Once upon a time, the low priced Three automobiles stood securely in their respective reputations. Each brought a unique motoring experience reflective of the corporate philosophy that spurred their development. At the end of the World War, Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth still held steadfast to policies dictated to them ever since they carved out the bottom of the market for the Big 3 automakers.
Things started to change as each rolled out their all-new wares after the war. Where Ford and Chevrolet emphasized style and power, Plymouth advocated for sturdy solidarity and practicality. The spirit of Spinsters that would focus around Plymouth Valiants in the 60’s was an alive and well current at Plymouth seemingly forever.
The largely loyal Plymouth following had to wait the longest for their puritan Plymouth updates to go on sale. A series of warmed over ’48 models stayed available until March of 1949. What greeted buyers was a less bulbous, upright and surprisingly compact package for a standard car as things started the “bigger is better” mantra at other brands.
KT Keller, who ran Chrysler at the time believed cars still should be able to be sat in with one’s hat on, and the practical engineering decidedly took precedence over swoopy styling. Perched on a 118.5 inch wheelbase, the Special Deluxe Series offered well designed comfort for a slight premium over Ford and Chevrolet offerings.
Underneath it all, the same practical engineering and mechanical refinements that Plymouth loyalists were willing to pay a slight premium for continued. Plymouth had long established itself as an inexpensive car, but not a cheap one. What Plymouths lacked in flashy features like an option V8, Semi or Fully Automatic Transmission or a plethora of power accessories, it had clock like longevity in its place. Sure, the old Flathead Six from the Mid 30’s could only max out at 85 mph, but it could still turn a healthy 20-25 miles per gallon in mixed driving.
It had grunt down low where it counted most in Pre-Interstate Freeway driving, and the lack of stress on the poweplant and the demands of the time meant it was rather hard to abuse the anvil of a drivetrain. This was still an era where Ford’s Flathead V8 had a reputation for overheating and Chevrolet’s Stovebolt Six still used splash-lubrication, not the most effective for long term viability.
However, innovations like the Suburban all-steel Station Wagon along with long held virtues meant that Plymouth was still able to hold onto their traditional 3rd slot in the marketplace as the decade turned in the middle of the century. By the end of 1950 close to a Million of these puritanical pearls of automotive wisdom reminded buyers of chaste virtues in driveways across America.
As the sales slide started to set in as the decade pushed on, the main problem wasn’t with the cars. American buyers found themselves smitten with the sins of power, lust and gluttony as Lower, Longer and Wider toys with more intense vibrations from overhead Valve V8s became available to all. Plymouth first dabbled with decadence with the Belvedere Hardtop coupe, then Power Steering, Brakes and the Powerflite Automatic by 1954.
By 1955, Plymouth joined the parade of harlots, wantonly flinging itself into the various battles of Automotive Gomorrah. It would be a conflicted story for Plymouth once it abandoned its true religion. Forever flummoxing between the most Carmelite of car choices and caving into societal pressures, it eventually forced the brand into Automotive Pergatory in its later years. Perhaps had Plymouth continued to rigorously follow the good word, the brand would still be with us today.