Q: I’ve been reading your columns recently and liked the GTX column last month. I still like the old Plymouths, and ask if you think Chrysler should have kept the name instead of Dodge. Calvin, from New York.
A: Calvin, I’ve received several letters following the GTX column last month, and wish Chrysler still had the model in its lineup. However, I’m also a car lover who hated to see the DeSoto and Imperial Names go, too, if that tells you something.
Through the years, we've all enjoyed all the special Plymouth models, from Savoy to Belvedere to Roadrunner and Barracuda. The person initially responsible for bringing Plymouth to market was Walter Chrysler, who, in 1928, knew a low cost entry level automobile would help build consumer awareness of Chrysler Corporation. Although Plymouth never became a huge seller, it did compete well with Ford and Chevy, especially those who were shopping the entry level marquees. It's best year was 1973, when 750,000 Plymouths were sold.
When you look back at the history of the Plymouth, it was always popular and served as entry level to the Chrysler ladder, with Dodge, Desoto, Chrysler and then Imperial the major steps forward in a Chrysler “lifetime” owner journey. I always classified Dodge as a competitor with Oldsmobile/Pontiac and Mercury; Desoto with a Buick; and Imperial against a Cadillac or Lincoln.
Other models I remember quickly were the 1958 Fury with 318 and 2x4 barrel carbs; the first ever Minivan in 1983, (sorry VW Microbus), 1961 Plymouth Valiant, 1964 Barracuda, 1967 GTX, 1968 Hemi Roadrunner and all the fabulous Six Pack 440 models, too. By the late 1990s, however, only Neon, Breeze and Prowler made up the Plymouth offerings alongside the still popular Voyager minivan. Thus, it was clear the model was coming to an end.
Then, on June 28, 2001, the last Plymouth rolled off the assembly line in Belvedere, IL. It was a silver Neon 4-door purchased by a Chrysler executive. Today, the 426 Hemis and 440 6-Packs live on in collector car immortality, and I’m glad to admit I have owned several great Plymouths myself.
Even at the box office, car loving moviegoers will recall Chris Farley and David Spade as they saved the "Callahan Brake Company" motoring across America in a metallic blue 1967 GTX Convertible in the hit "Tommy Boy." Also popular was "Christine," the horror flick we've spoken of before in my columns.
Thanks for your letter.