Automotive History: Shockingly Low Volume Production Cars – The Plymouth Edition

(first posted 5/19/2017)    For this third installment of our exploration into shockingly low volume production cars, let’s look at that third leg of the old “Low Priced Three”, Plymouth.

Like Ford, Plymouth reports their production in terms of body style, not engine.  While reporting on engine, similar to Chevrolet, using body style production does help with quicker identification; really, which do you comprehend first – the body or an engine encapsulated in sheet metal?  While this list isn’t meant to be all-inclusive, it definitely has some of the usual candidates combined with a few surprises.

As before, the time span of 1946 to 1995 is being examined with production volumes of less than 1,000 (or so) making the cut.

1954 Savoy Suburban two-door wagon

Production:  450

No, you won’t find a Savoy Suburban wagon on this roster of Plymouth models.

1954 saw sales drop at Plymouth, due in no-small part to their dowdy styling, with the Savoy being the mid-level trim.  It would seem only natural Savoy would have a wagon as there was a wagon in base model Plaza and top trim Belvedere.

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars:

A surprise was the fact that Suburbans were not normally provided with Savoy level trim, even though the name had been taken from the fancy all-steel station wagon model.  However, the Chrysler Historical Archives indicate that a small number of Savoy Suburbans were manufactured.

In a sense, this isn’t unlike a few instances found with the Fords; a model was available but not publicized.

1959 Savoy business coupe

Production:  1,051

The business coupe was simply running out of a market by 1959.  Using the lowest level trim, with Savoy being demoted to bottom rung for 1959, the business couple came from the factory with no back seat, allowing more room for business people to store their supplies.

By its very nature this wasn’t a car that would appeal to families and 1959 was the last year for a three-passenger Plymouth.  All Savoy business couples for 1959 were powered by a flathead six cranking out 132 gross horsepower.

1969 GTX convertible

Production:  700

The GTX was never a high volume car for Plymouth.  The two-door hardtop shown started at $3,416 whereas a similar bodied (but admittedly far less engined as the GTX had a 440 cubic inch V8 standard) Satellite had a price of $2,749 when equipped with the 318 cubic inch (5.2 liter) V8.

Stepping up to a GTX convertible was an additional $229 over the GTX; at $3,635 it was more expensive than any Fury – including the Sport Fury convertible – except for the high trimmed wagons.

Besides entry price, there was likely another factor at work…

1969 Sport Satellite convertible

Production:  818

Plymouth offered four mid-sized convertibles in 1969 so attention was rather divided.  Perhaps oddly, the Road Runner convertible was the most popular of the bunch, selling 2,128 copies.  The base Satellite convertible almost qualified for inclusion here with 1,137.

While available resources don’t provide for it, one could acquire a 225 cubic inch (3.7 liter) slant-six in a regular Satellite convertible.  The number of those is likely even lower than what we’ve seen here.  The Sport Satellite seen here had a 318 as standard equipment.

This was a peak time for mid-sized Plymouths.

1970 Barracuda Gran Coupe convertible

Production:  596

If one watches any of the classic car auctions on cable television, the show will seemingly always contain a 1970 ‘Cuda convertible and the audience gets to hear yet again how rare it is.  Well, that bubble needs to be popped.

This Gran Coupe convertible was produced in fewer numbers than that ‘Cuda.  It’s only problem is that it’s the bridesmaid of the Plymouth E-bodies.  Plant an available slant-six under the hood and you have something truly unique and something that nobody will spend a dime to plagiarize via a “tribute”.

1971 Sport Fury GT hardtop coupe

Production:  375

The degrees of awesomeness this Plymouth possesses are almost impossible to count.  Providing a distinct presence with a 375 gross horsepower 440 cubic inch (7.4 liter) V8 to back up the swagger, a 3.23:1 rear axle, heavy-duty suspension, dual exhaust, road wheels, power front disc brakes, and GT decals on the hood, this testosterone filled buggy is the ultimate in fuselage Furys.  Sadly, it registered barely a blip on the radar of Fury sales.

Let’s admit it; this gets the pulse going much quicker than learning that 200 Fury IIIs were built with a slant six in 1971.

1985 shown

1987 Reliant two-door sedan (base)

Production:  204

After one of perhaps the ultimate full-sized Plymouths ever, lets visit the other end of the spectrum.

Maybe it seems there were a bajillion K-cars built, but not all of them were popular.  The upper trim LE two-door sold over forty times as many with only 9,100.  Sedans were the Reliant’s sugar stick and with over 66,000 LE’s sold for 1987, that’s what people would remember.  That, and these didn’t change one iota from the front end refreshing of 1985 until the end in 1989.

1985 Salon shown

1988 Gran Fury sedan (base)

Production:  238

No, not all Gran Fury’s sold to the cops, but one has to wonder about this one.  From 1981, the time the M-body Gran Fury appeared on the scene, to 1987, the Gran Fury came in Salon trim only.  For 1988, the Gran Fury was split between base and Salon – and then it went back to Salon trim only for its farewell in 1989.

It would seem these were destined for fleets given the meager production volumes, but from what can be found the price of the Salon was $720 less than the base model.  Odds are this is simply numbers being transposed.

Were there any surprises?  Stay tuned as we move upscale to the mid-priced makes.