"One clever idea after another" (late 1990s)
|Fate||Withdrawn from the market in 2001; models were either discontinued or rebranded as Chrysler|
|Founded||July 7, 1928|
|Defunct||June 29, 2001|
|Headquarters||Auburn Hills, Michigan
Plymouth was a brand of automobiles based in the United States, produced by the Chrysler Corporation and its successor DaimlerChrysler. The brand first appeared in 1928 in the United States and was discontinued in 2001.
The Plymouth automobile was introduced at Madison Square Garden on July 7, 1928. It was Chrysler Corporation's first entry in the low-priced field, which at the time was already dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouths were actually priced slightly higher than their competition, but offered all standard features such as internal expanding hydraulic brakes that the competition did not provide. Plymouths were originally sold exclusively through Chrysler dealerships, offering a low cost alternative to the upscale Chrysler brand cars. The logo featured a rear view of the ship Mayflower which landed at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts. However, the inspiration for the Plymouth brand name came from Plymouth binder twine, produced by the Plymouth Cordage Company, also of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The name was chosen by Joe Frazer due to the popularity of the twine among farmers.
The origins of Plymouth can be traced back to the Maxwell automobile. When Walter P. Chrysler took over control of the troubled Maxwell-Chalmers car company in the early 1920s, he inherited the Maxwell as part of the package. After he used the company's facilities to help create and launch the Chrysler car in 1924, he decided to create a lower-priced companion car. So for 1926 the Maxwell was reworked and re-badged as the low-end Chrysler "52" model. In 1928, the "52" was once again redesigned to create the Chrysler-Plymouth Model Q. The "Chrysler" portion of the nameplate was dropped with the introduction of the Plymouth Model U in 1929.
Great Depression, 1940s and 1950s
While the original purpose of the Plymouth was to serve a lower-end marketing niche, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the marque helped significantly in ensuring the survival of the Chrysler Corporation in a decade when many other car companies failed. Beginning in 1930, Plymouths were sold by all three Chrysler divisions (Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge). Plymouth sales were a bright spot during this dismal automotive period, and by 1931 Plymouth rose to the number three spot among all cars. In 1931 with the Model PA, the company introduced floating power and boasted, "The economy of a four; the smoothness of a six."
In 1933 Chrysler decided to catch up with Ford and Chevrolet with respect to engine cylinder count. The 190 cu in version of Chrysler's flathead-6 engine was equipped with a downdraft carburetor and installed in the new 1933 Plymouth PC, introduced on November 17, 1932. However, Chrysler had reduced the PC's wheelbase from 112 in (284.5 cm) to 107 in (271.8 cm), and the car sold poorly. By April 1933, the Dodge division's Model DP chassis, with a 112 in (284.5 cm) wheelbase, was put under the PC body with DP front fenders, hood, and radiator shell. The model designation was advanced to PD and the car was marketed as the "DeLuxe" 1933 Plymouth. This car sold very well and is the 1933 model most commonly found in collections. The PC became the 'Standard Six'. It had been the 'Plymouth Six' at introduction, and was sold through to the end of 1933, but in much lower numbers. It is consequently in the minority in collectors' hands today. In 1937, Plymouth (along with the other Chrysler makes) added safety features such as flat dash boards with recessed controls and the back of the front seat padded for the rear seat occupants. The PC was shipped overseas to Sweden, Denmark, and the UK, as well as Australia. In the UK it was sold as a 'Chrysler Kew', Kew Gardens being the location of the Chrysler factory outside London. The flathead 6 which started with the 1933 Model PC stayed in the Plymouth until the 1959 models.
In 1939 Plymouth produced 417,528 vehicles, of which 5,967 were two-door convertible coupes with rumble seats. The 1939 convertible coupe was prominently featured at Chrysler's exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair, advertised as the first mass-production convertible with a power folding top. It featured a 201 cu in, 82 hp version of the flathead six engine.
For much of its life, Plymouth was one of the top-selling American automobile brands; it together with Chevrolet and Ford was commonly referred to as the "low-priced three" marques in the American market. Plymouth almost surpassed Ford in 1940 and 1941 as the second most popular make of automobiles in the U.S. Through 1956, Plymouth vehicles were known[who?] for their durability, affordability, and engineering. In 1957, Virgil Exner's new Forward Look design theme, advertised by Plymouth with the tagline "Suddenly, it's 1960", produced cars with much more advanced styling than Chevrolet or Ford. 1957 total production soared to 726,009, about 200,000 more than 1956, and the largest output yet for Plymouth. However, the 1957–1958 Forward Look models suffered from poor materials, spotty build quality and inadequate corrosion protection; they were rust-prone and greatly damaged Chrysler's reputation.
In 1954 Chrysler started its decade long unsuccessful attempt to develop and market a viable car powered by turbine engine when it installed an experimental turbine they had developed specifically for vehicles in a Plymouth.
1960s - 1970s
Although Plymouth sales suffered as a result of the quality control problems and excesses of Exner-styled models in the early 1960s, people bought enough of the cars to keep the division profitable. Starting in 1961, the Valiant compact became a Plymouth, further boosting sales. Under the impression that Chevrolet was about to "downsize" its 1962 models, Chrysler introduced a significantly small standard Plymouth for 1962. As is known, Chevrolet's big cars weren't downsized, catching Plymouth in a sales slump in a market where "bigger was better." The '63 Fury, Belvedere and Savoy were slightly larger and more substantial, featuring a totally new body style, highlighted by prominent outboard front parking lights. For 1964, Plymouth got another major restyle, featuring a new "slantback" roofline for hardtop coupes that would prove extremely popular. Many enthusiasts consider the '64s to be the most attractive of the early '60s Plymouths.
For 1965, Plymouth were built on a new platform. They became the biggest Plymouths ever produced, The Savoy was discontinued, and Belvedere became an "intermediate," but it was basically a restyled 1964. All big Plymouths became Furys for 1965. The low end series was Fury I, the mid-level models were Fury II, and deluxe models were Fury IIIs. Above Fury III was the Sport Fury, which featured bucket seats and a V8 engine, similar to the Ford Galaxie 500/XL and Chevrolet Impala Super Sport. Ford and Chevrolet introduced special luxury editions of their big cars for 1965, the Ford Galaxie500/LTD and the Chevrolet Impala Caprice. Plymouth responded in 1966 with the VIP, a luxurious version of the Fury. Furys, Belvederes, and Valiants continued to sell well during the late-1960s and early-1970s.
Of note are the Plymouth "muscle cars" of the late 1960s. As the performance car market segment expanded during the late-1960s and early-1970s, Plymouth participated and produced some of the most memorable models. Many consider the Barracuda fastback of 1964 to be the first of Plymouth's sporty cars. Based on the Valiant, it was available with a durable Slant Six, or 273 cubic-inch small block V8. For 1967, Plymouth introduced the Belvedere GTX, a bucket-seat high-style hardtop coupe and convertible that could be ordered with either the Super Commando 440, or Hemi 426 V8. Looking for an advantage at the drag races, 1968 saw a stripped down Belvedere coupe, the Road Runner, which featured a bench seat, a minimum of interior and exterior trim, but was available with Chrysler's big-block engines, and a floor-mounted 4-speed manual transmission. The Barracuda, originally a "compact sporty car" aimed at Ford's Mustang and the Chevy Camaro, became a top tier muscle car in 1970 when it was made available with the 440 big block and 426 Hemi motors- putting it in contention with America's most powerful mass-produced sports cars. With the success of their big block and small block powered sports cars -principally among them the GTX, Barracuda (and the more muscular 'Cuda), Road Runner, Sport Fury GT, and Duster 340- Plymouth unveiled the 'Rapid Transit System', which, based on Dodge's 'Scat Pack' concept, was an all inclusive club made up of Plymouth sports car owners which provided further immersion into Plymouth performance automobiles. Throughout this period in Plymouth history, the brand also competed heavily in professional automobile racing. Their foremost prominent hallmark success stories come from racing icon Richard Petty's career with Plymouth in NASCAR, Dan Gurney, who raced a 'Cuda as part of the All American Racers in numerous Trans Am events, and Sox and Martin: one of the most well known drag racing teams of the period- only ever racing Plymouths. The GTX, Barracuda/'Cuda, and Road Runner continued into the 1970s, but as that decade wore on, emissions and safety regulations, along with soaring gasoline prices and an economic downturn spelled death for the majority of Plymouth's muscle car brands. Nonetheless, the compact Valiant sold well, built an enviable reputation for attractive styling, durability, economy, and value. Although the Valiant hardtop was discontinued for 1967, it was re-introduced as a virtual clone of the Dodge Dart Swinger for 1971 under the model name "Valiant Scamp." The Scamp was produced along with the Valiant, Dodge Dart and Swinger until 1976, when it was replaced with the Volare. Featuring transverse-mounted torsion bars and a slightly larger body, the Volare (and its Dodge twin, the Aspen) was an instant sales success. Available as coupe, sedan or station wagon, the Volare offered a smoother ride and better handling than the Dart/Valiant, but unfortunately suffered quality control problems and by 1980, was selling poorly.
Realizing that front-wheel drive, four-cylinder engines, and rack-and-pinion steering would become the standards for the 1980s, Chrysler introduced a new compact car for 1978, the Plymouth Horizon/Dodge Omni twins. Horizon sold well, but unfortunately suffered from a scathing report by Consumer Reports, which found its handling dangerous in certain situations. Plymouth continued to sell the Horizon until 1987, when a gaggle of front-wheel drive compact cars made up the line. Big Plymouths, including the Fury and Gran Fury, were sold up until the early 1980s, but mostly as fleet vehicles. While attempting to compete with Ford and Chevrolet for big-car sales, Plymouth was hurt by Chrysler's financial woes in the late 1970s, when both its competitors downsized their full-size models. Plymouth's attempt at downsizing the Gran Fury in 1979 was a poor seller, and dropped by 1981. By the 1980s, Plymouth as a distinctive division within Chrysler Corporation was no more. Plymouths were from then on simply re-badged Dodges.
Most Plymouth models offered from the late 1970s onward, such as the Volaré, Acclaim, Laser, Neon, and Breeze, were badge-engineered versions of Dodge or Mitsubishi models. By the 1990s, Plymouth had lost much of its identity, as its models continued to overlap in features and prices with Dodges and Eagles. In an attempt to fix this, Chrysler tried repositioning Plymouth to its traditional spot as the automaker's entry-level brand. Part of this marketing strategy included giving Plymouth its own new sailboat logo and advertisements that focused solely on value. However, this only further narrowed Plymouth's product offerings and buyer appeal, and sales continued to fall.
Chrysler considered giving Plymouth a variant of the highly successful new-for-1993 full-size LH platform, which would have been called the Accolade, but decided against it. By the late 1990s, only four vehicles were sold under the Plymouth name: the Voyager/Grand Voyager minivans, the Breeze mid-size sedan, the Neon compact car, and the Prowler sports car, which was to be the last model unique to Plymouth, though the Chrysler PT Cruiser was conceived as a concept unique to Plymouth before production commenced as a Chrysler model.
After discontinuing the Eagle brand in 1998, Chrysler was planning to expand the Plymouth line with a number of unique models before the corporation's merger with Daimler-Benz AG. The first model was the Plymouth Prowler, a hot rod styled sports car. The PT Cruiser was to have been the second. Both models had similar front-end styling, suggesting Chrysler intended a retro styling theme for the Plymouth brand. At the time of Daimler's takeover of Chrysler, Plymouth had no models besides the Prowler not also offered in similar version by Dodge.
From a peak production of 973,000 for the 1973 model year, Plymouth rarely exceeded 200,000 cars per year after 1990. Even the Voyager sales were usually less than 50% that of Dodge Caravan. In Canada, the Plymouth name was defunct at the end of the 1999 model year. Consequently, DaimlerChrysler decided to drop the make after a limited run of 2001 models. This was announced on November 3, 1999.
The last new model sold under the Plymouth marque was the second generation Neon for 2000. The PT Cruiser was ultimately launched as a Chrysler, and the Prowler and Voyager were absorbed into that make as well. Following the 2001 model year, the Neon was sold only as a Dodge in the US, though it remained available as a Chrysler in Canadian and other markets. The Plymouth Breeze was dropped after 2001, before Chrysler introduced their redesigned 2001 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring sedan.
- 1955: Plymouth first offers a V-8 engine.
- 1956: The automatic three-speed TorqueFlite transmission is introduced on some premium models. The Plymouth Fury is introduced.
- 1957: As with all other Chrysler divisions, the Forward Look design makes its debut on the 1957 Plymouths. Torsion-Aire front suspension introduced on all models.
- 1960: Dodge introduces the smaller, lower-priced Dart model that competes directly with Plymouth's offerings. The new compact Valiant is introduced as a marque unto itself. All Plymouths now feature unit-body construction.
- 1961: Valiant is repositioned as a Plymouth model for US market; Dodge gets badge-engineered Lancer version. Rambler and then Pontiac assumes third place in industry sales for the remainder of the 1960s.
- 1962: Sales drop dramatically with the introduction of a line of unpopularly styled, downsized full-size models.
- 1963: Valiant receives new, trim body resulting in a significant increase in sales. Full-size models are restyled to look larger.
- 1964: New Barracuda fastback coupe introduced in April. Full size models restyled with sensational new "slantback" hardtop coupe roofline.
- 1965: Plymouth rejoins the full-size car market with the new full-size Fury, based on the Chrysler C-Body. The intermediate B-body model line becomes the Belvedere and Satellite for 1965. Push-button automatic transmission controls replaced with conventional column or floor-mounted lever.
- 1967: The GTX is introduced.
- 1968: The Road Runner enters the Plymouth line-up.
- 1970: Duster coupe introduced in Valiant line for 1970 as is the E-body Barracuda.
- 1971: The British Hillman Avenger is imported as the Plymouth Cricket; it is discontinued in mid-1973. New Valiant Scamp two-door hardtop is a Badge-engineered Dodge Dart Swinger.
- 1973: Plymouth production hits an all-time peak of 973,000. The Plymouth Cricket in Canada is now based on the Dodge Colt.
- 1974: The Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant are, for the first time, different only in name and minor trim details as the two cars now share the same 111-inch wheelbase (both marque's fastbacks remain 108"). This badge engineering continues with the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volaré and all subsequent volume-production Plymouth models. The car that would ultimately become the Chrysler Cordoba is reassigned to Chrysler from Plymouth. Last year for Barracuda.
- 1975: The car that was to become the 1975 Plymouth Sebring is instead released as the new Chrysler Cordoba.
- 1976: Volaré launched, Valiant discontinued at year-end.
- 1977: The large Gran Fury is discontinued.
- 1978: The mid-size Fury is discontinued at the end of the model year. The subcompact Horizon is introduced. Chrysler Canada introduces the Plymouth Caravelle based on the Dodge Diplomat.
- 1979: Plymouth's lineup is reduced to the Horizon and Volaré, and three rebadged Mitsubishi imports.
- 1979–1980: Chrysler makes several thousand more Dodges than Plymouths for the first time. More Plymouths would be made than Dodges for 1981 and 1982, but from then on there will always be more Dodges made than Plymouths.
- 1980: Newport-based Gran Fury (R-body) introduced. Last year for Volaré.
- 1981: The full-size Gran Fury and Trailduster SUV's last year.
- 1982: The Plymouth Gran Fury, basically identical to the Dodge Diplomat, is introduced in the United States.
- 1983: Caravelle four-door sedan based on the E-body and a two-door coupe based on the K-body introduced.
- 1985: E-body Plymouth Caravelle introduced in the United States.
- 1989: The mid-size Gran Fury (Caravelle in Canada) as well as the Reliant are discontinued after this model year. The Reliant and E-body Caravelle are replaced by the Acclaim.
- 1992: The higher priced Acclaim models are repositioned as Chrysler LeBarons. Total sales of Acclaim and LeBaron drop. Total 1993 Plymouth model year production drops to 159,775, along with 237,875 Voyager models. Dodge built 300,666 Caravans.
- 1994: The little-advertised Laser sport-compact as well as the popular Sundance and Colt compacts all end production. They are replaced by a single car, the Neon, a car that Chrysler decides to offer as a Plymouth after dealers protested the loss of the Sundance and Colt with no replacement.
- 1995: Plymouth's lineup is at its all-time low, just 3 cars: the Acclaim, the Neon, and the Voyager/Grand Voyager. The number will go up to 4 in 1997, with the introduction of the Prowler, but will never get any higher.
- 1996: Chrysler announces the new Plymouth Breeze six months after sister Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Cirrus models. Chrysler originally had no plans to replace the Acclaim model.
- 1996: In an attempt to move Plymouth downmarket, Chrysler makes the redesigned Voyager only available in base and mid-level SE models. All of the higher-end trim levels available on the previous generation can now only be found on the Dodge Caravan. The high-end trim levels can still be found in certain markets outside the US.
- 1997: Production for the 1997 model year comes to 178,807 cars plus 187,347 Voyager models. Dodge builds 448,394 cars and 355,400 Caravans.
- 1999: Total 1999 production for Plymouth cars comes to 195,714 with Dodge at 394,052. Voyager production comes to 197,020, compared to 354,641 Caravans. The writing is on the wall. The redesigned 2000 Neon becomes the brand's last new model.
- 2000: The mid-size Breeze ends production. This is also the last year for the Voyager minivan as a Plymouth. All 2000 Voyagers built in December 1999 and beyond are badged as Chrysler Voyagers. In Canada, the redesigned Neon is sold under the Chrysler name and both the Plymouth and Dodge names are dropped on all car models, save for the Prowler and Viper. The Voyager name is dropped in Canada as all Chrysler dealer sell Dodge trucks, including the Caravan. Total 2000 model year production for Plymouth comes to 108,546 compared to 459,988 Dodge cars. Voyager production totalled 123,869 versus 330,370 Caravan models.
- 2001: Plymouth's final model year. Only the Neon remains in the Plymouth line. The Prowler and the Voyager become Chryslers. The Voyager gains a high-end LX trim as well as a base eC trim, and it retains the SE trim. The Breeze is dropped as Chrysler issues the Chrysler Sebring sedan to replace the Chrysler Cirrus. The PT Cruiser is launched as a Chrysler, though it was originally planned to be a Plymouth. The final Plymouth, a Neon, is assembled on 28 June 2001, with a total of 38,657 built for the model year.
(All production numbers - Ward's Automotive Yearbook, various issues, 1973 to 2002)
Plymouth car models
Plymouth built various trucks and vans over the years, mainly re-badged Dodge or Chrysler vehicles. Early pickups, delivery trucks and other commercial trucks were available, and later an SUV, full size vans and mini-vans. Plymouth had supplied components to the Fargo vehicles, another member of the Chrysler family, but entered the commercial market in 1937 with the PT50.
- Plymouth PT50 - 1937 - Express pickup, panel delivery van, cab and chassis, station wagon
- Plymouth PT57 - 1938 - Express pickup, panel delivery van, cab and chassis
- Plymouth PT81 - 1939 - Express pickup, cab and chassis
- Plymouth PT105 - 1940 - Express pickup
- Plymouth PT125 - 1941 - Express pickup
- Plymouth Trail Duster - 1974-1981 - SUV, same as Dodge Ramcharger
- Plymouth Voyager (van) - 1974-1983 - full-size van, same as Dodge Sportsman
- Plymouth Scamp - 1983 - Front wheel drive pickup, same as Dodge Rampage
- Plymouth Voyager (minivan) - 1984-2000 - Minivan, same as Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country; also sold as Chrysler Voyager from 1999 to 2003
- Plymouth Arrow pickup - 1979-1980 - compact pickup built by Mitsubishi
Plymouth concept cars
|Belmont||c.1953||2-seater Convertible||3.9L 150 hp V8|
|Explorer||1954||Coupé||3.7L 110 hp Straight-six engine|
|Cabana||1958||Station wagon||Non-runner||Unique glass roof for the rear portion of the car.|
|XNR||1960||2-seater convertible||2.8L 250 hp Straight-six engine|
|Asimmetrica||1961||3.7L 145 hp Straight-six engine|
|Valiant St. Regis||1962||Coupé|
|V.I.P.||1965||4-seater convertible||Unique roof bar from the top of the windshield to the rear deck.|
|Barracuda Formula SX||1966||Coupé|
|Duster I Road Runner||1969||340 hp V8
426 hp V8
|All features of the Road Runner plus flaps on top and sides and adjustable spoilers on the side of the rear fender, all to reduce lift.|
|(Rapid Transit System) 'Cuda (440)||1970||Convertible|
|(Rapid Transit System) Road Runner||Coupé||Three-colored tail lights: red for "braking", yellow for "coasting" and green for "on the gas".|
|(Rapid Transit System) Duster 340||5.6L c.300 hp V8|
|Concept Voyager II||1986||Minivan|
|Slingshot||1988||2-seater coupé||2.2L 225 hp turbocharged Straight-four engine||Canopy that swings upwards to open the car
Adjustable four-wheel independent suspension
Keyless credit card-like entry
Combined headlight and rear-view mirror pods
Exposed engine and suspension
|Speedster||1989||2-seater convertible||No opening doors, to make getting in more fun|
|Voyager 3||Minivan||The front of the car could be driven by itself or driven when attached to a "miniature tractor-trailer"
|2.0L (turbocharged) 167 hp V6|
|Breeze||c.1990||Sedan||2.0L 132 hp 4 cylinder engine
2.4L 150 hp Straight-four engine
|Prowler||1993||Convertible||3.5L 214 hp V6|
|Backpack||1995||2-seat truck||2.0L 135 hp Inline-four engine||Space for a laptop on a small table
Built-in bike rack on the back
|Pronto||1997||Sedan||1.6L 115 hp Inline-four engine||The front of the car resembled that of the Prowler
Roll-back fabric top
|Pronto Spyder||1998||Convertible||2.4L 225 hp Straight-four engine|
|Howler||1999||3.5L c.250 hp V6
4.7L c.250 hp V8
|Voyager XG||Minivan||2.5L 115 hp turbocharged diesel engine||Powered retractable sunroof.|
- Kimes, Beverly Rae; Clark, Jr., Henry A. Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942 (second edition). Krause publications. p. 1156. ISBN 0-87341-111-0.
- Gunnell, John; Schrimpf, Dennis; Buttolph, Ken. Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975 (second edition). Krause publications. p. 534. ISBN 0-87341-096-3.
- "What's in a Name? (How Plymouth Was Named)". Allpar.com. 1928-01-11. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- "1939 Plymouth - history". Joesherlock.com. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- Vincent Curcio (2001), Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius, p.472
- Benjaminson, Jim. "Plymouth cars 1957: Three Years Ahead". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- "Insider's history of Plymouth - Part V". Allpar.com. 1956-10-30. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- "Turbo Plymouth Threatens Future of Standard." Popular Science, July 1954, p. 102, mid page, p. 103, bottom page.
- "How Plymouth Works: 1990, 1991, 1992 Plymouths" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, retrieved on 2011–01–20.
- Yates, Brock (1996). The Critical Path: Inventing an Automobile and Reinventing a Corporation "Showtime in St.Louis" p.209-11. Little, Brown.
- "How Plymouth Works: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Plymouths" by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, retrieved on 2011–01–20.
- "Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision, Chrysler 300M, New Yorker, and LHS - the LH cars, with reviews". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- Benjaminson, Jim. "Plymouth commercial vehicles". Allpar.com. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- Kimes, Beverly Rae (Historian and Author) and Clark, Henry Austin, Jr. (Chief of Research) (MCMLXXXIX). Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1805-1942 (Second edition). Krause Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-87341-111-0.
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|Plymouth road car timeline, 1950–1970s, United States market — next »|
|Road Runner||Road Runner||Volaré Road Runner|
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