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Plymouth Automobile History (1928-2001)

Plymouth was a marque of automobiles produced by the Chrysler Corporation and Production was discontinued on June 29, 2001 in the United States. The Plymouth automobile was introduced on July 7, 1928. It was Chrysler Corporation's first entry in the low-priced field, which at the time was already dominated by Chevrolet and Ford. Plymouths were actually priced slightly higher than their competition, but offered all standard features such as internal expanding hydraulic brakes that the competition did not provide. Plymouths were originally sold exclusively through Chrysler dealerships.

The origins of Plymouth can be traced back to the Maxwell automobile. When Walter P. Chrysler took over control of the troubled Maxwell-Chalmers car company in the early 1920s, he inherited the Maxwell as part of the package. After he used the company's facilities to help create and launch the Chrysler car in 1924, he decided to create a lower-priced companion car. So for 1926 the Maxwell was reworked and re-badged as the low-end Chrysler "52" model. In 1928, the "52" was once again redesigned to create the Chrysler-Plymouth Model Q. The "Chrysler" portion of the nameplate was dropped with the introduction of the Plymouth Model U in 1929.

While the original purpose of the Plymouth was to serve a lower-end marketing niche, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the marque helped significantly in ensuring the survival of the Chrysler Corporation in a decade when many other car companies failed. Beginning in 1930, Plymouths were sold by all three Chrysler divisions (Chrysler, DeSoto, and Dodge).

The logo featured a rear view of the ship Mayflower which landed at Plymouth Rock. However, the Plymouth brand name came from Plymouth Binder Twine, chosen by Joe Frazer (a 20th-century American automobile company executive employed in succession by Chrysler, Willys-Overland, Graham-Paige and Kaiser-Frazer Corporation).


Plymouth sales were a bright spot during this dismal automotive period, and by 1931 Plymouth rose to the number three spot among all cars. In 1931 with the Model PA, the company introduced floating power and boasted, "The economy of a four; the smoothness of a six." In 1933 Chrysler decided to catch up with Ford and Chevrolet with respect to engine cylinder count. The 190 cu in version of Chrysler's flathead-6 engine was equipped with a downdraft carburetor and installed in the new 1933 Plymouth PC, introduced on 17 November 1932. However, Chrysler had reduced the PC's wheelbase from 112 in (284.5 cm) to 107 in (271.8 cm), and the car sold poorly. By April 1933, the Dodge division's Model DP chassis, with a 112 in (284.5 cm) wheelbase, was put under the PC body with DP front fenders, hood, and radiator shell. The model designation was advanced to PD and the car was marketed as the "DeLuxe" 1933 Plymouth. This car sold very well and is the 1933 model most commonly found in collections. The PC became the 'Standard Six'. It had been the 'Plymouth Six' at introduction, and was sold through to the end of 1933, but in much lower numbers. It is consequently in the minority in collectors' hands today. In 1937, Plymouth (along with the other Chrysler makes) added safety features such as flat dash boards with recessed controls and the back of the front seat padded for the rear seat occupants.[2] The PC was shipped overseas to Sweden, Denmark, and the UK, as well as Australia. In the UK it was sold as a 'Chrysler Kew', Kew Gardens being the location of the Chrysler factory outside London. The flathead 6 which started with the 1933 Model PC stayed in the Plymouth until the 1959 models.

In 1939 Plymouth produced 417,528 vehicles. The 1939 convertible coupe was prominently featured at Chrysler's exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair, advertised as the first mass-production convertible with a power folding top. It featured a 201 cu in, 82 hp version of the flathead six engine. For much of its life, Plymouth was one of the top-selling American automobile brands. Plymouth almost surpassed Ford in 1940 and 1941 as the second most popular make of automobiles in the U.S. In 1954 Chyrsler started its decade long unsuccessful attempt to develop and market a viable car powered by turbine engine when it installed an experimental turbine they had developed specifically for vehicles in a Plymouth.

In 1957, Virgil Exner's new Forward Look design theme, produced cars with much more advanced styling than Chevrolet or Ford. 1957 total production soared to 726,009, about 200,000 more than 1956, and the largest output yet for Plymouth. However, the 1957–1958 Forward Look models suffered from poor materials, spotty build quality and inadequate corrosion protection; they were rust-prone and greatly damaged Chrysler's reputation.

Most Plymouth models offered from the late 1970s onward, such as the Volarι, Acclaim, Laser, Neon, and Breeze, were badge-engineered versions of Chrysler, Dodge, or Mitsubishi models. By the 1990s, Plymouth had lost much of its identity, as its models continued to overlap in features and prices with Dodges and Eagles. Plymouth's product offerings and buyer appeal, and sales continued to fall.

By the late 1990s, only four vehicles were sold under the Plymouth name: the Voyager/Grand Voyager minivans, the Breeze mid-size sedan, the Neon compact car, and the Prowler sports car, which was to be the last model unique to Plymouth, though the Chrysler PT Cruiser was conceived as a concept unique to Plymouth before production commenced as a Chrysler model.

After discontinuing the Eagle brand in 1998, Chrysler was planning to expand the Plymouth line with a number of unique models before the corporation's merger with Daimler-Benz AG. The first model was the Plymouth Prowler, a hot rod styled sports car. The PT Cruiser was to have been the second. Both models had similar front-end styling, suggesting Chrysler intended a retro styling theme for the Plymouth brand. At the time of Daimler's takeover of Chrysler, Plymouth had no unique models besides the Prowler not also available in the Dodge or Chrysler lines.

From a peak production of 973,000 for the 1973 model year, Plymouth rarely exceeded 200,000 cars per year after 1990. Even the Voyager sales were usually less than 50% that of Dodge Caravan. In Canada, the Plymouth name was defunct at the end of the 1999 model year. Consequently, DaimlerChrysler decided to drop the make after a limited run of 2001 models. This was announced on November 3, 1999.

The last new model sold under the Plymouth marque was the second generation Neon for 2000–2001. The PT Cruiser was ultimately launched as a Chrysler, and the Prowler and Voyager were absorbed into that make as well. Following the 2001 model year, the Neon was sold only as a Dodge in the US, though it remained available as a Chrysler in Canadian and other markets. The Plymouth Breeze was dropped after 2000, before Chrysler introduced their redesigned 2001 Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring sedan.

1936 Plymouth Westchester Suburban wagon

1953 Plymouth

1955 Plymouth Belvedere Suburban Wagon

1955 Plymouth Belvedere Suburban Wagon

1957 Plymouth Suburban Wagon


1960 Valiant

1963 Valiant

1968 Satellite Sedan

1968 Plymouth Sport Fury

1968 Plymouth Fury III convertible

1970 Duster 340



  • 1928
    Chrysler Corporation creates a new division to compete with Chevrolet and Ford in the "entry-level" car market. The division's name recalls Plymouth Rock and first Pilgrim colony; Mayflower ship is stamped on radiator.

    First Plymouth is publicly shown at Madison Square Garden, offering many features of the more expensive Chrysler models, including available four-wheel hydraulic brakes and full-pressure engine lubrication.
  • 1929
    Chrysler completes the Detroit Lynch Road factory for Plymouth production, making it the largest auto assembly plant in the world at the time.
  • 1931
    Plymouth surpasses Buick to become the third best selling car in the nation in only its fourth year on the market.
  • 1932
    Plymouth PA Series makes its debut as the most advanced low price car with "Floating Power", a new engine mounting system that substantially reduces the vibration of four-cylinder motors.
  • 1932
    Plymouth PB is the last four-cylinder model built.
  • 1933
    Six-cylinder PC is introduced via nationwide live radio program.
  • 1934
    Plymouth builds its one-millionth automobile, captures 25 percent of the low priced car market.
  • 1939
    Plymouth introduces the first power-operated convertible top in the U.S.
  • 1941
    Plymouth production reaches the four-million mark.
  • 1942 - 1945
    The war effort: Plymouth's Evansville, Indiana plant makes bullets, shells, and other munitions. Plymouth's Lynch Road plant in Detroit contributes to the Manhattan Project (A-bomb technology).
  • 1949
    Plymouth P-18 DeLuxe Suburban debuts as the first all-steel passenger car-based station wagon. Plymouth is the first low-priced car to offer turn-key ignition.
  • 1954
    Plymouth is the test platform for the first gas-turbine powered Chrysler car.
  • 1955
    First Plymouth V-8. First Virgil Exner-designed "Forward Look" Plymouth.
  • 1956
    Plymouth introduces the Plymouth Fury – one of the most celebrated Exner "Forward Look" cars.
  • 1957
    • In 1957 Plymouths were available in three series - Plaza, Savoy and Belvedere - with the limited production "muscle car" version - the Plymouth Fury - available mid-year. (No, it did not have a "Hemi.")
    • Tulsa's "buried" car is a 1957 Belvedere two-door hardtop equipped with a V-8 engine and Sportone trim (the tapering body side "color sweep").
    • The car is painted Desert Gold with a Sand Dune White roof and color sweep.
    • The "buried" Belvedere is one of 71,939 Belvedere V-8 two-door hardtops built in 1957.
    • The buried car is actually a 1957 1/2 Plymouth because it has the revised mid-year grille. The area below the raised bumper bar - with the six wide vertical slots - was changed mid-year to add an additional vertical strip in each of the six slots to narrow the width and thus improve the appearance.
    • Given its abstract shape and gold finish, the '57 version of Plymouth's traditional Mayflower sailing ship logo that graced the grille and deck lid was referred to by the stylists as the "potato chip."
    • The 1957 cars were known internally within Chrysler as the "K" series.
    • Plymouth production totaled 729,369 cars for the 1957 model run.
    • The runaway success of the '57 Plymouth enabled Plymouth division to recapture third place in sales from Buick.
    • Chrysler Corporation vehicles in 1957 used about 100 pounds in weight-saving aluminum per vehicle versus a then-industry average of 45 pounds.
    • On April 19, 1957, Chrysler Corporation cars - including Plymouth - achieved an unprecedented clean sweep of the 1,568 mile Los Angles to Sun Valley Mobilgas Economy Run, winning in every class.
    • Chrysler Corporation Award for the "superior handling and roadability" of the innovative Torsion-Aire suspension.
    • In June, 1957, Virgil Exner's design team received the Industrial Designers' Institute Gold Medal Award for the design of the 1957 cars.
      On July 25, 1957, Virgil Exner was made Chrysler's first Vice President of Styling.
    • Plymouth regains third place position in industry sales with dramatic Exner 'Flite-Sweep' styling, the second generation 'Forward Look'.
  • 1959
    The Valiant is introduced as a 1960 model. Under its skin are two Chrysler firsts - the legendary Slant Six engine and one of the most significant advances in automobile history – the electric alternator.
  • 1964
    Plymouth responds to the boom in the personal sporty car market with the Barracuda, a fastback version of the Valiant. Richard Petty leads a 1-2-3 Plymouth win at the NASCAR Daytona 500 in a Hemi-powered Fury.
  • 1965
    The Belvedere, Plymouth's newest entry in the growing "intermediate-size" car market is introduced.
  • 1968
    Plymouth introduces the Road Runner – the brand's muscle car icon – a powerful but "no frills" muscle car based on the Belvedere.
  • 1970
    Plymouth introduces the Superbird, an even more outlandish version of the Road Runner with a high rear wing and aerodynamic nose. More than 1,900 were built to qualify for NASCAR.
  • 1973
    The 1973 Plymouth Duster Coupe helps propel Plymouth to its greatest sales year ever.
  • 1976
    The all-new Volare compact introduced to replace the Valiant is named Motor Trend's Car of the Year.
  • 1978
    The Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni are introduced as America's first domestically-produced front-drive sub-compacts - and named Motor Trend's Car of the Year.
  • 1981
    Plymouth introduces the Reliant, its version of the famed front-drive 'K' cars charged with helping Chrysler avert bankruptcy, which also wins the prestigious Motor Trend Car of the Year award.
  • 1983
    The Plymouth Voyager Minivan debuts as a 1984 model, inventing a new market segment.
  • 1987
    Plymouth Sundance sub-compact is introduced.
  • 1988
    The popularity of the Plymouth Voyager minivan leads to the introduction of the Grand Voyager, a long-wheelbase version.
  • 1989
    The Plymouth Acclaim sedan is introduced as the eventual successor to the Reliant 'K' car.
  • 1990
    The Plymouth Laser Coupe is introduced.
  • 1994
    The all-new Plymouth Neon bows as a 1995 model, giving the brand a stylish, domestically made sub-compact with unprecedented interior room.
  • 1995
    A unique vehicle shopping concept called 'Plymouth Place' brings the showroom to shopping malls with touch screen kiosks and trained advisors.
  • 1995
    The Plymouth Breeze, a large compact sedan based on the Chrysler Cirrus and Dodge Stratus, is added to the Plymouth lineup as a 1996 model.
  • 1996
    The Plymouth Prowler roadster – the most aluminum-intensive car built in North America – debuts as a 1997 model.
  • 2001
    As brands are consolidated, the Plymouth division ends production.



1982 Plymouth Reliant

1982 Plymouth Reliant

1983 Plymouth Voyager Minivan

1992 Plymouth Voyager Minivan


Chrysler Heritage Outside North America (1924-2004)

Chrysler has repeatedly introduced unconventional vehicles and engineering innovations. Those innovations range from the Chrysler Six, which in 1924 redefined what a passenger car should be, to cab-forward designs and segment-defining MPVs that helped crystallise the brand's image in the 1990s, to exciting current products like the Chrysler 300C Sedan, Touring and SRT8. The influence of the Chrysler brand's past upon its future manifests itself in every new Chrysler product.

Chrysler Brand Historical Highlights

1924: Walter P. Chrysler introduces the 1924 Chrysler Six — one of the most advanced and exciting cars of its day. The Chrysler Six is a quality light car — power in a small package — something no other brand is offering at the time. The vehicle makes maximum use of a high-speed, high-compression engine with incredible power and small displacement — along with other features such as hydraulic brakes. This becomes the first modern automobile at a very moderate price — a revolutionary concept in its day.

1925-1933: Chrysler broadens the model line to four separate series. Imperial emerges as a top-level luxury/performance car. Chrysler accelerates its reputation for technical innovation with a constant flow of advances and improvements. After a respectable debut in the 1925 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in France, a pair of 1928 Chryslers finish third and fourth overall — a stunning testament to Chrysler's all-round high-speed performance and stamina, as the Chrysler mid-priced cars keep up with competitors' pure sporting machines. Jaws drop when the 1931 Chrysler models appear — gracefully athletic with tapered bonnets and a new series of powerful straight-8 engines.

1934-1942: The Chrysler Airflow appears in 1934 as a pure expression of engineering vision. It is a mass-production car designed with the aid of a wind tunnel, and it radically changes vehicle architecture, redefining how automobiles are designed. The Airflow becomes the epitome of the modern car (even though its styling is controversial), and the Airflow's influence can be seen in other makes around the world thereafter. The more conventional Airstream models follow the next year.

Innovative engineering dominates the following years, with advancements such as the Fluid Drive hydraulic clutch coupled with Vacamatic semi-automatic gear selection that eliminates 95 percent of shifting. The Town & Country quickly catches the public's eye as the first high-quality "estate" wagon. Walter P. Chrysler dies in 1940 at age 65. When World War II is declared, Chrysler diverts its efforts to produce tanks, trucks, airplanes and other vital material.

1946-1954: In the post-war recuperation, new model introductions are few, but the pace of styling change accelerates rapidly in this period. Mahogany-trimmed Chrysler convertibles and two-door sedans become popular. Innovations continue in the form of many industry firsts such as the fully automatic PowerFlite transmission, Hydraguide power-assisted steering, Airtemp air conditioning and four-wheel disc brakes. In 1951, the Chrysler FirePower engine — quickly dubbed the HEMI for its hemispherically shaped combustion chambers — knocks all the other modern V-8 engines back. On the strength of the HEMI, Chrysler returns to Le Mans as the power for Briggs Cunningham's specials.

1955-1959: Design chief Virgil Exner throws design back into high gear. The HEMI's power is boosted across the lineup to an unheard-of 300 horsepower in the new Chrysler 300 for 1955. Chrysler chooses to mark this milestone car's year-by-year evolution as the famous Letter Series. In 1957, new vehicles premiere with new designs (fins and quad headlamps) and new engineering innovations, making the cars dramatically lower and better handling.

1960-1972: Every Chrysler except Imperial undergoes a radical reengineering to Unibody construction. This major advance results in bodies with greater structural integrity than the traditional body-on-frame method. Overall design also undergoes great changes in this time period, and again, many innovations in engineering are seen, such as electronic ignition, the AC alternator and Sure-Brake anti-lock brakes. The 1965 Chrysler 300L marks the true end of the original Letter Series cars, though in 1970, Hurst Performance Products and Chrysler collaborate on the 300H (for "Hurst").

1973-1982: The Oil Producing Export Countries' (OPEC) oil embargo hits in October 1973, greatly affecting consumer taste, leading them to prefer compact and imported cars. In 1975, Chrysler responds with the handsome Cordoba, the smallest Chrysler in decades, which outsells nearly all competitors. The Cordoba implements an Electronic Lean Burn System, a very sophisticated technological approach to fuel economy and emissions issues. As the fuel crisis eases, Chrysler sales recover thanks largely to the Cordoba and the new mid-size, even smaller LeBaron.

1983-1992: The American automotive industry aligns more closely with the worldwide auto industry in terms of production and technology, building vehicles with independent suspension, front-wheel drive and other common features of the time. The gap between American and European automakers shrinks considerably.

Chrysler brings out the new-generation "little" LeBaron offered in a wide array of models, including a convertible. The chic Town & Country station wagon's popularity leads to the famous nameplate and woodgrain trim being applied to the convertible. The sporty, low-slung Chrysler Laser draws a new, younger generation of buyers to the brand. The LeBaron GTS pushes into the growing Euro-style sport sedan segment, and the two-door LeBaron is radically redesigned for 1987, with the convertible version becoming the first Chrysler in decades to be designed from the ground up as a convertible. A sporty roadster called the TC has a Maserati-modified powertrain. The venerable New Yorker becomes the renamed Fifth Avenue, one of Chrysler's biggest and most profitable sellers.

In 1990, Chrysler attaches the venerable Town & Country name to a luxurious version of the minivan that had opened a huge new market segment. This becomes the first minivan for the Chrysler brand, whereas the prior models from 1983 forward had been of the Dodge and Plymouth nameplates.

1993-1999: With the debut of the cab-forward Concorde in 1993, Chrysler once again explodes to the forefront of the automotive world by changing the essential architecture of the contemporary automobile, just as it had done previously with the Airflow. The following year's Chrysler LHS wins even wider admiration. The Chrysler Cirrus for 1995 so closely resembles the futuristic concept car of the same name from a few years earlier that it becomes clear that Chrysler had found a way to create cars in a way that no one else could.

Beneath the new designs are new engines, new transmissions and complete new architectures. The all-new Town & Country for 1996 proves that minivans can be stylish and as luxurious as a fine car, while the Chrysler Sebring Coupe and Convertible reopen a long-ignored market for sporty cars with a back seat.

The 1998 Chrysler Concorde continues a "heritage" design theme pioneered by the 1994-1997 LHS, most notably in its dramatic grille. Heritage design is also seen in the introduction of the 1999 Chrysler 300M, which continues the spirit of the legendary 300 Letter Series cars, and the LHS, filled with tasteful, evocative features like white dial gauges and even an analogue clock. In 1999, its 75th year, Chrysler unveils the segment-busting Chrysler PT Cruiser, loaded with innovations and designed with a "modern classic" look.

2000-2004: Chrysler PT Cruiser goes on sale beginning in 2000, changing the automotive landscape. The Prowler joins the Chrysler lineup in 2001, as well as the new Sebring Convertible, all-new Sebring Sedan and all-new Voyager and Town & Country minivans. In 2002 the Chrysler 300M Special and new Concorde take the stage, with the LHS being renamed the Concorde Limited. Then the Chrysler product offensive begins, bringing exciting new models to the lineup, such as the Crossfire Coupe and Roadster, Crossfire SRT6 models, PT Cruiser Cabrio and 300C Sedan and Touring.


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