Chrysler in Sweden
Chrysler is currently selling numerous cars in Sweden, including the Voyager, 300C, PT Cruiser, and Sebring. In the 1960s, brands included Dodge, SIMCA, Chrysler, Imperial, and Plymouth, with a full line ranging from the little SIMCA 1000 up to the big Dodge tilt-cab diesel trucks.
Chrysler cars were imported into Sweden starting in the 1920s, with Plymouth being introduced in 1928. The original “Good Maxwell”-based Plymouth was praised by Swedish Motor Journal for its swift acceleration, ease of handling, and “extraordinarily effective” brakes. The same dealer sold both Chrysler and Plymouth, and Philipsons became Chrysler’s general agent in Sweden in 1930.
Philipsons started to build Plymouth, Dodge, and Chrysler cars in their enormous “Automobile Palace” in Stockholm in 1931, with as much local content as possible, due to the high cost of the dollar. The cars were assembled from knockdown kits, with welding, assembly, and paintwork done by 25 Swedish employees. It was not mass production, but given the Depression, mass production was not needed.
The Philipsons-assembled cars were considered the highest quality built outside the U.S. by Chrysler controllers; it was also more luxurious, using woolen pile upholstery and other high-grade trim. Some U.S. options were standard features, and each model could be considered similar to one above in the U.S., with a third top end model that included numerous dealer-installed options as standard. All were built with dual tail lamps.
Philipsons sponsored Plymouth in racing in the mid-1930s, achieving several victories, including Greta Molander in the 1937 Monte Carlo Rally (ladies’ class). Advertisements pointed to Plymouth’s combination of speed and economy.
In 1933, Philipsons controlled DeSoto as well, but in 1938 Chrysler (U.S.) split up the brands; Philipsons controlled Chrysler, Imperial, and Dodge, moving Svenska Bilfrabriken into an old factory in Augustendal. Plymouth and DeSoto were moved to ANA, a recently established auto firm without a complete dealer organization, which resulted in a decline in Plymouth sales. There was still some overlap, as the Dodge Junior sold by Philipsons was actually a Sweden-assembled Plymouth, at least in 1938-39.
ANA cut back on the number of model variations; production stopped in 1939 due to the war, at which point all private use of cars in Sweden stopped and gas rationing started. Many cars were requisitioned by the army; others just had their wheels requisitioned. ANA started to produce parts for the existing cars, since importing parts was not possible.
After the war, DeSoto had an independent agent, not ANA, and sold the DeSoto Diplomat, a disguised Plymouth. However, ANA was allowed to take over Chrysler from Philipsons.
In Sweden, as in most of Europe, Plymouth never recovered from the war, partly because it was forced to compete with itself under different names and badges, partly due to the organizational moves, partly due to foreign exchange issues, and partly because of growing interest in smaller cars within Europe. Immediately after the war, American production remained stopped; once it restarted, few cars could be exported to Sweden.
Starting in the 1950s, ANA because Chrysler's general agent in Sweden for all products, a situation that remained for nearly three decades. By 1954, a plentiful supply of Plymouths were available, and they started to find popularity as police cars and taxis, due to their tough construction. In 1957, ANA ran ads claiming the Plymouth was “The first ‘American’ I've driven that is superior to the ‘Europeans’ on the road.” In 1958 ANA billed them as Swedish-Americans, due to being built in Sweden, and adapted to the colder weather. Shortly afterwards, though, ANA gained the Saab account, and concentrated on the local producer.
ANA continued to assemble Chrysler cars to reduce costs; the large American cars continued to find a niche for many years as police cars and taxis, but eventually those lines also moved to Volvo and other European brands, and the Plymouth and Chrysler lines faded out by the mid-1980s. Dodge trucks and vans were sold through Harry Karlsson in Gothenburg, but ANA because Saab’s sales and spare parts division, first changing its name to Saab-ANA, and finally just Saab.
Chrysler had an assembly plant over here in Nykoping (the ANA factory, later a subsidiary of Saab) so the the cars came over here CKD. Most DeSotos sold here were the Diplomat, but in the later fifties, US versions came over as well.
Saw recently one of these ultra rare 1961 DeSoto wagons for sale in Finland. Don't think any of them was sold here, but the "regular" 1961 did sell a few.
There also was a special stretched version of the Plymouth Plaza, but I can't remember its actual name. [Coronado?]
You mentioned that the Mayfair was basically a Belvedere. Have seen one 1956 Mayfair and it had the sidetrim of the Savoy. Maybe they also took what they could find in left over boxes, since I've also seen the 1959 Kingsways, with both Dodge and Chrysler Saratoga sidetrim.
Due to shipping delays 1957s could sometimes be designated 1958s and so on. So some DeSotos has been designated as 1962s.
Have also been trying to get hold of pics of the DeSoto Coronado sold in 55-56, but I don't think that was a special export model.
Mopars are very popular over here (Yes, we do have loads of classic Mopar like 300 convertibles, DeSoto Adventurer and Imperials) But due to latter years of imports, the original Swedish assembled models are really rare nowadays.
Most rare must be the one 1961 DeSoto convertible (US model) that was restored over here. It was found as a derelict on a wrecking yard in the US, and research points out it was factory built. Anyone knows any else?
In a scrap yard outside Stockholm stands a really odd piece. A 1959 Imperial 2 door wagon!
Have heard rumors that they actually made some prototypes, probably by Ghia, but nobody seems to know anything for sure.
Mattias Johansson wrote:
The Plymouth Valiant was a very popular car among the Swedish police. They started using Valiants when it came out in 1960 and continued buying Valiants as police cars as long as they were made. Though, as far as I know, they never bought the newer Volare / Aspen cars, so it was an era that ended in 1976.
The Valiant had a very good reputation for reliability, they said that “It was so good that even a cop couldn't break it.” And today, it is one of the most famous cars that the Swedish police has used, along with the Volvo 122.
Hans Ensing wrote: A special success story in Sweden was the Valiants for the police, who used this model for 15 years. Today Swedish police are still proud of this car and it is shown in the National Police Museum in Stockholm.
He also noted that the police Valiants had extra heavy duty Swedish operation equipment, including special Saab car seats — heated when Saab introduced heated seats.