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Home/Technical Info/Plymouth/ 11. Car Models Described/
Plymouth Post-War Story: 1961-1965: From Disaster to Stability

The 1960 Plymouth Fury seemed to have been designed by three
or more people independently, with the front by one, the middle by
another, and the rear by someone else.
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by Society staff - reprint with permission only

Although Plymouth sales suffered as a result of quality control problems and the excesses of Exner-styled models in the early 1960s, people bought enough of the cars to keep the division profitable. Significantly, starting in 1961, the Valiant compact became a Plymouth, and the Dodge version became the "Lancer". This split further boosted the compacts' total sales from 194,292 to a combined total of 208,178. Of this, 143,078 were Valiants in 1961.

In this period, Plymouth super high performance cars became known as "Golden Commando" and "Sonoramic" cars. The Sonoramic moniker was used to indicate that long ram intake manifolds were used. This setup was applied to their 361, 383 and 413 engines, and the long ram manifold provided a significant torque boost in the low and mid-range. The short-ram manifolds helped upper rpm HP. Only slow sales of the rather tepid-looking models of 1961 and 1962 prevented these engines from the notoriety the deserve. Plymouth full-size production for 1961 peaked at 206,907, down from 253,350 in 1960.

With the successful release of GM and Ford's "Mid-Size" cars  in 1961 and in the midst of a recession that was hammering US auto sales, Chrysler Corp made a decision to split the difference and reduce the size, and wheelbase of their Plymouth and Dodge intros for the year of 1962 rather than build a separate line.

Thus, Chrysler introduced a significantly smaller standard Plymouth for that year. They dropped the wheelbase  a significant 2 inches and the overall length by 7".  The problem was that while these new Plymouths were smaller, they were not mid-size and they were not less expensive than the previous models. In a decade where "bigger is better", the car sales languished. There was talk among Chrysler brass of merging Plymouth and Dodge - it looked like the brand might disappear.

Lost in the poor sales of 1962 was the introduction of the "Max Wedge" 413 drag package, which on the hot rod scene established Plymouth, and its partner in crime Dodge, as drag strip terrors in the Super Stock classes. Aside from the cylinder head and camshaft changes developed by Tom Hoover and his associates at Dodge, changes included a compact short ram manifold that did not flow over the heads and allowed better fitment in the cars and easier access to the cylinder heads. The "RB" block went from a steady, high torque performance engine to a high RPM race engine.

The 1962 Plymouths were not sales leaders -- fewer were sold than the rather odd-looking 1961's even though styling was different. Model-year production peaked at 182,220 full-sized units, fully 20,000 fewer than the previous year. Valiant sales were 157,294, a good increase.

The 1963 Fury, Belvedere, and Savoy were slightly larger and more substantial, featuring a totally new and good-looking body style. In 1963 the Max Wedge moved out to 426 CID and still dominated at the dragstrip.

The Valiant received a re-body that also moved its appearance away from the 50s look and into the 60s. The slant six remained the only powerplant for the year, falling behind the Ford Falcon that now had the sporty, high-performance Sprint.

The new body style on both the full-size Plymouth and the Valiant resulted in much better sales. Model year production totals included 258,283 Plymouths and 225,156 Valiants for a total  almost 140,000 above the previous year. Talk that had been swirling regarding combining Plymouth and Dodge began to evaporate.

For 1964, Plymouth got another major restyle featuring a new "slantback" roofline for hardtop coupes that would prove extremely popular. Many enthusiasts consider the '64 models to be the most attractive of the '60s Plymouths. Also debuting in 1963 was the 426-S performance engine, arguably an equal to the street offerings of Chevrolet, Ford, and Pontiac, but at a much lower price.

Meanwhile, the Valiant spawned a small personal luxury car called the Barracuda that appeared mid-year, just as the Ford Mustang arrived. Had it showed up in 1963, when the design was available, history and the "Pony Car" name might be a good deal different.  A total of 23,433 Barracudas were produced compared to 121,538 Mustangs, but regardless, the car helped lift Plymouth total sales to 547,027 up over 63,000 over 1963. The addition of the "LA" 273 V8 in the Valiant and Barracuda also helped energize the brand.

In 1964 the "Hemi" debuted, but only as a special race-oriented package available to selected NASCAR and drag racing operators. When teamed with the last iteration of the Max Wedge, Plymouths and Dodges dominated the Super Speedways and drag racing's 1/4-mile. Plymouth's offerings of the 426 Street, the Max Wedge, and the Hemi were very dominant performance cars, prompting Ford, Chevrolet, and Pontiac to expand their performance models.

For 1965, Plymouths were built on a new platform and became the biggest Plymouths ever produced. The Savoy was discontinued, and Belvedere became an "intermediate," but it was basically a restyled 1964. All big Plymouths became "Furys" for 1965. The low end series was "Fury I", the mid-level models were "Fury II", and deluxe models were "Fury IIIs". Above Fury III was the "Sport Fury" which featured bucket seats and a V8 engine and could be equipped with the 426-S, similar to the Ford Galaxie 500/XL and Chevrolet Impala Super Sport.

Changing the Fury line to 119 inch wheelbase, now competitive with Ford and Chevrolet in size, resulted in a huge sales increase with full-size Fury sales rising to 329,950. This, coupled with Belvedere and Satellite mid-size sales of 159,535 and Barracuda and Valiant sales of  231,749, pushed Plymouth into the thick of the Big Three's low-price fight at 721,234. Consider that only three years earlier, Plymouth sold only half that number.

Nothing changed in the performance packages for 1965 over 1964, but the "Elephant", as the Hemi was known, was coming to the average Joe due to the sanctioning bodies in NASCAR and NHRA demanding this engine be made available to the public or it could not compete. While it did not in and of itself sell in large numbers, the introduction of the "Street Hemi" would solidify Plymouth as the manufacturer of super-high performance street machines.

Total full size Plymouth production for 1965 was 489,485 - up over 170,000 from 1964. Valiant production, including Barracudas, totaled 231,749, up from 225,156.

Next up, the Street Hemi Years of 1966-70.


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The 1962 Plymouths looked cleaner but still showed some vestiges of the previous styling. Some said the shorter wheelbase hurt sales, but it was only 2-inches smaller.

The 1963 Fury Sport Sedan was clean, crisp, and good looking from any angle by the standard of the day - and it outsold the 1962 models by over 80,000 units!

The 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury was based on the '63, but a new roof, front fascia, and rear tail lights made it a whole new car - boosting sales of the mid-size to over 297,000.

The 1965 Sport Fury (and all Furys) were now found on a 119" wheelbase - equal to their competition at Ford and Chevrolet. It paid off with a over 172,000 in new sales!

















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