It’s a miracle Chrysler Corporation survived to see 1965. From the quality disasters of The Forward Look the corporation plunged headfirst into a series of questionable styling ideas that left even loyalists debating whether they were driving the next greatest style sensation or a joke.
By 1963, the Mopar Madness of the last 2 seasons started to fade like a fever dream. Although none of the cars were all-new, they sure looked the part. It was most important at the bottom of the totem pole at Plymouth. The mighty rock had fallen far from its traditional 3rd place in sales last held in 1960. That total only held weight once you factored in Valiant sales. To the bread and butter basic big Plymouth, it found itself emerging from the Chevrolet market missile crisis of ’62 in a brand new suit.
While the 1962 Plymouth wasn’t as mutant as the 1961 model, or its sister Dodge Darts and Polaras, it was a major misjudgement. Chrysler Corporation executives had overheard incorrectly that Chevrolet was planning to downsize their 1962 lines.
Mopar took the message as a possible trend, and shrunk their planned revamps for the model year. While the 1961 Chevrolet was a smidge smaller than the be-winged 1960 model, what appeared in Chevy showrooms for ’62 was the directly Falcon fighting Chevy II as the new smaller Chevrolet.
The shrunken sized Plymouths still carried their full sized price tags. To make matters worse, Ford began offering their intermediate sized Fairlane for 1962, offering a perfect goldilocks split between the Falcon and Galaxie lines with prices in the center. With the questionable styling, buyers still stayed away from the honeys of Highland Park for 1962. Committed by design time lines and budget constraints, the best that Plymouth could do after being knocked down was to pick a new dress, dust themselves off and try again. The result was surprisingly elegant and depending on body style, even sporty.
New forward leaning parking lamp nacelles framed evenly framed quad headlamps. Out back the Corvair like shelf and twin or triple tail lamp arrangement gave way to square jeweled earrings of tail lamps. Coupes and Sedans got more formalized, squared off rooflines as was the style of the period.
Underneath was the same fine and rationalized full sized car introduced in 1962 that would serve as a basic underpinning of Chryslers through the R-body’s demise in the early 80s. Plymouths had been long established as the most tautly sprung and best handling of the low price three, and the reduced weight of the downsized body meant even the Slant Six had a slight edge over other base engines in the field.
Most V8 versions were sprightly performers. A Sport Fury equipped with the 330 horse 383 could snap off 0-60 in the low 7 second range, keeping up with the larger and bulkier Impala SS equipped with a 409 V8. Above that motor were big block bruisers that were cleaning up at the drag strip. Backed more often than not by the bulletproof Torqueflite Automatic, the smaller big Plymouths perhaps offered the most balanced standard size sedan.
As the recession addled early 60’s bloomed into Camelot era prosperity however, it was clear Plymouth, to claim its rightful place in the marketplace, would have to get with the program and offer the same spread of models as Ford and Chevrolet. By 1963, the large C-body was in planning stages to return for ’65. Meanwhile, the miniscule total of 5,221 Fury convertibles helped nonetheless Plymouth post growth back to a healthy 488,448 cars for 1963. These elegant transitional fashion statements are oft forgotten for redirecting the Mayflower of Detroit back on the right path for years to come.