Chrysler’s gamble on downsizing in 1962 was certainly not a commercial success, but from an engineering and packaging standpoint, there were some notable accomplishments. For the low-priced Plymouth brand, the pragmatic approach to big car design did earn some accolades from the automotive press back when these cars were new.
In the October 1961 issue of Motor Trend, the editors pointed out the benefits that reduced bulk would bring. Ironically, despite Plymouth’s disastrous results with its “full-sized downsizing,” the market was hungry for more rationally-sized big cars for 1962—as Ford’s new “Intermediate” Fairlane would prove by selling 297,116 units of this “mid-size class” of car, handily beating the 182,220 “full sized” Plymouths (and of course Ford sold an additional 704,775 of its traditional big cars).
The packaging of the Plymouth really was ahead of it’s time, offering comparable (or improved) interior dimensions versus its larger predecessor. And of course with lighter weight performance improvements could be expected, whether the buyers desired more economy or snappier acceleration.
At the outset of 1962, Motor Trend developed its own “Economy Run” to compare the most basic versions of the 1961 and 1962 Plymouth to determine if the new smaller car did offer better economy and performance.
The basic sedans equipped with the Slant Six and Torqueflite Automatic, just like a schoolmarm or shiftless skinflint would order, were driven from Detroit to Los Angeles, encountering severe weather conditions along the way. But when the results were tallied, the ’62 Plymouth did in fact deliver on its advertised economy benefits.
At the opposite end of the Plymouth model spectrum, Motor Trend also tested a loaded 1962 Sport Fury Convertible with the 361 “Golden Commando” V8.
Motor Trend noted that while Plymouth’s styling was polarizing with people loving the looks or hating them, there was little dispute around the impressive performance credentials.
The Sport Fury was deemed quick and reasonably nimble, with nice instrumentation and respectable road feel. Based on the Plymouth’s size and performance abilities, Motor Trend went so far as to laud the Sport Fury as an American “sports-type” automobile.
Unfortunately for Chrysler, buyers did not agree with MT’s assessment: Sport Fury sales were minimal, with just 4,039 2-door hardtops and 1,516 convertibles leaving showrooms for 1962. Those results trailed other big “sports type” cars by a large margin, including far more expensive “sporty” full-sized cars like the Oldsmobile Starfire (41,998 sold) and Pontiac Grand Prix (30,195 sold), though the Sport Fury did at least beat the Mercury S-55 (4,087 sold).
The Plymouth brand really was about pragmatism, so the wagon body style was an area where the newly downsized ‘62s could demonstrate functional benefits. To see how the Plymouth stacked up against the competition, Car Life compared a base-model Plymouth Savoy Wagon with the mid-range Ford Country Sedan and the top-trim Chevrolet Impala Wagon.
As was typical for the time, each of the Big Three wagons had its own character. The Chevrolet was a proven winner, with strong resale, quality and engine performance (even with Powerglide), though it trailed the others in handling. Ford continued to earn its “Wagon Master” status by offering the best functional attributes, with a package that could be made even better by selecting a larger engine than the one on the test car. In typical Mopar fashion, Plymouth was seen as the best handler with strong performance and good economy, but sadly the worst in quality control. Granted, the Savoy was a stripper and the others were more upscale, as reflected in the as-tested prices: $3,748 ($30,816 adjusted) for the Chevrolet, $3,318 ($27,281 adjusted) for the Ford and $2,802 ($23,038 adjusted) for the Plymouth. Still, even basic cars deserve to be well built, something that the Japanese readily mastered.
Interestingly, while the Plymouth was smaller than Chevy and Ford in wheelbase, width and height, the Savoy wagon was actually a smidge longer overall. Given the reduced exterior dimensions, however, Plymouth’s packaging was pretty good, and it wasn’t far behind the Chevy in interior volume. But Plymouth’s wagon trailed the others badly in sales: just 17,473 Plymouth wagons were sold for 1962, compared with 82,106 Ford wagons and 187,566 Chevrolet wagons.
So no matter the good reviews for all the functional benefits inherent in the new smaller Plymouths, the market just wasn’t buying: they offered more of what the market didn’t want (handling, economy, performance) and less of what it did (non-controversial style and exterior dimensions).
Great stuff, George! What a shame – Plymouth put forward a very functional car that did a lot of things better than the competition, but its looks turned off even stalwart Mopar buyers.
The Sport Fury convertible seemed to impress with the 4 bbl 361. In my experience the 361 is the Mopar version of Ford’s 352 – an engine that didn’t get a lot of love and seemed to punch a little below its weight, while the Chevy 327 was much more satisfying in that hole between the 300 and 400 cubic inch ranges.
That wagon test is interesting for a lot of reasons. That poor Ford with a 292 and a 2 speed Ford-O-Matic didn’t stand a chance in the performance tests. And the testers noted (if only indirectly) my longstanding gripes with the Chevy in its poor driving position and mushy suspension. The Plymouth’s excellent fit and finish in the Sport Fury test and the awful showing in the wagons shows Chrysler’s hit and miss lottery-style nature in those years.
After 24 hours to digest PN’s great piece yesterday, it should have been obvious to us all along that in this smaller Plymouth, Chrysler was reacting to Plymouth’s (and Dodge’s) sales collapse in 1958-60 along with the strong showing of Rambler and even Studebaker with the Lark in that same period. Plymouth had led the way in making the low priced 3 too big and everyone followed. They led the way back – and nobody followed. It would have been interesting to see how this would have played out with more conventional styling.
The wagon comparison is interesting, since we had a very similar 318/TF ’65 Coronet wagon. And my impressions of it not being all that brisk have been confirmed here, with its 12 second 0-60 time. It confirms my long-held belief that the 318 poly was a bit of a stone, not that unlike the Y block Ford V8. I know you feel otherwise, but the Plymouth had 230hp and the 3 speed TF, and yet the 250hp 327 Chevy creamed it with its 2 speed PG (0-60 in 9 some seconds).
Back then I worked at a gas station whose owner had a small cab company, a little fleet of Coronet sedans. Their newest one, a ’67, had the new LA 318, and it pulled substantially harder than our poly 318. It clearly breathed better at high rpm.
Our ’65 wagon was replaced by a ’73 Coronet wagon, with the LA 318, and despite the smog controls, it felt livelier than our ’65. It felt like someone had put something under the gas pedal to keep it from going down all the way; it just didn’t really hustle.
I remember me and my brother timing our speedo runs to 60 with a stopwatch, which were also in the 12-13 second range. Now I know there wasn’t anything under the gas pedal. 🙂
No, I don’t think I disagree with you. I lived with a couple of the old 318s and they were adequate but lowly tuned 2 bbls. I would confirm your LA comparison as the stronger of the two. It seems to me that the 0-60 run was what the 327/PG was made to do. The great high rpm breathing and the elimination of any gear shifts made for great test numbers. I just thought that the 318/TF combo was nicer to live with day to day than the 283/PG.
It didn’t seem like the 361 was all that great of an upgrade over the 318, although I can’t say I ever got an apples to apples comparison. A friend’s 63 Newport with the 2 bbl 361 didn’t seem any peppier than either of my (old version) 318 Plymouths. The 383 was the place to go in all of these cars.
Oh wait…the Plymouth had a manual transmission!
And the Sport Fury convertible with the 4V 361 did the 0-60 in 7.7 in the other review. That’s terrific, for 1962, for not being an all-out performance engine. The performance with the 4V 361 in these cars seems to have been pretty universally praised. I’m not an expert on these, but I suspect that the only difference from the 383 was the displacement. I’m guessing it had the same heads and such, but I could be wrong.
Obviously, the 2V versions were tuned rather differently.
“Oh wait…the Plymouth had a manual transmission!”
Aye yae yae – I missed that. And a 3:55 axle, too. Perhaps it was tuned as badly as it was built?
The baulky manual shifter most likely made it slower than if it had TF.
There were quite a few variations of heads, but yes, any of the big block heads are intetchangable (obviously excepting the hemi)
I believe that the B engines (350, 361, 383 & 400) are basically identical including stroke but with different bores. The RB engines (the 1959 version of 383, 413, 426 wedge & 440) are very similar, but slightly taller blocks with a longer stroke.
I know that except for the hemi, every Mopar big block from 1958-78 uses the same head gaskets.
JP, The downsized Plymouth/Dodge became the template for the future of the industry, as illustrated by the downsized GM’s later to come, as shown by PN, and like the Chrysler Airflow of the 1930’s, the styling obviously turned off the buying customers to Chrysler’s detriment. The 1930’s Lincoln Zephyr with similar Aero/Art Deco inspired chassis layout following the Chrysler packaging example was more successful due to customer deemed acceptable styling.
Styling definitely is a make or break for a car, and when combined with current customer expectations for size (note the ever growing size of SUV’s currently) leads to success or failure in the market place. Sometimes it doesn’t work to be too far ahead of general customer expectations, like these 1962’s.
Some people, likely the outliers, will like the oddball design. When introduced I liked and still like the styling of these Plymouths and Dodges. Additionally I thought highly of the original Valiant styling and was disappointed by the restyled, bland to me, 1963’s.
I actually like the current Toyota Prius styling and the rear treatments, though my wife just loathes the new Prius styling, so obviously don’t trust my styling eye. If we were in the market for a Prius, she would obviously exercise her veto privilege, and that likely also occurred in many households in 1962 resulting in dropped sales as documented by PN.
Good point about a more conventionnal styling, had Elwood Engel arrived more earlier at Chrysler, with a design close to the 1962 mid-size/intermediate Ford Fairlane, the 1963 Rambler Classic and Ambassador or having the 1963 Polara/Fury one year earlier or the 1965 Coronet/Belvedere design who had make the pucked chicken with front end who was a more mainstream design but some said it was a bit too vanilla for the Coronet. Their sales wouldn’t had tanked a lot as they did and perhaps even taken the Motor Trend Car of the Year award who was won by the Buick Special V6.
Chrysler at this time seems to me like the car for the “thinking man.” Put aside your pre-judged thoughts and look at the vehicles objectively.
Hard to beat the V8 and Torqueflight in a good handling package.
To me, the problem isn’t really one of the size difference (the measurements here show the math was less dramatic than the perception made). The problem was styling. The Fury looks like it’s depressed, the Polaris is just odd, and the Chrysler…no. And I’m a HUGE Mopar fan. I find the interiors on these cars pretty attractive (especially the Chrysler).
There is simply no elegance or style to them when compared to the competition, or their ancestors and successors. They were the Crocs with socks of the 60s. They worked. They were comfortable. They were, perhaps, even better for their task than many others…but they were still Crocs with socks.
Another parallel is to the late 80s DeVilles. I think they were genius in their packaging. Great room, an improved ride and drive, far more attractive than these cars, and more efficient by every measure. They were more attractive than these cars, and more successful, but they ultimately met the same problem–the styling just didn’t live up to the expected “presence” they were supposed to impart.
I heard folks lambast the styling of the 61 AND 62 Plymouths. IMHO, the 61 was quite daring while the 62 took that daring even further…for better or worse.
principaldan says what I’ve often thought about Chrysler products, that is, the styling didn’t always “lead the pack”, but the engineering made up for it.
Sure, GM gave us an air-cooled engine and independent rear suspension in the Corvair but Plymouth gave us the rear decklid (faux) toilet seat, a slant six engine, pushbutton controlled automatic transmission, and torsion bar crony suspension.
There were a lot of nice features on these Mopar products but it was probably the odd styling that turned a lot of people away. For my money both the Ford and Chevy are much better looking.
These tests are a reminder of the days when engineering was one of Mother MoPar’s strong marketing points.
The wagon test also…hear me out here…points up, yet again, the whole GM Deadly Sin series and was it fair, etc.
I realize we’re dealing with fanzines here and advertising dollars may have been at stake, but wasn’t 1962 still a little early in that game? And note the Impala was apparently no ringer, the description of the car as they picked it up from the Chevrolet zone office makes it sound like it was an office beater.
That said, note MT’s initial remarks on the wagon…
“Best exterior, interior and detail finish of the three cars; probably the best value in terms of resale and trouble-free service.”
Dang. Sounds like a Camry today, only with SBC goodness and cool styling.
I believe, in part, that marketing their superior engineering required ChryCo to take a long view educating the public why their offerings were superior. But in a way it was the automotive equivalent of trying to persuade the public to give up GM’s chocolate chip cookies for their MoPar snickerdoodles with pecans on top. More exotic, but ultimately a matter of personal – and in the case of Chrysler – acquired taste.
Here’s a what-if.
What if Chrysler hadn’t had that crappy year in 1957?
What if they hadn’t developed such a poor rep from that point forward, that dogged them for years?
What if they had had the build quality of their competitors…or better?
Is it possible the ’62s wouldn’t have seemed so controversial, especially since they performed so well?
All hypothetical I know. But interesting, for me at least, to ponder for a minute.
I’m of the opinion that FCA isn’t long for this world (although Jeep and Ram will live on, possibly as part of Hyundai?) Sergio’s handling of Dodge and Chrysler is reprehensible on its face…diverting needed development dollars away from those brands to resurrect the fool’s errand that is Alfa-Romeo. Any high-school sophomore with a history of GM these past four decades would be able to ‘splain why that’s not a good idea.
I’ll argue that the new Alfa Guilia IS the spiritual successor to the ’62 Plymouth, only on steroids. Great performer…IF you can get past the poor build quality and in the Alfa’s case, keep it out of the shop.
I feel the need to add the little fun factoid – Fiat Chrysler’s 2017 market share (12.7%) is higher than Chrysler Corp. enjoyed in 1962 (about 10.3% for the calendar year, which included early 1963 production). This doesn’t show how great they are doing now, only how horribly they were doing in 1962. But don’t GM and Ford wish they could say this. 🙂
But that market share needs to be put in perspective, as the market is massively more fragmented by all of the import brands. Compare FCA’s 12.7% to Ford’s 14.8% and GM’s 17% (2016). Quite the contrast to GM’s 52% share in 1962.
You can even go a bit further back in time about what if Walter Chrysler had chosen Joe Frazer instead of K.T. Keller as his successor? One guy on Fordwardlook.net forums nicknamed Chrycoman posted the following who was worth to quote: http://www.forwardlook.net/forums/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=22899
“The lack of sales success with the Airflow most certainly resulted in conservative styling at Chrysler, but I suspect K.T. Keller played a very large role in that situation. He was the man that showed famed stylist Ray Dietrich the door, the man W.P. Chrysler hired to head Chrysler styling, such as it was.
Walter P. Chrysler became a recluse after his wife died in 1937. Given lead times, styling approved in 1937 would have been for 1939-40 models. Chrysler Corporation styling definitely became bland after that point.
And no argument over K.T. Keller – he was Chrysler’s one mistake, as Robert Eaton was Iacocca’s.
One contender for W.P.’s job was Joseph Washington Frazer. He was the man who came up with the Plymouth name and headed the sales campaigns for Chrysler Corporation that propelled Plymouth to #3 by 1931 and Chrysler Corporation to #2 by 1936. Plymouth would come within 100,000 of Ford production for 1941 and Chrysler would hit 25.1% of the market that same year. From that point on it was all downhill.
Although a sales person, Frazer believed both styling and engineering were needed for a car to be successful. After he left Chrysler in 1938, Frazer became head of Willys. His first action was make the Willys engine reliable (it was said you could tell how fast you were going by what fell off) and then make Willys styling modern and attractive. And his push to get Willys into Jeep production enabled the company to survive after the war.
Frazer left Willys in 1943 and took over Graham-Paige. At the end of WW II, G-P was working on a new medium-priced car called the Frazer, with styling by Howard “Dutch” Darrin. Having no money to underwrite such a project, he teamed up with Henry J. Kaiser – and the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was born.
Just as Chrysler’s first postwar styling plans were more in line with what GM was planning for 1949, Frazer’s first styling proposals were more flowing and modern. K-F stylists boxed up the design, flattening the sides and levelling the belt line. Chrysler stylists raised the roof on their models and removed the integrated rear fenders. Chrysler’s styling changes pleased Keller, but K-F’s did not please either Frazer or Darrin.
To show how knowledgeable Frazer was, when K-F was making plans for the 1949 models, which were to receiving a minor styling freshening, Frazer advised the K-F board they should cut planned production as the opposition would be selling completely new cars. Kaiser and his supporters shot down the idea. Frazer came back with the statement that K-F would sell only about 60,000 cars and lose $33 million.
When the 1949 results were in, K-F sold 80,000 cars and lost $31 million. Not too shabby for an off the cuff estimate. The photo of the board meeting showing the members viewing the financial results for 1949 have all board members save Frazer with very solemn and serious looks on their faces. Frazer is shown sitting in his chair, chin resting on his fingers, looking up to the ceiling. It’s almost as if you could hear the thought running through his mind, “I told you so! I told you so!”
By this time G-P was no longer in the car business, having sold its stock in K-F to the Kaisers and its plant on Warren Avenue to Chrysler. The plant was used for DeSoto body and engine production from 1950 through 1958 and then for assembly of the 1959-61 Imperials.
Although many interviewed Frazer on his work at Willys and K-F, no one it seems got his thoughts on working at Chrysler and why he left. I firmly believe if J.W. Frazer had succeeded W.P. Chrysler instead of K.T. Keller, Chrysler Corporation would have held on to #2 position after the war with more modern styling. I also doubt Frazer would have waited until 1954 to bring out a true automatic transmission on all models. Chrysler Corporation was the last manufacturer to offer one as everyone else had one by 1951. K-F offered Hydramatic on its 1950 models.
By the way, Oakland was the GM division and Pontiac the Oakland Motor Company’s companion make. Of the companion makes the GM divisions introduced, only Pontiac would be so successful its parent, Oakland, would be laid to rest. LaSalle was also successful, but making the LaSalle models Cadillacs for 1941 sealed Cadillac’s destiny to beat Packard and become #1 in the luxury market. Buick’s Marquette and especially Oldsmobile’s Viking were dead in the water from the beginning.
Companion makes were all the rage in the 1920’s, beginning with Hudson’s Essex. Others were Ajax (Nash), Erskine (Studebaker), Wolverine (Reo), Falcon-Knight (Willys-Knight), Roosevelt (Marmon), Blackhawk (Stutz), Diana (Moon), Jewett (Paige), and Cleveland (Chandler). Only Essex and Diana would not be absorbed by the parent make and only Essex would survive into the 1930’s.”
Also, Chrysler menaged to be #2 for 1953 but the Chevy-Ford price war of 1954 hit Chrysler as well as Studebaker, Nash, Hudson, Kaiser, Willys, Packard. We could also wonder what if the Chevy-Ford price war never happened and what if Chrysler “100 million dollar look” had arrived one model year earlier?
Posted in the other ’62 Plymouth forum, that the same year Chevy and Ford were not “huge dinosaurs” as the later mid 70’s tanks. Maybe for drag racers and sports car guys, the B body was a hit, but at the time the family car market wanted conventional.
Also, Ford brought out the mid size Fairlane the same model year. So it’s not as if Mopar was the “only” one. Once GM’s mid size A bodies appeared in ’64, they led the field for awhile.
A good comparison would be a ’77 Impala vs. ’77 Fury B body.
The downsized 1977 GM cars were introduced after the Arab Oil embargo had made everyone very conscious of fuel economy. There wasn’t any particular event prior to the debut of the 1962 Mopars that galvanized public opinion in a similar way.
Plus, the 1962 Ford and Chevrolet had been trimmed in size slightly from their most outlandish predecessors (the 1960 Ford, and the 1959-60 Chevrolet), and ease of entry and exit had also been improved. The public therefore looked upon the 1962 Chevrolet and Ford as more rational and comfortable than the cars of just a few years earlier.
They were also much more cleanly styled, as any suggestion of fins was gone, the wraparound windshields were gone, and a fair amount of the chrome was gone. As you note, the target market therefore didn’t really see anything wrong with these cars.
If you were trading a 1959 Impala on a 1962 Impala, the latter probably seemed easier to park and was more comfortable, as well.
And at Ford, if the Galaxie was still too big, the dealer would happily sell you a brand-new Fairlane.
“There wasn’t any particular event prior to the debut of the 1962 Mopars that galvanized public opinion in a similar way”
I would look at this a different way. There was such an event, but it happened in 1958-61 when the economy got bad and when inexpensive and economical cars suddenly became where all the action was. Rambler, Lark, the imports and the 1960 compacts looked like the future. Chrysler, as always, reacted late and poorly. These cars, with less controversial styling and coupled with sellable larger models for those who wanted them (like the Chrysler Newport/DeSoto and probably a big Dodge) could have been a good idea in, say, 1960-61. But Chrysler rushed them, saddled them with extremely controversial styling, and didn’t even try to sell them as part of a more complete range of cars than anyone else offered. But by 1962 the economy was improving, some really attractive cars were on the market and Chrysler panicked and tried to make everyone think these were just as good as the big cars everyone else had. But everyone else had big, attractive cars and Plymouth/Dodge had smaller, unattractive cars. Without the quality rep they had 10 years earlier, these didn’t stand a chance. In fact, nothing Chrysler was selling in 1962 (except maybe the Valiant and the Chrysler Newport) was selling even moderately well.
While the domestic “compacts” were envisioned as entry level products and/or import fighters, there also was definitely a move toward rationally sized cars that mimicked the dimensions of early/mid-1950s Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth models. However, as you point out, these cars (which soon became the “midsize” class) still needed to be augmented by larger models to satisfy a large chunk of buyers.
I wonder how things could have played out differently for Chrysler Corporation if they had kept Plymouth positioned as the “companion” brand to Dodge as well as Chrysler. If that had happened, the downsized Plymouth might have made more sense as a pragmatic, “right sized” car, sold alongside larger, more expensive Dodge or Chrysler models.
Dodge dealers should have continued selling Plymouths (logically including a unique “smaller” big car) to capture bargain shoppers while keeping the Dodge brand more upmarket. The real error in my mind was allowing Dodge to have the Plymouth-based Dart, then the Valiant-based Lancer, and then forcing the shrunken full-sized cars. For many people, those moves knocked Dodge out of the premium Pontiac/Mercury/Olds competitive set and relegated the brand to just being a (cheap) Plymouth with a different badge.
According to Chrysler insiders, Dodge dealers refused to give up an entry in the low-price market. The 1960 Dart was the “price” the corporation had to pay in order to take Plymouth franchises away from Dodge dealers.
Unfortunately, this was implemented in the worst possible way. Dodge dealers lost their Plymouth franchises, but gained the Dart (and then the compact Lancer). Chrysler Corporation set up a direct, in-house competitor for Plymouth.
Meanwhile, Plymouth was still paired with Chrysler at the dealer level, so the division never had a chance to match Ford and Chevrolet in peddling “low-cost luxury.” Vehicles such as the Plymouth VIP thus could never get any real traction when a more prestigious Chrysler Newport or (non-letter) 300 was sold through the same dealership at roughly the same cost.
By the early 1970s, Plymouth was identified primarily with the inexpensive, practical Duster and Valiant, and had no real image, unlike Chevrolet and Ford.
I don’t blame Dodge dealer for not wanting to give up the volume from the entry market–they should have kept Plymouth in the showrooms to serve that role, just as Chrysler did and DeSoto had done. The pairing really wasn’t a bad strategy for the time.
I know there was talk of allowing Plymouth to be a full “stand alone” brand to compete more directly with Chevy and Ford, but this was never executed either (and I’m sure Chrysler dealers would have screamed bloody murder for losing the volume). If anything, 3 separate dealer bodies would have been even worse than the 2 internal competitors that actually existed.
Imagine if Plymouth had become the smaller car “specialists” at Mopar in the 1960s, focusing on plain to loaded compact and mid-sized models. Dodge could have augmented with bigger, aggressively styled cars plus trucks, while Chrysler could have offered bigger, more luxurious products plus Imperial. Seems to me that would have been the best approach given Chrysler’s resources and history at that point.
I’d forgotten what a CB radio looked like back then. And those were the days when the CB band was used only by a crowd that was one step under the hard core radio amateurs. You could actually turn that thing on all day and listen to silence.
Yes indeed! That’s a Heathkit GW-10. Seven tubes, and the kit (which you built yourself) only cost $517.99 in today’s money. Think of it as a 1962 iPhone.
It might have been the case that so many were burned w/ the 1957 models w/ their glowing reviews and iffy quality.
Maybe people were waiting to see if the Chrysler’s engineering brilliance was once again undermined by manufacturing indifference.
I always thought it sad that the mediocre Falcon outsold the much much much better Valiant, until later in their lives when the Valiant and Dart took over the market.
First-generation Valiants were plagued by mediocre quality control and serious water leaks. Between that and the quirky styling, it’s not hard to see why plenty of people preferred the better-built Falcon.
The Valiant really began gaining momentum with the more conventionally styled 1963 models, which were also much better built.
That ’62 Fury M/T issue was the first I ever received via a mail subscription! I can still remember getting home from high school and pouring over every page. They really loved the Fury.
How enduring Ford’s wagon formula was! Good accommodation for >6 passengers, heavy weight, and lousy fuel economy. Big blocks vital for substantial hauling.
My family had ’56 [?], ’68, and ’70 Ford wagons.
Nice collection of period lit! I am a little curious what the Car Life people were smoking when they said “none of the Big Three makes a 2-door wagon any more in the full-sized line. All threee, however, have excellent 2-door wagons in compact size” (first page of the Car Life wagon test, magazine page 62). Errr…I don’t know about Ford and GM, but the Chrysler Corp compact lines—Valiant and Lancer and then Dart—did not include a 2-door wagon in any model year.
Realistically, that’s a pretty minor bobble. We’ve found more egregious ones in many of the previous vintage reviews from this period.
There’s a huge gaffe in the Motor Trend “Economy Run” article. MT stated that they picked up a ’61 Pioneer from a Detroit Area dealer that was comparable to the downsized ’62 Savoy. Only one problem with that: the Pioneer was the mid-range Dodge Dart model in 1961–Plymouth’s entry-level full-sized model was the Savoy in both 1961 and 1962.
Yeah, I noticed that, too. It reminded me of a time about 10 years ago when I was attending an SAE technical committee meeting and struck up a conversation with one of the Chrysler engineers. I said “Dodge Matrix” twice or thrice before that little voice in my head piped up loud enough for me to hear. Ooooops! I meant Caliber. X-(
Perhaps an even bigger gaffe in the fuel economy article is that they didn’t give the economy as expressed in mpgs, just the total amount of gas used.
Nope on the Lark, its last 2 door wagon was 1961.
what the Car Life people were smoking?
Got it? 😉
It’s the only automotive-related smoking material that came to mind, and it was actually more relevant than average. Close, but no cigar. 🙂
Haha, got it! You score five points for the great car/smoking tie in and another 5 points for being so smooth at it that I totally missed the joke. On that note, there was also Newport. Funny, as much as I like both of them as cars I never smoked either one of them back in my smoking days.
In addition to smoking Newports and Larks one could also (in 1962) smoke Bel-Airs. I can’t think of any FoMoCo cigarette names.
This from the man who claimed to be no good at cracking jokes. Oy gevärt! (…said the photographer, upon learning his favourite brand of film had been discontinued…)
In addition to Chrysler not making a compact two-door wagon, and Studebaker no longer making one, did GM ever have one in this era? I don’t think any of the X- (Chevy II), Y- (B-O-P “senior compacts”), or Z- (Corvair) bodies ever came as a two-door wagon. A few years later, the 1964-65 Chevelle did offer a two-door wagon.
From the previous sentence in the article, it seems pretty clear to me that they mean “Big Three” in the usual sense, but it seems like only one of them ever had a two-door compact wagon. Were there even three domestic manufacturers of any kind who had compact two-door wagons?
OTOH, the point about the Big Three no longer making full-size two-door wagons is accurate. I believe that Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth had all dropped that body style from their full-size lines over the previous couple of years before this. Chevy’s last year was 1960, and I think Ford’s and Plymouth’s was 1961.
Why did the fuel economy challenge article leave it to the reader to calculate the fuel economy? They give the distance and gallons used (and cost) but didn’t do the obvious calculation. 16mpg for the ’61 and 18mpg for the ’62 are pretty good given cold driving conditions. Must have been mostly comfortable highway driving (they mentioned 48 mph average speed).
I noticed that too. WTF??
This is worth mentioning in a discussion of early 60s Mopars:
“Joseph Vaillancourt’s 1963 Plymouth Fury, driven as a cab since the mid-1960s, reached 2,609,698 km (1,621,591 miles), when it was struck and totalled by a truck”