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Plymouth cars, 1928-1966: the quick guide

Written by Chrysler Corporation in 1966. Materials provided by J.P. Joans.

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Plymouth had a lot of bragging rights for its first cars, built in 1928, with their new "Silver Dome" high-compression engine that took "any gasoline," a top speed of over 60 mph, "characteristic Chrysler acceleration," a smooth idle thanks to special engine mounts, and the class-unique hydraulic four-wheel brakes.

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With Walter P. Chrysler's comment "Give the public something better and the public will buy," first Plymouth car was made on June 11, 1928. By the time the year was out, 58,000 Plymouths had been shipped. To meet demand a new Plymouth plant was begun on 40 acres of Detroit real estate in October, 1928, to be completed (in record time) in 1929.

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Sales of the 1929 Plymouth U soared by 50% over the original 1928 Q, as word got around. The F.O.B. (price without delivery) price was $655 for the coupe and $695 for the sedan. Although the original tires were 4.75 x 20 inches, these were changed later to 4.75 x 19 inches.

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1930 PLYMOUTH 30-U: The Great Depression hit hard, but Plymouth sales doubling from 1929. A fuel pump replaced the vacuum tank; buyers of closed-roof cars could get radios, and hydraulic shock absorbers replaced the friction-type for a smoother ride. An electric gasoline gauge was another new feature for Plymouth.

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1931 PLYMOUTH PA: The 1931 PA brought free wheeling (friction-free coasting) to the low-priced car market, along with the famous "Floating Power" engine mountings and a new vacuum spark advance with automatic control. The PA was the first completely new Plymouth since the original Model Q, and resulted from a $2,500,000, two-year program of research, testing, and retooling.

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1932 PLYMOUTH PB: "Ride in All Three" was Plymouth's advertising slogan. A new rigid X member frame tightened the body, and the oil filter became standard equipment. New brake drums with cast iron fused to outer rims of steel helped dissipate heat. Wheelbase grew by three inches as part of an effort to make it look less like a four cylinder.

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1933 PLYMOUTH PD: A new L-head six cylinder engine with a Plymouth high of 70 horsepower helped sales; the selling price of the Plymouth Six, $495, was quite a contrast to the 4-cylinder 1928 Plymouth that sold originally for $735. $9,000,000 was spent for design, experimental engineering, and retooling the Plymouth plant for this car.

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1935 PLYMOUTH PJ: Plymouth engines in 1935 incorporated water jackets that extended the full length of the cylinder bores. The benefits of balanced weight distribution, the ride stabilizer bar, and "Chair-Height" seats were introduced on Plymouth after having been successfully adopted on Chrysler the preceding year.

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1934 PLYMOUTH PE: The PE gained an independent coil spring front suspension. Buyers must have liked it; on August 18, 1934, the one-millionth Plymouth came off of the production line, to be sold to Ethel Miller.

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1935-1936 PLYMOUTH P-2: Jim Benjaminson wrote, "Plymouth engineers and designers literally started with a clean
sheet of paper with the PJ." The company moved to a fully jacketed engine for better cooling, and made many changes for longevity and convenience; they also created a brand new transmission. A specially engineered Plymouth could be converted from passenger car to hearse to ambulance in a few moments for only $40 more than the standard sedan. Ten different body styles were sold. Oddly, they dropped their pioneering independent front suspension - but DeSoto added it! (The two cars shared the same plant).

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Perhaps most important, as a result of Airflow research, engineers moved the
engine forward about 8 inches and returned to a tube type front axle, greatly improving handling and smoothing the ride.

1937 PLYMOUTH P-4: The "luxury Plymouth" gained a safety instrument panel with recessed controls and a rounded bottom edge raised above knee height. The top of the front seat back had a well-padded roll, Even the door handles were curved inward to prevent clothes snagging. Hidden blower units and defroster vents for directing air over the windshield made their Plymouth bow.

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1938 PLYMOUTH P-6: The tenth anniversary of Plymouth saw it solidly in third place in sales. A rumble seat coupe still was available, but open touring cars and phaetons had long disappeared. One of the optional items offered was a rear seat radio speaker -- attached to the back of the front seat.

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1939 PLYMOUTH P-8: A new safety signal speedometer would flash a green light at speeds up to 30 mph, amber from 30 to 50 mph, and red beyond 50 mph, Wet-weather ventilation became a reality when a rain trap was introduced into the screened cowl ventilator. The gearshift lever was moved to the steering column, and power convertible tops were quick to catch on with the public.

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1940 PLYMOUTH P-10: For the second year Plymouth received a special award in safety design. Sealed-beam headlights appeared in the Plymouth picture along with rotary door latches, and vacuum operated windshield wipers now pivoted from the bottom of the windshield. Plymouth sold an unusual-for-low-priced cars seven-passenger sedan. Some buyers had a Philco Model C-1708 pushbutton radio; a hot-water heater was also optional.

1941 PLYMOUTH P-12: The battery was moved beneath the hood where it remains today. An efficient oil-bath air cleaner was adopted along with a floating-type oil intake. Door checks were installed to hold the doors open, and a new counterbalanced deck lid reduced the effort of removing things from the trunk.
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Motor vehicle Mode of transport Automotive design Vehicle Land vehicle
1942 PLYMOUTH 14C: Production came to a halt early in 1942 as Plymouth converted 100 per cent to the war effort. Running boards were concealed, and the dome light was designed to flick on automatically whenever anyone opened the front doors. The new grille and integrated front fenders were a notable styling departure from the preceding year.

1946-1948 PLYMOUTH 15S: In the rush to build postwar cars, few exterior changes were made from the 1942 models. Engineering improvements included a new gasoline pump, eliminating the glass sediment bowl, and a long-life gasoline filter in the fuel tank. New, low-pressure tires gave the 1948 Plymouth an outstanding ride.
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Chrysler was finally able to launch a brand new Plymouth P-18 in 1949, the last of the Big Three to create a true postwar car. New in design but conservative in looks, it had a longer wheelbase, yet was over four inches shorter than the P15 - an efficient space-saving design, when Americans only wanted longer, lower cars.

All Plymouths had stunning instrument panels, with three circular white-on-black dials right in front of the driver, a new key-start ignition, and rotary knobs. Optional heater systems were designed to blend in. Windows were engineered for full travel in one and a half turns of the handle for safety. Cushions were thickened and seats raised to "chair height." There was higher compression for greater power, better piston rings, a true automatic choke, weatherproofed ignition, and resistor plugs.

Chrysler's 1966 retrospective noted: "Plymouth again offered a 9-passenger car called the Special Deluxe Station Wagon. It had exterior wood trim and removable second and third seats. A new introduction, the 6-passenger Deluxe Suburban, had a folding second seat ahead of a 42-inch flat floor, and became known as the first all-steel body station wagon. Automatic turn-the-key ignition was born to a low-priced car."

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1950 PLYMOUTH P-20: Plymouth remained alone of the major low-priced cars with an electric automatic choke and oil-bath air cleaner. The Plymouth came in two different wheelbases: 111 inches and 118.5 inches. The shorter wheelbased car was 186.5 inches long which put it in a class with the compact car Valiant to be introduced some 10 years later.

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1951 PLYMOUTH CRANBROOK: Such time-honored names as Standard, Deluxe, and Super Deluxe fell by the wayside. Into their respective places now came the names Concord, Cambridge, and Cranbrook to begin a newer era in car identification. New electric windshield wipers operated at a constant speed whether a Plymouth engine ran fast or slow. The Cranbrook Belvedere became Plymouth's first two-door hardtop.

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1952 PLYMOUTH CRANBROOK: Following one year of successful usage, the Oriflow shock absorber with "sea-leg" mounting became well known for its contribution to Plymouth's level, comfortable ride. Overdrive was made available as optional equipment; with overdrive, the engine made three revolutions for each rear wheel revolution (versus four, without overdrive).

1953 PLYMOUTH CRANBROOK: The series line-up was revised, eliminating the Concord. The old two-piece windshield was replaced by a new one-piece curved glass. Also new for two-door hardtops was the division of the front seat back one third of the way across instead of in the center to allow two people to remain seated in the front and still permit access to the rear compartment. 1953 also saw Plymouth adopt a torque converter transmission called Hy-Drive.

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1954 PLYMOUTH: The Plymouth line-up now read Plaza, Savoy, and Belvedere. Power steering and a two-speed automatic transmission called PowerFlite made their Plymouth bows. On March 25, Chrysler Corporation disclosed that an experimental turbine engine had been developed and successfully road tested in a production model Plymouth hardtop - an American automotive "First."

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1955 PLYMOUTH: Two tone paint reached the zenith of its popularity. For the first time in its history, a Plymouth could be purchased with a V-8 engine. The new V - 8 was advertised at 157 horsepower. Air conditioning was a new luxury item made available on the low-priced Plymouth.

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1956 PLYMOUTH Belvedere: Pushbuttons now operated the PowerFlite automatic transmission. Displacement of the standard V - 8 engine was upped to 277 cubic inches, and horsepower rose to 187. A vacuum -operated power brake was a new offering along luxury car lines. A special four-door Plymouth sedan fitted with a gas turbine engine became the first such car to make a transcontinental trip.

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1956 PLYMOUTH Belvedere: The Plymouth line had a special new two-door hardtop called the Fury which had gold anodized alum inurn side trim. Another telltale mark was the rumble of its 303cubic inch V - 8. One of these cars set a class "flying mile" stock car record at Daytona Beach with a 124.01 mph speed as timed and supervised by NASCAR.
1957 PLYMOUTH Belvedere: The ten-millionth Plymouth roll e d off the assembly line on January 27, 1957. The rugged TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission and torsion bar front suspension made their Plymouth debut. Station wagons were given a third seat that faced to rear. Production soared over 600,000 units for one of Plymouth's best years.
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1958 PLYMOUTH FURY: A new 350cubic inch V - 8 engine was made available on the Fury. It could be bought with an electrically operated fuel-injection system that raised its output to 315 hp at 5000 rpm along with a torque rating of 370 at 3600 rpm. Dual headlights made their first Plymouth appearance.
1959 PLYMOUTH FURY: March, 1959 saw the eleven-millionth Plymouth leave the factory. More Plymouths were sold as police cars than at any time previously, A new series called the Sport Fury became the premium Plymouth. It was available as convertible or 2-door hardtop and was equipped with a 260 hp V-8. Its front seats swiveled outward, a standard equipment item that was extra cost in other Plymouth cars.
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1960 Valiant V - 200: This sensational new compact car first was put on display October 27, 1959, at New York's Hotel Commodore, commemorating the introduction of the first Chrysler there in 1925. The Valiant offered a strong unit construction body, peppy new Slant Six 101 horsepower engine, and a revolutionary new alternator, replacing the generator, as standard equipment.
1960 PLYMOUTH FURY: A multimillion dollar modernization program at the Plymouth assembly plant in Detroit paved the way for the new Unibody Plymouth. In April, 1960, Plymouth won the Mobilgas Economy run for the fourth straight year. Its two V -8 equipped cars finished first and second in their class, and two Plymouths with six-cylinder engines finished first and third
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1961 PLYMOUTH FURY: Gone were the fins which had characterized Plymouth cars for the past five years. Tail lamps were unique pods which appeared to "float" within concave depressions in the rear fenders. The alternator replaced the generator, and nine different V-8 engine options were listed.

1961 VALIANT V-200: For increased performance, a Valiant Six Hyper Pack had a 4 -barre1 carburetor and other modifications which raised the horsepower to 148. Valiant and Lancer were the only compact cars of the Big Three to offer factory-installed power steering and power brakes.

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1962 VALIANT SIGNET 200: A sportstype Signet series with front bucket seats was introduced as the premium car in the Valiant line-up, and an optional 225cubic inch six-cylinder engine with a die-cast aluminum block was offered. The Society of Illustrators named the Signet 200 as the winner of their styling award for design excellence.

1962 PLYMOUTH FURY: Self-adjusting brakes, transmission parking lock, and printed electrical circuits were new items for Plymouth in 1962. Wheelbase was reduced to 116 inches. A six cylinder Plymouth Savoy won its class in the Mobilgas Economy Run at 24.6 miles per gallon. On July 15 at Fremont, California' Tom Grove became the first drag strip driver ever to do the quarter mile in less than 12 seconds in a stock sedan with his Plymouth 413 Super Stock.
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1963 VALIANT SIGNET 200: An entirely new body design, the first since its inception, was the big news for Valiant. Unit construction was continued, and fuel tank capacity raised to 18 gallons from the original 13. The new body was two inches longer than before, and a convertible was offered for the first time. The Signet hardtop also could be bought with a black or white vinyl roof covering.

1963 PLYMOUTH SPORT FURY: 1963 was a banner year for Plymouth with its new Super Stock 426-cubic inch Maximum Performance engine. It was awarded the 1963 Manufacturer's Trophy for winning more United States Auto Club stock car races than any other make. Plymouth also took the top American Hot Rod Association stock car honors at FortWorth, Texas. A six-cylinder Savoy again won its class in the Mobilgas Economy Run.
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1964 VALIANT SIGNET: Among the new features for the 1964 Valiant were a four-speed manual transmission with a floor-mounted gearshift and a Sure-Grip differential option. Near midyear, a new lightweight 273-cubic inch V -8 engine was placed into production. The 273 engine developed 180 horsepower at 4200 rpm. This also was the first full year that all Chrysler- built cars began to show a miniature Pentastar -- the new Corporate symbol -- in their right front fenders.
1964-65 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA: On April 2, 1964, a new kind of Plymouth carwas introduced--the Barracuda whose "fastback" rear window was one of the largest ever used in a standard production automobile ... 14,.4 square feet of tinted glass. The Barracuda had a unique rear utility compartment with a rear seat whose back folded forward like the kind used in the rear of station wagons,
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1964 PLYMOUTH SPORT FURY: In the month of Feb r u a r y, 1964, Plymouth Super Stockers won "Mr. Top Stock Eliminator" at the AHRA Winternational Drag Championships, followed by a 11.63/124.13 mph quarter-mile win at the NHRA Winternationals. Later that month, Richard Petty piloted his blue Plymouth to a record win at the Daytona 500 with an average speed of 153.34mph. Plymouths, in fact, finished 1, 2, 3.
1965 PLYMOUTH SPORT FURY: An entirely new size of Plymouth called the Fury was introduced on a 119-inch wheelbase. Some of its highlights were a strong Unibody structure, column mounted automatic shiff lever, curved side glass, and an electric door locking system. Station wagons were almost a half foot longer than 1964.
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1965 PLYMOUTH Belvedere I: A new intermediate - size product line called the Belvedere was unveiled for 1965. Satellite was the name given to the premium car of the line. The Belvedere was three inches shorter than the 1964 Plymouth, yet had essentially the same interior compartment space.

1965 PLYMOUTH VALIANT SIGNET: To the first 273-cubic inch V-8, offered by Valiant the previous year, was added a high-performance option that upped the original horsepower rating to 235 at 5200 rpm. A new flat-profile air conditioner could be factory-installed. All-vinyl seats were standard in the low-line Valiant 100.

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1966 PLYMOUTH SIGNET: A new grille, tail lamps, ornamentation, and deep skirted bumpers characterized the 1966 Valiant. Front wheel disc brakes gave the Valiant buyer who participated in rallies and road racing programs a most useful option, as did the faster response of a new 16: 1 ratio manual steering gear.
1966 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA: A new grille, front end sheet metal, and new tail lamps identified the 1966 Barracuda. New medallions depicting a stylized Barracuda were introduced into the grille and rear belt molding. For 1966, the Barracuda also had its own instrument panel, and offered a popular "Formula S" performance and handling package that had few equals in domestic cars,
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1966 PLYMOUTH Belvedere II: A completely new body -- the first since Belvedere was introduced as an intermediate size car--heralded 1966 production. It had sculptured body lines, curved side glass, parallel windshield wipers, and could be purchased with a new 426-cubic inch hemi-head V-8 option that developed 425 hp @ 5000 rpm.

1966 PLYMOUTH SPORT FURY: The basic Fury body shell was continued, but new grille, tail lamps and ornamentation were introduced. The gas filler tube opening was moved from the left rear quarter to behind the license plate. An exclusive new four-door hardtop called the V I P made its entry. It had its own distinctive exterior and interior trim accented with walnut wood grain inserts.
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Plymouth engines, 1928-1966

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