You shouldn’t believe everything you hear over dinner party chatter. Especially when you’re already on the ropes with your business. Chrysler Corporation seemed perpetually going just askew of where buyers wanted for a good portion of the Post-war era.
First the boxy post-war efforts, then the lack of an Automatic transmission, then the quality debacles of The Forward Look to some rather interstellar looking land based transit as the decade clock ticked over into the 60’s, it was a surprise that Highland Park found buyers for their wares. Yet another goof greeted them for 1962.
Executives at Mopar overheard that Chevrolet was offering a new dramatically downsized product over cocktails. It didn’t seem too un-realistic. The 1961 Chevrolet full sized line, like all General Motors cars, reeled in some of the excesses of their turn of the decade offerings. What wasn’t reasonable in retrospect was that General Motors was going to carve down the Full Sized Chevrolet, a perennial favorite buy to what would now be considered compact or intermediate dimensions.
It resulted in a crash program of intended designs for both Plymouth and the Dodge Dart to move from their former “Junior” Full size status on 119 inch wheelbase spans to 116 inch spans and chassis bits loosely based on the Compact Valiant/Lancer twins. Out went some of Virgil Exners ideas such as curved side glass and convex bodysides.
What was released in Plymouth Showrooms was closer in size to FordMoCo’s new Intermediates the Fairlane 500 and Mercury Meteor, but nowhere near in size to the slightly larger line of ’62 Chevrolets, nor Chevrolet’s new introduction, the prosaic compact Chevy II/Nova designed to go head to head with the Ford Falcon.
It left Plymouth in a particularly precarious position. Not only where they offering a smaller car than what they offered in the Sci-Fi inspired 1961 line, but it cost just as much as those offerings from the year before. In the Bigger Is Better United States, especially in value orientated 1962, buyers couldn’t fathom *why* they’d pay more for a size and a half shrunken Plymouth when they could get a nice Fairlane 500 for a few bucks over a Falcon.
One reason and incentive would have been the sparkling over the road performance the 1960-61 Plymouth was known for in a tidier, more economical package. From the strong and sturdy Slant Six all the way through the 413 Wedge Head V8, the lighter ’62 Plymouths had a strong performance advantage over not only the cheaper Mid Sized Fairlane, but many an Impala and Galaxie as well.
Even modestly equipped with the base 230 horse 318 V8, a Fury could show its crisply detail rump to a 283 Equipped Impala or a loathsome Y-Block 292 equipped Galaxie. Add in the magic that was the swift shifting Torqueflite, and the taunt, tenacious nature of Mopar’s signature Torsion-Aire ride, and the downsided Plymouth posed an interesting question.
Had the standard sedan gotten to zaftig?
Perhaps it had. Plymouth always focused on offering a premium experience for pennies more on the dollar compared to more common Fords and Chevrolets. The 1962 offering was the last fire in the direction to be completely different than your average player from the other two. While the styling was debatable and up to taste interpretations, the idea was solid enough.
The basic underpinnings of these unloved stepchildren served as the basis for every Mid-Sized Mopar through the mid 1970’s. When downsizing became mandatory, the old bones were pressed into service in a severe suit as Chrysler’s much maligned R-Body full size cars in 1979. At the end of the day, it was the right car, in search of the right time. At assorted points, with new clothes, the 1962 Plymouth provided the right answer.