(first posted 8/4/2013) Mopar Mania Week just wouldn’t be complete without a fuselage wagon, would it? Given that this is from one of my first files of shots since starting to shoot CCs, it’s about time to give its day in the sun. Oh, regarding its name: Plymouth had been calling its wagons “Suburbans” for decades, so that’s hardly a Chevy exclusive. And these wide-body nine-seaters really were the Suburbans in their day, when Chevy Suburbans were more often used by surveyors and such. As an aside, please note how the back end of the Plymouth lines up with the front bumper of the Sentra behind it…
No, I didn’t move the Suburban forward; these really are long. The stretch DC-8 Series 63 of cars.
And the front end is…not exactly handsome, eh?
This was from before I learned how to avoid glare in interior shots. I had the right idea in shooting from the passenger side, but didn’t yet realize I have to put the lens right up to the glass. Nice 8-track player down there on the floor. I once drove a ’72 Fury sedan version like this north across Arizona to the Grand Canyon on a spectacular crisp fall day, my first time ever to see that anti-mountain. It was a highly memorable day, and driving that big Plymouth was a good part of it.
Big Mopars weren’t as isolated and hushed as Fords and GM cars; they were more visceral, or palpable, or just more…real. They talked to you, from the minute you hit the starter, and they way that TorqueFlite ca-chunked into first gear. They weren’t exactly brilliant handlers, but at least you could mostly tell what they were up to. They were best suited to the roles they often were used as: cop cars, taxis, and big sedans and wagons for non-pretentious folks. Like the retired copper-mine engineer that owned the one I was driving across Arizona: no nonsense; just a big, tough, workaday sedan. Or wagon, in this case.
The fuselage wagons had a nice built-in rear window air deflector, which helped keep the rear window clean and keep the kiddies in the third seat from getting CO poisoning with the rear window down. In the seventies, the Mopars were the only big wagons of the Big Three to still have a rear-facing third seat, Ford having long gone to twin sideways jump seats, and GM’s new ’71 gunboats adopting a forward-facing third seat. Chrysler was sliding behind, little by little…
Somewhat ironically, the fuselage wagons best show off their fuselage, with what looks like a cross-section cut enhanced with that trim. What else could one call it?
The front end looks like a 70 Coronet/Superbee but not quite as angry
the 72 Furys aren’t the best looking Sea-Body but I like a car in uniform
So, LT Dan, when are you going to favor us with a “My CC” on your amazing police car?
I think I speak for everyone here when I say we’d love to hear its story!
sure, Id love to!
I’ll work on it this week
The tape player you see mounted on the transmission hump is Chrysler’s cassette tape player and recorder. If I recall correctly, this system came with a plug-in microphone so you could dictate while you drive. I believe this item was introduced as an option beginning with the 1971 models. This is the first one that I have seen installed in a full-size Plymouth model. In my opinion, it was a neat feature and a harbinger of things to come a few years down the road when 8 tracks fell from grace and were replaced by cassettes. I get the feeling this car may have been a special order as I see it has power door locks (notice the chrome “power lock” badge mounted by the push button door lock on the driver’s door). There was another one of these little badges on the right front passenger door. They are identical to the power lock emblems on my 1966 Chrysler New Yorker.
I think you are right about the tape unit. I remember seeing those in the Chrysler sales brochures back then, but from nobody else. I don’t think I have ever seen one actually installed in a car.
While I also must concede the front end of the Plymouth Suburban wasn’t the most attractive front Plymouth ever designed I still dig that station wagon. I like it more than the ’77 brown Merc from yesterday. I especially like the back of the vehicle. Think it looks nice. I hope the owner could park it in a carport or something under cover at night to keep the rust worms at bay as long as possible!
Also, 8-tracks were the worst modes for listening to music I’ve ever encountered. All they did it seems was break after a few plays. The tape would come apart in the deck and make a mess. It seemed to me if you had an 8-track tape that still worked after 10 years it was just plain luck! Cassettes aren’t the most reliable things, either, but yesterday I played a cassette in my portable deck that I’d bought 25 years ago. Summer of 1991, right after HS I went to Michigan to visit relatives and bought an Atlantic cassette of the 1974 album AVERAGE WHITE BAND (AWB). It’s a good album so I’ve played the tape many, many times over the past quarter-century. Can’t believe it still plays satisfactorily in 2016, but it’s still hanging in there.
I have not seen one of these, for at least 30 years.
I’d forgotten how long they were. And how rounded they were. And how much the windows canted in.
I never knew how fast they rusted; but since their disappearance was quick and all but complete, no doubt they did.
The general shape is familiar not the actual model, the built in deflector was used on local mopars a great idea that didnt actually work very well in dusty conditions, the front is odd you either like it or not but since you cant see it from inside it doesnt matter much.
Exactly, the Australian 1970’s Valiants (well from 1972) look like a scaled-down version of this – happily they didn’t chose the Plymouth front end to copy.
Did these cars have issues with the chassis rail cracking around the steering box mount?
I’m not sure if it’s the same thing, but having owned an AP6 and a VG (60s), people would constantly remind me that the steering box liked to come loose. Never had the problem, though.
Gad, that front end. Those looked good in the hidden headlight versions, but absolutely awful with the open lights.
My college roommate bought the Dodge version of this car, the lower level Polara. Exact same interior, but with that horrible butterscotch color outside. The 360 drank fuel pretty well. I really liked it, but by the time Dan got done with it, it had a few more dents and scuffs than I wanted to deal with, and in 1981 or so, its 11 mpg around town was not a great thing.
You are absolutely right about the feel of these cars. They were more mechanical than the others. Everything about them reminded you that you were operating a machine, not sitting in a living room. The wagons, particularly, let a lot of sound intrude from the road. Never mind, I really like this car. I would drive something like this today.
My boss had one of these but I think it was a 70. I honestly thought they quit calling them suburbans in the fifties. They were a good honest wagon whatever they were called and on the highway had surprisingly good mileage. My boss claimed high teens but he was envious of my 68 nova with 230. It reminds me in many ways of the 77 impala wagon I had. You could extract a batch of work from it and carry a batch of tools.
I likes me some old wagons.
So many of the Mopars from this week have been great to see, this one included. Not because of their beauty (this one is flat out ugly), but because of what they represent. Solid, unpretentious transportation. They used to be the workhorses that we saw everywhere, but never noticed. Now that they are basically all gone, they are suddenly striking, warts and all.
Possibly the longest.single.pane.of.automotive.glass.ever!
The rear overhang on these things always reminded me of the late 50’s Mercury and Lincoln enormo unibody cars… Always seemed like the back would snapp off under its own cantilevered weight…
The fuselage wagons all shared the same wheelbase (going from memory here), whether a Plymouth or a Town Country. That made the Plymouths really big.
Plymouth Suburban wagons shared the Chrysler wagon wheelbase beginning in 1957 . . . . that was a big selling point for many years; “the biggest wagon in the low-price field.” In ’57, a Plymouth Suburban with it’s one piece tailgate and long wheelbase made a ’57 Chevy wagon look like an ice cream truck by comparison. Oddly, Ford didn’t get a one-piece tailgate until 1961 . . . .
From 1965 onward, all C-body wagons shared the same wheelbase regardless of brand. From 1965 to 1973 they used the Dodge wheelbase (121 inches at first, later 122 inches). From 1974 to 1977 they used the Chrysler wheelbase (124 inches). Even though this ’72 rides the Dodge wheelbase, I have to wonder if the body was designed primarily with Chrysler in mind. Maybe that explains the long rear overhang, to give it more length.
As of 1957, IINM, Chrysler was using three different wheelbases: 118 inches for Plymouth, 122 inches for Dodge (as well as the new Dodge-based DeSoto Firesweep), and 126 inches for “standard” DeSotos and all Chryslers. Chrysler’s cheapest model, the Windsor, began using the 122 inch wheelbase in 1958. As DeSoto imploded, it eventually wound up with all of its models on the 122 inch wheelbase in 1960-61. The new-for-1961 Chrysler Newport also used the 122 inch wheelbase, which would eventually spread throughout the entire Chrysler lineup. Meanwhile, the 1960-61 Dodge Dart was on the Plymouth 118 inch wheelbase.
Throughout the above period, I believe that Chrysler built wagons on both the 122 and 126 inch wheelbases. Since there was no wagon body on Plymouth’s normal wheelbase, all 1957-61 fullsize Plymouth wagons used the 122 inch wheelbase. A ’57 Plymouth wagon must certainly dwarf a ’57 Chevy wagon.
Chrysler New Yorker wagon shared the sedan’s 126 in wheelbase thru ’62 I believe… the extra length being in the front clip. Body shells for all Chrysler series were the same. From 63 onward, wheelbases for New Yorker and Newport were common.
Lol, I was just going to post something about the length of that side pane of glass! Is there any other wagon out there that could compete?
This was exactly the type of car used for towing travel trailers back then, rather than GM Suburbans. A 440 and 727 Torqueflite would pull just about anything, even up our high mountain passes with relative ease.
A lowly 1973 Plymouth Fury II Suburban wagon.
We owned a 1971 wagon like this, green with fake wood siding, when I was four. I’d sometimes sneak a ride on the back end, as if riding a fire truck, when my mom slowly negotiated this sled into the garage. I also remember her setting up a playpen in the “way back” for my toddler sister, you know, for extra safety on the Texas highways. My mom had great success hitting armadillos with this car, and that ugly front bumper took all the punishment.
As a small kid, our “penalty box/playpen” was a ’61 Pontiac Catalina Safari. Until he passed on in 1968, my maternal Grandfather lives with us. So that made seven of us at one time.
What an unusual front end on the ’72. I’ve seen plenty of fuselage cars on the pages of CC, but have never before noticed this particular front end design. It almost works, almost.
Cool wagon! Even twenty years ago, finding one of these–in any condition–in the Quad Cities would be near-impossible.
They look even better in Sport Suburban trim, with the hidden headlights:
Okay, NOW that front end works!
Hidden headlights make everything better 🙂
So, the whole purpose of this front-end treatment was to convince people to pay a little more for the Sport model? Cunning…
until the third e year of ownership.
If there was a horror movie whose villain was a psychotic ’70s mom, that is what she’d drive.
Here’s a shot of a ’72 Sport Suburban with hidden headlights.
“Oh hi, Mrs. Johnson. Can I get a ride over to Billy’s? Wait, Mrs. Johnson, what are you – aaaugh!”
If there is a hell, and Jeremy Clarkson ends up there, this is what he would be driving.
Nah; maybe a “Yugo”.
I was never a fan of fuselage body cars but the wagon looks much better than the sedans and coupes.A woody with hidden headlamps would make a nice looking fuselage car
I’ve always been a fan of the hidden headlights on upper-trim models of the Fuselage Furies. I do think that the fuselage look was better looking on this generation Town & Country.
“Oh, regarding its name: Plymouth had been calling its wagons “Suburbans” for decades, so that’s hardly a Chevy exclusive.”
It is my understanding that, in the 1920s and 1930s, “suburban” was a generic name used for station wagons — whether car-based or truck-based — and that additional manufacturers used the term besides Chevrolet and Plymouth. It was more of a body style descriptor than a model name, which explains why both Chevy and GMC used it for their truck-based wagons for many years, until GMC dropped the name in the late 1990s. By the 1980s or 1990s it seemed a bit odd that those models used the same name when other designs shared by Chevy and GMC did not; the explanation of how that came about is that “Suburban” wasn’t originally thought of as a model name. Along the same lines, I believe that multiple Chrysler divisions once used the Suburban name for wagons, but it had become a Plymouth exclusive by the end of the 1950s.
I once read that GM was not able to trademark the Suburban name until 1988, due to Chrysler’s use of the name on Plymouth wagons.
From the late 1920’s through at least the 1960’s, New York issued a special license plate for station wagons, and it was the SUBURBAN plate. It had a SU or SUB prefix in the earlier years, and in the later years carried the SUBURBAN legend in place of the EMPIRE STATE slogan.
Grew up with my dad driving a ’74 Dodge Grand Monaco wagon in light yellow with fake wood trim that he carefully covered with a vinyl protectorant once a week.
The wagon looked great until 1977 when on our seasonal thorough Turtle Wax job, I detected that the front fenders were rusted through behind the wheel wells. Upon a more thorough inspection, we discovered that the wagon was not holding up at all. The frame hadn’t been able to hold the body’s weight and the back fenders were quickly being eaten away.
It was the biggest car I ever drove. It was so wide I had to fold the arm rest up to slide across the front seat to unlock the passenger door. The view through the rear window was unforgettable – the rear window only filled about a third of the rear view mirror because it was so far to the tailgate.
The engine wasn’t all that dependable either. I remember my dad having electrical problems too.
Because of my family’s personal experience, I am not at all surprised to no longer see these wagons on the road. They weren’t very good.
these Mopars, having the unibody construction as opposed to separate frame and body (like it’s Ford and GM competors) never quite achieved the “quiet big car ride” of it’s competitors in tests by COnsumer Reports
however i remember riding in a 72 Custom Suburban wagon one night and i noticed the ride was nearly dead silent and you virtually felt nothing over bumps
my dad rented a 73 Gran Sedan on a vacation around that time and dad said the car “rides like a cloud”
so i guess there are exceptions
how did these big Mopars generally ride?
probably quieter than the Satellites right?
I saw this exact car not long ago somebody has imported one huge is the word, looked to be in excellent condition too no obvious rust or repairs so a minter was found somewhere
Ottawa Fire employed Monaco wagons. Hope the Chief caught the midnight showing of ‘Sleeper’. Fury wagons appeared the least popular of the Chrysler fuselage wagons, here in Ontario. Already very rare by the early 80s, victims of rust and/or gluttonous fuel consumption. Fuselage Town and Country wagons seemed to remain the longest, better maintained, and popular for camper trailer towing.
How do you know that he didn’t slip into the “Little Elgin” for American Graffitti?
lol From the firehose laying on the street, his time may have been too consumed by a legitimate fire, to enjoy a double feature!
FWIW, I would agree with the marquee that Sleeper is Woody Allen at his best.
As for the car, I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for fuselage wagons. I’d own one now but for not having space for it (despite a 2 car garage). My favorite version of “Big Car”.
Wish our big, honkin, hulking, “73 Fury” would have had an interior like this one. Ours had one I’d have expected to see in a Fury I or II.
Hey I’m in Eugene too! You may see me rolling around in my 73 Plymouth fury 3. She just followed over 100k on original