(first posted 8/26/13) Good things have a funny way of happening when you least expect them. Much to my frustration, I’ve recently been going through somewhat of a drought when it comes to finding Curbside Classics. But if there is anything I have learned since I started here, it’s that the car you have been hoping for tends to appear when you aren’t even looking for it. That’s exactly what happened to me last Thursday.
I’ve been wanting to find a fuselage Mopar for a long time now. Given my soft spot for Plymouth, I’ve been searching for a fuselage Fury. I don’t need statistics to know that there aren’t many fuselages left on the road. And I’ll bet of those that are, very few are in fact Plymouths.
Value-priced, full-size cars from this era just don’t command the same amount of interest among collectors as do muscle cars and personal luxury cars do. Not to mention that a lot of Plymouths were low-trim sedans and wagon family-haulers, as well in fleet and taxi use, suffering more than their fair share of abuse.
But driving my usual route to the gym, this enormous red fuselage stuck out like Lady Gaga would in an episode of Leave It to Beaver. Suddenly my heart began racing, my eyes widened, and my hands started shaking. It was… a 1971 Plymouth Fury III!
And let me tell you this one checked all the boxes for me. Fuselage…Check! Plymouth Fury…Check! Higher-trim level, 4-door hardtop, vinyl roof…Triple Check! This thing was so big I had trouble fitting the entire car in closeup shots!
It’s hard to convey just what these cars mean to me. So let me make it easier:
Cars like the fuselage Mopars may not be that special to those who were alive when they were new. However, I grew up in an era when the full-size car looked like the picture above. Not unattractive, but bland, plain, inconspicuous, whatever you’d like to call it.
So, a car like the 1971 Plymouth Fury is truly like laying my eyes upon a Martian spaceship.
While definitely a world away from today,s cars, the fuselages were also something groundbreaking back in 1969. One of the biggest differences between them and their predecessors was the way their rooflines and greenhouses were integrated into the body. The greenhouses on the ’68s sat rather awkwardly on top of the body. Another huge difference was that belt lines of these fuselage cars were raised to decrease glass area. In effect, these elements made cars like this 1971 Fury sleeker, and far more futuristic looking than the cars that they replaced.
Curved side glass, flush with the doors of the car was an extraordinary advancement. The body sides were curved outward, allowing the window frames to do the same. These design features were what made shoulder- and hip-room increases of 3.5 and 6 inches possible. All of these are characteristic of cars today, but 40 years ago they were very radical design elements.
And radical is one of the best ways to describe the ’69 Plymouth Fury in comparison to the ’68. Despite all the fuselage advancements, the ’69 Furies were still rather blocky-looking, with more squared-off front and rear styling and non-integrated bumpers.
But this was still a time when cars received annual styling changes – the 1970 Furies looked quite different. Bumpers were now flush with the body, with the grille integrated into the front bumper. In my opinion, this made all the difference in terms of making these cars attractive.
Changes for ’71 were more minimal, with a new concave grille design being the highlight. I feel that 1971 represents the pinnacle of the fuselage Plymouths. Clean, uncluttered, and sleek. That’s why this 1971 Plymouth Fury III was such an exciting find for me.
Things got too ostentatious for 1972, with the huge loop front bumpers and split grille design.
1973, the last year of the fuselage C-bodies, was an utter disaster. Federally-mandated 5 mph bumpers, a more upright front end, and vertical tail lights made these cars look heftier (and frankly, more GM) than ever. That concludes our history lesson, and now finally to our Curbside Classic:
As previously stated, this is a 1971 Fury III 4-door hardtop. With just over 55,000 units made, the III 4-door hardtop was the most popular of the 21 Fury body style/trim combinations for 1971. It also has been equipped with a number of optional items such as deluxe wheel covers and a vinyl roof.
This vinyl bench seat with bucket-like seat backs was also optional on Fury IIIs. It’s held up much better than the interiors of most other cars I’ve seen from this era.
One of the reasons for its immaculate condition may be that the owner of this car is an elderly gentleman who collects cars. As I was taking the pictures, the owner of the garage behind it (who seemed a bit annoyed with me snapping pictures) came out to see what I was doing. He explained to me that owner is in fact the original owner, and that the man and his brother own several old cars “like this one”. I’m hoping that the others are the ones in the pictures on the rear seat (more fuselages!) Anyway, the Fury had just received regular maintenance and was waiting proudly to be picked up.
I’ve rambled on for quite some time now, hopefully I haven’t lost your attention. This car held one of the top spots on my Curbside Classic Bucket List, so finding it was a thrill near that of skydiving. Before I finally end, one last word about what this car means to me:
Like all cars, the styling of this one is totally subjective. And I can see why many people dislike its design. But to me, the styling of the fuselage Plymouths is more than something just better or worse than the Chevrolets and Fords of those years. It represents a bygone age in automotive design. A time when bigger was always better. A period when excess was expected. And, an era when designers dared to do something out of this world when it came to the everyday family sedan.