Plymouth was created by Chrysler in 1928 to be a low priced brand, competing with Ford and Chevrolet . For the first few years, Plymouth models were only sold at Chrysler dealers, but starting in 1930 they were sold at Chrysler, DeSoto , and Dodge dealerships. This gave Plymouth a large footprint in the market, and helping the Chrysler Corporation stay afloat during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. While many car companies failed, Plymouth, with its lower-priced vehicles, was able to weather the depression and stay in business.
In 1949, Virgil Exner joined the company and he took the task of car design away from engineers and put it in the hands of designers. In 1955, Plymouth broke its sturdy mold and began to make exciting vehicles. Fins to flaunt arrived on the scene in 1956. Through the mid 1950’s, sales were competitive with Ford and Chevrolet, and usually third. A few years Plymouth even overtook Ford for the #2 spot. The automaker created a reputation for reliable, durable, and well priced cars. Chrysler changed styling late in the decade, using a forward look that included lowering the roofline, streamlining, and making the cars look more aggressive. The 1956 Fury was the first vehicle with gold trim and it reached an impressive top speed of 124 mph. Plymouth sales jumped by nearly 200,000 in 1957, but the new modeling soon suffered from rust and poor assembly, putting a bad reputation on the manufacturer.
The Plymouth designs for the early 1960’s were very conventional, and sales suffered more. Plymouth would not achieve the #3 spot in sales for the rest of the decade; Rambler and Pontiac took its place. If it weren’t for the original Hemi holding ground and the Super Stock 413 and 426 having great popularity among drag racers, the brand may have perished. The Fury, especially the 1964 Sport Fury with the wedge-head engine, was one of Plymouth’s most attractive showroom models. When citing each automaker’s contribution in the book Muscle Car Milestones, Dan Lyons and Jason Scott note, “Plymouth made the muscle car market fun.” It is hard to argue that the Road Runners cartoon decals weren’t amusing and Richard Petty’s Blue Plymouths definitely made NASCAR fans cheer. The 1970 Superbird marked a high-mark for aerodynamics, winning 8 races that season. Although only 1,920 were built for the street, it was the first stock car to go over 200 miles per hour and the tail fin was a remarkable sight.
Plymouth regained some strength in the early 1970’s with the Valiant and Duster models, but Chrysler hit hard times in this decade, and neglected the division. Most models after the mid 1970’s were rebadged models, and never were popular with the public.
In 1993, Plymouth introduced a new concept car at the Detroit Auto Show. The emotional response the hot rod invoked was undeniable. The royally-hued Prowler had to be produced for customer sales. With headlight redesign and some bumper changes, the car debuted to dealers in July 1997. Pre-availability frenzy caused prices to jump as much as 100% above the $40,000 sticker. With its “Prowler Purple” paint and available pup trailer, the model will go down in auto history.
The Plymouth line ended in 2001, with the Plymouth Neon being the only model produced that last year.