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by Jim Benjaminson; courtesy of the Plymouth Bulletin
The Plymouth PC and PD of 1933 are very significant in the history of the Chrysler Corporation.
Following 1932, in which Plymouth was the only automaker to show a sales increase over 1931, Walter Chrysler announced an unprecedented move. Despite having lost money, the Corporation would spend nine million dollars to retool for a new car to replace the four-cylinder PB.
These cars entered Plymouth into the world of the 6-cylinder automobile, which would put the Chrysler Corporation into second place in production and sales for 1933, bumping Ford into the third place spot for the first time in its history.
Walter Chrysler believed a four cylinder engine was the answer for a low priced car, but despite the economic climate a 6-cylinder car meant prestige to the buying public — and Chrysler gave them just what they wanted. Plymouth could now compete with the "Six For The Price of A Four" Chevrolet but still trailed Ford by two cylinders as Henry brought out his famous V8.
Plymouth’s move into the 6-cylinder, low price field was so unprecedented that Automotive Industries magazine devoted many pages of their February 4, 1933 issue to the machinery installed in the Plymouth plant, machinery which would not only produce the 6-cylinder engine but machines that would cut Chrysler's cost of producing those engines to a point to make it worthwhile in a low priced automobile. The article, entitled “Chrysler Shoots The Works in New Plymouth Plant,” made obvious reference to the gamble being taken by the barely five year old brand.
To announce the car, Chrysler bought an hour and a half of air time on the ABC radio system to talk with his force of 7,232 dealers. Via the air waves, from 1:00 to 3:30 p.m., Chrysler and his top management presented their plans and their new car to the Plymouth dealers and employees — and to anyone else who cared to tune into the program - potential customers and rival companies alike!
Before the radio program, Chrysler had purchased ads in many major newspapers, apologizing to the public for taking up air time and preventing these people from listening to their favorite programs. It may not have been entertaining, but it did give the general public the unique opportunity to sit in on the sidelines of a major corporation's business meeting.
The big news for the year was the new 6-cylinder engine. The valve-in-block engine displaced 189.8 cubic inches from a bore of 3 1/4" and a stroke of 4 1/8 inches. With the standard compression ratio of 5.1, the engine, which retained the Silver Dome name, pumped out 70 horsepower at 3,600 rpm. With the optional aluminum “Red Head,” the compression ratio jumped to 6.5 while the horsepower increased to 76.
The engine used a redesigned water pump for better cooling efficiency, aluminum alloy pistons, and had a new first as it was fitted with insert bearings on the main and connecting rod bearings, as well as the first camshaft bearing. Power was transmitted from a 9” dry clutch plate through a three speed transmission with helical gears for smooth, quiet operation.
The new (Plymouth) engine proved to be most reliable and an economical powerplant. The basic six remained in production from its introduction in October 1932 until the end of 1959 model production. At that time the Valiant (which would be the shortest wheelbase Plymouth built in Plymouth history since the PC) moved to the Slant Six.
The old reliable flathead six kept many an old Plymouth on the road long after its original engine had been scrapped.-the later engines were bolt for bolt swaps into the early cars. (The engine received a fully jacketed water system in 1935, which meant moving the starter slightly outboard on the bell housing. For a later engine to be put into the '33 or '34 models the bell housing had to be changed, but this was unnecessary from '35 on).
The new 6-cylinder Plymouth, code named the PC, hit the showroom floors in October 1932. Body styles included a convertible coupe with rumble seat, a business coupe, a rumble seat coupe and a four door sedan; the two door sedan did not come along until February. Missing were the roadster, the convertible sedan, the 7-passenger sedan, and the phaeton.
The PC was a short, stubby car built on a 107" wheelbase chassis. With its massive chrome plated radiator shell and its slanted hood louvers that were at different angles from either the windshield slant or the cut of the front opening doors, it was not “right.”
The car was too short for fender mounted spares, a fact which did not sit well with dealers, so much so that the wheelbase was increased an inch within months to make this option available. Still, with side mounts, the tires sat high in the fenders and give the car an awkward appearance. It soon became apparent that although the car was selling well, it was not the success the Corporation hoped it would be. The new 6-cylinder car looked more like a 4-cylinder car than the 4-cylinder PB had looked!
The company would have to manufacture a bigger, more expensive looking car without much expenditure in additional money or time--the car had to be ready for the spring selling market.
A quick took through the Corporation's other divisions for a parts source soon had the boys at Dodge a little on edge. Dodge was the big brother companion to the inexpensive little Plymouth. To rob Dodge of a long wheelbase frame? What would happen to Dodge? And if Plymouth were to build a bigger car for 1933, what would become of the small 1933 Plymouth?
Andrew G.’s information came from Plymouth catalogs, shop manuals, parts guides, and owners manuals from his personal collection. He also had assistance from the Plymouth Owners’ Club’s Lou DeSimone and from Earl Buton, Jr.
Andrew G wrote in the Bulletin that the PC debuted in October 1932, boasting a new L-head six-cylinder with exhaust valve seats, aluminum alloy pistons, and removable connecting rod bearings; the water pump was also a new design. The wide variety of colors, trim, and accessories meant that one could order the Plymouth in 258 different ways. The price was $495, a far, far drop from 1928’s $735, but the styling was apparently a major problem, because sales did not respond to the mechanical improvements. For that reason, Plymouth quickly added five inches to its 107 inch wheelbase, to create the Deluxe Plymouth PD; the PC, from October 1932 to March 1933, was good for 59,900 cars.
The PC has two radiator ornaments, a simple one and the “Flying Lady,” albeit longer in length and more graceful than the PB’s example. Early PC hoods had louvers on a raised panel; these were eventually replaced with vertical louvers. The PD was similar but longer, with longer, bullet-shaped headlamps; production ended in December of 1933.
The instruments of the Deluxe Plymouth Six were designed and grouped for balance. A large 90 mile per hour aviation-type speedometer was in the center, with temperature, oil pressure, and gasoline gauges, along with an ammeter. Figures were silver etched in the black outline of the dials against a dull silver background. Calibration marks and edges were in green gold; it was all lighted indirectly. The throttle control button and illuminated ignition lock were on the right, while the choke button and free wheeling control button were on the left.
On the Standard Plymouth Six, the speedometer and oil pressure gauge were the clock-hand type, with no temperature gauge.
Deluxe models got nicer finishing, with new, wide pleated bolster cushions; the sedan had a robe cord, assist loops, foot tail, ash trays, a shade for the rear window, and a large, adjustable sun visor for the driver. The standard Six had narrow pleats.
The front seat in all models of the DeLuxe, as well as the Standard's four door sedan, were adjustable; the seat of the two door sedan and coupes had three positions. Depending on the body style, upholstery could be Broadcloth, Pile Fabric, Bedford Cord, Flat Mohair, and colonial grain leather.
A radio antenna was built into the top structure of all DeLuxe closed cars, with a new Philco Transitone Radio available.
Duplate safety glass was standard in the windshields of all Deluxe models and optional on all windows of both models. This was relatively new and included an anti-glare treatment as well as the elimination of edge separation and “any tendency to change color.” Safety glass, which does not shatter into jagged fragments when hit, was still new.
Accessories included a radio, clock, cigar lighter, seat covers, rear view mirror shield, lap robe/car pillow, passenger side sun visor, and windshield defroster.
Personal comfort was increased by a "Kool Kushion" seat pad and an umbrella and case.
1933 models marked the first use of metallic paint on the Plymouth cars, which was the French Taupe #4 (Brown) Polychromatic.
The 1933 models have two styles of stripe, one using two small lines running from the hood back to the rear area; the other used three lines, with one being wider. On the earlier models, (PB and back) the two stripes did not join but stopped at the front edge of the hood.
Photo and text by Robert F. David, with thanks to Curtis Redgap
The car is a 1933 Plymouth Model PC six cylinder four door sedan with around 71,000 original miles on it, repaired but not restored.
Plymouth had 4 cylinder flat-heads from the first in 1928 to the 1932 model year. It was the first engine with a down-draft carburetor. Canadian cars used American engines until the Windsor casting plant was built in 1937.
It had the first hood ornament for Chrysler because the radiator cap was inside under the hood for the first time.
The wooden wheels were a $45 option called “Airwheels,” unique because they were 100 mph wooden wheels. The car is capable of 80 mph and the wheels have to have a margin of safety. I've been told they're made of hickory like baseball bats. Imagine the engineering that went into them for them to last this long. There are no fasteners of any kind holding the wheel assembly together, it has a compression fit; there are no bolts in either end of the spokes. They show no sign of deterioration. They were made by Motowheel in Detroit.
The original 17" wires, which I still have, were made by Kelsey-Hayes. The tires on the Airwheels are 600-16" tube type bias ply.
Because the PCs were the first sixes for Plymouth and their VIN numbers started at 9311001, this is the oldest Canadian 6 cylinder Plymouth extant. Its VIN (serial number) is 9311042. It's just the 42nd 6 cylinder Plymouth made. It was built at Windsor, Ontario on Thursday, October 21, 1932. Because it has so many factory options, I suspect it was a showroom model some dealer ordered for the introduction.
Only minor items like screws, bolts, clamps had been changed over the years and these were put back to the way they were when the car left Chrysler Centre on that Thursday long ago. It has free wheeling, which I use all the time, and it also has a vacuum operated clutch. I don't use the vacuum clutch but it still works. If it's engaged you don't have to put your foot on the clutch pedal,the engine vacuum is used to move the pedal at just the right time and you only have to move the gear shift lever. I don't like it because I automatically want to move the clutch when I shift gears. It was a kind of “semi automatic” for 1933.
It also has the rare original bumperettes front and back. The “Cat's Eyes” fog lamps are a contemporary aftermarket addition.
I've always been impressed that it still has its original red bakelite ignition coil. Most other cars of this era have long since had their coils changed but not this Plymouth.
With 70 hp at 3600 rpm, it was faster that a Ford V8 which had 65 hp, and much faster than a Chevrolet — and much more reliable than either.
The hand brake on Plymouths is a drum affixed to the rear of the transmission. When you pull back on that floor lever, the Plymouth stops here — and it takes no effort do it. This Plymouth can stop on a dime and give you 9 cents change. We still put the Fords in front of us in parades because they take so much further to stop.
I've owned the car for 16 years and hope to own it for another 16 years.
1931 Plymouth PA • 1932 Plymouth PB • Other years - including Dodge and Chrysler
Chrysler 1904-2018 •
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