Curbside Classic: 1973 Plymouth Fury III Sedan – Fuselage Friday

The more daring something is, the more it’s likely to invoke strong opinions. Debuting for the 1969 model year, the “Fuselage” C-body Mopars were certainly a bold artistic statement. A sharp contrast to their boxier predecessors, as well as their crispier-styled GM and Ford competitors, the Fuselage Chryslers solicited a deep divide of lovers and haters, with seemingly more falling into the latter category. But as the greatest fictitious adman, Don Draper, said, “If you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation”.

With their much more conservative full-redesign another year out, Chrysler designers sought to give the futuristic C-bodies more traditional faces for the design cycle’s final 1973 model year in order to soften their polarapolarity.

Exclusively Plymouth-speaking, with the exception of the somewhat blockier-looking initial 1969 models, the 1970-1972 full-size Plymouths wore rather sleek, flowing styling. Highlighted up front by very forward looking loop bumpers, the wind-tunneled bodies of the big Furys did indeed look like they could possibly take flight — from afar that is, as up close they were positively massive cars.

Stylists took one final stab at making a bold statement for 1972, going for a busier and more polarizing front end, with a distinctive twin-loop front bumper and higher trims’ truly hidden headlights. Sales of this Fury III 4-door sedan, the second-most popular Fury after the Fury III 4-door hardtop, remained constant at 46K units, but for Fuselage’s final 1973 model year, Plymouth stylists would give the car some rather significant visual changes once again.

Going the opposite direction of the rather out-of-this-world 1972s, the 1973 Plymouth Fury sported a much simpler and conventional front end, ditching the loop bumper, split grilles, and available hidden headlights for a plainer finely-textured grille and quad exposed headlights across the board. A new hood was also in order, featuring a raised, arrow-shaped power dome.

The rear of the car was also redesigned, highlighted by new vertically-oriented teardrop-shaped taillights that were somewhat reminiscent of the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight’s. Actually, along with the revised rear quarter panels, the ’73 Fury sported a hint of tailfin. Despite no changes to the actual decklid, the new rear end design gave the trunk of the car a physically higher and more prominent look.

Beyond the new exterior styling, little was changed for the Fuselage Furys’ final year. There was a little reshuffling of exterior colors and the electronic Chronometer clock was now standard in the range-topping Gran Coupe and Gran Sedan models. Apart from this, the Fury remained largely unchanged from an equipment standpoint.

Despite the more conservative, and frankly, boring styling, Fury sales slid by a noticeable amount for the 1973 models. This was likely due to a number of contributing factors, the primary one being simply that the Fuselage bodies had reached the end of their shelf life.

Completely redesigned C-bodies would arrive for the 1974 model year and unfortunately just in time for the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, which killed any chances for the new models to achieve any impressive sales totals. Despite handsome and far less controversial clothes, the 1974 C-bodies, and the Plymouths in particular, failed to turn many heads, relegating them to also-ran status for their short lifespan.

As for the Fuselage Furys, I personally much prefer the more daring 1970-1972 models, which I feel best capture the full effect of what designers were going for. The 1973 restyling just didn’t mesh as well with the body. It was like an Italian restaurant running out of sauce and serving spaghetti topped with salsa. In the end, the Fuselage C-bodies failed at gaining mainstream acceptance and greatly influencing the design of automobiles in the years that followed, two things Chrysler undeniable hoped for. Their greatest lasting legacy might just be their ability to still ignite a sharp debate. I guess some conversations can never be changed.

Photographed: Whitman, MA – April 2017

P.S. – Especially since I pulled up in my car, I got sketched out by a watching neighbor so I unfortunately just took these 3 pictures.

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1971 Plymouth Fury III