Car and Driver had a tradition of buying cars for their own use, and writing them up. In the fall of 1965, they were looking for something big enough to haul cameras, test gear, hunting guns, and what have you. They decided on a ’66 Fury III wagon, custom ordered to be quick and handle well, among other things. It was dubbed the “Boss Wagon”, and it became the first in a long line.
The decision was based on a longish history of appreciation fro Chrysler’s large cars and their potential for superior handling. A Pontiac Catalina was also in the running, but C/D nixed that “because we didn’t like its flamboyant, curvy styling“. That’s a bit ironic, given that the Fury was paying stylistic homage to the ’63 Pontiac, and the ’65-’66 was generally considered quite a looker. And a goes, with the Tri-power 421. To each their own, but I consider the Fury to be the weakest of the new ’65-’66 Mopar C-bodies; I would have gone for the Chrysler.
It was ordered with the optional sports suspension, and adjustable Koni shocks were added. The optional disc brakes were specified, which also came with larger 15” wheels and 8.15-15 tires. Oh, and dual “Maserati” air horns.
Somewhat surprisingly, C/D didn’t order it with the 365 hp 440, which was the top engine choice in the Fury. Instead they went with the 383 four barrel, rated at 330 hp. Still plenty fast, but not really quite “boss”. C/D waxed eloquently (as was their way at the time) about how fast it was, although its 0-60 time of 9.2 seconds and its 1/4 mile time of 17.1 @83.5 seconds is not exactly earth-shattering. I hate to keep bringing it up as a frame of comparison, but a 205 hp 265 ’56 Chevy was quicker; and of course lighter.
I drove a similarly equipped ’69 Fury on a fast road trip, and can vouch for its effortless cruising abilities at 90-100 mph.
A set of 8.45-15 Goodyear “Police Special” tires improved handling as well as harshness over NYC’s notorious potholes. The Koni shocks got high marks.
The Boss Wagon put an Aston Martin DB6 to shame on a backroad “race” to the nearest pub. But then those Astons were more like 1930s cars in terms of their suspension. Both cars caught air, a requisite element of these C/D write-ups.
“All told, it’s a keen machine.”
Technically my first COAL, my dad gave me his ’65 Fury III wagon in 1975 when he bought a ’67 Fury II wagon from the local mechanic, from whom he had bought the ’65. By then it had seen 240,000 mostly local miles, but the 318 was as strong as ever. No doubt due to dad’s changing the oil religiously every 1,000 miles. The spare tire showed through the bottom of the well-rusted fender, and it had a couple of large dents in the front bumper where dad had failed to negotiate a turn after getting loaded at a clam steam and striking guideposts. Not yet licensed to drive, I ended up selling it for $75 to a guy who entered it into a demo derby. It was sad seeing it crunched up, and it didn’t win.
FWIW, the car pictured above is a ’66. I agree that the Chrysler was the more attractive ’65, but thought the major ’67 restyle was by far the best of the ’65-’68 Furys. The mechanic who sold dad both cars always had a knack for finding these great Mopar wagons.
Interestingly, Car Life also tested a 1965 Plymouth Fury III wagon, with the same powertrain, but 14-inch tires, drum brakes, and standard suspension. It had a bunch of additional equipment, including the power windows and seat C/D didn’t specify, and dual air conditioning, and an air injection pump. The extra equipment brought the curb weight to 4,775 lb and left the wagon under-suspended, under-braked, and rather marginal on tire capacity.
Their wagon was a bunch slower than the “Boss Wagon”: 0–30 in 4.3 seconds, 0–60 in 11.1 seconds, and the quarter in 17.5 seconds at 77 mph.
“Car & Driver” magazine often produced faster acceleration times that the other car magazines did in this time period.
“C&D” was also reputed to have been quite rough on their test cars.
Perhaps there is a connection between these two?
This is the era when C/D acceleration times required a grain of salt in general, but for the most part, the stated acceleration times in this article match up pretty well with Car Life and Motor Trend tests of contemporary full-size Dodge and Plymouth models with the same powertrain (most of which were not wagons and were somewhat lighter than the “Boss Wagon”). The 0–100 time shown above isn’t super-credible, suggesting reliance on the speedometer rather than a fifth wheel or other external measurement, but the quarter mile times and acceleration figures under that seem about what one would expect them to be.
The Car Life wagon was burdened with several hundred pounds of extra equipment, in particular the dual air conditioner with separate evaporate cores and blowers (from a common compressor). It also had a “smog device,” which I assume was an air injection pump. The acceleration times in that test (August 1965) indicate that the additional weight and the air pump had the engine struggling much harder at low speeds, again as you’d expect.
There was no secondary air injection on Chrysler products—not even in California—in ’66; I’m pretty sure not til ’72. The “smog device” referred to is Chrysler’s CAP.
Ahh, you’re undoubtedly correct. I’d forgotten about the Chrysler CAP.
No air injection pump on a ’65 Plymouth…
I came of driving age (16 in CT at the time) in 1972; just when peak muscle cars were available and affordable used (but not too used), to kids like me. Having worrywart parents meant I wasn’t going to be one of those kids; which given my proclivity for risk taking was a good thing, and probably why I didn’t become a statistic. However, I did have a lot of friends who had muscle cars; up to and including a sick 1970 454 Chevelle SS. They were the kind of friends who let me drive their cars, so I experienced many that are now high-dollar classics.
Although I never got to drive a muscle wagon (my term for them then), I thought at the time that a wagon like the featured one; properly set up and tricked out, would be both the ultimate cruiser and the ultimate make-out machine (girls being the other main passion; other than cars and girls what else matters when you’re 16)?
This post demonstrates that I was on to something.
Music, Alan, cars, girls and music!
Music, Alan, cars, girls and music!
Sorry, the 426 Hemi wasn’t available in the Belvedere wagon in 1965. It was still a race-only engine sold in homologation specials. The 1966 Street Hemi was the first time it was available as a regular production option. The 365 hp 426 wedge was the top dog in 1965 B bodies, and Chrysler sold a fair few. The Max Wedge previously had been an open option, and had been a headache for Chrysler when kids ordered it in regular cars and tried to daily it.
There are known prototype parts to put the Street Hemi in 1966 C bodies, including exhaust manifolds and air conditioning brackets. It would have been the engine in the 1966 300M. Chrysler decided it didn’t need the Street Hemi in C bodies and didn’t have to offer air conditioning to sell enough B body Hemis. Chrysler also skipped the 1966 lightweight Hemi homologation specials.
That jibes with my limited knowledge of the Street Hemi. IIRC, its ’64-’65 release was limited to racers only: the first year to NASCAR entrants. Then, when NASCAR made the requirement of any engine having to be available in production vehicles, it went to professional drag racers, only, for 1965.
Still, a few did end up in private hands, but it wasn’t until 1966 when the Street Hemi became an RPO with wide availability to anyone with the cash, but only in B-body two-doors, with most going into upper-trim Plymouth and Dodge hardtops or the Charger.
TBH, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were special-order Hemi engines that found their way into a few sedans or station wagons during those first two, non-RPO years. But they’d be exceedingly rare, and whomever got one was most definitely connected to someone in the corporate Chrysler hierarchy outside of normal dealer channels.
Several 4 door Hemi sedans were ordered by retail customers and built in 1966. There also were a couple of factory Hemi wagons.
I screwed this up. Based on the date of the publication, I assumed it was a ’65. It’s actually a ’66, as the grille makes clear.
The 440 was the top engine option on the Fury. The 383 was the top engine listed in the Belvedere brochure, but perhaps they would install a hemi into a wagon, if you asked nicely?
The factory built a couple of 1966 Hemi wagons, but I doubt they’d take an order. They took orders for 4 door sedans. But Chrysler built some really weird stuff in this era and shipped it, especially in the sales bank–top trim models with three on the tree and dog dish hubcaps weren’t unusual. There was no plan and no accountability for actually selling those mutts, so they were spec’d with a scattergun. The dealers would take those cars at fire sale prices at the end of a reporting period.
The theory of the sales bank was sound: keep the UAW assembly line workers productive and the line moving rather than pay them to sit at home idle when there was a downturn in sales.
What I can’t figure out is how GM and Ford managed to be able to get by without any sort of similar sales bank. I guess they were just way better at matching production with anticipated sales.
Unfortunately, dealers got wise to Chrysler’s scheme of over-production of vehicles that didn’t have typical option groups. They quickly figured out all they had to do was wait deep into the model year and Chrysler would become so desperate to sell-off those sales bank cars before next year’s cars started hitting showrooms, the dealers could pick them up at fire sale prices. Even if the cars weren’t popular, there was still a large profit built in to those consumers looking for bargains.
It’s worth noting that one of Iacocca’s first moves when he got to Chrysler was to jetison the sales bank program.
First rule with Chrysler: never say, “They wouldn’t build that!” Heck, they built at least three 71-72 B-body station wagons with big-block and Pistol grip 4-speeds. They built a loaded Fury III with power everything, and a six. They built at least one loaded Challenger with power seats, power windows, power discs, A/C…with a six and 3-speed. At least one 4-door Polara was built with 426 Wedge, pushbutton auto, 4.10 gears, and no heater.
The kids who ooh and ahh over 60s muscle cars forget you could get the same engines in station wagons if you were willing to pay for them…
My high school debate partner’s family had a ‘63 Ford County Sedan wagon with Thunderbird 390 and a floorshifted 4 speed. It was the first car I knew that rolled over 100k mileage. His step father was a diesel mechanic. Perhaps that helped.
Other than the odd 2 tone paint combination (which I have never seen on a 65-66 big Plymouth) this wagon would make me a happy, happy guy. I had 4 very good years with a 66 Plymouth Fury III, and making it a wagon with a 4 bbl 383, air, discs and HD suspension would be the full package of perfection.
Oh wait – they skipped the fender-top turn signal indicators. Never mind. 🙂
Mom & Dad had a similarly optioned ’65 Fury station wagon that they both loved; racking up 15K in mixed family road trips/grocery getting yeoman service in 13 months time. Dad was a two lane passing champion (before Interstate highways were all over the deep south USA) in the Fury, smiling when the 383/Torqueflite powertrain propelled us around often slower vacation traffic. The front and rear factory air conditioning was appreciated by all six of the wagon’s occupants. The Mopar “Highland Park Hummingbird” gear reduction starter made my brother and I giggle. We became quite adept at mimicking it’s “Nang-Nang-Nang-Nanggg” cranking sound; much to the amusement of my Father.
After being totaled out by the wind and rain of hurricane Betsy visiting New Orleans; Dad gave into his kid’s request for the brand new “magic two way tailgate” and specked out a ’66 Ford Country Sedan station wagon as the Fury’s replacement.
Everyone agreed that the new ’66 Ford rode smoother and was quieter inside than the Fury….but Dad groused about the Ford’s handling, calling it “A greased up pig on roller skates” and other words than his grade school son (me) was forbidden to say out loud. Rear coil spring air bags inserts, koni shock absorbers and an Addco rear sway bar mollified Dad somewhat. A few years later, a new set of BG Goodrich “Lifesaver” radial tires made us all happier, esp in the rain. Sears/Michelin “Roadhandler” radial tires replaced the Goodrich tires eventually.
Even Mom, who usually did not notice that sort of thing, commented that the Ford (optioned with the 390 4-BBL “Thunderbird Special” engine) was “not quite as peppy as the Plymouth was”. Dad had several rude and un-Christian words and phrases used to describe the Ford’s single digit around town gas mileage and it’s one quart of oil every 600 miles thirst.
The “Ford vs Plymouth” argument sparked lively debate in our extended family for years and years.
Mom’s “Suburban Status Symbol” Ford wagon.
She said that she felt like “June Cleaver” when driving it. (Please forgive the picture quality; a cell phone capture of a fading Polaroid snapshot.)
Interesting Ford 390 vs Plymouth 383 comparison. I was an apprentice mechanic at a Ford dealer starting in 1967. That year our small town city council solicited bids for a new police car to replace a ’65 Plymouth 383. Our dealership was the low bidder offering a ’67 Ford 390.
This created quite a dust-up at a city council meeting when the Chief requested the city purchase the Plymouth at a slightly higher bid. His justification was that the Plymouth had more power. The city council allowed the deviation which generated a protest by our owner.
The protest was to no avail. The town OK’d the purchase of another 383 Plymouth. The county always had Plymouths as well. In our area, only the state patrol was the outlier. Our 2 local state patrol officers were both equipped with Ambassadors. They were reputed to be decently fast – but no match for the Plymouths.
Another thing I found interesting was that our Chief & Deputy Chief both drove Chevies as personal cars. The Chief had a nicely kept up ’58 Biscayne while the Assistant Chief drove a ’63 Impala wagon. Despite them both owning Chevies, they lobbied for Plymouth patrol cars during the ’60s & early 70s.
A family friend of ours owned a used car lot out here in the ‘burbs of New Orleans.
He called the Mopar 383/Torqueflite powertrain the ultimate “plug ‘n play” combo for his lot, saying it was reliable, peppy, with decent gas mileage and low customer complaints.
Just about every mid sized/full sized Mopar he bought for resale on his lot had this powertrain combo.
What makes the Plymouth look like a 1963 Pontiac, besides the stacked headlights? The 1963 Pontiac was not as squared up as either the 1965 Plymouth, or the 1965 Ford. The new 1965 Plymouth was extremely squared up with right angles, and the 1963 Pontiac was not. The older Pontiac was more squared up than the 1965 Pontiac, but it did not have the same design as the 1965 Plymouth. I have never confused the two. The 1963 Pontiac has a beautiful organic shape and was a beautiful car – more beautiful than the Plymouth, and it was also more beautiful than the flamboyant 1965 Pontiac, which looks to me like a 1963 Pontiac going into a more luxury field. Compared to the “Boss Wagon”, the Pontiac Safari looked like it was going to Macy’s for a shopping trip, while the Plymouth looked like it was going to the mountains.
After years of loving the purposeful styling of the Jeep Grand Wagoneer of 1961 – 1991, I associate the upright boxy styling of the mid-1960s Plymouth for outdoor excusion trips as described by Car and Driver, than the “flamboyant” Pontiac Safari.
And yes, I acknowledge that the 1965 GM line is spectacular and impacted both GM and Chrysler in styling for the rest of the decade, but what it also did was make the station wagons fielded during those years, look less purposeful and rugged. We do not see the GM mid-century flamboyant curvy styling after 1976 – until the Caprice Wagon during the 90s, which was a flop on the market. Please recall that the “Wagonmaster” Ford wagon line was more squared up as well, and enormously popular. The GM wagon line looked like it was for the city, not the country.
As a kid growing up during these years, I saw a difference between an early 1960s Safari and those made after 1964, and I always preferred the less curvier look, as did Car and Driver.
The 1963 Pontiac was a style leader that rippled through the industry because it sold.
The 65 Ford and Mercury designs were swapped for production because the stack light design was cheaper to build–no diecast end caps.
That would be a fun hobby-and-chore car even today–I appreciate C/D providing all the details of costs and problems, etc. If used as a 2023 daily driver, the gas mileage would take some getting used to, but their 11-18 mpg for the premium fuel does sound about right—the price you pay to have all that torque on tap, I suppose.
I sure miss the far-off days of extensive option lists…
1965-68 C bodies are favorite Mopar, especially Plymouths, since my parents had a ’68 Custom Suburban, from 1969-75. Drove to So. California  and Niagara Falls/Ontario , and even took it on Lake Michigan car ferry.
Grandad had a ’66 Town & Country, uncle/aunt had ’65 Fury III 2 door hardtop, and cousins had ’68 Sport Suburban [woody].
I’m having some difficulty reconciling their shown (acceleration times) and told (flying the car through the air, etc) driving behaviour with their claim of 13-18 miles per gallon. Perhaps they were using the larger Canadian gallons without telling. Or maybe the even larger Magazine gallons.
FWIW, the Car Life test of a Fury III wagon noted above lists “Normal range, mpg…..13–16,” which arouses great skepticism based on the curb weight alone.
I might buy the 18 mpg as “One time, with we got 18 mpg on a flatland highway trip spent mostly at a steady 50–55 mph with the air conditioning off” (viz., as a best-case real-world maximum rather than the upper end of an average range).
I think to get 18 you’re going to want plenty of downhill as well.
My ’65 Chrysler has the same drivetrain and should be reasonably similar weight.
A mix of city and freeway driving will hit about 11-12 mpg.
On a long all freeway drive I have seen 15 mph and on a day of back road country driving I once got it over 16.
I’m a tad too young to remember this first iteration of Boss Wagon, but I remember some of the later ones. There was a Volvo 245 Turbo, and I believe a Mercedes S123 300TD-T.
I think there were others. Does anyone have the full list?
#IIRC there was an early 1970’s Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser “Boss Wagon” also.
The 1968 455 Vista Cruiser (described as “Cousin of Boss Wagon”) seems to have been one of at least two test wagons built by Oldsmobile (Car Life tested a second iteration in March 1970, conceptually identical but with a W30 engine) that Olds invited some magazine hacks to drive rather than a C/D project, although they described it as a project car in a way that implied they had more to do with its creation than it appears they actually did.
Yeah, I remember their writeup of their Mercedes 123 wagon. Specifically, I remember them saying they installed European headlamps because the US sealed beams had “too sharp a cutoff on low beam”. Which is a rilly stupid thing to say; it was almost enough to make me suspect Car and Driver might be a bunch of arrested-development cases hooning around in their toy cars and then throwing together what they thought—perhaps aided and abetted by alcohol—were extremely clever articles about them, without any, um, whatchyacallit, like, fact-checking.
Oh, and they were giddy over having painted its sideview mirror housings body-colour.
They really wanted to be National Lampoon at times (and P.J. O’Rourke did write quite a bit for C/D in the ’80s).
My first car was a 1965 Plymouth Fury III wagon, baby poop brown, with the big block Y 318cid, front disk only, front AC and it was a go getter. It had the police suspension package with the 15″ wheels. I bought it cheap from the mechanic at the Shell gas station I worked at as he bought and fixed and tuned it up while rebuilding his Dart with a 340 and full race equipment. I had to use my dad’s sedan to pick up dates in as the parents were not appreciated to my having a wagon. This post brought back some memories.
Aston-Martins might not have been anything special, but it was still impressive that a large station wagon was faster around Lime Rock than a very expensive grand touring car.
This brings back fond memories; In September 1969 I bought a low mileage, bright red, Plymouth Fury III convertible from the local Chrysler-Plymouth dealer. They were asking $900, and my dad was able to negotiate the price down to $700. The only downside to the car was it’s fuel use, as it had the 440 4-barrel engine.
As for a wagon, my parents bought a new Fury III wagon with the 383, and that car had an option I wish the convertible did: Factory A/C.
The photo of the convertible was taken only a few days after I bought it.
Last year I ran across my old file for the Plymouth convertible, so on a whim I decided to run the car’s VIN on the internet, and was surprised to find the car for sale about 100 miles to the north! And for you keen-eye observers, it IS the same car, the photo shows the deluxe bumper I installed off a Fury VIP.
Sadly, the car had sat covered in vines for a very long time, and not only was the frame badly rusted, the floors were gone and the entire upper cowl was rusted away. I guess that was a blessing in disguise, as I didn’t really want the car back unless it looked like it did when I sold it in 1973, after buying my new Dodge B-200 LWB Tradesman van.
Cederq, the Poly 318 was NOT a big block. It was a small block and the LA318 evolved from it. Same block, different heads. Don’t call it a Y block either.
My dad had a 67 Fury II wagon with a 383 4bbl and heavy duty suspension. Every summer we headed out to the family cabin in the Canadian Rockies with two adults, six kids and towing a boat full of bed linens etc. It never slowed down going up hill no matter how steep and passed everything on the road with easy the boat trailer flapping in the breeze behind us.
I inherited that car equipped with radials nothing handled like that car. Max speed was 120 mph and I had it up to 60mph in first gear once.
Loved that car!