If you’ve been reading Curbside for a while, you’re probably familiar with the tragic tale of Chrysler Corporation’s rushed-into-production Forward Look cars for 1957. Sure, they looked great, rode and handled great, had plenty of visibility, and set a totally new styling direction for the industry. Sales were way up! But quality suffered, and the cars were noted for mechanical problems, leaks, rattles, and early rust-out. As a result, almost none survived beyond the mid-1960s. Which is why I was astonished to find this pristine example for sale on eBay. But were the ’57s really that bad?
First of all, let’s get it out in the open–I love the 1957-61 Forward Look Mopars, even the “controversial” ones like the 59-60 Dodges and the 60-61 Plymouths and Imperials. A 57-58 De Soto is truly sublime. Now I also love the Fords and Chevys from the same period, however it has kind of bugged me that while Chevrolet built only about twice as many cars in ’57 than Plymouth did, today the ’57 Chevys outnumber the Plymouths by, I don’t know . . . 30 to 1? In fact, the ’57 Plymouth probably has the worst survival rate of any car of the ’50s. Could this be the reason . . .
Research by Consumer Reports (April 1963) based on owners’ surveys shows a lot of black spots for Plymouth. The Fords were almost as bad. Now compare that to . . .
But that’s not the whole story. Popular Mechanics also surveyed ’57 Plymouth owners, who for the most part really loved their new Plymouths:
What a step UP these Forward Look ’57s must have been to drivers trading in their plodding, somewhat clumsy 50-54 Plymouths. And, you may be happy to know, a solid 2/3rds majority of new Plymouth owners liked the fins. So if fins = more sales, then 1958, ’59, and ’60 cars industry-wide shall have even bigger fins. Makes sense to me.
So maybe most of the ’57 Plymouth’s maladies didn’t show up until years later. Which undermines the theory that low customer satisfaction with the ’57s cratered sales for the ’58s. Incidentally, half of respondents plan to buy a new Plymouth from the same dealer once again. That may or may not be a good return rate.
So let’s get back to why this splendid Desert Gold and white Belvedere is so special. First of all, it’s a ’57 Belvedere 4-door sedan, the first one showcased on Curbside. And, as we all know, sedans often don’t receive the kind of love and attention that a convertible or hardtop might. That’s another sticking point with me–I appreciate (and often prefer) sedans like this. I like the gentle, sloping curve of the roof; and the fact that these are the true nostalgia cars–the ones most often seen in “the good old days.” And for personal ownership, they’re the most practical.
And talk about low survival: Plymouth built 110,414 of these Belvedere 4-door sedans. If there are 11 left in the U.S.A. today that are about this good, that’s one in ten thousand. So this may be the “fairest among ten thousand,” to quote the Song of Solomon.
When you look at the photos of this finely restored Plymouth, you wonder why so few hobbyists/collectors decided to preserve an example of one these for their very own. The overall shape, the artful details, the engineering advances all make for a really attractive package.
How about that fantastic steering wheel and dashboard! I like how the transmission push buttons are finely framed in gold.
Gold fabric on the seats! We’re approaching Cadillac/Lincoln/Imperial levels of luxury here!
That’s a 301 V-8 (not a 318). Manual steering and brakes. I predict low-speed parking maneuvers will not be so carefree and easy.
One thing I don’t like about this car–those dopey gewgaws on the headlights have got to go–NOW!
So there it is–one of the lucky ones. What can I say? It’s a harsh world out there, especially when you’re a low-priced family sedan with planned obsolescence built in. Suddenly, it was 1960 . . . then 1970 . . . and now–2020? I can’t even.
So here’s a fun idea: find a pristine and original example of a car with high production numbers which, because of high attrition, is almost impossible to find today. We kind of did that with “The Great Vega Hunt”, but as I recall most of the examples we found weren’t all that pristine or original. But in my opinion cars like this Plymouth are the “ultimate” Curbside Classics–the fascinating ones that should not have survived so well, but somehow have.
I wonder if these weren’t preserved for a similar reason you don’t see many Hummer H2s out and about anymore- it was a high point for a certain style of vehicle that was quickly shunned by the general public and became generally derided and unloved. Once the 60s came in and flamboyant chrome and fins were out, the horrible quality certainly probably made even the die-hards think twice about trying to keep these on the road.
With the Hummer H2, I always thought they were exported to some far off locale in the Middle East or former USSR; in my hood, you see a lot of once-blingy 2000ish Yukon’s and Escalades used for work trucks (landscaping, usually)But I’ve never seen an H2 in that role. Since there’s no mechanical reason they should be less stout than a Yukon, I just picture a village in the Stans where everyone drives an H2…
The survey is interesting by comparison with the usual focus of car magazine articles, both then and now. Car buyers didn’t care about acceleration or top speed. Car writers want ONLY acceleration and speed.
As an owner of a well worn 54 Plymouth Savoy, and as someone who appreciated the extra engineering evident in Chrysler products I can almost see myself strolling into a Plymouth showroom in late 56 and scoping out the 57s.
Of the lower priced three, Plymouth built THE dowdiest cars of the 50s, until the debut of the 57s. I am not sure which trim series I would have chosen, but I imagine it would have been a 2 door sedan.
And I agree, those headlight surrounds…it’s like they were not exactly sure how big they were going to be so they fashioned those trim pieces to fill any awkward space.
I think he was talking about the yucky aftermarket chrome headlight mask things installed in front of the sealed beams.
I am looking at this on a phone, so I didn’t see those…” mask, thingees? “.
So yeah, toss those and get a set of curb feelers like my mom’s aunt had on her 56 and 64 Plymouths.
>>One thing I don’t like about this car–those dopey gewgaws on the headlights have got to go–NOW!<<
those are parking lights/turn signals inboard
dual headlights weren't entirely legal so Plymouth tried and did a decent job making it look like there were four headlights until they get gov permission to actually do it
I think he’s talking about the chrome overlays on the 7” headlights. They are awful looking. And why would you put them on a car that’s been restored to perfection, otherwise?
Who needs BMW nostrils on their HEADLIGHTS???
I don’t remember everything that was sold in those days to customize cars, but don’t recall THOSE. Hopefully, like a lot of junk from JCWhitney and others, they’ll rust away of their own accord, or an alert police officer will spot them as being (in many states) an equipment violation.
You can buy these “cats eyes” today.
I also can’t stand those “eyelids” put on round headlamps (sealed beams or modern lamps); it makes the car look like it wants to take a nap.
Or those dumb “angry-eyes” attachments one sees on Jeep Wranglers.
Amen, Daniel! Here in the DC Metro area, you can count on Wranglers being bro-dozed with those stupid headlight overlays and God knows what else they can find in a catalog to stick on, usually by a young military dude / gal who thinks it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread. It’s just not – and you look just as stupid as your truck does.
Note- not a dig at military guys and gals, especially as I personally served both Air Force and Army, and work for the Army now. Just pointing out that there is a certain demographic who put blinders on headlights… Yes, I think it’s a great plan to purposely reduce the effectiveness of one of my vehicle’s most important safety features. Huh?!? Hell, why not clip the rear brake lines – it’s more exciting that way, right? 🤷♂️🤷♂️🤦♂️🤦♂️
As to why the low survival rates of the 57 Plymouths (and Fords, for that matter), keep in mind that back in the late 50’s and into the 60’s a Chevrolet traded-in higher and sold for more money used than the competition. Significantly more. So someone in financial straits, and needing a cheap ride would go for the Ford or Plymouth, because it cost less. And that same financial situation ensured that those cars wouldn’t be maintained as well, also ensuring them to an earlier grave than the Chevrolet.
Add to this that the tri-Fives were incredibly well built for the day. Which upped the chances for their being around six years later for some 16-18 year old kid to pick up and hot Rod. Ford and Chrysler’s lineups were, at best, average builds for their day, which wasn’t saying much. Plus those modern stylings seem to have been incredible rust traps.
Oh, to see a few 57-58 Plymouths at car shows, instead of more 57 Chevrolets (which I consider the most overrated car, ever).
Basically the same reason you see more ’90s/early ’00s Honda Civics than Chevy Cavaliers and Dodge (and let’s not forget Plymouth) Neons on the road today.
I agree with you on the ’57 Chevy styling, it’s a shame they couldn’t have just built the ’55 for three years straight.
In the late 70’s, I owned a ’58 Belvedere. Green w/ white accents, factory AC, PS, PB, TorqueFlite & 318. Being an Oklahoma car, there was no body rot, but bad sun fade & light surface rust on the top. I had always heard the ’58s were better sorted out than the ’57s. I was surprised to see CU ratings showing ’58s were more troublesome than ’57s. I didn’t have any real problems with my ’58 other than having to occasionally hunt for replacement AC clutch brushes that were a normal wear item on compressors of the period. Lots of road trips out of Tulsa to exotic places like Key West, the AZ desert and the Boundary Waters Canoe area in Canada. Seeing a 57 or 58 Plymouth still triggers fond memories of those adventures.
I think one common misperception about the CU reliability ratings is that the scores are only for the most recent survey year, not for the entire ownership period of the car. So using Poindexter’s example for 1963, the responses are for owner experiences in calendar 1962. So it’s quite possible that the ’58s surveyed for that one year had more issues than the ’57s (or that the worst ’57s had already been junked).
A time capsule, for sure. I have been looking at old cars for fifty years or more, and am not sure I have ever seen a 57 Plymouth sedan so clean and original.
My car-mentor Howard told me about the 57 Plymouth he bought new. “Junk” was the word he used, spat out with some force. And he was a dedicated Mopar guy even through the 70s. He drove the low-mile 59 Plymouth sedan I bought in 1979 and pronounced it significantly tighter in a structural way than his 57 had been. I think that was intentional, because the 57s had been notoriously floppy. I will attest, though, that my 59 was a joy to drive. It also suffered from water leaks.
With resale in the toilet, spending money on significant repairs on these was a bad bet so off to the junkyard with it. Beyond the high need for repairs, these were horrible rusters. So even the best ones probably rusted to death at a young age.
Oh, and what’s with the wipers? I would bet that’s a passenger side arm/blade on the driver’s side (or one from a different model) which won’t let it park. The passenger side parking an inch or so higher than the driver side was normal on these due to slop in the linkage, but the driver’s side should park snugly against the base of the windshield.
Water leaks and rust, that’s what happened to my father’s 58. I remember seeing a couple of 57’s in the junkyard in the mid 80’s and they were just consumed by rust.
Beautiful example shown here though
My father, who turned 77 earlier this week, once told me what he saw as being the big deal about tail fins. He would have been a freshman in high school when these were introduced.
He said the tail fin gave people a focal point when backing up or other times of looking behind the car. It was a very much appreciated trait. Now, how widespread that philosophy was I do not know. He also said Plymouth went stupid with tail fins for the 1960 or so models.
A high production car that is rarely seen? How about a stacked headlight Dodge Caravan /Plymouth Voyager or an early K-car?
The best part about my high-finned 59 in 1979-80 was how easy it was to find in a parking lot. In every long row of cars with their butts sloping downward, my car was the only one with a tail jutting upward. You take your small joys in life where they may be found. 🙂
My science teacher when I was in the 5th or 6th grade (1962-64) had one of these (a 2-door hardtop as I recall); he would sometimes give me a ride to school as I was walking along the way. Those tailfins looked fantastic out the rear window!
There is a factory promotional film all about the new 1960 Plymouth. It goes on for quite a fair bit of time (tens of minutes, as I recall). Lots of engineer-y talk about the new Slant-6 engine, the unibody construction, and so on, with particular emphasis on the ærodynamic benefits of the tailfins at highway speeds. I watched it a few times on YouTube some years ago, but can’t find it now—no matter how (or how hard) I try. 🙁
IIRC, the car that was in the book version of Christine actually looked like the feature car (a tan four-door sedan) so it wasn’t even a real Fury, and a ’57, at that (the movie Christine is a ’58 two-door hardtop). That, alone, kind of makes the feature car desirable to those in the know.
On top of that, there’s a description of the interior in the book which has the instrument cluster as two pods which morph into eyes. Well, I’m relatively certain that description fits the earlier ’55-’56 cars, as well. Stephen King took plenty of literary license in his auto knowledge.
As to the low survival rate of a car that saw outsized production when new, one need only look at other models that had a high build rate but are virtually non-existant today. Besides the mentioned Vega, anyone seen a Chevy Citation lately? There’s a point where it’s just not cost-effective or worth the effort to keep a badly-built and engineered old car running, and with a make that’s more difficult and expensive to find parts, well, really no surprise. Without too much trouble, it’s possible to find parts to rebuild a Tri-Five Shoebox Chevy from the ground up. But a late-fifties Mopar, even one as popular as the ’57 Plymouth? Not so much. It’s a little easier with the advent of the internet today, but imagine trying to find parts to restore one back in, say, the eighties, or even the seventies.
Mmmm…I think you might be due to re-read it; the “Christine” of the book was a ’58, and it was red and white with a red interior—specific mention was made of original owner Roland LeBay’s having deliberately bought it that way. There is a description of the car seeming to watch (via the dashboard) Arnie’s girlfriend Leigh choke on a hot dog, but a two-pod instrument panel configuration isn’t part of the narrative (nor is it an accurate description for the IP of a ’55, ’56, or ’57 Plymouth). The IP turning into an eye-P was more of a conceptual thing than an actual morphing.
There are a few car-related errors King made, though: in one of the Christine-gets-revenge scenes, there’s a description of a shifter “dropping down into Drive”. In another, there’s mention of a Hurst shifter. False! An automatic ’58 Plymouth had pushbuttons (no lever to “drop down” into Drive or any other gear), and obviously had no need of any Hurst shifter. And there’s the part where Arnie’s father, in the car with Arnie driving as they head to the airport to get a monthly parkpass to get mom off the case, notices the odometer running backward even as the speedometer needle holds a steady reading. He mentions it and Arnie says he needs to service the speedometer cable, whereupon dad thinks to the effect of “Surely his motor-minded son didn’t really think the speedometer and odometer ran off the same cable, did he?” (oops, yeah, they actually do).
(I first read the book in 5th grade. I didn’t understand some of the more adult-orientated sections, but I blew the lid off the pages-read-this-week contest)
Staying in the Plymouth lane, when was the last time anyone saw a running, well-preserved Horizon or Omni? They were almost revolutionary as domestic cars go when they debuted. Fuel efficient, space efficient, affordable, front-wheel-drive and they sold like hotcakes. The last one I saw in use was about 5 years ago and I did a double take as before that it had been probably a dozen years since the last one. There were 4 in my family over the course of a decade or so, and I knew quite a few people who owned one or more during their heyday years. Like the others mentioned, they were “Of Their Time” and didn’t strike anyone as worth preserving. I for one loved the stupid things, but they’re pretty much gone from the planet only 42 years after they first appeared.
History repeated itself – compare the number of Impalas and other W body cars running around from the 90s-00s and the number of Intrepids and such.
But he’s talking about “preserving” cars,(“not worth preserving”). The Impalas and W body cars still on the streets are classic GM Cockroaches of the Road. I doubt they’re being “preserved” (meaning a conscious effort to do so). The Intrepids and such were brittle.
FWIW, there’s been a surprising number of Omnirizons still on the road here, and I’ve shot and showed several. There’s still a couple; just old cars still going, not being “preserved”. But I doubt that will be the case much longer. the later ones seemed to be quite durable.
I had interpreted “preserved” to be the classic little old lady/little old man car that stays in the garage and isn’t used much, but kept for a long time. There used to be a lot of Chrysler sedans in that demographic when I was young. Until pretty recently it was Impalas, Grand Marquis’ and Buicks of all kinds around here. Now it’s mostly Toyota Avalons and Camrys, but I still see a few nice old Buicks running around. And as you note, they don’t get preserved either, but passed to a grandchild who will eventually grind them up like all the others.
My experience is that elderly drivers will keep a nice car for a long time as long as it’s reliable. Those brittle cars that have too many repairs go away. I cannot recall the last elderly person I saw in a 90s Mopar.
Something else to consider is how little retirees tend to drive. They’re no longer working and may live in a retirement community with activities and even food provided, leaving virtually no reason to drive anywhere. They just hang onto their rides for the rare time when they’re up to taking a rare Sunday drive, but will keep it in tip-top shape, too. So, you end up with the occasional old survivor in unusually good shape.
Well, since you ask…!
Rust issues aside, I have to wonder if, due to the quality issues, if the well of OEM parts had dried up by the late ’60s/70s therefore making them non repairable. Or is it simply because most people considered them butt ugly by then? Speaking of OEM parts, my brother had a ’70 Toyota Corolla Sprinter with the 3K-C 1200 engine. In 1982 he was able to walk into our local Toyota dealer and order a brand new carburetor for it. Nice find BTW, and these don’t seem so ugly today. There are new cars far worse.
These cars weren’t engineered – they were styled. The highly emotional styling took a higher priority to the engineering. These cars were rolling art. Every newfangled styling exercise was thrown into the mix presented by these cars, and how well they worked, how long they lasted, and the logic behind them just didn’t seem to be considered.
Exner styled disposable cars.
It was as though Exner saw automobiles like he saw fashion. Something fun to enjoy for a while before the next fun thing attracted a crowd. It is a shame that Chrysler followed along, dumping their reputation along the way.
That is the thing about fashion. It is forever changing. Exner’s art designs for cars was acceptable when the economy was permitting this kind of styling excess – but in late 1957, reality struck the US economy and suddenly auto frivolity was revealed as being ridiculous in the real world.
Exner didn’t get the message and Chrysler was convinced that their fashion auto guru could find the newest look. However, with the 1957 cars, Exner’s fashion excesses were hot like the fad it was. Everyone wanted it one day, then suddenly – no one wanted it.
I wasn’t alive back then, but my impression of car ownership, post WW2 through sometime in the late 1960’s or so, was that you could expect an average of about 5 years, and maybe 75k miles, of relative reliability and dependability out of a car. Middle class car owners would go three years, and maybe 40k miles before trading it away for a new one. Or the old one would be kept as a second car, raising ownership time to about six years, in the two-car family cycle, in which case one would, maybe, see close to 100k mikes out of it, if one got lucky. The engineering and sturdiness of the cars of the day was generally “just enough” for the task.
It probably depended where you lived and how heavily the car was used. I lived then in a relatively moderate-sized university town, and I saw folks keeping cars a lot longer than that; not uncommonly to ten years even. And I’m not talking about grad students, but university faculty and just other folks in the neighborhood.
But maybe university people were less status-conscious? And more pragmatic?
But even with folks who were not university folks in our neighborhood, and were quite well off, I’d say it was closer to 4-6 years.
In 1957 100,000 miles was considered to be extravagantly impressive. To this day that is my default reaction, even though I know that modern cars are capable of far more.
Exner didn’t invent the idea of “cars as fashion accessories.” In an interview (published around 1954), GM styling czar Harley Earl said that his goal was to get people to trade their cars every year. This would be achieved by constant styling changes that quickly outmoded current models. Earl caught some flak for admitting that in print.
The 1957 Chrysler line-up didn’t become disposable because of Exner. The problem was that the original plan was to roll these cars out for the 1958 model year. That would have given Chrysler three model years out of the 1955 bodies, which was standard industry practice at that time. But management decided to move the cars up to the 1957 model year. The bodies were radically low, and the suspensions were all-new…plus, Chrysler was still absorbing the Briggs Body empire. It was also struggling with higher unit costs than GM and Ford.
To improve productivity, Chrysler laid off several line workers, and demanded more work for the same amount of pay from those who remained. One can imagine how that went over with the workers.
To boost profits, Chrysler also cut corners on these cars. Cheaper upholstery was used, and some of the hardware was less durable (it also didn’t help that some Chrysler managers were getting kickbacks from suppliers, although this wouldn’t come out until 1960).
So Chrysler was rushing out all-new cars that hadn’t been thoroughly engineered for production, and hadn’t been thoroughly tested, that were going to be built by workers who weren’t particularly happy with management. Couple this with high initial demand that had plant managers shipping cars as fast they could be pushed out of the factory, regardless of quality, and it’s no wonder the cars were problematic. That wasn’t, however, Exner’s fault.
Something else I’ve seen mentioned that contributed to the Forward Look debacle was the quality of the raw steel. The story goes that American manufacturers were using inferior quality steel salvaged from Korea after the Korean conflict. It didn’t help that Chrysler didn’t use galvanized steel, either.
The takeover of Briggs Body operations wasn’t a smooth, seamless or altogether happy process it should have been. Briggs engineers had their preferred ways of doing thing and Chrysler engineering decided they knew better now that they were in charge. The 1955-’56 bodies were still largely Briggs engineering body developments but the 1957’s would be those directed completely by Chrysler.
As is usual when two heretofore separate organizations merge, some Briggs engineers left as the ‘not invented here’ and ‘we know a better way’ clashes took place. Overlay the rush to pull the 1958’s ahead a year, shortening the development cycle to approximately 22 months and you have the engineering disasters presents.
They were both. The reasons why the ’57-’59 Mopars were not very good cars can be fully described and explained—see Geeber’s comment below for a fine example—without resorting to silly, baseless claims like “they weren’t engineered”.
Not sure how to reconcile a survey of owners by Consumer Reports that was very unfavourable, with the Popular Mechanics survey indicating favourability. Could be both are true, but the questions were asked differently. An owner could like their current car and indicate that they would buy another like it, and still report honestly about which problems have occurred.
I look at all those crevices around the headlights, and think about how water would collect in there while driving in rain, or snow, and collecting all sorts of debris to capture moisture. A trap for rust to flourish in for sure.
Outrageous design, certainly eye catching. For a bit under thirteen grand, someone got a good deal.
The “Owners Report” on the 1957 Plymouth was published in the May 1957 issue of Popular Mechanics.
Given the time necessary to send the surveys, tabulate the returned surveys, write the story and then publish it in the magazine (remember, this was all done by “snail mail” and without desktop publishing), the survey probably captured early customers. And their cars were still relatively new when they completed the surveys. So that “new car euphoria” hadn’t yet worn off of their Plymouths.
No doubt Consumer Reports surveyed people later in the model year (or even later, given that the excerpt featured in the article is from a 1963 issue), when the bloom was well off the Forward Look rose.
The date of that “Owner’s report” jumped out at me too. Seems a bit too early to get a good picture.
I recall that the headlight eyebrows on my mother’s 57 Savoy were extensively rusted by 1960. This should have been foreseeable by the designers.
One thing that stands out in my mind about Chrysler products of the late 50′ and of the 60’s was that they didn’t like wet weather. They had a reputation for not starting on rainy days. With such a distinctive sounding starter, everyone knew what kind of car wasn’t starting before they looked at the badges. This couldn’t have been good for sales.
The starter you describe was first used on the 1962 models, and Chrysler products hardly had a monopoly on stalling, hesitation, and other driveability flaws, especially before the engine was up to temperature. Such things are intrinsic to vehicles with carburetors and breaker points.
Most of the examples here were Plodges out of Canada assembled by Todd motors locally from CKD packs maybe they took more care screwing them together or maybe the difficulty of just getting a new car made people care for them better I’m not sure but these survived in fair numbers well into the 70s they mostly had the flathead six but V8 Belvederes did come in used from the US they were popular cars to buy used though hopefully no too badly abused, Canadian sourced Fords and Chevys sold ok too all of them rusted out if care wasnt taken rust doesnt discriminate over where you car came from if they werent hosed out underneath they rotted where the road debris are trapped and stylish cars had more places to trap mud cowshit limestone and beach salt than say a VW, window seals from that era were awful so water got in and made its own way out eventually and nothing got 100,000 miles without an overhaul unless it was a constantly running taxi or similar
It wasn’t pristine like this Fury, but a few days ago I saw a very clean and straight brown Pinto wagon turning onto a freeway on-ramp. Totally stock, with steel wheels and original hubcaps, driven by a young woman. The first Pinto I’d seen on the road in years … and yet once such a familiar sight.
There is at least one other 1957 Plymouth Belvedere four-door sedan out there in excellent condition.
For several years during the 1990s, a young fellow from Clearfield County, Pennsylvania (western part of the state), brought an all-original four-door sedan to the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals. His car, which he had bought at the big Hershey Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) fall meet, was salmon pink with a white color sweep and roof. It had power steering, automatic and the 301 V-8. Apparently he has sold it, as the car has not appeared at the Carlisle Chrysler shows in over a decade.
The Hershey seller had bought it from the estate of the original owner, who had essentially parked it in 1961. The only real signs of age were thin paint in a few places from polishing. Panel fit and trim fit weren’t terrible, although both were obviously a step down from the 1957 GM cars, as well as the 1955-56 Mopars.
I think that car ended up in Australia,.
A couple of years ago I saw a 57 Plymouth matching your description at an all Chrysler day in Geelong Victoria. The condition of the car was amazing , you could see it’s age, but almost perfectly preserved, you can’t replicate that with a restoration .
It does stick in my mind that this car was sold to an overseas buyer. It no longer shows up at the Carlisle Chrysler show. So you could very well have seen this car in Australia.
For comparison–some other Popular Mechanics owner surveys of the period:
1957 Buick: 60.9% Excellent, 31.4% Average, 7.7% Poor.
1957 Chevrolet: 72.4% Excellent, 24.8% Average, 2.8% Poor.
1958 Edsel: 72.9% Excellent, 21.6% Average, 5.5% Poor. (Not bad.)
1956 Continental Mark II: 74.7%, Average 19.2%, 6.1% Poor. Whaaaaa? Really? Worse than Edsel!?
1958 Cadillac: 82.5% Excellent, 12.7% Average, 4.8% Poor.
1958 Lincoln: 67.5% Excellent, 15.6% Average, 16.9% Poor. (Yecch!)
1960 Ford (full size): 50.8% Excellent, 40.1% Average, 9.1% Poor. (Lowest Excellent)
1956 Volkswagen Beetle: Ready? 95.8% Excellent, 4.2% Average, 0.0% Poor. ZERO!!
I can’t find it now, but the much-maligned 1956 Packard also had one of the highest Excellent ratings, topped only by the Mercedes Gullwing sports car!
Those surveys were a hoot — who wouldn’t still be gaga about their new ride when it was at most only a few months old?
I’m totally excited – today’s featured car is an exact copy of my dad’s first brand new car, color and everything. It replaced a 1950 Chevy he bought in ’52; the Plymouth actually lasted until 1966 in the salted northeast until it was replaced by a 1966 Ford Ranch Wagon. Once we moved from the city out to the ‘burbs, the Plymouth was supplemented with a ’61 Chrysler Newport dad bought in ’63.
To be honest, I don’t recall any major troubles with the car but I was really young so certainly was not paying attention to ‘adult problems’.
didn’t Iacocca sell off most of chryslers inventory of parts for pennies on the dollar to be junked when he first got the job ? so it made it harder to repair or replace items on the cars so people would have to buy new fuel efficient k cars and omnirizons. whereas studebaker sold all their parts to an enthusiast and parts are still available today.
Nope, Iacocca couldn’t be bothered to sell off Chrysler’s supply of NOS parts – he just threw them all away!
I take a little offense about the comment regarding the 50-54 Plymouths as being clumsy and plodding cars. I have a 1953 Plymouth Cranbrook that I use as a daily driver from around March through November here in Montana. Sure, it’s boxy looking compared to the body styles of a few years later, but at local shows and when people see it on the highway, they will chase me down to find out what it is because you just don’t see many of those old 4 door sedans left. Kids and young teens think as many have said ” it’s the coolest car on the planet”. Plenty of the big finned cars have been restored, but the older boxy cars don’t get saved often and I think those old original flathead 6 motors are way more cool to drive than the V-8’s. Just my opinion as to what’s more rare, relatively speaking.
I have a soft spot for them too. They were actually ahead of their time: more space efficient, with smaller front and rear overhangs. A bit like the downsized ’62. Fine cars, if the styling wasn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea.
I like them also — they’re honest in a way that the flashy 57s can’t be.
This is a 54 Savoy I happened to come across just last week.
Although those ’49-’54 Plymouths wouldn’t knock your hat off, they wouldn’t knock your eyes out either…but their survival rate is impressive out at nearly 70 years on!
I was in high school at the end of the ’60’s and there were quite a few ’57 Chevys around driven by attendees of our school. I remember one ’57 Ford-the car was from Texas. No ’57 Plymouths at all………..This is in suburban Rochester NY where cars rusted pretty quickly. The Tri-fives were the desired hot rod/rat rod of the day.
Alright so did every car from the mid 50s to 70s come with those plaid trunk liners or were those just an aftermarket trend of the times?
Those plaid trunk liners were genuine OEM parts. Of course, by ’67 when we bought our stripper Bel Air 2-door sedan, the trunk compartment was completely devoid of any interior trim — just exposed steel with that very common gray speckled finish.
My folks’ ’58 Suburban Wagon (pink/white top) was the first car I remember. (I was born in ’56). And two memories I have are not good: 1) We went out to The Patterson restaurant in Dayton Ohio one evening, and the car wouldn’t start. It had to be towed, and we got a ride home in the car as it was being towed! IIRC, it was teeth missing from the ring gear or the starter drive. 2) One morning my Dad opened the garage door to go to drive to the office, and the front end of the car was just laying on the garage floor! No, the tires were fine. The torsion bars had snapped! Another tow, and probably a costly fix. My Dad liked to trade cars about every 3 years back then, so it was replaced by a relatively trouble free ’61 Pontiac Catalina in ‘Dawnfire Mist’. (Both were bought new.)
Sexy as it is, i prefer the plaza. Sexy naked flanks! I have brosures for all of the foward looks. It just got more ridiculous year after year. This was the cleanest rendition style wise, though a 59 would garner garage space. The 59s front fenders are so WTF? Fins seal the deal. Car in this article is total yumm despite of the 59s front ‘gunsight’ bubble femders
My Dad purchased this EXACT model
the year I was born. He traded in a 51
Plymouth Cambridge 4dr, which he got
112K out of. Dad had a lot of trouble with his late-57 purchase. He paid for
301 V-8 AND TorqueFlite rebuilds
around 1960. And I remember helping
Dad “fix” the rust sometime in the
mid-60s with rocker-panel covers and
some mystery body-filler called Valiant.
We didn’t do much, if any, sanding.
Dad trade-in the car in 68 on a great
68 Ford Country Sedan 390-2V that
went 188K before frame-rust death.
Someone has to mention in this post this effort to ‘preserve’ a 1957 Plymouth…
My parents bought a ‘57 2 door used, probably in 1958, to replace a ‘53 Ford. I do remember the push-button transmission. They kept it for 2 or 3 years, which was about normal for them. I don’t know how reliable it was, but a torsion bar did snap when it was sitting in the driveway and made quite a loud bang. It also had carburetor icing when the temperature was just above freezing which really annoyed my mom.
Suddenly it’s 1960.
This photo is from 1960. Here’s what one of these Plymouths looked like after only three years. If this was typical, no wonder so few survived.
Suddenly, it’s 1966 (the year of this photo). A 9 year old car was considered quite old in those days. Any depreciation bound to happen already did. The point at which the car’s value and desirability are at its lowest is when the culling happens. The good ones that had endeared themselves to their owners have their chance of being preserved. Or at least kept on the road, to be saved by someone at a later date. The bad ones, like most ’57 Mopars? They end up like this.
1957 Plymouth Savoy with 31 miles: