Curbside Classic: 1977 Plymouth Arrow GS – Celeste Before the Fire

Plymouth Arrow Front 3 quarter

(first posted 3/27/2014)     A couple of weeks ago, we covered the Dodge Colt lineup of Chrysler’s captive Mitsubishi products with a nine part series on the many variations available (describing both the Galant and Lancer based models). However, we did not include the Plymouth side, for one simple reason: we didn’t have any pictures. Last weekend, during yet another trip to 29 Palms (Located 60 miles northeast of beautiful Palm Springs), I spotted this very lovely example soaking in the desert sun.

In 1971, Chrysler passed out two captive imports to Dodge and Plymouth. Dodge scored the Colt, a Mitsubishi Galant available as a sedan, coupe or wagon. Plymouth received the Cricket, a Hillman Avenger in sedan or wagon. Guess which one caught on here in America? By 1975 the Cricket had faded into obscurity (after selling 41,000 cars over 3 years), while the ’75 Dodge Colt outsold Mazda, Capri, BMW and Saab combined. To solve their Plymouth problem, Chrysler asked Mitsubishi for another compact, and in 1976 Mitsubishi delivered this stylish hatchback to Plymouth dealers.

Plymouth Arrow Rear view

In ’76, the Dodge Colt was still based on the Mitsubishi Galant, but this Arrow used the smaller Lancer platform. The Lancer platform came in several body styles, and overseas they called this sporty hatchback coupe the Lancer Celeste.

For the first year, the car came to America with a 1,400 or 1,600 cc engine. On these cars, you could identify the engine displacement based on the nameplate. Cars with 1.4 liter engines were labeled the Arrow 140, and the 1,600s came as the Arrow 160. However, later years were just labeled “Arrow” regardless of engine displacement.

Plymouth Arrow fender close up

As this sharp looking stripe package indicates, our Curbside Classic is the upgraded Arrow GS first offered in 1976. In addition to the stripe package, the GS also offered styled steel wheels, that fancy rear view mirror, pop open quarter glass, and simulated wood trim on the dashboard. Based on the GS stripes, round headlights and four bar cover over the C-pillar glass, our Arrow must be a ’77. The nameplate no longer indicates engine size, but these years offered either a 1,600 or 2,000 cc four. Given the car has an automatic transmission, let’s hope the owner stepped up to the 2 liter option.

Plymouth Arrow Rear 3 quarter

Points to the owner for springing for the whitewalls. It helps maintain that seventies vibe dripping off this rocking hatchback. This photo reminds me that the GS package offered chrome bumpers to go with the other upgrades. I’m also reminded the front of this car offers another distinctive seventies styling element.

Arrow fog light turn signal

To reduce the visual impact of those large bumpers, and provide the illusion that the car has additional features, the turn signal assemblies are mounted on the bumper and use a shape that mimics an accessory fog light. In addition to the Plymouth Arrow, we also saw these faux fog lights on the Honda Civic and Mustang II (see examples below).

fog light turn signal

Faux Fog Lights

This somewhat pretentious styling element disappeared fairly quickly, a victim of better integrated bumpers and a buying public growing wise to this not-so-subtle deception.

Plymouth Arrow Glass stickers 2

You may remember that I recently found a Toyota Corolla with forty year old factory stickers on the side glass (link here). Oddly enough, our Arrow also has factory prep stickers. The driver’s side quarter glass sports this NuCarPrep sticker, which shows no sign of cracking or fading. Very impressive, considering the car currently resides in the high desert, where the sun shines with laser intensity.

Plymouth Arrow Glass stickers 1

The other side includes an emissions specification sticker. I was hoping to use this data to determine engine size, but the sticker applies to both the 1.6 and 2.0 engines. In an ironic turn, the “OK” sticker is the least ok sticker left on the car. By the way, this picture may be the first “Selfie” to appear in Curbside Classic.

Plymouth Arrow Interior

Frankly, that selfie is better than this interior shot, but I just had to share that center console. I’m not sure if the base Arrows come with one, but I KNOW that slathered on plastic wood must be a GS exclusive. These little touches were the benefits of an upgraded trim level back in 1977.

Plymouth Arrow Rear 3 quarter.2

In 1978, the Arrow gained square headlights and flush bumper covers, along with an option 2.6 liter engine. Given the light body, this engine package returned very respectable performance (for 1978), and Plymouth christened it the “Fire Arrow.” For the first year, the Fire Arrow came with white paint and a subtle graphics package.

Fire Arrow

OK, maybe the graphics package wasn’t all that subtle.

Still, I’ll use this garish image to wrap things up. I’m delighted to share an Arrow GS with you, but this Fire Arrow remains a desired but elusive prey, one I hope to post sometime down the road.