Despite efforts to be a constant trendsetter, Plymouth proved itself to be an also-ran brand in the 1960’s. Always in the shadows of market competitors Chevrolet and Ford, Plymouth also had to fend for territory from not too costly sibling brand Dodge. Seemingly, whatever Plymouth had, Dodge wanted too. Without the customer base of Chevrolet, or the marketplace freedom of Ford, Plymouth was oft-left to itself to provide a narrow bandwith of consumer desires.
While this benefitted the skinflint image of the price-leading Valiant, it didn’t exactly do wonders for fancier wares that carried the Plymouth prestige parade. The Fury nameplate started out in the same league as the Chevrolet Impala in prestige in 1956. A Jupiter Return later, it was more or less a bargain stage brand, in 1, 2 and 3 strengths (each a little less despair provoking than the last). How does that translate to sales when this formula encapsulates a full sized convertible?
Worth of note is that Plymouth unveiled completely new styling over their proven C-Body Chassis for 1969. Following the luxuriant curves and visual bulk of the B-Body Satellites and Belvederes that were restyled in 1968, Plymouth embraced the “Fuselage” look in a full fledged way. The bulky bunker on wheels look spread from Plymouth all the way to Imperial that year. In the 2001:A Space Odyssey years, this new, encapsulated, isolated for your safety styling seemed appropriate.
However Plymouth provided far less visual jewelry compared to rival Ford and Mercury, who both introduced Fuselage-themed Full Sizers as well. American buyers, even if schooled on the benefits of Mid Century lack of baubles, still appreciated quite a bit of flash from their finest wares, especially if they signed up for visual bulk as part of the deal. The new Plymouths (and Dodges, Chryslers and Imperials) left factories a little lacking in details, a little “unfinished” and unfortunately to some buyers, a little cheap in look and feel.
Underneath however, was the vast amount of Mopar mettle that kept a rather devoted following coming back for virtues like LA series V8s, Torqueflite Automatics and Torsion Bar front suspensions. Mopars were still favored by fleets for law enforcement and other usages for their strength and over the road durability.
The new styling added a stealth secret agent vibe to the Sedans in particular, but didn’t necessarily cross over in appeal for sportier models like Hardtop Coupes and Convertibles. Plymouth was able to move plenty of sedans, but where the meat of the market matters most for popular brands, Plymouth found itself on the ropes.
Chevrolet in particular still pulled in a great bulk of their sales on the sports coat sophistication that its Impala Hardtop Sports coupes still provided, long after the market had moved on to more debonair 2 door options. Ford had found a niche in low-budget limousines in the form of the LTD.
Full sized Plymouths had no such savior at the end of the decade. As consumer choices diversified, Plymouth relied on some old reliable tactics, like offering special body styles in various grades. On top of this basic Fury III Convertible, there sat the Sport Fury version as well. At this stage in the game, both Chevrolet and Ford focused their drop top options in their former 50’s glamour girl namplates with option packages to make them special. Plymouth, a little long in the tooth, still thought buyers in bulk would pony up money for a monstrous muscle convertible.
The Fury III version drop top ended up being the sales champion that year, but it wasn’t much of a victory to celebrate. As Convertibles in general were dropping like flies (at this stage, there were no Compact Convertibles on offer, and AMC had thrown in the drop top towel as well), selling 4,129 convertible coupes wasn’t exactly setting sales records for fun in the sun antics.
It didn’t help matters that Plymouth dropped all the way to sixth place in annual sales this year, behind rather expensive rivals Buick and Oldsmobile. Plymouth would withdraw from full sized convertibles in 1971, convertibles at all in 1972, only to return with the specialty Prowler before the brand shuttered over 15 years ago. Perhaps forgotten, forever proud, these bold, surly suntan machines still cast a remarkable shadow more that 50 years after they were conceived.