1936 Plymouth

Plymouth did even better business with its even better 1936 Plymouth models, which were substantially changed, but didn't look it.

Nineteen thirty-five was the first time since its mid-1928 debut that Plymouth sold a single basic design for a full season. The lineup began with 12 models and ended with 14, but all were designated PJ. At announcement time in January, there was a lower-priced series, simply called Plymouth Six, consisting of a two-passenger coupe, a two-door five-passenger sedan, and a commercial chassis.

The 1936 Plymouth touring sedan trunks had a more integrated look.
The 1936 Plymouth touring sedan trunks
had a more integrated look.


In February 1935 came lower-priced, detrimmed replacements as part of a new Business series that also included a five-passenger four-door sedan; a two-door five-passenger commercial sedan (with a removable back seat and a side-hinged rear cargo door); and the West­chester Suburban, a four-door wood-bodied wagon seating seven or eight. Prices ranged from $510 for the Business-series coupe to $765 for the wagon.

All but the commercial sedan and wagon were duplicated in the top-line DeLuxe series, which also offered a rumble-seat coupe seating two or four, a rumble-seat convertible coupe, the new two- and four-door five-passenger "trunkback" sedans, a seven-passenger four-door sedan, and a five-passenger version called Traveler. The last two used a special 128-inch wheelbase. Other models rode a 113-inch wheelbase. DeLuxe prices ran from $575 to $895.

All Chrysler Corporation cars in these years used essentially the same bodies and chassis, but with variations in wheelbases and sheetmetal to distinguish the company's four makes. Airflow styling had arrived for the 1934 DeSotos and Chryslers, but was so unpopular that ideas for Dodge and Plymouth versions were fast abandoned.

Seeking to recover for '35, Chrysler and DeSoto supplemented Airflows with more conventional Airstream models, and their general look was applied to Dodges and the PJ Plymouths (neither of which were called Airstreams, though). Accounts differ, but credit for this styling usually goes to Raymond Dietrich, cofounder of the famed LeBaron custom coachworks and hired as a Chrysler designer in late 1932 by Walter P. himself. Perhaps coincidentally, LeBaron was acquired in 1927 by Briggs Manufacturing Company, a major body supplier to Chrysler and other Detroit automakers.

A Plymouth promotional film extolled the PJ as "designed to be the smartest car in the parade," with "synchronicity of smart styling in the sleek radiator, fenders, hood, and graceful body lines." You might not think this car warrants such flowery words today, but 70 years ago, the PJ was quite something for the low-priced field.

As the top-line models, DeLuxes used chrome instead of paint for the headlight buckets, taillight bezel, and windshield surround, and most left the factory with body-color fenders. Vertical grille bars were painted body color. These trimmings were optional for Six and Business models, which were otherwise delivered with a black grille, headlamp shells, and fenders regardless of paint color.

All models had three thin horizontal chrome strips decorating the hoodside louvers. Sixes and DeLuxes added a row of five bright rings that made the spears appear to "float" over them.

Wheels were a steel "artillery" style with pinstriping. Standard tires were 6.00316s on DeLuxes, 5.25317s on other models. Twenty-inch wheels and tires were available for those who had to drive on deeply rutted roads. A spare tire with tube was optional for all models except the Business commercial sedan, where it was standard in a front-fender sidemount. Sidemounts were available for selected models except the new touring sedans, which concealed the spare within their built-in trunks.

Deluxe interiors were highlighted by a rich-looking woodgrain dash and window garnish moldings, plus knobs and horn button made of ivory-tone plastic. Two five-inch circular dials, well positioned behind a three-spoke steering wheel, used white markings and red-tipped pointers against black backgrounds. The left dial clustered four gauges -- water temperature, fuel level, oil pressure, and amperes -- around a quarter-dollar-size image of Plymouth's trademark Mayflower emblem. The right dial housed an odometer and 100-mph speedometer.

On coupes, convertibles, and touring sedans, the dials were separated by three nickel-plated vertical bars, an accent repeated on the glovebox doors. In the center of the dash were controls for the choke, throttle, instrument lighting, and headlamps, arrayed in a square around the ashtray. The ignition switch was centered slightly lower between the two light switches.

The more-spartan Business models had a tan-painted dash and moldings, a black horn button, and nickel-plated metal knobs. Their emergency-brake handle and steering-column support were also painted; DeLuxes substituted nickel plating.

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