Car Show Classic : 1964 Plymouth Fury Convertible – Bridging the Great Divide

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In a desirable combination of white and red, this 1964 Fury convertible stands like an elegant stone arch between the outlandishness of Exner’s 1962 and ’63 Chryslers and the attractively pedestrian conformity of Engel’s ’65 and ’66 models.  Regardless of your take on the abilities of these two men and the machines they helped to create, the ’64 Plymouth is convincing evidence that an Exner/Engel collaboration would make a worthwhile piece of historical fiction.

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The story of the 1962 models’ genesis is classic car-lovers’ folklore.  A misunderstood conversation between Ed Cole and some other automotive fat cat was represented as fact, and a rushed restyle meant good things for drag racers, but bad things for Chrysler’s bottom line.  The plus side was that Chrysler got a lot of mileage out of the B-Body platform after a few aggressive tweaks; however, Exner’s reputation has really never recovered from his perceived faux-pas regarding the, um, polarizing styling of the ’62s.

The Plymouth emerged from the debacle as arguably the less heinous of the two, but time has shown that both the Dodge and Plymouth possess a “so ugly that I like it” vibe, a mantle carried for years by the otherwise dissonant Volkswagen Type 1.

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In the meantime at Ford, of course, Elwood Engel was simply designing one of the most timelessly beautiful luxury cars, the Lincoln Continental, whose basic shape was so perfect, it lasted the whole of the 1960s.  A genius is often judged by his greatest masterpiece or his most spectacular failure.  Unfortunately for Exner, the early 1960s were not as kind as they were to Engel, so people sometimes forget his beautiful Ghia concepts and forward-thinking “Forward Look” cars and focus on the Valiant and 1962 models.

Engel, on the other hand, although he produced some mediocre designs throughout his career and leaned too heavily on his favored Continental and Thunderbird motifs, produced relatively few stinkers, leaving his reputation comparatively untarnished.

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The other side of the styling bridge between Exner and Engel is the 1965 Chrysler.  Some deride it for being too much like a Ford or a Lincoln or a Pontiac, but it is tasteful and conservative, and it set the tone for all of Engel’s tenure as Chrysler’s styling chief.

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And that leaves us with our featured Fury, a 1964 model.  Equal parts Exner and Engel, it just might be the most appealing of all.  With Max Wedge flair and fuselage-like elegance, this Fury is a menace that anyone who likes 1960s cars would like to own.  With no fins to speak of and a tasteful red stripe, the Fury seems far removed from the hastily revised 1962 models, as Engel chipped away all the awkwardness, revealing the basic goodness of Exner’s original body.

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Under the hood is where Chryslers often shine, and this engine compartment shines indeed.  Chrysler’s body colored engine bays may present more work to an intrepid modern restorer, but offer a stunning result when done correctly.  Of course, wide open starter relays, bulkhead connectors, ballast resistors, and ammeters may alternate (ha!) between endearing and enraging, depending on the “Mopar or No Car” level of the mechanic working on them; however, few can deny that the B/RB engine was an outstanding design.

This Fury has a Carter AFB sitting atop its manifold, meaning it’s most likely propelled by the 330-horsepower 383, one of Chrysler’s workaday mills that provided plenteous power to the performance-minded proletariat.

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The Fury was also available with a Poly 318, a two-barrel 361, and the 426 Street Wedge, in addition to the base slant six.  From what I can find in my research, the Street Wedge would likely have chromed valve covers and air cleaner, and my photo cropping of the lead picture seems to reveal a “383” hood ornament, so that’s where I’ll stand on our featured car’s engine choice.

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The original owner of this Fury also specified the four-speed transmission, although s/he didn’t opt for the top of the line “Sport Fury,” which would have included bucket seats and a console for the four-speed shifter.  A white and red bench seat four-speed Fury convertible?  Expect this one to receive top billing at your local overblown circus auto auction.

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Yes, this attractively unassuming Fury checks all the right boxes for anyone who likes 1960s cars, and we certainly can thank two great designers for the clean styling.  Here’s one time in life where picking sides is unnecessary.