Americans Down Under – The Dodge Edition

After seeing Chevrolet last week, and a snippet of Ford earlier this week, let’s continue our journey with Dodge.  As with Chevrolet, this is far from being comprehensive and brochures were found at  To clarify intentions, the aim is to highlight cars sold in Australia that shared a body shell with cars sold in the United States and Canada.

So let’s get started.  And, yes, this is a Dodge, a Phoenix 400 to be exact.

Before we jump too far, we need to discuss Austral Motors, the company whose name is printed in this brochure.  The successor to Austral Carriage Works, which was located at 51 Adelaide Street in Brisbane, it evolved into Austral Motors shortly after World War I.  Becoming the sole provider for Dodge Brothers cars in Queensland, they would later have a second branch in Spring Hill.

The Austral Motors Building was constructed in the 1920s and still stands at 95 Boundary Street.

Further research about Austral Motors itself is proving to be a challenge, aided in part by a dealer in Brisbane using the Austral name.

Whether these 1940 cars were built in the United States, Canada, or imported for assembly in Australia is hard to ascertain.  However, less uncertainty exists in the newer cars as we shall soon see.  These Dodges were pretty much replicas of what was sold in the United States with the brochures of both countries using the illustration of this red Dodge having an ambiguous steering wheel location.

The exaggeration of automobile dimensions from around this time seems to be a universal phenomenon.

Fast forwarding to 1959, we see the Forward Look was being imported to Australia.  This is a fascinating thing as this is identical to a North American 1959 Dodge however, at this same time, the Chrysler Royal being sold in Australia was wearing awkward updates on a body that was used as the 1953 Plymouth in North America and preceded the Forward Look.

By this point the importer was Chrysler Australia Limited based in Adelaide.  Chrysler Australia Limited had been formed in 1935 as a consortium of eighteen distributors.  Early in their existence Chrysler Australia assembled North American Chrysler branded cars which is likely how the 1940 Dodge was assembled.

In 1958 and 1959 Chrysler Australia imported Dodge Custom Royals, Plymouth Belevderes, and DeSoto Firesweeps from the United States in knockdown form and assembled them in Adelaide.

In viewing this particular brochure, its pretty obvious Chrysler Australia wanted to offer an appealing car as all these Dodges had the 361 cubic inch V8 along with the Torqueflite transmission.  No flathead straight-sixes nor three-on-the-trees here.

Like the Dodge, the DeSoto received the 361 V8.

The Plymouths were powered by a 318 and the brochure was explicit in stating only a few would be imported, much more than was the Dodge or DeSoto pamphlets.

For 1960 Chrysler Australia consolidated the Plymouth/Dodge/DeSoto models down into the Dodge Phoenix.

All were powered by a 318.  Of delightful note here is the trunk capacity is 29.4 cubic feet – with the spare tire in position.

The 1962 Dodge Phoenix was identical to what was offered in North America, downsizing and all.

While not necessarily wanting to go into great detail for every year, the 1963 is being included due to this picture of its hind quarters.  The amber lenses on the trunk lid are obviously tacked on but do not have the mind-numbing shock that Chevrolet incorporated onto a few of their Australian offerings during this time period, particularly the 1966 models.

Here is where things start to get fun for those in the Northern Hemisphere and it was quietly alluded to with the lead picture.  Chrysler Australia would produce the full-sized Dodge Phoenix until 1973.  Beginning in 1965, and lasting until the end, the body shell and front end used were identified as being Plymouth items of the same year in North America.

In other words, 1965 Australian Dodge = 1965 North American Plymouth and so on.  The bodies would reflect directly by year until 1971.

One interesting item of note is the Australian Dodge emphasized the interior appointments, as well they should have.  This is a great looking interior and this picture comprised one-quarter of the brochure.

Conversely, this is the interior of the 1966 North American Dodge.  It’s rather hum-drum in comparison.  But at least it’s showing an interior shot; Plymouth only had a thumbnail picture for 1966 so one can only surmise they didn’t want to talk about it.

This picture of the 1967 Phoenix reveals two things.  First, the 318, which had been around since 1960, had been replaced by the 383 cubic inch V8.  Second, the amber on the tail lights was much better incorporated, looking much more organic.

This second picture from 1967 gives the best shot of the instrument panel so far.

For comparison, here is the 1967 North American Fury.

This brings us back to 1969, the year of the car in our lead photo.  This was the first year of the fuselage style, this car being known as the Plymouth Fury elsewhere in the world.  However, in Australia, they went a different direction with the car now being called the Phoenix 400.  Why 400?

Only 400 were going to be made, with each having its unique identifying number on the dashboard.  Exclusivity was the goal, and to further achieve that goal, buyers were offered the choice of a 318 or 383 to propel themselves.

Of course, the laws in Australia being enacted at that time requiring substantial domestic content likely also played a factor.  That, and choosing to import 400 units could have been comparable to what had been the case anyway.

How many of these remain intact?  Enough, it seems.  An image search for the Phoenix 400 reveals cars in all different conditions, so while the survival rate appears to be good they still aren’t plentiful.  However, percentage wise, one could easily argue their survival rate in Australia is much better than of their cousins in North America.