Cohort Classic: 1949 Plymouth Special DeLuxe Club Coupe – It’s Pretty Special To Me

I’ve got a real soft spot for these postwar Plymouths. No, they’re not exactly beautiful on the outside, with their blocky tall bodies. In the immortal words of Chrysler President K.T. Keller: “Cars should accommodate people rather than the far-out ideas of designers…the styling won’t knock your hat off, but neither will getting in one of our cars…We build cars to sit in, not to pee over.”

That works for me. I love to look at low and svelte and sensuous cars, but when it’s time to actually get in one, give me tall and blocky any day. There’s a lot to love on the insides too.

They were ubiquitous in Iowa back in the early sixties. The very first car I rode in upon our arrival in Iowa City was a wagon version, belonging to the wife of my dad’s new boss, who picked us up at the airport in Cedar Rapids. I was rather hoping for a 1960 Pontiac Safari wagon.

In those first years in Iowa during the early sixties, I knew of at least three families in  our neighborhood that had Plymouths of this vintage. And they all still looked utterly solid, not so common for 12-15 year old cars back then. They were the Plymouth Valiant and Camry of their time.

On one of my many hitchhikes from Baltimore to Iowa in about 1972, I got a ride in one of these, right through a blizzard in the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was piloted by a young guy who understood how to drive it properly: steady as she goes. Cars were either pulling or sliding off the road. The already elderly Plymouth didn’t have enough power to spin its wheels and it just chugged on through. Right into a special place in my heart.

I can see him now, hunched behind that big handsome wheel, trying to see where the road was in that driving snow. The heater was like a little furnace. I dreaded the thought of having to eventually get out and hitchhike. No wonder I was quite happy to be going so slow.

1933 was the year the Plymouth’s 218 cubic inch flathead six first saw the light of day. These long-stroke (4.38″) old-school engines delivered a gentle but steady dose of torque, right from idle speed (max. 175 lb·ft @ 1200 rpm). The advertised horsepower was 97 gross @ 3600 rpm—maybe 85 horses in today’s net rating. Just the ticket for chugging around town or cruising on the highway at 55 or 60. They didn’t really like being pushed much faster than that, but that’s not to say that they couldn’t be hopped-up; quite a few were, with sometimes remarkable success (I’ve got a vintage article coming about that).

These were not only taller than the exciting new ’49 Chevy and Ford, but shorter too, by some 5-6″. But they gave up nothing in interior accommodations, and the trunk was pretty roomy too.

Who else would put an old man with a hat on in the back seat to brag about the headroom? I’m sold!

William Garrett shot this in Sunnyvale, CA. Looks like the owner has another similar vintage car in the garage.

I’ll let you nail down the exact year and brand.