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Plymouth 1928-2001
The final voyage of the...Good Ship Mayflower

neonAt 10:00 am on June 28, 2001, the last Plymouth, a silver Neon LX with a 5-speed transmission and every available option, hearing serial number 1P3AS46C61D304662 —the final serial number assigned to a Plymouth-came off the Belvidere, Illinois, assembly line.

1928: Detroit was buzzing as word spread of a new automobile soon be manufactured in the Motor City. Motor Age, in its June 14 issue, stated “no information as to what company is to build it, its price, size or other details could be secured.” The production lines for the mystery car had been in full swing four days by that time.

Across town in the suburb of Highland Park, a group of executives sat around the huge oak desk of Walter P. Chrysler. They knew who was behind the car but they weren't talking, at least not publicly.

It was at this very desk that the name “Plymouth” first surfaced. Walter P. Chrysler, the legendary “American Workman” was no stranger to the automobile business, although up until 1924 his had hardly been a household name. He had begun his career in the automobile industry with Buick, having moved from the railroad industry that had brought him to Detroit, so far from his birthplace on the dusty plains of Kansas.

After a fallout with William Durant, who controlled all of General Motors, Chrysler had “retired”... until being asked to take over the financially ailing Willys Overland Company. Nervous bankers next convinced him to work his magic on the equally moribund Maxwell-Chalmers Motor Car Company. This move led to his taking control of the operation and eventually incorporating it as the Chrysler Corporation.

Building a car to compete with Ford and Chevrolet in the low priced field had long been a dream of Chrysler’s. When Henry Ford stubbornly stuck to the Model T too long, Chrysler saw the golden opportunity to enter that lucrative market and Plymouth would be the vehicle he would use.

Richard M. Langworth, writing in Kaiser-Frazer, The Last Onslaught On Detroit recounted the story of how the name “Plymouth” came to be chosen. “What we want is a popular name, something people will instantly recognize,” Chrysler is quoted as saying. Joseph Frazer, his general sales manager came back with, “Well, boss, why not call it the Plymouth? That’s a good old American name!” When the other executives questioned the name, Frazer continued, “ever hear of Plymouth Binder Twine?” The salty-tongued Chrysler chimed in “Hell, every goddamn farmer in America’s heard of that!” And that’s how the Plymouth name came to be.

Henry Ford’s reaction to the new car was to tell Chrysler, “Walter, you'll go broke, Chevrolet and I have that market all sewed up!”

Naturally, Chrysler’s advertising people couldn’t capitalize on their boss’s blue language but they at least had a name to work with. By the time the first new car rolled off the assembly line on June 11, 1928, copy writers had found their angle: the car would be associated with the early European colonists on the North American continent, the Pilgrims. Advertising brochures and ad copy explained: “We have named it the Plymouth because this new product of Chrysler engineering and craftsmanship so accurately typifies the endurance and strength, the rugged honesty, the enterprise, the determination of achievement and the freedom from old limitations of that Pilgrim band who were the first American colonists.” The statement was followed by the signature of Chrysler himself.

The new car had a high compression, four-cylinder engine and a first in the low priced field: hydraulic brakes on all four wheels. In the words of Automobile Topics magazine, the new Plymouth was “in fact, a Chrysler car in everything but name.”

Chosen as the symbol of the new car was the ship that had brought the Pilgrims to America, the Mayflower. The ship design would be seen on the radiator medallion and spare tire cover and eventually as the radiator ornament, on the hubcaps, hood and deck lid, dash and window mouldings, even as the design in the upholstery on later models.

Playing up the Pilgrim theme, dealers were urged to dress in Pilgrim costumes, complete with buckle-adorned hats and blunderbuss guns, all supplied from the factory. Plymouth parades were common as the new car was introduced to the public. To add to the mystique, new cars were shipped from the factory under cover, the word Plymouth scrambled across the fabric to pique onlookers’ curiosity.

Adorning the showrooms was a 19-inch high wooden model of the Mayflower ship, complete with full rigging. Billed as “the appropriate decorative piece on the show room table for the Plymouth dealer,” the $4.75 model could also be “an attractive article for use as a prize.”

By early September, demand for the new car far outstripped Chrysler’s Highland Park production facilities which it shared with both Chrysler and the soon-to-be-announced six cylinder DeSoto. By early winter, a new plant located at the corner of Detroit’s Lynch Road and Mt. Elliott Avenue began taking shape. Upon completion, the nearly half-mile-long assembly plant would be the largest auto plant in the world.

Plymouth and the mysterious Mrs. Miller

From the beginning Plymouth enjoyed amazing sales growth. By 1931 Plymouth had risen to be the third best selling automobile in the country. By 1932, at the height of the Depression, it would be the only make of automobile in the United States to see an increase in sales. As August of 1934 rolled around, Plymouth built its one-millionth car, again setting a record. It had taken Ford twelve years to build its first million cars and Chevrolet nine years. As that milestone automobile neared production Walter Chrysler received a telegram from Mrs. Ethel L. Miller of Turlock, California.

When she took her 1928 Model Q Deluxe Coupe into Stierlen & Tell, the local Plymouth dealer, to have some work done on the car, Mrs. Miller discovered it was the first Plymouth built. “While in the process of servicing the car,” Carl Tell later recalled, “we noticed the serial number, called the factory and they sent out a man to look at it. It had originally been sold in Fresno.” How Mrs. Miller, proprietor of the St. Elmo hotel in Turlock, became aware that the one-millionth Plymouth was about to be built is unclear but she wired the Chrysler factory asking them “to be sure and reserve the millionth Plymouth” for her.

Calling her “one woman in a million,” the Turlock newspaper wrote “(the fact) that (Walter) Chrysler regards the Turlock woman as one in a million lies in the invitation to attend, as his guest, ceremonies to be held celebrating the construction of the millionth Chrysler Plymouth car. Mrs. Miller was asked by Chrysler to make the trip east by airplane and to be his guest during the celebration.” Oddly enough, Ethel Miller declined the invitation, opting to remain in Turlock for the Tenth Annual Melon Festival.

Back in Detroit, Walter Chrysler and other corporate officials gathered in the Lynch Road plant on August 9th to watch the one-millionth car, a Deluxe four-door sedan, roll off the line. As the car neared the end of its run Walter himself placed the “O.K.” tag on its Mayflower ship radiator ornament. Early editions of the Detroit Free Press featured a grinning Chrysler waving from behind the wheel of the car.

The milestone 1934 Plymouth was then shipped to Chicago where it was placed in the Chrysler Pavilion at the Century of Progress. It wouldn’t be until August 28 that Ethel Miller, following a bon voyage party thrown at Turlock’s City Hall by the mayor and chief of police, would begin her journey to Chicago to take delivery of her new car. Greeting Mrs. Miller at the Chrysler Pavilion was J. B. Wagstaff, a Chrysler executive who would later head the DeSoto Division. Also present was famed race car driver and Chrysler pitchman, Barney Oldfield, who was doing daily hell driving demonstrations at Chrysler’s test track at the fair. As she watched Old Number One being put on display where the new car had been, Ethel told the Chrysler people she wanted the two-millionth Plymouth reserved for her when it was built. Although the route of her travels home is unknown, it would be two months before she returned to Turlock. Two years later, late in 1936, she would be presented with the two-millionth Plymouth, a 1937 model Deluxe touring sedan.

From there Ethel L. Miller seemingly disappears from the face of the earth. Nothing is known of her whereabouts after 1938 the last time city directories lists her as living in the Vincent Apartments.
Little is known about the three-millionth Plymouth built in 1939 but, when the four-millionth Plymouth was built in 1941, child actor Mickey Rooney got the honors. Rooney was playing in the Andy Hardy series at the time and the car, a Special Deluxe convertible, would play a prominent role in those movies.

Ebb and flow

Plymouth’s fortunes seemed to ebb and flow as did the tides upon which the Mayflower had ridden as it brought those first Pilgrims to this continent.

Following the death of Walter Chrysler in 1940, the marque lost its mentor. It was Walter Chrysler who had proposed the Plymouth line in the first place, having learned from his years at General Motors that an auto company had to have a “bread and butter” car in its lineup. It was Plymouth that carried the Corporation through the Great Depression and it was the great Plymouth factory that helped produce the war goods needed to win the greatest war the world had ever known. Ironically at the time of its mentor’s death, Plymouth was poised to knock Ford out of second place in the annual sales race, a move thwarted at the last minute by a major restyling of Ford for 1941.

After the death of Walter Chrysler, Plymouth became the corporate stepchild or, in the words of the late automotive writer Arch Brown, “always the bridesmaid but never the bride.”

For nearly a quarter of a century, from 1931 through 1953, Plymouth had been the number three selling automobile in the United States. Stodgy styling and outmoded power plants had begun the marque’s downward spiral. Of the Big Three (Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth), Plymouth was the last to offer such driving amenities as automatic transmissions, power steering and brakes and was the last with a V8 engine. Yet it had been the first car in the low priced field with hydraulic brakes, independent front suspension and all-steel bodies. In its later years, it was outdone by a foolish intra-corporate rivalry with sister division Dodge which had moved down into Plymouth’s price range (a similar corporate move by the Chrysler Division had earlier tolled the death knell for DeSoto).

There still were a few bright spots on the horizon: the fabulous ’55 models with modern styling and V8 power, the tailfinned 1957 models that sent perennial styling leader General Motors into a tailspin, the innovative—and indestructible—Slant Six of the 1960s, the Hemi-powered muscle cars including the Road Runner and high-winged Super Bird and the outrageous 1930s retro-styled Prowler.

Today, the car Chrysler calls Plymouth #1 is on display at the new Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Voyage’s end

The Mayflower ornament was affixed to every Plymouth built from 1928 through 1959. In the latter iteration, it was placed beneath a rocket ship and, for the first time ever, was seen from the bow rather than the stern. After a 36-year hiatus, the Mayflower ship ornamentation returned with the introduction of the Plymouth Breeze in 1996. But it was all for naught.

As the end drew near, only the Neon could still be bought as a Plymouth but it was identical in all aspects to the Dodge Neon.

At 10:00 am on June 28, 2001, the last Plymouth, a silver Neon LX with 5 speed transmission and every available option bearing serial number 1P3AS46C61D304662—the last serial number assigned to a Plymouth-came off the Belvidere, Illinois, assembly line.

Automotive News reported that “Plymouth joins other retirees in Florida,” referring to the fact the last car was headed to the personal collection of Darrell Davis, a Florida resident. Mr. Davis, a long time Chrysler executive—and Plymouth Owners Club member-had placed the order for the last Plymouth with Chrysler President Jim Holden the day he heard the marque was to be discontinued.

Like its namesake binder twine, the Plymouth automobile, too, has become memory.

Ethel Miller, you had the first Plymouth. Where are you now? Somehow it seems only right that the last one should have been yours as well….

The Voyage of the Mayflower

Year Date Event
1928 Mon, Jun 11 Legend has it Walter Chrysler took one of the first new cars off the assembly line, drove to Ford Headquarters in Dearborn and presented the new car to Henry and Edsel Ford. Henry tells Chrysler “Walter, you'll go broke...”
1928 Thu, Jun 14 Motor Age in a page 1 article, reveals a new car “is to be called Plymouth.” No other details are given although it is claimed that the car has been “under construction for some time.”
1928 Thu, Jun 14 The new Plymouth is introduced. (Some corporate sources give the date as June 11.)
1928 Tue, Jun 26 Chrysler Confidential Bulletin #396 to “All Distributors and Dealers” explains the choice of the name Plymouth.
1928 Sat, Jul 7 The first Plymouth ad appears in The Saturday Evening Post.
1928 Sat, Jul 7 The new Plymouth is first shown to the public at Madison Square
Garden in New York City. It’s claimed that Amelia Earhart is presented the first car.
Her itinerary proves otherwise but Walter presents her with a blue Chrysler roadster
later in the week.
1928 - Work begins on a new plant to build Plymouth cars: Lynch Road. It will be the largest automobile assembly plant under one roof in the world.
1928 - Plymouth ends its first year in 15th place in national sales.
1929 Tue, Jan 2 Production of the Model Q ends.
1929 Sun, Jan 7 Production of the Model U begins.
1929 - Plymouth Division begins publishing the Plymouth Sales Promoter for its dealer body.
1929 - Plymouth ends its second year in 10th place in sales.
1929 Mon, Apr 30 The first 1,000 car day is achieved with a total production of 1,002 cars.
1929 Sat, Oct 6 The new Deluxe sedan is introduced to the public.
1930 Wed, Mar 7 Production of the Model U ends.
1930 Sun, Apr 8 Production of the Model 30U begins.
1930 - Plymouth ends its third year in 8th place in national sales.
1930 - All Chrysler, Dodge, and DeSoto dealers get the Plymouth franchise.
1931 Fri, Jun 8 Production of the Model 30U ends.
1931 Fri, Jun 1 Production of the Model PA begins.
1931 - Plymouth jumps into third place in sales. The term “Big Three” is coined.
1931 - Plymouth solves the problem of 4-cylinder imbalance with Floating Power, an unique method of suspending the engine along its own center of gravity in rubber mountings.
1931 Sat, Aug 4 Louis Miller sets out from San Francisco in an attempt to set a coast to coast speed record.
1931 Tue, Aug 7 Miller arrives in New York City, the car is serviced and he heads back for San Francisco.
1931 Thu, Aug 9 Miller arrives back in San Francisco in a record time of 5 days, 12 hours, 9 minutes (ave. speed 47.52 mph), breaking the record held by Cannon Ball Baker in a 6-cylinder Franklin.
1932 Wed, Jan 31 Production of the PA Thrift begins.
1932 Sun, Feb 4 Production of the PB begins.
1932 Tue, Apr 3 PB models go on display.
1932 Fri, Jul 13 Production of the Model PA ends.
1932 Sun, Sep 23 Production of the PA Thrift ends.
1932 Thu, Sep 27 Production of the PB ends.
1932 Fri, Nov 2 Walter Chrysler introduces the new six-cylinder Plymouth to his 7,232 dealers via the CBS radio system; a live broadcast, even the public can listen to the address.
1932 Sun, Nov 11 Production of the PC begins.
1932 - The first six cylinder Plymouth is brought to market - the engine will remain a mainstay with only minor modifications through the 1959 model run.
1932 - Walter P. Chrysler poses in the famous ad asking “Look At All Three.”
1932 - Plymouth is the only brand to increase sales during the Great Depression.
1932 - The Los Angeles assembly plant goes on line.
1932 - Plymouth provides the engine and chassis for an export Dodge called the Model DM.
1933 Sat, Mar 17 Production of the PD begins.
1933 Sat, Apr 7 Production of the PC ends.
1933 Sat, Apr 14 Production of the PCXX begins.
1933 Wed, Dec 5 Production of the PCXX ends.
1933 Wed, Dec 19 Production of the PE begins.
1933 Fri, Dec 28 Production of the PF begins.
1934 Sat, Jan 13 The 1934 models go on display.
1934 Sat, Jan 27 Production of the PD ends.
1934 Mon, Feb 26 Production of the PG begins.
1934 Mon, May 28 Production of the PFXX begins.
1934 Thu, Aug 9 The one-millionth Plymouth is built. It goes to Ethel Miller of Turlock, Calif., who claims to own the first Plymouth built in 1928.
1934 Fri, Sep 28 Production of the PE ends.
1934 Fri, Sep 28 Production of the PF ends.
1934 Fri, Sep 28 Production of the PFXX ends.
1934 Fri, Sep 28 Production of the PG ends.
1934 Tue, Nov 6 Production of the PJ begins.
1934 Sat, Nov 17 Production of the PJ Standard begins.
1934 - Irma Darre Brandt becomes the first female Norwegian to compete in the Monte Carlo Rally, driving her ’33 PC to victory in the ladies division.
1935 Fri, Jan 5 1935 PJ models go on display.
1935 Wed, Aug 15 Production of the PJ ends.
1935 Wed, Aug 15 Production of the PJ Standard ends.
1935 Wed, Sep 19 Production of the PI Business begins.
1935 Thu, Sep 6 Production of the P2 Deluxe begins.
1935 - Ole Fahlin and Swen Swanson build an airplane powered by a Plymouth engine. Chrysler shows interest in the project after the government certifies the engine. Only one plane is built; it crashes in Alaska some years later.
1935 - Fred Luther builds a Plymouth-powered motorcycle in an attempt to break the 300 mph barrier at the Bonneville Salt Flats. After blowing the engine near the 180 mph mark, Luther gives up on the idea. The bike still exists.
1935 - Irma Darre Brandt competes in the Monte Carlo Rally for the second time as the driver of a four woman contingent. The car is a 1934 PE sedan.
1935 October The Evansville assembly plant, a former Dodge/Graham Brothers plant, reopens to build Ply mouths. Its first 49 cars are shipped.
1936 Tue, Aug 21 Production of the PI Business ends.
1936 Tue, Aug 21 Production of the P2 Deluxe ends.
1936 Mon, Sep 10 Production of the P4 Deluxe begins.
1936 Sat, Sep 15 Production of the P3 Business begins.
1936 Wed, Nov 7 The 1937 models go on display.
1936 - Mrs. Miller claims the two-millionth Plymouth, a 1937 model. She is not heard from again.
1936 December Production begins of the PT50 commercial car series.
1937 - Plymouth introduces its first line of commercial cars.
1937 Thu, Aug 23 Production of the PT50 commercial cars ends.
1937 Thu, Aug 30 Production of the P3 Business ends.
1937 Thu, Aug 30 Production of the P4 Deluxe ends.
1937 Mon, Sep 3 Production of the P6 Deluxe begins.
1937 Sun, Sep 16 Production of the PT57 commercial cars begins.
1937 Sat, Sep 22 Production of the P5 Business/Roadking begins.
1937 Tue, Oct 30 The 1938 models go on display.
1937 - Plymouth sets a sale record that exceeds half a million units, a record that will stand until 1951.
1937 - Chrysler reaches an agreement with the UAW to recognize the
1937 - Plymouth begins converting cars as DeSotos for the export market.
1938 Thu, Jul 19 Production of the P5 Business/Roadking ends.
1938 Thu, Jul 19 Production of the P6 Deluxe ends.
1938 Wed, Aug 8 Delia Chrysler passes away.
1938 Fri, Aug 17 Production of the PT57 Commercial Cars ends.
1938 Sat, Aug 18 Production of the P7 Road King and P8 Deluxe begins.
1938 Mon, Sep 24 The 1939 models go on display.
1938 Thu, Nov 1 Production of the PT81 commercial cars begins.
1939 Wed, Aug 15 Production of the P9 Road King and P10 Deluxe begins.
1939 Sat, Aug 18 Production of the P7 Road King and P8 Deluxe ends
1939 Fri, Aug 31 Production of the PT81 commercial cars ends.
1939 Fri, Sep 21 The 1940 models go on display.
1939 - The three-millionth Plymouth is built. Nothing is known about the car.
1939 Wed, Sep 26 Production of the PT105 commercial cars begins.
1940 Thu, Jul 12 Production of the P9 Road King and P10 Deluxe ends.
1940 Wed, Aug 8 Production of the PI 1 “Plymouth,” PI ID Deluxe and P12 Special Deluxe begins.
1940 Sat, Aug 18 Walter Chrysler passes away.
1940 Mon, Aug 20 Production of the PT105 commercial cars ends.
1940 Tue, Sep 18 Production of the PT125 commercial cars begins; the last commercial produced until 1974. The ending date is not noted.
1940 Sun, Nov 18 The Richardson Pan-American Highway Expedition leaves Detroit in an attempt to drive to Cape Horn, South America.
1941 Fri, Jul 6 Production of the PI 1 “Plymouth,” PI ID Deluxe and P12 Special Deluxe ends.
1941 Wed, Jul 25 Production of the P14S Deluxe and PMC Special Deluxe begins.
1941 - Production of the P14S Deluxe and PMC Special Deluxe begins. The four-millionth Plymouth is built. Mickey Rooney gets the honors this time.
1941 Sat, Jul 28 The Richardson Expedition reaches Magallanes, Chile, as far south as they can physically drive.
1941 Wed, Aug 15 The Richardson Expedition sets sail for Cape Horn, the original goal of their adventure.
1941 Thu, Aug 23 The Richardson Expedition turns the nose of their ’41 Plymouth north and begins the long journey home.
1941 September The Plymouth Salesman League publishes the first issue of League Monthly for salesmen.
1942 Wed, Jan 31 Production of automobiles grinds to a halt for the duration of World War Two.
1945 July A 1942 Plymouth carries the core for the first atomic bomb test to the test site in New Mexico.
1945 Mon, Oct 22 Production of the P15S Deluxe begins.
1945 Fri, Oct 26 Production of the P15C Special Deluxe begins.
1947 Mon, Jan 1 Cars built after this date, although unchanged, are considered to be 1947 models.
1948 - The five-millionth Plymouth is built.
1948 Mon, Jan 1 Cars built after this date, still unchanged, are considered to be 1948 models.
1948 Sat, Dec 1 Cars built after this date are considered to be 1949 models; later they are referred to as “First Series 1949” models.
1948 Mon, Dec 31 Production of the P18 Special Deluxe begins.
1949 Sun, Jan 14 Production of the P18 Deluxe begins.
1949 Sun, Jan 28 Production of the P15 models ends, the longest production run of a single model in Plymouth history.
1949 Wed, Mar 7 Production of the P17 Deluxe begins.
1949 Sun, Nov 25 Production of the 1949 models ends.
1949 Sun, Nov 25 Production of the P20 Special Deluxe begins.
1949 Wed, Dec 5 Production of the P19 & P20 Deluxe begins.
1949 - Plymouth and Dodge assembly begin in San Leandro, California.
1950 Fri, Jan 12 The 1950 models go on display in dealers’ showrooms.
1950 Sun, Dec 2 Production of the 1950 models ends.
1950 Tue, Dec 11 Production of the P23C Cranbrook begins.
1950 Wed, Dec 12 Production of the P23S Cambridge begins.
1950 Thu, Dec 13 Production of the P22 Concord begins.
1950 - The six-millionth Plymouth is built.
1951 - Plymouth finally surpasses the production record set back in 1937.
1951 - The seven-millionth Plymouth is assembled.
1951 Sat, Mar 31 The new Belvedere “hardtop convertible” goes on display. It is Plymouth’s first hardtop body style.
1951 Fri, Jan 12 The 1951 models go on display.
1952 Thu, Jan 4 With only minor changes, the 1952 models go on display.
1952 Sun, Sep 30 Production of the P24 Cambridge and Cranbrook begins.
1952 Wed, Oct 3 Production of the 1951 - 1952 models ends.
1952 Tue, Nov 20 The 1953 models go on display.
1953 Wed, Mar 14 Plymouth’s first “dream car,” the XX500, is shown to the public.
1953 April Evansville assembly plant builds its one-millionth Plymouth.
1953 Sat, Aug 11 Production of the 1954 Plaza/Savoy/Belvedere models begins.
1953 Tue, Sep 18 Production of the 1953 models ends.
1953 Mon, Oct 15 The 1954 models go on display.
1953 Sat, Dec 29 Chrysler purchases Briggs Body, supplier of Plymouth bodies since 1930.
1953 - The eight-millionth Plymouth is built.
1953 - The first turbine powered production passenger car, a ’54 Belvedere sport coupe, is driven under its own power for the first time at Chrysler’s Highland Park headquarters.
1954 Mon, Feb 26 Plymouth’s first fully automatic transmission, PowerFlite, is introduced; power brakes are adopted the next month
1954 June 16 Chrysler Proving Grounds at Chelsea, Michigan is dedicated. Reporters get their first look at the turbine powered ’54 Belvedere as it drives by the reviewing stands.
1954 Mon, Aug 13 Production of the 1954 models ends.
1954 - Conservative “Smaller on the outside, bigger on the inside” styling sees Plymouth sales drop from third to fifth place by the end of the model run, behind Buick and Oldsmobile.
1954 Sun, Sep 30 Production of the 1955 Savoy begins.
1954 Mon, Oct 1 Production of the 1955 Plaza begins.
1954 Fri, Oct 5 Production of the 1955 Belvedere begins; Plymouth introduces its first V8.
1954 - Production at the San Leandro, Calif., plant ends with the 1954 models.
1954 Sat, Nov 17 The 1955 models go on display. Plymouth gets Virgil Exner’s new “Forward Look” styling along with a new V8 engine. The cars set sales records.
1955 Good Friday A Plymouth turbine car is driven on city streets (Detroit), rather than on the proving grounds, for the first time.
1955 - The nine-millionth Plymouth is built.
1955 Sun, Oct 21 The 1956 models go on display.
1956 Sun, Jan 7 The Fury makes its debut.
1956 Sun, Jan 28 Plymouth dealers receive pricing for the new high performance Fury.
1956 Mar 26 Turbine-powered ’56 Belvedere leaves New York for a trans-continental endurance test.
1956 Mar 30 Turbine-powered Belvedere reaches Los Angeles, having encountered only “minor” mechanical problems en route.
1956 Thu, Oct 25 The 1957 models go on display. “Suddenly - It’s 1960” is the sales slogan for the radically restyled Plymouths. Again, sales records are set but shoddy workmanship due to attempts to build beyond capacity comes back to haunt the company.
1956 Tue, Dec 18 The 1957 Fury makes its debut.
1957 - The Plymouth Owners Club is founded as the Plymouth Four Cylinder Owners Club.
1957 Wed, Jan 24 The ten-millionth Plymouth is built.
1957 April The Newark, Delaware, assembly plant goes on line adding a 2,500 car-per-week capacity to Plymouth’s output.
1957 June 21 The 500,000th 1957 Plymouth, an Eggshell White station wagon, rolls off the Lynch Road assembly line; then shipped to the West Coast.
1957 June 24 The 500,000th 1957 Plymouth is given away on the Lawrence Welk show; it goes to the Laanan family of Pasasena, Texas, who keep the car until May, 1968, before trading it off.
1957 Fri, Jun 15 The Citizens of Tulsa, Oklahoma, bury a new Belvedere sport coupe in a time capsule. It won’t be unearthed until 2007.
1957 Sat, Jul 7 Life magazine features a full page photo of the ’57 Belvedere being buried in a Tulsa time capsule.
1957 Tue, Oct 16 The 1958 models go on display.
1958 - Chrysler and Willys announce plans for a joint venture to build 1956-styled Plymouths in Brazil. Nothing comes of the plan.
1958 Fri, Jun 8 Mound Road engine plant builds the one millionth Plymouth V8 engine.
1958 - Plymouth announces a Bendix “Electrojector” Fuel Injected V8. Few are built and all are recalled although at least two remain in private hands; one is reportedly wrecked shortly after delivery.
1958 October The 1959 models go on display.
1958 December The ’59 Turbine Special is driven from Detroit to New York City (actual final destination, Princeton, NJ)
1959 - St Louis assembly plant goes on line with pilot production of the 1960 models. The Evansville assembly is closed after being on line since 1935. It built a total of 1,708,506 Plymouths (along with 46,385 Dodges,1936-1938).
1959 Thu, Mar 1 The eleven-millionth Plymouth is built.
1959 Mon, May 21 Chrysler announces it will begin building a new compact economy car for 1960 to be called Valiant.
1959 Fri, Sep 21 Valiant production begins in “Dodge Main” at Hamtramck.
1959 Mon, Oct 29 The Valiant makes its public debut, joining the corporate stable as an independent make. It won’t officially become a Plymouth until 1961.
1959 Fri, Jun 1 Plymouth and DeSoto are combined as a single division.
1959 Wed, Aug 8 Corporation realignment adds Valiant to the new Plymouth-DeSoto-Valiant Division.
1959 - This is the last year that Plymouths are converted into export Dodge and DeSoto models.
1960 January Valiant production begins in St Louis; Newark production begins in February. Less than half of Plymouth’s 4,100 dealers are franchised to sell it.
1960 - A new six-cylinder engine, affectionately known as the Slant Six, due to its 30-degree incline, replaces the old flathead.
1960 Wed, Jan 31 Valiants take the first seven places in the Daytona Speedway Compact Car races - the series is soon discontinued.
1960 Sat, Sep 29 The 1961 models go on display.
1960 Sun, Nov 18 The DeSoto is discontinued. Valiant becomes a “Plymouth.” The division name once again is simply “Plymouth Division.”
1960 - Plymouth loses 2,650 dealers as Dodge dealers take on the new Dart franchise.
1960 - The twelve-millionth Plymouth is built.
1961 Fri, Sep 28 The 1962 models go on display.
1961 - With the demise of DeSoto, Plymouth is aligned with Chrysler to form the Chrysler-Plymouth Division.
1962 - Former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower takes possession of a white Valiant sedan; the car is now on display at her birthplace home in Boone, Iowa.
1962 - Plymouth introduces a smaller “full size” car with radical styling. Sales take a nosedive.
1962 - Plymouth and other corporate makes announce a 5 year/50,000 mile warranty.
1962 - A Plymouth Fury sets a speed record of 190 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
1962 Wed, Oct 3 The 1963 models go on display.
1963 - The thirteen-millionth Plymouth is built.
1963 Thu, Sep 20 The 1964 models go on display.
1964 Sun, Apr 1 A sporty Valiant named Barracuda makes the scene — 16 days later it is ignored as Ford’s Mustang makes its appearance.
1964 - Plymouths finish One-Two-Three in the annual Daytona 500 mile stock car race in Florida.
1964 Tue, Sep 25 The 1965 models go on display.
1965 - The fourteen-millionth Plymouth is built.
1965 Thu, May 31 A Plymouth Sport Fury convertible is the pace car for the 49th Annual Indianapolis 500 mile race.
1965 Sat, Sep 29 The 1966 models go on display; the Barracuda will follow on November 25.
1966 August The Belvedere, Illinois, assembly goes on line.
1966 - The fifteen-millionth Plymouth is built.
1966 - Plymouth introduces the 426 cid “Street Hemi” available only in the B-body Belvedere series.
1966 - Richard Petty wins the Daytona 500 at an average speed of 160 miles per hour.
1966 Sat, Sep 29 The 1967 models go on display; again, the Barracuda will follow on November 25.
1967 Fri, Sep 14 The 1968 models go on display.
1968 - The Road Runner, a stripped-down inexpensive muscle car, takes the youth market by storm.
1968 - The sixteen-millionth Plymouth is built.
1968 Wed, Sep 19 The 1969 models go on display.
1969 - Plymouth offers a record 71 different models.
1969 - The seventeen-millionth Plymouth is built.
1969 Sun, Sep 23 The 1970 models go on display.
1970 - The Duster is introduced; it becomes a popular economy car. The Duster 340 becomes a feared muscle car.
1970 - The eighteen-millionth Plymouth is built.
1970 Sat, Sep 15 The 1971 Valiant line goes on display.
1970 Sat, Oct 6 The remaining 1971 models go on display.
1971 - The fearsome Street Hemi is discontinued at the end of the model year.
1971 Fri, Sep 28 The 1972 models go on display.
1972 Wed, Sep 26 The 1973 models go on display.
1973 Tue, Sep 25 The 1974 models go on display.
1974 - Plymouth re-enters the commercial car field with the Trail Duster.
1974 Mon, Oct 1 The 1975 models go on display.
1975 - Plymouth begins importing a small cars from Japan—it’s called the Arrow.
1976 - The midsize Volare accounts for more than half of Plymouth sales. It is named Motor Trends 1976 Car Of The Year. Rust problems in later years will haunt the name and cost Plymouth millions.
1978 - The Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni are awarded Motor
Trend magazine’s Car Of The Year. They are the first four-cylinder, front-wheel-
drive cars from the Corporation; actually, the first produced of any make produced in
North America.
1978 Fri, Nov 2 Lee Iacocca is named President of Chrysler Corporation
1979 - Lee Iacocca is elected Chairman of the Board.
1979 - For the first time in history, Dodge sales exceed those of Plymouth.
197? - Lee Iacocca is featured in corporate ads stating “If you can find a better car—buy it.”
1980 Mon, Aug 6 K Day - Lee Iacocca drives the first K car, a 1981 cream colored Plymouth Reliant two-door, on stage.
1980 Tue, Oct 2 Official show day of the K Cars and other new models.
1981 - Motor Trend magazine names the Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aires K its Car Of The Year.
1981 Mon, Oct 1 The 1982 models are introduced.
1981 - The Lynch Road assembly plant is closed - its last Plymouth model is the R-body Fury.
1983 Sun, Jun 10 The last rear-wheel-drive passenger car comes off the Windsor, Ontario, assembly line.
1983 Fri, Jul 13 Lee Iacocca announces he will pay back the government loan early — it is five years to the day since his firing at Ford Motor Company.
1983 Fri, Jul 20 Holding up an oversized check in the amount of $813,487,500, Lee Iacocca pays off the government loan seven years early.
1983 Mon, Oct 1 Minivan #1 comes off the line.
1983 Mon, Oct 8 Production of the minivan begins at the Windsor, Ontario, plant.
1984 - A revolutionary design, the Plymouth Voyager “Magic Wagon” mini-wagon makes its debut.
1984 Tue, May 8 The 100,000th minivan is built; the 200,000th comes off the line Oct 10; the 300,000th, Feb 22,1985.
1984 - A Plymouth Voyager minivan is presented to the Henry Ford Museum for its permanent collection. It joins two other Plymouths at the Ford Museum, a 1933 PD business coupe and a 1939 P8 four door sedan.
1985 - For the first time in history, Chrysler sales exceed those of Plymouth.
1987 Mon, Sep 24 The one-millionth minivan is built.
1987 - A second minivan plant, located at St. Louis, Missouri goes on 1 line.
1990 August The second-generation minivan begins production at Windsor.
1991 Mon, Jun 11 The two-millionth minivan is built.
1992 December Lee Iacocca is asked to step down as Chairman of Chrysler. He does so, albeit reluctantly.
1993 - The Plymouth Prowler is shown as a concept car at the Detroit Auto Show—a retro 1930s-styled hot rod.
1993 Tues, Sept 7 The Neon debuts at the Frankfort Auto Show in Germany (5 years prior to Daimler Benz’s takeover of Chrysler).
1994 Mon, Sep 24 The three-millionth minivan is built.
1995 Wed, Jan 3 Dan Meyers learns his suggested name for the new Plymouth JA series-“Breeze”-has been chosen in a company-wide contest to which 2,000 names were submitted.
1995 Fri, Jan 19 Plymouth introduces Plymouth Place, an interactive computer that is installed in shopping malls in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon. It will later be used nationwide.
1995 Thu, Mar 1 Plymouth dealers receive material from Chrysler Corporation regarding the Plymouth Renaissance to “rebuild the Plymouth brand.”
1995 Mon, Apr 2 Multi full-page ads read “Introducing A New Car Company - Plymouth.”
1995 - Lee Iacocca and Las Vegas billionaire Kirk Kerkorian attempt a hostile takeover of Chrysler Corporation.
1995 - Last 1995 minivan built is the 3,245,970th van built, including both Plymouth and Dodge versions.
1998 Wed, Jan 17 The townsfolk of Tulsa, Oklahoma bury a second Plymouth in a time capsule—this time a Plymouth Prowler. Like the first car in 1957, this one will remain buried for 50 years.
1999 Mon, Mar 12 Chrysler Canada announces all its car lines will be sold as “Chrysler,” ending the Plymouth nameplate north of the border.
1999 - Plymouth production falls to 264,624.
2000 Thu, Jul 5 Chrysler announces it will discontinue the Plymouth brand in 2001.
2000 December The Breeze is the first Plymouth model discontinued. In mid-month the Voyager and Grand Voyager become Chryslers.
2001 Mon, Jan 15 The last Plymouth Prowler is built at the Conner Avenue plant. The next day the cars officially become Chrysler Prowlers.
2001 Tue, May 1 Total Plymouth production thru May of 2001: 28,908,516
2001 Thu, Jun 28 The last Plymouth, a silver Neon LX 5-speed, comes off the Belvedere, Illinois, assembly line.

Interested in reading about more historical Plymouths? Visit our main history page or the Plymouth Owners' Club.

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