Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1961 Plymouth Savoy Six – “Outstanding In Cheap, Comfortable Transportation”

The domestic compacts really changed the automotive landscape in the years 1959-1961. Before that time, most folks who just wanted basic transportation bought a big low end car with a six. Now they could buy a smaller car, and possibly even a higher trim version. The 1960.5 Corvair Monza unleashed a storm of interest in well-trimmed compact cars.

Obviously all this affected the appeal and sales of full-sized low-end sixes (actually all full size cars). The stripper sixes would steadily peter out throughout the decade, but in 1961 if a traditionalist still wanted a big basic car, cars like the Plymouth Savoy—and equivalent Fords and Chevys—offered a lot of car for the money. Powered by the 225 slant six, it performed adequately for the times too.

The tested Savoy had the 225 inch slant six teamed with the Torqueflite automatic “which we discovered to be admirably suited to the Six’s modest horsepower and torque characteristics.” Total price: $2694.40. To adjust that to 2022 dollar value, multiply that by 10. Yes, the dollar depreciated by exactly one decimal point since 1961.

CL points out that given the reality of body-sharing, this is essentially a cut rate Chrysler. Room for six, as long as one has short feet, as the large transmission tunnel in front impeded significantly. The interior “is done in serviceable fabric”. But the drivers seat was considered too low, impeding front visibility over the long hood.

The Buck-Rodger’s style instrument panel sitting on top of the dash didn’t exactly help with visibility. The unassisted steering’s “ridiculous 5.5 turns lock-to-lock” wasn’t exactly helpful in the basic handling department. “However, despite soft shock dampers and springs, the Plymouth somehow manages to handle fairly well at highway speeds.”

Open road performance of the Savoy Six is adequate, but not exciting.” That’s a shocker. 0-60 took 15.3 seconds; the 1.4 mile took 20.0 sec. @66.6 mph. In other words, almost identical to the ’66 Chevy Bel Air six we posted here not long ago. And fairly similar to several other domestic sixes, large and compact. 15 seconds to 60 seemed to be what was acceptable then, and 10 seconds was brisk. Average fuel consumption was 16.83 mpg; presumably it could be a bit higher with gentler driving.


CL makes some fairly gentle comments on styling, “on the whole, it isn’t displeasing“. But “the grille resembles a fugitive cabbage grater.” Well said.

The trunk was very roomy, to go along with the interior space. “If you’re a big family man, say with five youngsters to haul around, then you’ll appreciate this space.” In summation: “The Plymouth Savoy Six then is an adequate car—in handling, performance and appearance—but outstanding in cheap, comfortable transportation.” One could do worse than that, in 1961. Or better.


Related CC reading:
Curbside Classic: 1961 Plymouth Fury – What Planet Are YOU From?