Despite popular belief, Plymouth was not named after the Mayflower that had landed at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, though the logo did show the rear end of the Mayflower. Technically, it was inspired by the Plymouth twine popular with the farmers of that time. Introduced as a low-budget marque of Chrysler, Plymouth was still a lot more expensive than the competition because of extra features such as hydraulic brakes.
Introduced in 1929, the last of the Plymouths rolled out in 2001 after which the company was shut, and the rest of Plymouth cars were rebranded as Chrysler or Dodge. Through its lifetime, it did manage to produce many gems, 10 of which we list now…
10 Plymouth Valiant: The Car That Kept Chrysler Afloat
The oil embargo of the 70s resulted in a mad scramble by many car companies to make models that were gas savvy, compact and inspired confidence in their buyers. The Plymouth Valiant was one such reliable and dependable car, though it had been introduced way back in 1959. It sold in large numbers and was responsible for tiding Chrysler through the bad time, but in 1976 Chrysler axed its foot by replacing the very reliable Valiant with the rust bucket known as Volare, and its sibling, the Dodge Aspen. These two cars brought Chrysler to bankruptcy in 1979 before it got a government bailout.
9 Plymouth Sport Satellite: Belvedere’s Top Trim
When the Plymouth Fury was moved to a larger platform in the 60s, the Belvedere nameplate was moved to a mid-size line. In 1965, Belvedere’s top trim came to be known as the Belvedere Satellite, or sometimes, just the Plymouth Satellite. Available as a two-door hardtop or convertible, it carried a 7.0-liter Commando engine but also moved to a Hemi in 1966.
In 1968, came the Sport Satellite with a 5.2-liter V8 and a body that is more or less shared with the Road Runner. A four-door was also introduced this year and the Satellite remained a successful nameplate till 1974, after which it was withdrawn.
8 Plymouth Fury: The First Muscle Car
Yet again a sub-series of the Belvedere, the Plymouth Fury was introduced in 1956 and stayed for long innings till 1989. This is Plymouth’s first muscle car, introduced in an era that did not know its muscle car and Mopar future. Other than the devil-possessed 1958 Fury so shown in the 1983 movie Christine (originally a novel by Stephen King) that soon had a cult following going for it, it was the 1956 Fury that shook the competition. Just shortly after it was launched, the Fury outshone all its competitors at the Daytona Beach Speed Week. With a 5.0-liter V8 powering it, the Fury was unstoppable.
7 Plymouth Duster 340: A Smaller Valiant
By 1972, the muscle car fury was dying down. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein would soon become Public Enemy number one because it was his initial rise to power that led to the oil embargo and crisis. With the EPA tightening its emission act as well, big engines and performance were giving way to the inexorable rise of the gas and emission savvy engines.
But Plymouth still grasped at straws and got a hit with its Duster 340. A relatively smaller car, this was Valiant’s coupe form, and shared the same front but had a different rear end. Competing with the AMC Hornet and the Ford Maverick the Duster 340 soon acquired a decent youngster following and kept at it till 1976.
6 Plymouth Barracuda: Bayed For Blood
Technically, the Barracuda was first on the scene, released 16 days before the Mustang. Initially launched as part of the Valiant family, it came to be a standalone nameplate in 1967 and soon was available in notchback, fastback, and convertible trims. Named after a rather blood-thirsty shark, the Barracuda bayed for blood especially if bought in the Formula Sport 383 trim – that took its 4.4-liter V8 to a 6.3-liter V8 one, with the latter spewing 280 horses. From 1970 to 1974, the Barracuda became more like the Dodge Challenger but remained successful till the embargo cooked its goose.
5 Plymouth Superbird: More Raptor Than Bird
Sometimes, you don’t realize a good thing till its too late to bring it back. So when the Superbird edition of the Plymouth Roadrunner came out, inspired by NASCAR – somehow, there was no beeline for them. The dealer had to take away that big-assed wing and the aerodynamical nose to make the Superbird look more like the Road Runner to be able to sell them off.
Today, in the world of the deep-pocketed classic car collector, the Superbird is so in demand, it can cost you a little island. Of course, the Hemi-powered Superbird so decimated NASCAR, that they banned it and other Hemi engines off their vaunted tracks forever.
4 Plymouth GTX: A Powerful Valiant Trim
Introduced at the Belvedere GTX in 1967, this was the car that created in-house competition for the Satellite, reducing the latter’s sales. In 1971, they launched an all-new GTX with awesome power and some wild styling. This one featured the 7.2-liter V8 engine with three double-barrel carburetors – and the model was dubbed the GTX 440+6, sometimes also called the GT Xtra. The shifter had a pistol grip to make it a bit unique, and the GTX also came with an Air Grabber hood to show off its muscle. The horses produced in this one were 370, though the Hemi option still gave out 425. From 1972, the GTX became a Road Runner trim.
3 Plymouth HEMI ‘Cuda: With Even More Teeth
The Hemi Cuda was called the Camaro killer and made the sales of the latter nosedive into the nadir. While the Barracuda was a nice enough car, it was the Hemi Cuda that could have its cake and eat it too, by delivering low 13-second passes. That Shaker hood, the Dana axles, and that unmistakable growl make the Hemi Cuda probably the greatest Hemi car ever. One convertible 1971 Hemi ‘Cuda sold for $3.5 million, with a buyer’s premium, added to it. Rare as they may be, the market of the Hemi ‘Cuda is alive and well and refusing to die down.
2 Plymouth Race HEMI Belvedere: Decimated Daytona
While the Belvedere was introduced in 1962, it was the 1964 Hemi Belvedere that proved to be a game-changer. The introduction of the Hemi engine so raised the RPM that Hemi Race Belvederes won first, second and third position in 1964 Daytona. To say the officials were in a tizzy would be an understatement. These, of course, were not production cars, but used for racing purposes only. Later though, inspired by the race car performance, a street-legal Hemi Belvedere debuted in 1966. But there is nothing better than the 64 Hemi Belvedere that started it all and inspired its competition to go above and beyond its normal engines.
1 Plymouth Road Runner: Meep, Meep
The Road Runner rolled in in 1968 – a time when muscle cars were stuffing in features and becoming pricier by the day. The Road Runner was all muscle and no luxury – the base trim even lacked a carpet, and the air con was simply not an option. As plain as a car could be from the inside, it Meep-Meeped its way to the front of the bestselling line. It was cheap, accelerated like a charm, and also had the Roadrunner toon stamped on its rear. Completely bare-boned but with a 6.2-liter V8 pumping out 335 horses and 425 ft-lb torque, it was able and willing to be pushed to its limit. And then they also brought in a Hemi engine – the Road Runner made Plymouth a top player.