Curbside Classic: 1965 Plymouth Sport Fury Convertible – If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

(first posted 10/13/2012)       In the same week Ed caught a sweet ’66 Sport Fury hardtop on the freeway during his vacation, we enjoyed this ’65 Sport Fury convertible that appeared in our neighborhood. Long, cool and elegant, don’t you agree? (That’s Lily saying “Are you crazy? Get out of the middle of the street!”) Nineteen sixty-five was not only a very good year for Plymouth, but their best since 1957, the year of the radical Forward Look. After years of offering less bloated, more Space-Age, poor-selling alternatives, they finally gave up; as you can see, today’s ’65 Plymouth Sport Fury is conventional in every way, and it sold well.

Chrysler execs, believing that Detroit’s length explosion had gone too far, suddenly cut the length of the full-size 1962 Plymouths (CC here) from 210″ to 202″. They were wrong. Although I quite like the trim, Space-Age shape of this ’62 Sport Fury, few buyers did. With sensible compacts and intermediates like Ford’s Fairlane available to fill the gap, Americans expected their big cars to be long and even longer. In 1962, Chevy, which had stayed at 210″, sold 1.2 million full-size cars. Likewise Ford, who sold three-quarter-million of its big ’62s. In contrast, Plymouth sales crashed to an eighth-place 183,000 units. Plymouth, which had owned third place from 1932 to 1960, was devastated.  Despite his strong objection to the downsizing, styling chief Virgil Exner took the fall. He was replaced by the conservative Elwood Engel, who came over from Ford. Engel managed to give the ’63 and ’64 Plymouths more conventional styling, despite being stuck with their 116″ short-wheelbase platform.

With the new, fully unitized, 119″ wheelbase full-sized C-body of 1965, Plymouth got their big Fury back, 500 pounds heavier, 7.4″ longer and 2.4″ wider than in ’62. Its long, straight lines–nothing exciting or disturbing, please–maintained a safe, sleek ’60s-generic style. (Dual exhausts here indicate one of the big V8s–more on that later.)

Here’s our ’65 Sport Fury convertible, lined up with a ’64 at the door handles: Little dimensional change in front, but in back the ’65 has three additional inches of wheelbase and more rear overhang.  Its parallel sculpted lines and fender skirts make it look even longer.

Pontiac took third place from Plymouth in ’62 and stayed there for the rest of the decade. The 1963 Pontiacs set a new style–especially up front, with their stacked headlights, split grille and long, straight lines. The look proved so popular that Ford and Plymouth copied it for their own ’65s.

Big-Plymouth sales jumped to almost one-half million, including 45,000 Sport Fury 2-door hardtops and 2-door convertibles. Unique Sport Fury standard equipment (some of which was available optionally on other Furys) included a center console, full-length body-side moldings with engine-turned insert, engine-turned lower-deck panel appliqué, bucket seats and custom wheel covers with a spinner hub.

What, no push-button automatic? Actually, Sport Furys had been using a console shift lever for several years when Plymouth finally dropped the buttons across the board in 1965 (lesser Furys got the usual, above-the-column Park-R-N-D-2-1).

One of my favorite things about 1960s Detroit convertibles is the rear-seat speaker. With its grille, logo and chrome trim, this one makes the back bench seat look a little more like buckets.

Our CC convertible is equipped with one of the Commando V8s–and its dual exhausts say that it’s not a two-barrel 383 with 9.2:1 compression. This four-barrel V8 is either the 383 or the 426 Wedge, so let’s pretend it’s the 426.

Here’s a 426 Wedge under the hood of another ’65 Fury: A 10.3:1 compression ratio, 365 hp @ 4800 rpm, 470 lb-ft @ 3200 and a 5,500-rpm redline.

Sport Fury must have been the Plymouth you bought for sports…but what sports? Fishing? Hunting? Tailgating at the big game? Looks like Plymouth recommends the Sport Fury for Peek-a-boo.

Is sand dancing with banjo and bongos a sport? “Medium Red Metallic” looks great.

Corvette Summer (1978)

How about straight-line sports, then? Motor Trend tested a ’65 Sport Fury hardtop with the 426 Wedge, three-speed Torqueflite and 3.23 rear end: Zero-to-60 in 8.2 seconds. Quarter-mile in 16.1 seconds at 86 mph. And a top speed of 120 mph.

It’s funny how we can get used to a model name like “Fury” while forgetting what the word means. Ask someone about “Sport Fury” today, and they’ll think of the photo on the right.

But in 1965, Plymouth’s Sport Fury convertible did indeed pace the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Goodbye fins, goodbye Forward Look, goodbye sensible size and spacey styling. Goodbye push-button shifting. Plymouths became as conventional as white bread, and so they prospered. Sometimes, even white bread can be delicious.