Plymouths Great and Small: The Plymouth VIP and Fury

For 1965, the Plymouth Fury and Sport Fury, which had previously been the upper-level B-body trim series, switched to the bigger C-body used by the Dodge Polara/Custom 880 and low-end Chryslers. For the Fury, the C-body’s wheelbase was shortened to 119 inches (3,023 mm), giving it overall dimensions very close to those of the full-size Ford and Chevy. To ensure that the Fury would cover the same price spread as Chevrolet’s Biscayne, Bel Air, and Impala models, there were now three Fury series: Fury I, Fury II, and Fury III.

1966 Plymouth VIP front  3q
This is a 1966 Plymouth VIP, but the 1965 and 1966 models differ only in minor details. The first C-body Fury was 209.8 inches (5,329 mm) long on a 119-inch (3,023mm) wheelbase, very similar to the Ford Galaxie. The C-body’s unitary construction make it more solid than the deliberately willowy perimeter frame of the big Chevy, but not any lighter: with a big-block engine and air conditioning, the Fury’s curb weight was a bit over 4,300 lb (1,960 kg).

Since the sales of the 1963-1964 B-body Plymouths had been quite good, Chrysler-Plymouth did not simply discard them. Instead, the Belvedere series got another restyling that removed 3.1 inches (79 mm) of the 4.5 inches (114 mm) of overall length the car had gained since 1962, bringing it closer the size of the Ford Fairlane and Chevrolet Chevelle. Plymouth now advertised the Belvedere (and its more plushly trimmed Satellite sibling) as an intermediate, rather than a full-sized car — which is what Chrysler probably should have done with the B-bodies in the first place. (Dodge did the same with its B-body cars, creating the midsize Coronet and its Dodge Charger derivative.)

The 1965 Fury was the most conservative Plymouths in over a decade. Although Furies still had unibody construction (once again with a bolt-in front subframe) and torsion bars, the pushbutton transmission controls were gone, the suspension was softer, and the styling had become cautious and rectilinear. All those changes were deliberate, intended to entice GM and Ford customers who might have considered previous Plymouths a little too odd. The pushbuttons, for instance, were dropped at least in part because a Chrysler marketing study found that they were a deterrent to buyers who had never tried them before, although Chrysler was probably also worried by a new regulation from the General Accounting Office requiring all federal fleet cars to have a neutral position between drive and reverse (a requirement that later became part of the first federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards). The Fury still had a firmer ride and somewhat better handling than its nearest rivals, but the difference was modest, and it would gradually erode throughout the decade.

From a commercial standpoint, Plymouth’s newfound orthodoxy was no bad thing. Sales rose by about 20% from the already-decent 1964 total. In fact, the 1965 model year was the second best in Plymouth’s history, falling short of 1957’s peak by only 45,000 units. Nearly half of those sales were Furies and Sport Furies, suggesting that adding the C-body had been a smart move.

While sales of just under 330,000 units were better than decent, the Fury remained a distant third in the low-priced, full-size market. The full-size Chevrolet outsold the Fury by almost four to one while the big Ford outpaced Plmouth by nearly three to one. Moreover, the big Plymouth’s short-term resale values still lagged behind Chevrolet’s and Ford’s by $100 or more, a serious concern in an era when many buyers still traded in every two or three years.

1966 Plymouth VIP engine badge
The badge reads “Commando V8,” which was a trade name for a variety of Plymouth V8s in this era. The standard engine for the VIP was the 318 cu. in. (5,204 cc) A-series V8 with 230 gross horsepower (172 kW); the Commando V8 was the first step-up option, a 383 cu. in. (6,277 cc) B-series engine with a two-throat carburetor, making 270 gross horsepower (201 kW). This car, like most Furies and probably all VIPs, has the optional three-speed TorqueFlite automatic, a $198.35 extra.

Part of the problem was perceived quality. In general, the 1965 Plymouths were solidly built, a welcome improvement from the rattly, fast-rusting products of the late fifties, but fit and finish still left something to be desired. Critics were already making similar complaints about Chevrolet, but many buyers still perceived the big Chevy as the better-built car, something Chrysler’s five-year/50,000-mile (80,000-km) warranty had not entirely rectified. Evidently, not all customers were convinced that Chrysler had really cleaned up its act.

THE VERY IMPORTANT PLYMOUTH: PLYMOUTH VIP

As we’ve previously discussed, in 1965, Ford introduced a new wrinkle to the low-priced big-car market: the LTD. The LTD was a essentially a super-deluxe trim package, adding plusher upholstery, extra sound insulation, and a lot of woodgrain appliqué to transform the Galaxie into a sort of cut-price Lincoln. Although it was very expensive — nearly $500 more than a Galaxie 500 — the LTD struck a responsive chord with both salespeople and buyers, selling over 100,000 units in the first year and raking in a considerable profit.

Unlike the four-seat Thunderbird, which had seemed to confound Ford’s rivals, the LTD’s formula was easily duplicated. For the 1966 model year, GM, AMC, and Chrysler rolled out their own budget luxury models: the Chevrolet Caprice, AMC Ambassador DPL, and Plymouth VIP. All were studious imitations of the Ford concept.

1966 Plymouth VIP rear 3q
All Plymouth VIPs were hardtops, whether two-door or four-door. The two-door started at $3,069 in 1966, the four-door at $3,133. Those prices put the VIP roughly halfway between the Chevrolet Caprice and the Ford LTD, but dangerously close to its corporate sibling, the Chrysler Newport.

The acronym “VIP” — Very Important Person — dates back to World War II, where it was military shorthand for senior civilian officials, the wives of general officers, and other transport passengers accorded more consideration than the average G.I., sailor, or Marine. Plymouth had previously applied the name to a show car displayed at the 1965 Chicago Auto Show, although the production VIP bore no resemblance to the concept car, which had featured a partially retractable glass roof and a built-in television.

Mechanically, the Plymouth VIP was a Fury III — it was initially a sub-series of that model, although it cost nearly $350 more. It came standard with the 318 cu. in. (5,204 cc) LA-series V8, rear fender skirts, and a clock, which were optional on lesser Furies. The rest of the price premium was in the interior, which included the obligatory slathering of chrome and faux mahogany, as well as indulgences like folding armrests and a separate cigarette lighter and ashtrays for rear-seat passengers. As with the LTD, the price did not include automatic transmission, power steering or brakes, or even the vinyl top, a $75.10 option with which most VIPs were apparently equipped.

1966 Plymouth VIP fender skirt
Rear fender skirts were optional on other Furies, but standard on the Plymouth VIP. Like all Chryslers of this period, the Fury and VIP had torsion bar springs in front and leaf springs in back compared to the coil springs used by the big Fords and Chevys. In previous years, these had provided above-average handling and a rather firm ride, but Chrysler progressively reduced the spring rates, softened the shocks, and added thick rubber bushings to reduce harshness; some base models also lacked a front anti-roll bar. The VIP was rather soggy for a Chrysler unless you opted for the heavy-duty suspension, which cost $15.90 extra.

Unsurprisingly, the VIP performed a lot like any other Fury. With the base engine and TorqueFlite, 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) took around 12 seconds, although many buyers opted for the optional 383 cu. in. (6,277 cc) V8, with either 270 or 325 hp (201 or 242 kW). The latter allowed 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in around 9 seconds with a top speed of around 115 mph (185 km/h), wholly adequate, if not particularly sporting. A big 440 cu. in. (7,206 cc) “Super Commando” V8 and four-speed manual transmission were theoretically optional, although we can’t imagine many VIP customers ordered such a powertrain; the VIP was marketed as a budget luxury car, not a Supercar.

1966 Plymouth VIP dash
All sixties Plymouths had temperature and amperage gauges, rather than warning lights, but for some reason, none had an oil pressure gauge. The Plymouth VIP’s instrument panel was the same as lesser Furies, but it added padding to the top of the dash. Note that the shifter is on the column; Chrysler abandoned its famous pushbuttons at the end of the 1964 model year.

THE PERILS OF SIBLING RIVALRY

While both the LTD and the similar Chevrolet Caprice were strong sellers, Plymouth’s VIP proved to be a commercial disappointment. The Caprice and LTD/7-Litre accounted for nearly 300,000 sales in 1966, not far from the total sales of all Furies. Chrysler-Plymouth didn’t break out VIP sales from those of the regular Fury III in 1966, but we doubt sales were much more than 20,000. The restyled 1967 sold fewer than 19,000 units.

1966 Plymouth VIP front
The split grille and stacked-quad headlamps make the 1966 Plymouth VIP (and all ’66 Plymouths) look rather like a 1963-1964 Pontiac — given that Plymouth was eager to reclaim the number-three sales slot from Pontiac, the resemblance may well have been intentional.

The VIP’s commercial failure probably had a lot to do with Plymouth’s continuing connection with Chrysler. The LTD and Caprice were thinly veiled broadsides at their upmarket corporate siblings, but Ford and Chevrolet were not obliged to sell them alongside Mercurys, Pontiacs, and Oldsmobiles; the multi-franchise automotive “supermarkets” so common today were then very rare. By contrast, the VIP had to share the same showrooms as its most direct in-house rival, the Chrysler Newport.

In that era, the Chrysler brand still offered a respectable level of badge cachet, certainly far more than any Plymouth. A basic Newport hardtop was only $43 more than a two-door VIP and came standard with the 383 cu. in. (6,277 cc) 2V V8 that cost $69.70 extra on the Plymouth. The Newport shared the same body shell as the VIP, although its wheelbase was 5 inches (127 mm) longer and its running gear and performance nearly identical. Measured on the usual luxury-car scales of size, power, and snob value, the Newport was clearly a better value and it outsold the VIP by a sizable margin. If Plymouth had really gotten its own dealer network at the beginning of the decade, the VIP might have done better, but the pairing with Chrysler limited Plymouth’s upmarket ambitions.

1968 Plymouth Fury III front  3q
The 1967-1968 Plymouth Fury was 213.1 inches (5,413 mm) long on the same 119-inch (3,023mm) wheelbase, nearly identical to the contemporary Impala and Galaxie. This is a Fury III, distinguished by additional exterior trim and a higher grade of interior upholstery. With automatic transmission, power steering and brakes, and a radio, a 1968 Plymouth Fury III hardtop like this cost around $3,500.

Plymouth continued the VIP series through the 1969 model year, but sales never picked up and it was quietly dropped in the spring of 1969. Sales in its final year amounted to fewer than 14,000 units, less even than the AMC Ambassador DPL.

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE FUSELAGE FURY

The Fury, meanwhile, was staying its conservative course. The restyled 1967-1968 models, developed by C-body chief stylist Dick Clayton under the supervision of Chrysler-Plymouth executive designer Dick Macadam, were less rigid-looking than before, although they still fell short of the voluptuous curves of contemporary Pontiacs. The big Fury was pleasant enough to look at, but it was far from distinctive. Except for the sharply angled C-pillars of the “Fast Top” hardtop roof, the new Plymouth C-body could easily be mistaken for any number of other makes. It was a far cry from the dramatic Forward Look Plymouths of a decade earlier.

1968 Plymouth Fury III rear 3q
The most distinctive styling feature of the 1967-1968 Plymouth was the “Fast Top” roof on two-door hardtops, with its reverse-slant C-pillars. This is a 1968 Plymouth Fury III, identifiable by the tiny side-marker lights mandated by new federal safety regulations. Like the silver VIP above, this car has the 383 cu. in. (6,277 cc) Commando engine and TorqueFlite, but is also equipped front disc brakes, which became optional on big Plymouths in 1966.

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  1. You mention that "pushbuttons … were dropped because a Chrysler marketing study found that they were a deterrent to buyers who had never tried them before." The story I remember hearing when I was growing up was that it was a government mandate – part of the same ruling / legislation (not sure which) that imposed additional safety standards such as backup lights, outside mirrors and seatbelts (all of which had previously been optional equipment) – that also spelled the end of GM’s unusual column shift automatic (with reverse down below first gear rather than between park and neutral). Supposedly this was due to people renting cars and having accidents because they put the car in the wrong gear by mistake and/or because they would leave a Chrysler product in neutral because they couldn’t find the park button (since there wasn’t one, it was a lever). My father’s favorite "trick", on either his ’61 Dodge Phoenix convertible or my mother’s ’63 Dodge 330 four door sedan, was to depress the reverse button slightly if someone was tailgating him; that would flash the backup lights and generally startle whoever was following too closely, enough that they would either back off or roar around us. I later owned that ’63 sedan, and a few years later a ’63 330 wagon, also with the pushbutton automatic. When my father’s aunt passed away in 1968, the family attempted to convince my grandmother (her sister) to take Aunt Ethel’s ’65 Studebaker Lark, but she wouldn’t give up her ’61 Pontiac Star Chief because she didn’t want to learn a new shift pattern; Dad brought the Lark home on the assumption that my mother would jump at the chance to have a car with air conditioning (the ’63 330 did not), but she didn’t want to make the switch either because … you guessed it … it had what we consider today to be the standard shift pattern, and she liked her pushbuttons. And of course Dad wouldn’t give up his convertible, so the Lark was passed on to another member of the family who drove it for many years. Mother finally surrendered to the modern shifter in 1970, when they bought a new Galaxie 500, and she’s been griping about it for forty years now!

    1. I’ve heard that story in various forms, but to the best of my knowledge, it’s not true. There was indeed pressure to standardize automatic transmission shift patterns for the reasons you mention, but as far as I know, it was from the SAE, not from the government. Moreover, Chrysler pushbuttons did follow the NRDL pattern that became standard (big Chryslers didn’t have a parking pawl until 1962), even if it was on the dash, rather than the console or column. This bears more research, but there was apparently nothing to ban things like the Hurst Dual-Gate or the “Slap-Stik” shift controls of some years later, certainly.

      In any case, the timing doesn’t really support that idea. The first real federal safety legislation didn’t go into effect until 1967. Chrysler would have had to make the decision to ditch the pushbuttons no later than the summer of 1962, before that legislation was even passed. That [i]would[/i], however, have been in the wake of the disastrous ’62 model year, and coincided with various other moves the Townsend administration made to make Chrysler more like Ford and GM.

      When Chrysler made the change, their explanation, in their press releases and public statements, was all about marketing, and even the less-credulous magazines didn’t question that. Considering that when the Big Three [i]did[/i] start complying with government safety regulations a few years later, they made a big deal out of their compliance, I haven’t seen anything to make me doubt that explanation.

      Naturally, if I find compelling evidence to the contrary, I’ll go with that, but the marketing explanation seems to make more sense.

      Was your mom left-handed? One of the objections some journalists always had to the pushbuttons was that they could be awkward for right-handed drivers.

      1. Yes, she is… as am I. Interesting point, I hadn’t even considered that as a factor.

      2. I used pushbuttons on my ’56 Plymouth, my ’64 Dart, my ’61 Valiant.Though right handed, had no trouble with left on the buttons, felt the Park pawl taking the car out of gear and locking it was great, as it was on my ’61 Valiant.
        I feel it was strictly marketing pressure, conform to the others, that made them give up the buttons.
        And now Lincoln has them again!
        Just like push button starting as on my ’47Dodge!

    2. It appears that I was at least partly incorrect. The federal General Services Administration required Neutral to be placed between Reverse and Drive (effectively mandating the PRNDL shift pattern) for all government-purchased fleet vehicles, starting in the 1966 model year, and that spurred the industry shift. I’m still not sure that influenced Chrysler’s decision to drop the pushbuttons; their shift pattern didn’t change, and the buttons created a much more positive separation between Drive, Neutral, and Reverse than column-shifted automatics. But there was a federal mandate, so that may have been part of the decision, if not the sole reason.

  2. The immediate reason to not reinstate a C-body Plymouth was that Plymouth and Chrysler sold in the same dealerships. The Chrysler Newport was a lot of car for the money, and the Chrysler brand had a banner year in 1962…probably because the corporation had reduced its traditional full-size cars from four brands to one (plus a limp “Dodge” version of the Chrysler at the same price as a sop to Dodge dealers and their loyal customers). The puffy 63 Plymouth was reasonably competitive on apparent size.

    It’s kind of funny that Dodge dealers had the tables turned in 62. In 1960, they’d blown the doors off their stores because they had great looking Plymouth-sized and -priced junior Dodges, at the expense of Plymouth. Now they were stuck selling a Dodge at the same prices as an equivalent Chrysler. Lotsa luck, fellas.

    1. [quote]The immediate reason to not reinstate a C-body Plymouth was that Plymouth and Chrysler sold in the same dealerships.[/quote]

      That would be a logical reason — although, as the article says, they subsequently ignored that logic with the VIP, which I think sold badly as a result of it. What I don’t know is if that was the actual rationale. As the whole ’62 debacle demonstrates, a number of Chrysler’s product planning decisions in this period were not exactly sensible!

      In the long run, of course, the closeness of the Chrysler brand to the top Plymouth and Dodge (and earlier, DeSoto) did Chrysler more harm than its stablemates, dragging down its market position. But in the mid-sixties, it was hard to argue with the prospect of a ‘real’ Chrysler for Plymouth money.

      1. I agree that the biggest problems of selling Caprice/LTD type Plymouths was that they sold in the same dealerships as comparable Chryslers for nearly the same money.

        I’d think dealers wouldn’t even bother stocking them without some extra wholesale discount (as in the days of the sales bank).

  3. Also, note that the shortened mid-size B-bodies didn’t come til 1966. The 65 Belvedere and Coronet were the same size as the standard 64 Plymouth, despite the new C-body full-size cars in 65. IIRC, the 65 Plymouth was the least popular “mid-size” car that year of any brand, although the newly styled Coronet was reasonably popular and outsold the new Dodge C-body; the 65 Belvedere was obviously the same car as the 63–64 standard Plymouth, and was outsold by the 65 Fury by over 2:1.

    1. [quote]Also, note that the shortened mid-size B-bodies didn’t come til 1966. The 65 Belvedere and Coronet were the same size as the standard 64 Plymouth, despite the new C-body full-size cars in 65. [/quote]

      The restyled ’66s were indeed smaller than the ’65s, but the ’65s were also somewhat shorter than the ’64s. The overall lengths are as follows:

      1964: Dodge 330/440/Polara: 209.8 inches
      Plymouth Savoy/Belvedere/Fury/Sport Fury: 206.5 inches
      1965: Dodge Coronet: 204.2 inches
      Plymouth Belvedere/Satellite: 203.4 inches
      1966: Dodge Coronet: 203.0 inches
      Plymouth Belvedere/Satellite: 200.5 inches

      The ’66 B-bodies had a new body, but the move to reposition them as intermediates had already begun in ’65.

      [quote]the 65 Belvedere was obviously the same car as the 63–64 standard Plymouth, and was outsold by the 65 Fury by over 2:1[/quote]

      Yup, pretty much; Plymouth’s total model-year sales for 1965 were 721,234, of which 329,950 were C-bodies and about 162,675 were the Belvedere and Satellite. Unlike Ford’s ’62 Fairlane, Chrysler didn’t do a very good job of marketing the ’65 B-bodies as new products. Given the oscillation in size of the previous years, and the fact that the ’65 Belvedere was pretty clearly a facelift of the ’64 big car, I imagine that a fair number of buyers were puzzled by the nameplate shuffling.

      [quote]IIRC, the 65 Plymouth was the least popular "mid-size" car that year of any brand[/quote]

      Yup. Here’s the breakdown:

      Plymouth Belvedere/Satellite: 162,675
      Dodge Coronet: 176,647
      Ford Fairlane: 223,954
      Chevrolet Chevelle/Malibu: 326,977
      Pontiac Tempest/Le Mans: 307,083
      Buick Special/Skylark: 234,974
      Olds F-85/Cutlass: 212,082
      Rambler Classic: 199,063

      [quote]the newly styled Coronet was reasonably popular and outsold the new Dodge C-body[/quote]

      Well, the Coronet was more popular than the ’65 Belvedere and Satellite, but as you can see from the numbers above, that wasn’t saying much — they were still second to last.

      The B-body Dodges had outsold the C-body from the start. In ’62, it was understandable, given the mid-year introduction, but even in ’63 and ’64, the Custom 880 accounted for only 6-7% of Dodge’s total volume. Dodge stretched the B-body more than Plymouth did; the ’63 B-body Dodge wasn’t really that much smaller than its main competitors. (It was about four inches shorter than a Catalina, two inches shorter than an Impala.) What that suggests is that the C-body was more for the comfort of Dodge dealers and management than Dodge buyers, not unlike AMC’s Ambassador, which John Conde said was created more to placate AMC executives than for any specific marketing purpose.

      1. Might want to double check your sources on the size of the 64 Plymouth and Dodge.

        Except wagons, the 63/64 standard Plymouths are approximately 206″ from tip to tail (barring variations like the vee’d front bumper on the 64 Plymouth). The Dodges are approx 209″

        The 63/64 “B-plus” Dodges had been built on a longer WB (119″) than the standard Plymouths (116″), which is why the 65 Coronet needed new rear styling to fit the Plymouth-sized chassis (unlike the 119″ 63/64 Dodges, the 116″/117″ WBs on 65 and later Belvederes and Coronets are done with different axle positions on the same floorpan).

        The 63/64 Plymouth and Dodge wagons are approx 210″ long. Both brands used the same 116″ wheelbase for wagons.

        1. Hmm, it appears you’re correct. I’d taken the overall length figure from Jim Wright’s ’64 Sport Fury road test in [i]Motor Trend[/i] (January 1964), but it looks like they either had a typographical error or took the figures from a station wagon, rather than a hardtop. I looked up the AMA specs for the ’64, and the overall length of non-wagon models is listed at 206.5 inches, so I’ve amended the text accordingly.

  4. First off, what a great website!
    In 1980, with a growing family, I traded my ’68 VW to a lady who wanted a Bug for her 1972 Fury III. Beside a ’65 Dodge Dart, the only other Chrysler product I’ve owned. It had, to the best of my recollection, a 360 with a Holley 4bbl.
    When you put the pedal to the carpet, it was the classic case of irresistible force meets immovable object. I think I was getting about 10 mpg. One day I had the hood open with the motor running and noticed the mechanical fuel pump was squirting about half the fuel out the side. After I replaced the fuel pump mileage improve to about 13 mpg. One curious feature of this vehicle was the turn signal indicators on the fenders, which was a nice touch excepting there were no turn signal indicators on the dash instrumentation. I believe what you said about the torsion bar suspension being “de-tuned” as it was a challenge to travel in a straight line on the highway. Having said all that this vehicle was pretty reliable. Also built like a tank. Was at a red light and got rear-ended by a Toyota doing 45 mph. Toyota = totalled (no injuries to the driver thank goodness) Plymouth = bent license plate holder/fuel filler door. Also knocked all the accumulated junk out of the bottom of the fuel tank and had to clean the tank/fuel system/rebuild the Holley. Thanks for allowing me to share my story.
    Regards,
    Mark

    1. The big Plymouths were not particularly svelte, and fit and finish was hit and miss, judging by the complaints of contemporary reviewers, but they were certainly sturdy. The owner of the silver VIP in the photos told me that he drove a lot of these cars in demolition derbies years ago, and found them nearly indestructible.

    2. In reply to Mark Benedict, the 360 engine was new to the Chrysler Corporate engine line in 1970s. Being the largest displacement ‘LA’ engine built by Chrysler, but it was only equipped with a Holley 2bbl to begin with. No similarity to the 361 which was an ‘LB’ engine. The 383 and 400 engines were also ‘LB’ engines with the exception of the Golden Lion 383 which was an ‘RB’ engine. Other ‘RB engines being the 413, 426 and 440.
      When the 340 engine was replaced by the 360 in 1974, it became the performance ‘LA’ engine equipped with a Carter Thermoquad, performance cam and duel exhaust as the 1973 340 had. Mostly seen in the ‘A’ body Duster and Demon but also found in the 1975 Plymouth Road Runner before the old bird died.

      1. The 361, 383, and 400 engines where B blocks. The 413, 426, and 440 engines were RB or “raised block” engines. There was one RB small bore 383 for one year but only in Canada.

        1. You’re right. I had subsequently straightened this out, but there are still some glitches in older articles.

  5. First of all, great article. I enjoy reading about the machinations of automakers as they try and figure out how to fit in predetermined sales niches.

    One quick correction, though: in the caption for the blue 1962 Belvedere, you mention that it has “lake pipes.” The pictured car has headers, but no exhaust pipes running along the rocker panel (which are good for little more than calf burns).

    1. Oops, you’re right — it’s running open exhaust pipes, but not lake pipes. Corrected!

  6. Another great article. These cars are fascinating, given their “wallflower” status compared to the contemporary Chevrolet Bel Air/Impala/Caprice and Ford Galaxie/LTD.

    It’s always a treat to see one at an old car show – especially the somewhat wacky 1961 models! At one of the Carlisle Events shows last year, someone showed a largely original 1961 Plymouth Suburban in very good shape. THAT is a rare sight these days, even at old car shows.

    When I was growing up in the early 1970s, the big Plymouths were considered a bit “off” as a choice. The Bel Air/Impala/Caprice, and, to a lesser extent, the Galaxie/LTD, were the safe choices. Chrysler products, aside from the Valiant/Dart, did not have an especially good reliability reputation at that time, and were also considered to be plainer and more spartan than their GM and Ford competitors.

    It was always amazing to me how quickly the sales of the full-size Plymouths and Dodges collapsed in the wake of the first fuel crisis. Sales of the big GM and Ford cars did recover to an extent in 1976 (except for the full-size Pontiac), but the Dodge Royal Monaco and Plymouth Gran Fury never did. Full-size Chryslers did sell well, however, probably at the expense of the lesser corporate siblings.

    One quibble – I believe that the 1970 Fury resembles the 1969 Chevrolet, not the 1970 Chevrolet. The 1969 Chevrolet had a front ensemble that featured a wraparound bumper that enclosed the headlights and grille. The 1970 model had a more traditional front that aped a contemporary Cadillac. The 1973 Dodge Polara, however, does look like a great deal like a 1970 Chevrolet.

    I’d love to see an article on the big Fords of the 1960s, along with the post-1964 AMC Ambassadors (when AMC again gave the Ambassador its own wheelbase and unique styling).

    1. [quote]I believe that the 1970 Fury resembles the 1969 Chevrolet, not the 1970 Chevrolet.[/quote]

      Ack, you’re quite right — the ’69 Chevy, like the Impala Custom.

  7. I remember the mid 60s Fury making a sales comrback for Plymouth. Uncle/aunt had ’65 Fury III coupe and 69 sedan, my family had a ’68 wagon.

    However, in my opinion, Plymouth/Dodge big cars lost sales to GM/Ford family cars during the sales boom of 1971-73, just before Oil Crunch I. Chryslers in my family had reliability issues, such as hard starting. My folks went to GM in ’75 and never looked back.

    Also, the fuselage styling was ‘too swinging 60s’ by 1971. So, Chrysler brought out GM copies for 1974, just in time for OPEC. By the time oil fears eased in 1976, buyers had moved on to GM/Ford mid size cars, and imports. Mopar dropped their best cars by then, the A bodies, and went downhill.

    1. As the article points out, the reintroduction of the C-body did boost sales, but not as dramatically as one might think; ’64 Plymouth sales were already pretty good, nearly 600,000 units. I suspect it had as much to do with more orthodox styling as anything else, rather than that buyers were waiting for a really big Plymouth.

      Reliability was always a bugbear for Chrysler. The sixties big cars were durable enough, but their assembly quality was below par (albeit better than in ’57-’58), which dragged down resale values. A lot of people saw Chevrolet as the safer choice, even though its quality was nearly as bad by the late sixties.

  8. The smoke and mirrors of the ‘new small Fury’ for 1975 was just a rename of the Satellite line. I think this confused buyers more, they expected a big car and got a middie. My uncle was a loyal Fury man, and got a ’75 middie Fury wagon after a big 1970, but it was cramped inside. Next family car was a full sized Dodge van.

    Gran Fury was kind of an odd name. A Grander form of anger? Making all the big cars use a once top of the line trim level, GF and Royal Monaco was redundant and confusing. Toyota never did that and kept their cars’ names true to their segments.

    1. The questionable logic of moving the Fury name back to the B-body line was emblematic of the bad decision making that pushed Chrysler to the brink of collapse in the late seventies. One gets the impression that nobody at Chrysler had any grasp at all of branding; the decision to apply the Charger name to [i]all[/i] two-door B-bodies was another fine example. All it did was confuse people, and the effect on net sales was not good.

      All automakers have ‘promoted’ their existing models to some extent — the Corolla, for example, is getting close to the size of past Camrys, while the four-door Yaris is closer to the size/price position of past Corollas. You can get away with it if it’s a logical progression, but Chrysler did it repeatedly, with no rhyme or reason, and they suffered for it.

    2. I owned a ’75 “small Fury” – it was the Sport Fury hardtop coupe (with full rear-quarter door glass unlike the opera windows on GM cars – but like the operas were fixed in place) Lemon Twist with white vinyl top, Magnum 500 wheels, white interior with bucket seats/console, along with 318 2-bbl, TorqueFlite, power steering and disc brakes. Bought in 1984 with 48,000 miles and sold it in 1995 with 175,000. Still presentable condition but rust in the lower rear quarters was difficult for do-it-yourself repair – a common problem with all Chrysler products of that era.

      Though the styling of the ’75 Fury coupes (and Dodge Coronet, which got back its coupe models for first time since 1970 as the Charger was now a single Chrysler Cordoba-cloned SE version)was all new, the sedans and wagons retained the basic 1971 bodyshell but did get the same front ends as their coupe counterparts bolted in.

      In addition to Plymouth Fury and Dodge Monaco, another big-car nameplate downsized to mid-size was Ford’s LTD. While GM downsized all their big cars in 1977, Ford (as well as Mercury and Lincoln) continued their traditional big cars until the downsized ’79s. In addition to the big LTD, Ford added a new mid-sized LTD II line for 1977 which replaced the Torino and got a heavy facelift of its basic 1972 body.

      The LTD II was a respectable seller until its end in 1979 – during which year the II was bigger than the newly-downsized parent. In 1983, Ford (now Mercury) would again downsize its big-car nameplate to a mid-sized model. That year, the LTD went to the heavily facelifted “Fox” sedan formerly known as Granada while the big car stayed on as the LTD Crown Victoria (reviving a top-shelf ’55 Fairlane) and the mid-sized Mercury (previous the Cougar sedan and wagon – from 1983-on Cougar was again only a personal-luxury coupe) became the Marquis while the “Big-M” became the Grand Marquis – which had been a top trim line of the big Marquis since 1974.

  9. The old [i]Popular Mechanics[/i] Owners’ Reports from the 1960s are interesting to read. Assembly quality was a real problem with late 1960s Chrysler products – particularly the 1969 “fuselage” full-size cars. Chevrolet and Ford had some quality complaints with their all-new 1965 models, but they did improve as the decade progressed. At least, according to those survey results, they did.

    Chevrolet had another big factor in its favor. It was seen as the style leader of the Chevrolet-Ford-Plymouth league. It didn’t hurt that Chevrolet regularly incorporated styling cues from GM’s upper-level divisions. Chevrolet looked like either a cut-rate Cadillac or Buick, and people loved it.

    I remember that, by the early 1970s, most people thought that the full-size GM and Ford cars were much more attractive than the fuselage Chryslers. GM was seen as the styling leader, and Ford was applying Lincoln Continental cues to the Galaxie/LTD and Mercury Monterey/Marquis.

    Everybody knew that the big Plymouths were widely used as taxis and police cars, and somehow the “civilian” versions didn’t come across as being much nicer or more luxurious than the fleet models. In the early 1970s, the market was going in two directions at once – some people wanted the economy and frugality offered by imports or domestic compacts, but people who bought domestic full-size cars wanted a cut-rate Lincoln or Cadillac. The full-size Plymouths didn’t satisfy either audience.

    Another problem Plymouth faced was direct competition from Dodge. By the end of the 1960s, most people didn’t view a Dodge as a step up from a Plymouth. They were basically two peas in a pod. Pontiac was still viewed as being “better” than a Chevrolet, and Ford was trying to once again turn Mercury into a mini-Lincoln, with the Marquis. (At any rate, Mercury was so weak that it wasn’t a threat to Ford. At least Ford knew which division was more important.)

    This started with the 1960 Dodge Dart, which boosted Dodge sales, but seriously hurt Plymouth. If Valiant sales are taken away from Plymouth’s 1960 sales figures (and they should be, given that Chrysler promoted Valiant as a separate marque for 1960), then Dodge outsold Plymouth for that year!

    There are even ads for the 1960 Dart urging buyers to compare it to “Car C,” “Car F” and “Car P”!

    One wonders if the right hand knew what the left was doing at Chrysler.

  10. Minor point: For 1968 the DPL was supplanted by the SST as the top-of-line Ambassador. It is fascinating how in 1969 the SST outproduced Plymouth’s VIPs by two to one (not including wagons).

    You mention in a comment that John Conde said the Ambassador was created more to placate AMC executives than any specific marketing purpose. To make matters worse, AMC repeatedly tried – and failed – to turn the Ambassador into something more than a top-end afterthought.

    Most obviously, Roy Abernathy bloated up the Ambassador in the mid-60s to compete more directly against the Big Three’s full-size cars. Despite the Ambassador’s mediocre sales, Roy Chapin maintained that strategy through 1974 – thereby diverting scare resources from AMC’s increasingly neglected mid-sized offerings, which had once been the company’s bread and butter.

    1. Well, in fairness, that is one of those things that’s easier to say in hindsight than at the time. Looking at the sales of the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Galaxie/LTD, it’s pretty easy to see why AMC would have wanted a piece, even a small piece, of that action.

  11. I don’t think the Commando V8 badge on the ’66 VIP indicated the 318ci engine.

    I think that the Commando V8 badge indicated the 383ci and maybe only the 4BBL version of that engine.

    440ci got a Super Commando badge.

    1. I could have sworn the owner of the VIP said the car had a 318 (although it was admittedly more than three years ago now), and he definitely said it was an all-original car. However, looking at the brochure for the ’66 line, it does indicate that the Commando V8 badge would mean an RB-series engine.

      Which one? Well, the brochure for ’66 calls all three RB engines (383-2V, 383-4V, and 440) Commando V8s. In 1967, both 383s are listed as Commando V8 and the 440 is a Super Commando, while in 1968, the 383-4V and the 440 are both Super Commandos. To add to the fun, the 273 was called Commando in ’64-’65, as was the 1968 340 (not offered in the VIP, obviously). So, if I was confused, I was apparently not alone…!

  12. The reincarnated 1962 Dodge 880 was created by using the 62 Chrysler rear end with different taillights plugged in along with the 61 Dodge front end with a crossbar added to the grille and the 61 Dodge interior. It didn’t appear in the same showroom with the Chrysler which donated the rear end.

    So the rear end was already reused and was on display in the same showroom as any Plymouth. There was nothing left. No one would have wanted to bring back either end of the 61 Plymouth, besides as others have pointed out, the Newport was sitting there to sell. Before the 880 the Dodge dealers didn’t have anything big to offer in its showrooms.

    I’m sure Plymouth would have liked something big of its own to throw together and put on sale as well.

  13. Does anyone know how many 1965 sport fury convertible’s
    were produced with the 426 wedge

    1. I don’t have that info, I’m afraid. Anyone else?

  14. Can anyone tell me how many 1966 fury convertibles were equipped with a 4 speed transmission? Thank you.

  15. in the options list for the 1966 VIP I think a reverb for the radio was an option.mine had one and I don’t think it was dealer installed but I could be wrong.my wife loved that car and still complains about me trading it in for a 68 coronet 500 convertible.

  16. Driving around town with my girlfriend on New Years eve 1966 and saw a fabulous looking new car parked in front of First National Bank. We parked next to it and found it was a PLYOUTH VIP! My 63-1/2 Ford Galaxie500 hardtop was pretty well “down the tubes” as I’d driven the P_ _ _ out of it’s 260 while I owned it. I liked luxury and speed so ordered one on the second of January, ’67: Metallic Green on the bottom with a white top – a 2-barrel 383, chrome wheels, electric windows, and I believe it was to have a 2.75 or 2.76 to one rear end. Lu and I honey mooned in it that fall and I rarely drove it under 90 mph on pavement. When the original equipment tires wore out quite quickly we put on Michelin tires and she became a real cruiser! On trips to see relatives in Montana she’d sail along at 110 and make close to 20 miles per gallon! We drove ‘er to nearly 150,000 miles without spending more than maintenance money on it – sold it to the neighbor kids for four hundred bucks in the fall of 1973 who drove it many more miles for several years until hitting a white tail der one night and totaled her out. Wish I’d just parked it in the Quonset until now!!

  17. I am shopping for a 1966 plymouth fury vip
    318
    turbine bronze metalic
    2dr
    A retirement present for my self.Does anyone no of one for sale?

    1. I can’t help with buying cars, but I wish you good luck with it — it certainly sounds like a fun and painless retirement toy.

    2. I have a 1966 VIP 2 door, restored with the original 383 with manufacture mold 2-26-66 engine, 2 barrel carter carb and intake, original interior with matching replacement seats, original hub caps and 14 inch wheels. The icing on the cake is that it is “turbine bronze metalic” repaint. It can be for sale if the price is right. Contact me if still interested.

  18. The ’65 and ’66 Fury’s standard engine was not the 318 LA V8. It was the 318 A engine, the old poly head engine. The 318 LA engine didn’t debut until I think the 1968 model year. My parents owned a 65 Fury I station wagon and it had a 318 poly head.

    1. Oops, you’re absolutely right. Thanks!

  19. This may be a stupid question . Have a big project going on now, restoring a 1968 plymouth fury III to better than new condition. Im looking for a donor car and pics all look different. Are there tow different roof lines for 1968 plymouth fury III. All the ones i see for sale the roof slant appears to be different.

    1. Yes, there were five Fury III body styles in 1968: a four-door pillared sedan, a four-door hardtop, a two-door convertible, and two different two-door hardtops. The type with the almost triangular sail panel, like the yellow hardtop here, was called a Fast Top, but there was also another two-door hardtop style with slanted, parallelogram sail panels like those of the contemporary B-body hardtop.

  20. lookin for a pretty clean 1968 plymouth fury III donor car

  21. I have a 1969 VIP 383 and transmission sitting in the subframe up for sale,looking for offers.

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