Plymouths Great and Small: The Plymouth VIP and Fury

Originally a flashy, limited-edition image leader, by 1961, the Plymouth Fury had become a bread-and-butter big car, the mainstay of the line. Starting in 1962, it began a bizarre odyssey, going from small to large and back to small again. This week, we take a look at the strange incarnations of Plymouth’s big cars in the sixties and seventies, including the Plymouth VIP, a short-lived luxury version that the ads once dubbed the “Very Important Plymouth.”
1966 Plymouth VIP badge


The early sixties were a time of both promise and turmoil for Chrysler’s low-end Plymouth brand. Styling VP Virgil Exner, Sr.’s dramatic “Forward Look” design themes of the late fifties had sent shock waves through Detroit, leading to a veritable palace coup among GM’s design staff.

The rakish Plymouth Fury, a performance-oriented model first introduced as a 1956 special edition, made a great showing in Daytona Beach speed trials, becoming a sort of budget version of Chrysler’s fearsome 300 “letter series” cars. Plymouths were the most sophisticated of the Low-Priced Three, with torsion bar springs, pushbutton transmission controls, and, starting in 1960, unitary construction. And, after 30 years of being paired with other Chrysler divisions, there was serious talk of giving Plymouth its own separate dealer network.

1960 Plymouth Fury front 3q
The Plymouth Fury was first introduced in 1956 as a limited-edition, high-performance model and it remained at the top of the Plymouth line until 1961, after which it became a rather ordinary trim series, analogous to Chevrolet’s Impala or the Ford Galaxie. This is a 1960 model, the first big unit-body Plymouth. (Chrysler’s Airflows of the thirties used a bridge-and-truss arrangement, not a true monocoque, and Plymouth did not offer an Airflow in any case.) This one is powered by a 361 cu. in. (5,913 cc) engine with dual four-barrel carburetors and 305 gross horsepower (228 kW).

At the same time, though, Chrysler was suffering through crisis after crisis, from notoriously poor assembly quality to allegations that company executives had taken kickbacks from suppliers. While Plymouth was separated from Dodge in 1960, it remained paired with Chrysler, while the newly independent Dodge Division received clones of Plymouth products, cutting sharply into Chrysler-Plymouth sales. Virgil Exner’s outré 1961 styling went over poorly with the public, which allowed Rambler to unseat Plymouth from its traditional number-three sales position. Then, faulty intelligence led Chrysler president William Newberg to order a hasty and expensive downsizing of Plymouth and Dodge big cars for 1962 in the mistaken belief that Chevrolet was about to do the same thing. The result was a sales disaster, as Dodge and Plymouth dealers were stuck with awkward-looking midsize cars with full-size prices. Plymouth slipped from fourth place in total sales to eighth, Dodge to ninth place.

1962 Plymouth Belvedere 413 front 3q © 2009 Moparsbymosher PD
At 202 inches (5,131 mm) long on a 116-inch (2,946mm) wheelbase, the 1962 B-body Plymouths were basically intermediate in size, although they were marketed as full-size cars. Their light weight made them popular with racers; this ’62 Belvedere, with the “Max Wedge” 413 cu. in. (6,771 cc) V8, modified suspension, fat rear tires, and open exhaust, looks ready for the strip. (Photo: “62plymouthbelvedere” © 2009 Moparsbymosher; released into the public domain by the photographer, resized by Aaron Severson)

Bill Newberg was already gone when the ’62 cars went on sale, implicated in the kickback scandal, and by July 1961, Chrysler administrative VP Lynn Townsend had become president. Townsend fired Virgil Exner, making Exner the scapegoat for the downsizing debacle, and imposed draconian cost-cutting measures to stem the corporation’s flow of red ink. Fortunately for Townsend, Exner’s restyled ’63 models (tweaked only mildly by new styling VP Elwood P. Engel) were much more successful, enabling Chrysler to quickly reclaim some of its lost ground. Townsend took the lion’s share of the credit, earning him an appearance on the cover of TIME in November 1962.

The arrival of Lynn Townsend and Elwood Engel marked the end of Plymouth’s most innovative period. Although Chrysler’s technological and styling advances had won critical acclaim, those innovations had not translated into commercial success. Townsend made a conscious decision to steer the company down a more orthodox path in both styling and engineering.


Saying that Chrysler downsized its big Dodge and Plymouth lines in 1962 is slightly misleading. The company’s full-sized body shell — known from 1965 on as the C-body — survived in the Chrysler line and was hastily reintroduced to the Dodge line midway through the model year. From a technical standpoint, what Chrysler had actually done was to create a new midsize body by stretching and widening the shell of the compact Valiant and Dodge Lancer (later known as the A-body). Although the dimensions of the new “B-body” split the difference between the A-body and C-body, structurally, the B-body had more in common with the Valiant. Like all contemporary Chrysler products (except the big Imperial), the B-body was unitized, but its front end was welded to the cowl, eschewing the bolt-on front subframe of the C-body. Omitting the subframe meant somewhat higher levels of noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), but made the B-bodies substantially lighter (by as much as 420 lb/190 kg) than the previous year’s C-body Dodge and Plymouths.

1963 Plymouth Savoy grille
This 1963 Plymouth Savoy shows off its conservative new grille — and its big 426 cu. in. (6,974 cc) “Max Wedge” engine. New for 1963, the 426 was rated at 415 gross horsepower (310 kW) with two four-barrel carburetors. The ’63 Plymouths were inevitably somewhat heavier than the 1962 models, but only by about 50 lb (23 kg), so straight-line performance was formidable.

Chrysler was not in a position to discard an all-new body after only a year, so both Plymouth and the standard-size Dodge retained the B-body for 1963 and 1964. Both were heavily facelifted, however, with new front and rear clips that made them somewhat bigger than before, albeit to no particular benefit in usable space. The wheelbase of the standard Dodge was stretched 3 inches (76 mm), although Plymouth retained the shorter, 116-inch (2,946mm) wheelbase of the ’62s. Because these cars could be ordered with any of Chrysler’s big engines, Plymouths became popular at the dragstrip.

We’re not entirely sure why Chrysler didn’t immediately add a C-body Plymouth as they did with Dodge. In response to desperate cries from dealers, Dodge had added the full-size Custom 880 midway through the 1962 model year, which ended up accounting for about 10% of Dodge Division’s admittedly dreadful ’62 sales. Chrysler would not have been to do the same for Plymouth immediately (the corporation created the Custom 880 using designs developed for the abortive 1962 DeSoto line), but that presumably would have been possible for 1964, if not ’63. It may have been a cost issue, or perhaps a desire to reduce the overlap between Dodge and Plymouth that had been such a problem in 1960 and 1961. Whatever the reason, Plymouth had to make do with stretched B-bodies until 1965.

1963 Plymouth Savoy rear 3q
The 1963 Plymouth’s body shell is the same as the ’62, but the curious body-side skegs were gone and the sheet metal was pushed out as far as possible, in an effort to make the car look as wide as possible.

Although the B-body remained about 5 inches (127 mm) shorter than a full-size Ford or Chevrolet, Plymouth sales recovered nicely in 1963 and 1964. Sales for the 1964 model year were just under 600,000 units, the best Plymouth had done since 1957. Still, Chrysler-Plymouth management remained self-conscious about its size; Plymouth advertising heavily emphasized passenger and interior room.


For all the growth in the compact and intermediate segments since 1957, full-sized cars were still Detroit’s bread and butter in the mid-sixties. Even with the Chevy II/Nova, Chevelle/Malibu, and Corvair, Chevrolet still sold about 1.4 million full-sized models in 1964, while full-size Ford sales totaled almost 925,000. The B-body Plymouths were not doing badly, but there was clearly a thriving market for bigger cars and Plymouth was not getting its share.


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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. 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.

  3. 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).

  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.

    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 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. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. I see somewhat already pointed out 318 cid in 1966 were Poly A, rather than LA architectures. 1967 318 cid is LA.

    The Sport Fury models of 1970-71 deserve some ink. 60-70 were even built with the 440 Six Barrel engine, the only time that halo hot rod engine was placed in a C-Body (though ~12,700 times in E-Body and B-Body). Arguably these C-Body Sport Fury were more marketing confusion…..a full-size muscle car in 1970-71 including graphics……it didn’t sell, and no other brand headed in the same direction. (except Chrysler with the 1970 Hurst Chrysler, also a difficult sell.) You can’t fault them for trying though.

    1. The Canadian cars had 318 A (poly) engines. the LA 318 was not introduced in Canada until 68. I suppose that there were excess poly engines around and they were used here.
      My 67 VIP has a 318 Poly.

      1. My 1965 fury 3 sport has a 413.

  20. To go along with the B body Fury in mid 70’s. Dodge had a different model name for their plain, non-Charger SE, B body coupe, for 3 years in a row.

    1975 – Coronet 2 door
    1976 – Charger [non-SE]
    1977 – Monaco 2 door

  21. The Chrysler plant in Belvidere is near Chicago, and I remember in winter ’75 all the unsold Monaco/Fury C bodies sitting in huge lot, covered in snow, aka ‘sales bank’. The big Dodges/Plymouths never recovered. Some was due to loyal C buyers either getting compact Dart/Duster/etc or Cordobas.

    I think other former Fury owners [my folks and uncle/aunt] went to Ford/GM and never came back. Dodge Monaco/Polara were never huge sellers in full size market since the 1960 Dart “Plymouth sales stealer”.

  22. The 1965-1967 Fury did not feature the 318 LA V8. Until the end of the 1967 model year the 318 was the old A (poly) V8. The 318 LA replaced the A engine for the 1968 model year with very little fanfare. Besides being the same displacement, the two engines were rated identically for horsepower and torque, although rumor has it that the LA engine was slightly stronger as well as lighter in weight.

    1. Whoops! You are quite right, and, embarrassingly, I discovered that one of the references in the text was correct and another was not. I believe I’ve fixed it now — thanks for the correction!

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