;) have the same serial number.

I have a copy of 59 Dodge Kingsway catalog (french text) : 8 pages which show every body available:

Dodge Kingsway (6 cyl ou V8) : Club sedan (2dr), sedan (4dr), business coupe (2dr, 6 cyl only) , suburban Deluxe (4dr) and commercial utility (2 dr wagon).

Dodge Kingsway Deluxe (8 models) : sedan 4dr, club sedan (2dr), faux cabriolet (= Hard Top model) 2 or 4 dr, station wagon Custom suburban (6 or 9 pass) and commercial utility 2 dr Dodge Kingsway Custom (6 models) : sedan 4dr, faux cabriolet (= Hard Top model) 2 or 4 dr, coupé décapotable Kingsway Lancer (= sport Fury convertible) with swivel seats, wagon sport suburban (6 or 9 pass).

4 engines were available : 6 cyl Powerflow, V8 « Fury V-800 » 318 CI, 2 or 4 barrels and V8 « Golden commando » 350 CI 4 barrels.


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