Roadside Classic: 1968 Plymouth Fury III – Hip To Be Square

I realize that it’s only March, but I’m already dreaming about summer.  In the Northern Hemisphere, we are less than two weeks from the Spring Equinox and (for me, anyway) this “tipping point” at which the days start becoming longer than the nights marks the end of the uphill climb of winter’s cold drudgery.  I love all four seasons for different reasons, but often it seems like by its end, Chicago’s winter – with its gray days, cold nights, and increasingly litter- and dog doo-scattered sidewalks – is like that one person in your Saturday night crew who kept doing shots and got progressively sloppier long after everyone else was done and ready to go home.  It will be warmer soon enough.

In the meantime, spring brings with it not just enjoyment of its own beauty, but of preparations for the best summer ever that you just know you’re going to have.  Thank goodness for the internet and online shopping, which make it easier to research purchases before you make them.  Are you looking for the newest, dopest, boomiest portable Bluetooth speakers for the beach or poolside that just came out this year?

You can find them online… and you’d better buy them now before they sell out once summer actually gets here.  Ditto that for the new, multipurpose cooler, barbecue grill or even that automotive-themed beach towel you just discovered.  All of this is to say that after I had finished writing last Monday’s post about that ’67 Thunderbird Landau sedan that was for sale, I started thinking about other car-buying opportunities I had encountered and missed over the past few years.

Back in August of 2015, I was on a road trip from the Pittsburgh area to Brookfield, Ohio, when I stopped for gas and noticed this ’68 Fury III convertible parked on a side street off the main thoroughfare that connected with the I-376 interstate  It was a bright red, chrome-laden roadside beacon that was impossible for me to ignore.  My co-pilot and navigator seemed game to let me have a look at this car, so I parked the rental Ford Fusion nearby and walked up to this crimson beauty with my Canon.

I absolutely love the linear, geometric styling of the pre-“Fuselage” full-sized Chrysler products of this period.  The big cars from General Motors had all been fully swoopified by the late-’60s – a look that was completely in vogue at that time.  Styling of the big Ford products, while arguably much less daringly-styled than their GM counterparts, had also started moving in a more rounded, organic direction by then.  The ChryCo C-Bodies, though (as was usually the case, say, 80% of the time), had followed the GM aesthetic… about four or five years after GM did it.

I wouldn’t say that the styling of this ’68 Fury is a clone or even derivative of that of a ’64 Impala (or Galaxie), but there’s no mistaking that while GM and Ford had recently been shopping for the new style of “hep” duds, Chrysler was just then starting to wear what had already been on the way out.  Time has been the true equalizer, though, and sometimes a simple, classic look ends up withstanding the test of time much better than more adventurous styles.

Take one look at all the colors, patterns, cuts, and synthetic fabrics of clothes from the 1970s.  While I personally like some of those styles, as far as being enduringly attractive, they can’t compare with classic cuts, fits and materials of clothing made out of things that actually grew from living sources.  In 2019, the stylistic differences between a top-level ’68 Impala Custom and a same-year Fury III is, to me, like that between a Nehru jacket and a classic, tailored, traditionally-styled sport coat.  The Impala may have looked more “with it” in 1968, but fifty years later, the angular Fury seems to have a style that is at least as attractive.

I am not a huge fan of the Fury “I, II & III” trim level designations of the lower-tier Plymouth full-sizers.  I can’t imagine an easier way for a salesman to encourage an upsell than to point out that a car a potential customer is interested in is “just” a Fury I, and that everyone will know how cheap that customer is for having selected one.  (Stupid Roman numerals.)  I mean, seriously, there was also a Sport Fury and also a “VIP” for the really fancy people, so were the differentiators really necessary for the lesser Furys?  I understand that the more highly-optioned, more expensive cars make dealers more money, and also that mine is sort of a rhetorical question, but I had to ask it.  I simply like the idea of being able to take one car and option it however you want with the funds and tastes you have.

This Fury III convertible was one of just under 4,500 produced for ’68.  A convertible Sport Fury was also available, with about 2,500 finding buyers.  Seven thousand convertibles accounts for just 2% of about 349,500 full-sized Plymouths produced that year, including the aforementioned VIP (its own separate model that year) and the Suburban wagons.  Our featured car appears to have been powered by a 383 cubic inch V8, with horsepower ratings ranging originally between 290 and 330 hp in top-spec form.

Like the other full-size offerings from low-price rivals Chevrolet and Ford, the Fury hardtop coupe was available with two distinctly different rooflines: a semi-fastback, and a more traditional or “formal” notchback style.  The most popular configuration of the ’68 Fury was the III hardtop sedan, of which about 57,900 were sold.  Looking at this particular car, it is so hard to think that a mere six years later, the new-for-’74 full-size Fury would sell just one-third of the ’68 total, with just 118,000 sold – and sales would get much worse before the (Gran) Fury’s discontinuation for ’78 and temporary revival for 1980 and ’81.

This ’68 Fury, though, has so much style.  I remember being particularly taken with the back seat of this car: the button-tufted black vinyl upholstery, and the Plymouth “frog legs” emblem in that little alcove set into the seatback.  And while stacked quad headlights were derivative of a look that Pontiac had previously fostered and made popular, this Plymouth wears them well.  This car is called a “Fury”, and with the slightly downward-canted angle of the headlight surrounds, this car looks… well, furious.

As for the rest of the car, I tend to seek out vintage furniture that follows the same, basic aesthetic as what we see in this Fury: linear, nicely detailed, and just a little formal.  Even the sports-leaning Magnum 500s and raised white letter tires this car is riding on can’t diminish from its distinguished poise.  Who says you can’t have sporty and elegant at the same time in a full-sized car?

The asking price was $8,500.  I toyed with the idea of walking up the side street to talk with the owner / seller (and perhaps take a test drive), but as has been the case before, I didn’t want to get his or her hopes up.  And who knows?  Maybe, I might have been driving back to Chicago in a ’68 Fury III convertible that weekend without having really thought about where I was going to store it in the short run before making a permanent plan.  It’s probably for the best, as when it come to what classic car I hope to purchase eventually, it’s like it has been sometimes with eating Lays potato chips and not being able to choose “just one”.

Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.
Saturday, August 29, 2015.