William Rubano posted shots of a car that I have no memory of ever seeing before: a 1952 Plymouth Cranbrook Belvedere Coupe. Needless to say, it has a quite distinctive two-tone paint treatment, with the roof seeming to melt down onto the rear haunches of the car. I assumed that this must have been the very first Belvedere ever, Plymouth’s response to the pioneering 1950 Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop coupe, the first in the low price class. Actually, it’s not (quite); the first Belvedere came out as a 1951½ model, but it lacked this roof treatment.
Here’s what the 1951 Belvedere looked like: tall, short, and not very graceful. With more than a touch of Kim Kardashian. We’ve covered this generation of Plymouths here before, which were the product of Chrysler President K.T.Keller’s dictum that “Cars should accommodate people rather than the far-out ideas of designers”, or in blunter words, “the styling won’t knock your hat off, but neither will getting in one of our cars…We build cars to sit in, not to pee over.”
Well, Americans in the exuberant post war era begged to differ; they were quite happy to
pee over their cars sit a bit lower if it meant the cars looked sexy, low, long and flashy. The Belvedere obviously didn’t.
The 1952 Belevedere’s new roof treatment was obviously an effort to make it appear a bit lower and longer. Of course the ads really do make it look that way, but truth in advertising renderings was not a priority back then.
Here’s a more honest representation of how it looked in profile: An SUV/ CUV hardtop coupe. What goes around, comes around. K.T.Keller was just 60 years ahead of his time. I’d take that one in a heartbeat; it would suit (and fit) me perfectly.
The black over turquoise is a bit more appealing than this combo. And a continental spare is always off-putting. Now the butt has a hole too.
Under its stubby hood purred a 218 cid flathead six, rated at 97 hp. Just the ticket for purring along the unhurried two-lane highways of the time. And overdrive was now available, to make highway cruising even more pleasant. Mustn’t strain that dear old six too hard.
A pleasant place from which to direct the Belvedere’s comings and goings with that big tiller.
The Belvedere name, like so many others, started out as top-tier new models, and eventually ended up gracing taxi cabs. Life at the top of the heap is a fleeting affair.