(first posted at the other site in 2007 and in 2011 here) Somewhere east of Laramie, rocketing across the plains at 96 in a ’69 Fury, a twangy country singer on the radio lectured us with the old song (first made famous by Sinatra): “love and marriage, love and marriage, they go together like a horse and carriage”. My two female traveling companions and I exchanged glances, laughed and sang along: “…you can’t have one without the other.” In that moment everything crystallized: what it meant to be nineteen in 1972, free as a bird, barreling down the interstate with two beautiful girls in a big, powerful American car.
We were headed for the Rockies, retracing the eight hundred mile pilgrimage my family and I made there every summer in the early sixties. This time though, I was literally and figuratively behind the wheel, rewriting the script.
Back in the day, the Niedermeyer family would stop at church early in the morning to pray for a safe trip before all six of us squeezed into our barely mid-sized ’62 Fairlane penalty-box and headed west. God drove a hard bargain for our safe-keeping: two seemingly endless days spent sweating on the CIA-interrogation approved clear plastic seat covers, second-guessing our pilot’s passing skills.
Papa drove like the stereotypical newly-minted immigrant driver; in the vein of Borat. His tentativeness trying to pass trucks on the crowded two-lane Highway 30 or US 6 taught us what we couldn’t articulate: decisiveness (and good judgment) inspires confidence; hesitation… doesn’t. The tension in the Ford was thicker than the greasy truck-stop steaks we admired from afar. After a particularly hair-raising episode my older sister refused to return to her seat after a stop at a roadside gas station. For a while, anyway. Thankfully, daily hikes in the glorious Rockies relieved our accumulated stress (and restored regularity).
So now here I was, stretched out behind the wheel of a fuselage body ’69 Fury with a four-barrel 383 and two companions of choice (not fate). And we were barreling down the I-80’s smooth, barely-cured concrete without a care in the world. The Fury, dubbed “Ply-mouth,” belonged to the two sisters’ Mom. She’d bought the car for its ability to pull a horse trailer down Iowa’s rural roads. But on that magnificent summer day, the Plymouth was paying service to a higher calling: sheer balls-out speed.
It’s not like I’d set out to challenge Cannonball Baker. But once we hit I-80 on that glowing summer morning, the Ply-mouth just wanted to run, like the thoroughbred horses it usually hauled. Traffic was sparse back then; the cops were jawboning with the farmers over their fourth cup of dishwashing-water coffee at the local cafe, and the purple mountain majesties beckoned us.
As the big V8 cleared the gravel-road dust from its lungs, our speed just crept up and up. There was just no holding that Fury back. In what seemed like a flash, we’d traversed Iowa and crossed the Missouri in our roomy space capsule. The next thing I knew were barreling across Nebraska at somewhere between ninety and infinity.
It was all so effortless and relaxed; we might as well have been three teenagers sprawled on (and across) the living room couch watching the world go flying by. And so we were. The endlessly-wide bench seats became chaise lounges. Bare feet were everywhere: on the dash, across someone’s lap, out the window. Seat belts? What’s that?
In another break from the bad-old days, we gave greasy spoons a wide berth. The girls had packed an ample supply of fresh produce from the garden, along with home-baked bread, cheese and iced mint tea. We only stopped for gas, which, at our Furious clip, was happening a bit more often than we planned. The 330 horses demanded compensated for their exertions. Even though gas was thirty-five cents a gallon, our meager budget took a hit.
It was money well spent; by mid-late afternoon, we were already climbing into the mountains. We pulled off a little spur, and having coaxed the Fury to ford a stream, we made camp on a flat little hillock, and slept under the dazzling stars, intoxicated by the smell of a campfire, pine, sage and the dry, thin mountain air.
I had driven fast before, but only in short bursts. Our dash through the heartland was my initiation into the joys of sustained speed. I was eight (hundred) miles high. I’ve been hooked ever since. But I’ll never recreate the magic mix of ingredients that day, which etched those moments into the depths of my memory.
Within a year or so, the energy crisis hit, and we were all driving fifty-five. The Ply-mouth soon gave way to a weak-chested but thrifty Corolla. And in just a few more years, we all started heeding the song: love and marriage…
I had a similar experience with a friend’s 1973 Caprice Estate. We all had a blast in that beast going everywhere in it and I in particular enjoyed the torque from the 400. I thought it wicked fast (it had the 2 barrel for crying out loud) compared to my 250 cube ’74 Comet.
“Back in the day, the Niedermeyer family would stop at church to pray for a safe trip…”
As I write this, my 91 year old mother is in Hospice going through advanced Alzheimer’s along with breast cancer. We’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen next, but we’re (we kids) making plans.
With that, we’ve all started conversations about bygone days and how we are no where near as devout as our parents were. I can remember going to church the night before some of our longer trips, we even kept a St. Christopher in the car. Not necessarily on the dash, but in the car.
Thanks for that pleasant, bittersweet memory…
In my family it was a mandatory Rosary, everybody (except dad, who was driving), every morning within the first 50 miles of the day’s leg. Both my sister and I hated it with a passion, because mom had a number of additional prayers that were always inserted before and after. Yes, I grew up in an incredibly religious family (Byzantine Catholic), and actually entered college on the pre-seminary track.
Thank God for that little high school girl in the first three weeks of my freshman year!
When I first got my licence, I used to pray every time I took the car out (once a week or so). I’d had some hair-raising experiences when I was learning.
My family made the cross country trek on I-80 in ’72 as well, in our new Buick Le Sabre hardtop with the green vinyl seats and A/C!
The 6 of us packed into that car with luggage made the already sagging beast appear to be carrying a load of bricks.
(Dad later put booster shocks on the car and greatly improved the ride, handling, and appearance.)
The trip in the Fairlane with plastic seats on two laners with no A/C (?) sounds brutal.
Floating across the country on freshly minted interstates in a Detroit behemoth is unfortunately something that is passed.
I did the trip in ’03 in an ’03 Maxima…which was a terrific car to be sure, but not the same tactile, cloudlike, softly bouncing experience.
What a great story! It sounds very much like one of those moments in young adulthood where, while it’s happening, you think, “This is what life is really like?” And then in retrospect you learn that moments like these are rare and golden.
I love the steering wheel on this car. It’s what I most remember about the ’69 Fury III my Dad owned.
Now that brings back memories. My first car was a ’68 Fury, white, blue interior. Even with the smaller 318 I could eat the new ’80s cars for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Thanks to a long Texas straight on my way to high school every, 100+ was a daily commute. How I survived on those tires, though, is a miracle, and why I think of those times as unabashed stupidity as much as they were fun.
And then there was the time I got stopped by a plain-clothes border patrol officer in an unmarked vehicle with a hand on his .38, on the plains of Texas.
“Son, what kind of driving was that? If I’d been driving a black & white patrol car, would you have been driving like that?!”
Took all the self-discipline a 16 year old can muster not to say, “Duh, that would be stupid.” Instead, I politely said, “No, sir.” He was not in the mood for hooligan sarcasm.
Lack of jurisdiction got me a stern warning, a great memory, and the freedom to keep driving.
Thank you for a great story about what once was. As I read your story I felt like I was there with you. The harrowing passing in the old Ford.. I love it.
And *damn that Plymouth is one goodlooking car. Looks like it could eat highway all day long. In the day the Florida Highway Patrol used them.
Thanks again Paul. As I leave for the workday, I feel like all is well with the world.
Nice ’69 but I have a soft spot for the 1970-71 models especially the Sport Fury with the hidden headlights. Also, I saw some scans at http://www.fuselage.de/ply69/styling.html showing clay models of proposed designs ideas for the 1969 Fury, one including even continuing the theme of the stackhead headlights of the 1965-68.
A great piece on so many levels. Youth, a lonely new interstate highway, and a big, fast car. A different time indeed, and one that I miss.
The 69 is my favorite of the fuselage Plymouths. The design was clean and fresh, without some of the oddball touches that showed up later on that body. When I was in college, my friend Dan was looking for a car. There was a 69 Fury III advertised in the paper, and we drove out to see it. It was owned by a pig farmer. Although the car had a bit over 100K on it, it was really, really nice.
Dan was reluctant to pull the trigger on the car without getting his dad’s (Howard, my car mentor) approval, and by the time we got back to see it, it had been sold.
This may have been the only Mopar with the trait I associate with Y block-era Fords: the ignition key on the left side of the dash. Your story makes me wistful for the time of big, torquey V8s and effortless accelleration.
Finally, I love your subject car. Other than the cheap, crappy Mopar upholstery vinyl, this one has held up quite well. These cars were pretty good against rust (for the time) and had really stout mechanicals. If your friends’ mother got one that was put together properly, then she would have gotten a really nice car.
Our neighbor was in management at the local bank, and he bought a brand-new, off-white 1969 Fury III four-door sedan as the family car. I remember liking it at the time.
Interestingly, Chrysler stylists did NOT like the 1969 model, because corporate leadership pressured them to keep the front and rear relatively plain. The federal government was putting the heat on automakers over stylish but easily damaged fronts and rears. This would lead to the energy-absorbing bumpers of the 1970s.
What’s fascinating is how Chrysler facelifted this generation heavily every year it was on the market, and how much variation there was among various trim levels. Not only were grilles and headlight arrangements different, but for 1969 there were two different two-door hardtop rooflines (which look the same to most people), and for 1972-1973 even the rear quarter panels were different, depending on the trim level. When the 1974 model debuted, there was very little to distinguish it from the Dodge Monaco.
The fuselage body cars were a major disappointment to the corporation – especially the Plymouth and Dodge versions. The 1965-68 models had been very successful, and made real headway in rebuilding Chrysler’s share in this segment after the 1962 debacle. Chrysler expected big things from the fuselage Fury, but the expected large sales gain never materialized.
Given that Fury volume never approached that of either the Galaxie/LTD or Bel Air/Impala/Caprice, the body variations and constant facelifts must have been a huge expense for Chrysler, and was probably one of the reasons why the corporation was already in dire condition by 1974-75. Compare that to the Galaxie/LTD from these years – Ford changed the body every two years, but only monkeyed with the grille and taillights in the “off” years, and after 1970, Ford really rationalized the body styles offered in its full-size line.
Hate to disagree with you JP, but the Mopar vinyl tended to hold up much better than Vinyl on Ford or GM products of the time which tended to show splits and cracks a lot sooner than the Mopars. Being a California kid. I saw this often. Now if you said old Mopar dashboards, I’d agree with you. Those would crackle and disintegrate after four-five years unprotected in the Cal sun. Worse in desert climes.
Oh, if only I could have made the cross-country trip from Beale AFB to St. Louis back in the early 1970’s when in the service! That car loved to run as well. Didn’t want to try it alone, though, so I never did and $128.00 R/T military stand-by air fare made that merely a dream and not practical for me.
Those gargantuan Chryslers – they were styled somewhere between a GM and a Ford. The fuselage from GM and the smallish cabin and endless hood and trunk from Ford. Neither worked, either.
Nice story Amigo. Made me want to roadtrip.
See, this story has everything…girls…a big block c-body…a fast road without cops or traffic…cheap gas…it’s like a lullaby…
A magical story. Like Paul’s hitch hiking tales, it seems like it happened on a mythical world.
Roadtripping seems to be best left to the young, for me anyway, because when I do it, I tend to get rather bored an uncomfortable after four or five hours. I need to stop and stretch every two or three hours now, I guess age is catching up with me.
I loved these cars, they were the last really honest Chryslers. I had an uncle with a 1986 Newport and I can remember as a kid it just wailing up the the highway at insane speeds (for the day, anyway) with the 383-4 bbl just sucking gas like there was no tomorrow. That is because in pre-energy crisis days, there really was no tomorrow. Bigger was really better.
The fuselage Chryslers were great cars but they suffered from really spotty build quality. Some were just great while others just awful, the most common malady I can remember was water leaks around the windshield and into the trunk. Of course, Chrysler was also incapable of making a V-8 that did plug up the heat riser passages, a rather important feature in Canuckistan. Oh, and the electronic ignition failed with shocking regularity in these cars, leaving one stranded for the sake of a $7.00 part.
However, when all was well, these cars were great highway cars. You really cannot beat good old road-hugging weight on a long drive and the torsion bar front ends, along with the stiff unit bodies, made these sleds about the best of the breed. Too bad about the 11 mpg!
I regretfully agree that road tripping is better when you are younger or at least easier to do.
In my 20’s and 30’s it was nothing to drive all day and night long. I could still see really really well in the dark so driving through the night was really enjoyable. Even if the seats in the car I was driving or riding in weren’t all that ergonomic I’d spring right back w/o any issues after all those hours.
In my 40’s though the eyesight in the dark was not what it once was and I could be left hurting if I sit too long even in a seat that is very good on short trips.
Of course I’m not letting that stop me yet….. but I’ve certainly changed my style. No more deciding on a Wed night to take Fri off, leaving Thur eve to take a say a 1500 mi road trip and return home late Sun night/early Mon morning to get up and go to work as usual w/o feeling wiped out, nor having a sore backside.
Made many a trip ‘cross country with family and on my own. I made three “permanent change of station” trips coast to coast; 1982 Hawaii to Virginia (car delivered to Oakland); in a base model, 2-door rubber floor matted four-speed ’80 Toyota Tercel (no a/c); Virginia to Alameda, California in July, 1985 in an ’83 Dodge D-150 long bed pickup, slant six, 4spd O/D and no air (hot, hot, hot and lots of downshifts on the upgrades of I-80 in Utah and Nevada!); 1997 – again Honolulu by way of Oakland to Virginia and up to Cleveland; this in a comfry, newly a/c rebuilt Olds Cutlass Supreme brougham Oshawa built ’86 model w/Olds 307 and dual 2 1/2″ Flowmasters (1997) and in 2002 Cleveland to California packed with fam and lots of stuff in an ’00 Chevy Venture.
Not to mention numerous road trips up/down Eastern Seaboard, West Coast (oh yeah, Alaska to Alameda, Cal ferry to Bellingham 2007 in a ’06 Camry) – point is I love road trips. The longer, the better. Best wide open two lane highway; U.S. 54 western Kansas all the way to where it ends in New Mexico. Wide open.
Another Coastie here! Luckily only had to do 1 cross country PCS and it was in my ’87 Ramcharger at about 11 mpg. Semper Paratus!
Try US 50 thru Nevada…you feel you’re alone on the planet.
I just drove Highway 50 on Christmas Day. Loved every mile.
Funny, Paul, you mentioned fording streams. Past experience doing so in a PASSENGER CAR and not a truck, oddly enough were in Mopars.
As a kid visiting relatives in Missouri, I remember going to remote fishing holes and little tributaries of the Mississippini with my late uncle on little rutted lanes that barely passed as “roads”. Crawling through streams and such in his ’66 Coronet SE sedan and the turd brown on skid mark metallic chocolate paisley endowed ’71 Plymouth Gran Coupe.
Few years later on a remote dirt/gravel lane in Mendocino County, Cal., Pop and I forded a stream with water just about up to the door sills in my step-mom’s ’72 318 Scamp – the sleeper!
Gotta love that torsion-aire ride!!
I have a deep affection for the fuselage Plymouths; my parents bought a 1970 Sport Suburban in the spring of ’72, and that summer we drove it from Rhode Island to Walt Disney World, with many stops along the way. It was a dark green six-passenger model with two-tone green vinyl seats and a 318. You could argue it was a little underpowered for a full load of six passengers and luggage for a two-week trip, but I don’t remember my father ever complaining about that. He did complain a lot about other drivers, and so we did a lot of the driving after dark when the roads were less crowded.
These cars always looked fast to me, Chrysler managed to give these cars that look of going fast even while sitting still. Which is a bit of a feat for such a large sedan. I think a lot of it is due to the angle of the front end and that they have a little of that hot rod rake.
Great memories! I had a good trip with my 300L too, actually a couple of them. I’m trying to get my stuff together to do an article here on it, so I’ll save my reminiscing for that.
That particular Fury looks well-loved, and is similar to the 1969 ex-WSP car I looked at and should have bought – white on blue Fury III with 440-4V and air. Those things amounted to four-door Road Runners.
Had a ’69 Dodge Polara 2DR Hdtp, white with a green vinyl top. I remember the ignition was on the left side of the dash, 1 year only. Mine only had the 318 but would roll very nicely down 695/70/95 in and around Baltimore. The trunk was huge and held several tool boxes—very handy ballast to travel about in the snow. It was definitely one of the better Mopars I owned back in the 70’s.
My ’69 Polara makes highway cruising effortless…seems like what it was made to do.
The closest to this experience you had was when I went flying down the San Juaqin (sp?) valley on I-5 doing 100mph in my then 1988 Honda Accord,which was loaded down with a bunch of my worldly goods for a good stretch before slowing back down to a mere 80 or so – and this was back in the mid to late afternoon in early July 2002 while heading to LA to find work and at the time, the car had around 140-145K miles on it.
Now that was a fun trip!
The only caveat of that whole trip was I had no working AC (had it but it didn’t work) and had to close the sunroof as it was obviously well into the 90’s in the valley that day (hottest day of the summer at the time as it hit well into the 90’s and it was I think July 2nd).
I miss a good road trip like that and hope to do so and enjoy them but as others have noted, doing road trips when one’s older isn’t always as easy as when younger.
I did something like that heading east on I-40 doing 90 thru New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma in my ’73 Galaxie with my beautiful bride on the bench seat beside me looking at our Las Vegas marriage license and marveling that we were married! That 400 had effortless torque up to 100 mph yet returned 16 mpg at a more disciplined 60 with the A/C going non-stop. It was a wonderful moment in that time just before 9/11.
I didn’t post this last night but wanted to share that I had a friend who drove his parent’s ’69 Plymouth Fury for a while and I remember he’d stomp on it to do burnouts and we’d hear a clunk from underneath as he needed to replace the U joints. 🙂
My parents had I think a ’70 (or was it a ’71?) Fury III 4 door sedan for a few years, I think selling it in the mid 70’s (we got it from friends used).
But in reading your story Paul, the refrain from Tracy Chapman’s song, “Fast Car” came to mind since she sang about getting into her man’s car which was fast and getting out of the situation she/they were in. While you weren’t trying to get away from a bad situation, you were simply reveling in the freedom of driving fast in a fast car on an empty, then new highway. 🙂
When we check the fusalge Dodge/Chrysler/Imperial/Plymouth models, I couldn’t resist to wonder how a “Fuselage” DeSoto would had look if DeSoto still existed during the fuselage era. I sketched a while ago, imagining a “what if?” ; a fuselage DeSoto Adeventurer http://stephdumas.deviantart.com/art/What-if-1970-DeSoto-171284820
While these things do cruise very smoothly on the highway, their absurdly simple “Hotchkiss” type rear suspensions do not do a very good job at controlling rear axle hop under hard braking. There are videos of the rear axle doing the Watusi under the back of the car.
Great story better than mine. But I do have one.
About 20, friend’s parents sent him to school in Tucson, and I was to drive him in a nearly new Dodge Coronet I believe about 1971. It had 318 2 barrel, single exhaust, but it would roll in the ’90s, and it did from San Diego to Tucson for the round trip. While the car didn’t have much acceleration, I came away impressed with the drivetrain for not missing a beat on the trip.
I can remember brief bursts of speed to well over 110 in my parents ’64 Riviera.
Remember on those cars burning leaded fuel how the exhaust outlet would become paper white after long high speed run?
Still the highest sustained speed for me over the longest distance was on that trip back in ’71. I usually take 4 cyl Camry in AZ and run at 80 in the 75 zones ( I hope they give 5 over). but don’t tend to sustain 90 or more. At least to me the newer aero cars do tend to make high speed more effortless (less wind noise, better and smoother running tires, better braking, less engine load, taller gearing), even some of the “boring” 4 cylinder offerings.
Groovy opening story and comments.
The pert-near yearly trek from NorCal to eastern Nebraska varied in experiences along with age, awareness, vehicles used and extent of I-80s completion.
When larger vehicles were used larger stores of grub/vittles were carried.
Largest cars (such as the Ford LTD station wagon) provided adequate sleeping room and dual ice chests.
Old man drove the 1,800 miles non-stop except for fueling.
He also kept his self-labeled “cannon” a WW2-era .45 military-issued pistol loaded and ready-to-use under his section of the front seat.
From a rough background and a rough area with a rough mentality. I do not encourage “messing with” the rural inhabitants of low-income areas of the USA. Even today. But not quite as rough as those from the “Greatest Generation” era.
Old man originally moved to California back in the 1950s running from the law whose “long arm” did not extend as far back then.
Anyway….ensconced in a metal cocoon we traversed the mountains and prairies while Mom and I took turns staying awake to pour the coffee on demand while the old man drove and drove endlessly.
Stopping for gas was fun. Refresh the coffee supply, the gas tank and ourselves.
Old man made his “pit stop” then back to keeping an eagle eye upon the gas dispenser to ensure he did not “mess” with the vehicle.
Mom and or I did that when the old man rushed off to rid himself of already-drank coffee then away we rushed as the mighty 390 roared.
The 1965 VW Bug trip sucked.
The 1956 (or was a ’55?” Chevy S/W panel-van-type (no rear side windows, a 2-door model) was fun.
Reminds me of when I was in the Navy, stationed in Oceana, Va and going home to upstate NY. I had my fathers 1960 ford wagon (6 cyl fordomatic, 0 to 60 in a hour and a half!) and he had made an extra gas tank to bring home cheap gas and set in the back of the wagon, well because this sailor was alway broke, and not to bright, I filled that tank and the cars tank, and would siphon it onroute to save money and time. How dumb was that with 5 guys plus myself driving at 80MPH plus up US 13 that had “suiside strip” a 20 mile section with one north bound lane, and one south, with one in the middle for the bravest/dumbest person to get in. I am amazed I am here to write about it.
Still trying to recollect what vented, leaded gas smelled like back then. Strong and “earthy” compared to today’s 10% ethanol enriched American unleaded fuel.
Dad, two sisters and I (sans my Mom and brother) drove the ’71 Olds Custom Cruiser wagon (455 4-bbl) from Northern California to Northeastern Missouri and back (June-July 1972).
Did the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, etc. to/fm the Show Me State.
Remember period Shell stations with the “Service is our business” logo. I sat in the far back forward facing seat next to the gas filler.
FYI, the last vehicle I had that used “leaded” fuel was my Avatar, the ’74 Courier. Cal emission gear, but one year before the cats. Had a sh$&!load of EGR and air pump plumbing.
Really liked the 69 Fury. When I bought my first good car, (1973) the local dealer had two, but both had 100K on the clock. I ended up buying a 68 Fury III 2 dr HT, instead, with half the mileage. All three cars were priced at $ 1,000. I negotiated to $ 900, and thought I got a good deal. The 68 was a great car.
Recently, someone had a 69 green Fury III 2 dr HT for sale near my home. It was not in great shape, paint faded with 2 inches of dust, and ripped up seats. A sign stated asking price was $ 6,500. That car sat there for at least three years. Last year I didn’t see it any more. I doubt it was sold at $ 6,500.
We had a black 69 in the family that my grandmother – a hesitant, late-life driver – whacked into a tree. That car must have been an absolute beast. Not the TItanic-like Imperial my other grandparents had, but just powerful and comfortable enough to be a pleasant driver. They moved from that to a 79 Malibu that later became my first car. Then they bought the 85 Town Car, famous for its red velvet interior. To this day my 92 year old grandfather misses that car. He has a Grand Marquis nobody likes now.
I had young, thrifty parents so our endless moves and Sunday drives were done in a 1977 Hornet wagon, an 81 Datsun 210 wagon and the paragon of uncomfortability, the 82 Mercury Lynx sedan.
The fuselage Chryslers are great looking cars. When I was in the Air Force (mid-seventies) I was stationed at Travis AFB in California. A buddy had a 1969 Chrysler Newport 4 door sedan with the 440 V-8. Six of us would routinely load into “the barge” for road trips to Reno and Lake Tahoe. One Sunday night, coming back down the hill, I looked at the speedo and we were going about 105 mph. About that time I looked at the car we were passing and realized that it was a CHP Dodge. We did get stopped but the officer gave us a break because we were in the military, and he was a veteran. After that we proceeded back home at a more reasonable pace.
I can relate to the comparison of parents driving and my own adventure.
My dad was a Navy carrier pilot (coolest job in the world), and we had to move every two years. What I remember best is being in the back seat with my brother, and my kitty cat who was a champion traveler. 1963 Ford Fairlane Ranch Wagon, 3 on the tree. Back piled high where my kitty cat would perch and sleep. Howard Johnsons for the night. This was the 1960s. I don’t remember it being death on wheels–mom was good at entertaining, and I remember that for some reason we tended to sleep a lot.
In college (1978) I read the Grapes of Wrath and vowed I would drive across the country, like the Joads someday. When I left GA to Philadelphia for grad school, after the VW incident in 1984, I got a 1982 Toyota SR5 longbed with a camper top. It next took me to Wisconsin for post-graduate training. (Madison, WI was a great town … if you were married, which I wasn’t). In 1990 I got the offer of a lifetime in the clutch–a 1 year fellowship at University of California, San Francisco! And now I got to do the Tom Joad. First was the Ryder truck from Madison to Boston (19 hours straight–young and foolish enough to endure it), a quick trip to Greece to see my g/f at the time, and then back to Madison. “Loaded up the truck and moved to … San Francisco”. It was so full that I could not see to the right of me at all, not even the corner of the windshield, nor the right-side mirror. 2075 miles in 44 hours with a 4 hour stop in Laramie, WY where I was invited by my ex-roommates folks there. The stars were utterly beautiful in UT and Nevada–I could see forever into the night sky. I arrived at my faux aunt’s place the next afternoon more dead than alive. Next year’s drive from SF to Boston (the next post-graduate stop) was better planned with more stops, and shipped a lot of stuff back East.
I never appreciated how large and varied this great country of ours was until I drove it on my own.
I pushed myself to a physical extreme and lived to tell about it. I wish I could say there were Girls along the way at every port, but I wasn’t blessed with good looks or animal magnetism. I still would like to get a 1937 Oklahoma license plate–same year as the Steinbeck classic.
That SR5 lasted until 1998 when the rust did it in. Other than some interesting issues with the sticky thermostat (every one had the same problem–at highway speeds the temp would go up, on goes the heater, pull in for gas, start up 15 minutes later, never a problem that day again. Even changing the water pump didn’t fix this), that truck was my best friend–never let me down or by the side of the road.
At my age, driving was an adventure. Now interstate driving for more than 2 hours is a chore.
Excellently written story, you put us in the car with you on a road trip that can never be repeated. Thank you.
There’s something brooding and sullen about the front end of the ’69 Fury, particularly in base form like this car.
I concur. The 1969 Polara generally gets all the love with a more cohesive, businesslike appearance, but the Fury has more character.
CC effect – I dreamed about this car last night!
One day I was driving my co-worker’s to work in my newly acquired $100 ’68 New Yorker.
Worked for a VW dealership in Pasadena, it was early Saturday morning (yearly parts inventory time) and I was mentioning how powerful it’s pre smog 440 engine really was. It was around 1983 and we were lumbering at 55 MPH on an empty 210 Freeway. I floored it, the old barge lifted it’s hood and blasted quickly to 100. Took my foot off the gas, slowed quickly then lumbered on at 55 MPH.
The cop that was on the overpass was not as impressed as my co-workers were.
At least I got away with a ticket saying 74 MPH, one mile short of automatic reckless driving.
Ticket cost more than the car did.
This one brought me out of my CC slumber just long enough for a quickie cameo comment.
I’ve read this post before, while perusing the archives, but I couldn’t resist spending a few minutes with it again. Such a poetic accounting. One of your best, Paul.
(My move to the Tampa Bay area in late October, followed by a whole heapin’ helpin’ of “life stuff”, in conjunction with a very demanding new job have kept me on the CC sidelines, but when my weekend projects become fewer I hope to find more time to spend here. I do miss this place.)
I got drafted in 1968. My Father always had 2 convertibles even though he lived in Northeast Ohio. When i was drafted, he had a 1964 Pontiac Lemans convertible and a 1966 Pontiac Catalina convertible. When I came home on leave in January 1969, the Lemans had been replaced by a 1968 Plymouth Fury III four door hardtop in greenish yellow with green interior.and a green padded top. My Mother wanted a 4 door to haul her friends around and for some reason,they special ordered this color combo.
The car looked like a cop car in drag. By the time I got back from Nam in 1970, the Plymouth was gone, replaced with a 1970 Olds convertible. He always bought a new car every two years and kept it four. The Plymouth lasted less tahn 2.
Why is my Fury used in these pictures? The interior pic was not taken through the window. Someone opened my door. That was when I parked on Olive st in Eugene. I really would like an answer
Because it was parked in the street, where it’s perfectly legal to shoot a car. No, I did not open any door; I shot that image through the glass; some reflections from the glass are clearly visible.
People have been taking pictures of cars in the street ever since…cars were invented.
Great writing Paul .
I’m enjoying the stories, I too am getting a bit long in the tooth to enjoy log distance driving anymore, a sad thing that .
I well remember traveling all over New England in Pops ’59 Peugeot for door , five kids plus his wife crammed in and not allowed to pen the windows ever .
I had a ’69 Fury III two door in 1976 when I came back from living in Guatemala, it was a gift, they were surprised when I made it run in a day or two .
It had the 383 V8 .
Very good cars IMO .
Right down the street I bought a $50 ’68 W AutoStick Beetle ‘parts car’ , kicked out the shattered windshield and made it run, drove it 40 miles home, traded the Plymouth to a kid for the windshield and other bits and bobs the VW needed .