(first posted 7/8/2015) To say that the M-bodies were something of an unexpected success for Chrysler is an understatement. Introduced for the 1977 model year, the heavily F-body-based (Aspen/Volaré) would continue production, largely unchanged through 1989. As a matter of fact, many people probably couldn’t even see Chrysler existing twelve years in the future, when the M-body was first introduced.
Yet, in a unexpected twist of faith, after Chrysler had axed all of its other rear-wheel drive and large cars, fuel prices began subsiding. Despite the automaker’s equally unexpected comeback thanks to its front-wheel drive K-cars, Chrysler’s sole remaining rear-wheel drive platform, the M-body, still had reason to exist.
With rear-wheel drive, rear leaf suspension, and available 318-inch V8 power, the durable and proven M-bodies were popular with many police fleets around the country. Chevy and Ford of course, by now ruled the law enforcement segment, but there were still many districts that had long pledged allegiance to Mopar, and as a result, the Dodge Diplomat and Plymouth Gran Fury saw continued production in familiar form.
“Civilian” M-bodies would largely be sold as the Chrysler Fifth Avenue (née New Yorker Fifth Avenue, New Yorker, and LeBaron). With its capped “formal” vinyl quarter roof, waterfall grille, fender louvers, wire or turbine wheels, and button-tufted loose pillow interior with available Corinthian Leather, the premium-priced Fifth Avenue was oddly enough the best overall seller by far.
Not that Chrysler had any objections to this. With tooling and development costs paid off long ago, all M-body sales were pure profit for Chrysler, so the more overpriced Fifth Avenues that were sold, the better. Additionally, after 1982, changes to the M-body were essentially nonexistent. Styling, interiors, powertrain, and features remained virtually frozen in time up until midway through 1988, when all M-bodies gained a driver’s side airbag.
The Gran Fury and Diplomat were, however, still available to the general public, not that many people besides die-hard Mopar fans and/or those seeking a car with “traditional” virtues bought them. Dodge would gain the slightly more upscale Diplomat SE, which externally shared the Fifth Avenue’s more formal front clip, in addition to a full-vinyl non-padded roof, premium wheel options, and velour seating with a 60/40 split-front bench.
Plymouth, on the other hand, would have to make due with the “standard” M-body front fascia for its top-of-the-line Gran Fury. Other that this, the Plymouth could be equipped just as generously as the Dodge, although there was no separate trim level and just individual options. Gran Fury and Diplomat sedans, however, were rarely this fully spec’d out by the several thousand private customers who were buying them annually by the late-1980s.
This 1987 Plymouth Gran Fury Salon (by this point, all Gran Furys sported the “Salon” prefix in marketing material) is equipped with the available full-vinyl roof, wire wheel discs, air conditioning, and power windows, but features the standard cloth interior with non-divided front bench seat. It also is powered by the tried-and-true carbureted 318-inch V8 mated to a TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic transmission.
With only 38,000 miles on the clock, this likely senior-driven Gran Fury might just be the best-preserved “civilian” M-body Plymouth left. Its existence is a true testament to the M-body’s venerability, as well as proof that there were indeed still a few buyers left out there looking for a big Plymouth that wasn’t totally devoid of creature comforts.