CC Comparison: 1949 Plymouth Suburban Wagon and 2017 Toyota RAV4 – Almost Identical Dimensions

(first posted 12/11/2017)          I’ve been saying it for a long time now: CUVs are just getting back to the size and proportions of my favorite era of American family cars, from a packaging point of view: 1949 – 1955. The other day, at my 1962 Plymouth & Dodge article, MikePDX pointed out that the 1949 Plymouth P17 Suburban wagon and popular CUVs, like the RAV4, shared very similar dimensions. Commenter nlpnt dug those stats up, and yes, they are remarkably similar.

I added some other specs too. Obviously, performance and fuel economy are highly divergent. I took an educated guess at the Plymouth’s fuel economy; in the 1950 Mobile Fuel Economy Trials, a Plymouth managed 21.25 mpg, in the hands of an expert hyper-miler. Contrary to popular myth, cars from back then were not very efficient, and breaking 20 mpg barrier was quite uncommon, expect at very modest speeds.

The RAV4 Hybrid has an EPA combined rating of 32 mpg, and Motor Trend’s “Real MPG” test yielded 34 in city driving and 39 on the highway. YMMV.

The differences are also very stark in the interior. The Plymouth is spartan, but that’s what basic family cars were like. No frills, and the heater was optional.

But this version of the Rav4 interior has some similar colors happening. other than that, there’s no real point of comparison.

And in the back, things got even more spartan. Thin plywood on the side walls, and steel and rubber on the floor. But these were pretty roomy, as befits their boxy body.

We all know this view; could be any CUV. I don’t readily have any stats on the Plymouth’s cargo area dimensions; maybe someone can find them.

This Plymouth wagon has a special place in my memory banks. On our first arrival from Austria in 1960, we were picked up at the Cedar Rapids airport by my dad’s new department head and his wife (who took this picture), to welcome us and drive us to Iowa City. He drove a big 1956 Chrysler hemi sedan; she drove her old 1949 or 1950 Plymouth wagon. Guess which one I was relegated to?

Despite that, I came to appreciate these tall, short boxy wagons early on, and that’s never ended.