1928 Plymouth Model Q Coupe
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 previously dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouths were initially priced higher than the competition, but offered standard features such as internal expanding hydraulic brakes that Ford and Chevrolet 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. 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 six-cylinder Chrysler automobile in 1924, he decided to create a lower-priced companion car. So for 1926, the Maxwell was reworked and rebadged as the low-end four-cylinder 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.
1938 Plymouth 4-door sedan
Great Depression, 1930s–1940s
1939 Plymouth in a Swedish 1940s fashion photo
1947 Plymouth police car of Glendale Police Dept. Arizona
1949 Plymouth four-door sedan
While the original purpose of the Plymouth was to serve the lower end of a booming automobile market, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the division helped significantly in ensuring the survival of the Chrysler Corporation 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 number three in sales among all cars. In 1931 with the Model PA, the company introduced floating power and boasted, "The smoothness of an eight - the economy of a four."
In 1933, Chrysler decided to catch up with Ford and Chevrolet in engine cylinder count. The 190 cu in (3.1 L) version of Chrysler's flathead-six 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 to 107 in (284.5 to 271.8 cm), and the car sold poorly. By April 1933, the Dodge division's Model DP chassis, with a 112-inch (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'. 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. 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',the town of Kew being the location of the Chrysler factory outside London. The flathead six 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 (3.3 L), 82 hp (61 kW; 83 PS) 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.
1956 Plymouth Fury , Virgil Exners Forward Look cars
In 1957, Virgil Exner's new Forward Look design theme, advertised by Plymouth with the tagline "Suddenly, it's 1960", produced cars with advanced styling compared to Chevrolet or Ford. The 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 a turbine engine when it installed an experimental turbine developed specifically for road vehicles in a Plymouth.
Although Plymouth sales suffered as a result of the quality control problems and excesses of the 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 smaller standard Plymouth for 1962. As is known, Chevrolet's big cars were not downsized, catching Plymouth in a sales slump in a market where "bigger was better". The 1963 Fury, Belvedere, and Savoy were slightly larger, 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 popular.
1968 Plymouth Roadrunner, one of the Muscle car era models
For 1965, the Fury models were built on the new C-body platform. The Savoy line was discontinued and the Belvedere was classified an intermediate, retaining the B-body platform used starting 1962. The low-end series was Fury I, the mid-level model was Fury II, and the higher-end models were Fury IIIs. The Sport Fury, which featured bucket seats and console shifter, was a mix of luxury and sport. Ford and Chevrolet had introduced luxury editions of their big cars for 1965 and Plymouth responded in 1966 with the VIP, a more luxurious version of the Fury. Furys, Belvederes, and Valiants continued to sell well during the late-1960s and early-1970s. While Fury I and Fury II were only available in the U.S. as sedans, Canadians got a Fury II two-door hardtop in addition to the pillared sedans.
The performance car market segment expanded during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The 1964 Barracuda fastback is considered the first of Plymouth's sporty cars. Based on the Valiant, it was available with the Slant Six, or 273 cu in (4.5 L) 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 cu in (7.2 L) or Hemi 426 cu in (7.0 L) V8 engines. Looking for an advantage at the drag races, 1968 had a stripped-down Belvedere coupe, the Road Runner, which featured a bench seat and minimal interior and exterior trim, but was available with Chrysler's big-block engines and a floor-mounted four-speed manual transmission. The Barracuda, originally a "compact sporty car", became available with the 426 Hemi and 440 big block engines in 1968. The GTX, Barracuda, Road Runner, Sport Fury GT, and Valiant Duster 340, were marketed by Plymouth as the 'Rapid Transit System', which was similar to Dodge's 'Scat Pack' concept. During this time, the brand also competed in professional automobile racing. Examples include 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 raced Plymouths after 1964.
1973 Plymouth 'Cuda coupe
By the 1970s, emissions and safety regulations, along with soaring gasoline prices and an economic downturn, meant demand dropped for all muscle-type models.
Pete Hamilton with his Petty Enterprises 1970 Plymouth Superbird
Gran Fury Sport Suburban 1977
The compact Valiant sold well, and built a reputation for attractive styling, durability, economy, and value. Although the Valiant hardtop was discontinued for 1967, it was reintroduced 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 Volaré. Featuring transverse-mounted torsion bars and a slightly larger body, the Volaré (and its Dodge twin, the Aspen) was an instant sales success. Available as coupe, sedan, or station wagon, the Volaré offered a smoother ride and better handling than the Dart/Valiant, but 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, based on a Simca platform. 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 variety of front-wheel drive compact cars made up the line. Big Plymouths, including the Fury and Gran Fury, were sold 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.
88 Plymouth Reliant Exec Classic
Most Plymouth models, especially those offered from the 1970s onward, such as the Valiant, Volaré, Acclaim, Laser, Neon, and Breeze, were badge-engineered versions of Dodge or Mitsubishi models.
Final years: 1990s-2001
By the 1990s, Plymouth had lost much of its identity, as its models continued to overlap in features and prices with Dodges and Eagles. Chrysler attempted to remedy this by repositioning Plymouth to its traditional target market as the automaker's entry-level brand. This 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.
Late 1990s letter emblem from a 1999 Neon
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 2000, before Chrysler introduced their redesigned 2001 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring sedan.