1957 Plymouth Fury

The effort to make the Plymouth Fury something special paid off in sales as well as showroom PR. Model year 1956 deliveries totaled 4,485 units, four times the number of Chrysler 300s or DeSoto Adventurers and a near two-to-one advantage over the Dodge D-500. Of course, the others were somewhat more expensive, while you could buy a Fury for under $3,000 -- base price was $2,866 -- which didn't hurt.

1957 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1957 Plymouth Fury had a wider and lower look than its predecessor.

But even better things were coming. For 1957 the corporate line was again fully redesigned -- at a cost of some $300 million -- under the direction of Virgil Exner, who had joined Chrysler in 1949 but had exerted only limited styling control to this point.

"Ex" was one of the few car designers whose name became a household word, through the vivid looks he brought to a company known for its conservative styling. He'd personally designed most of the famous Ghia-bodied Chrysler show specials, starting with the K-310 of 1951, and his handsome 1954 Imperial Parade Phaetons had influenced his 1955 Imperial, Chrysler, and DeSoto designs.

But Virgil backed into the 1955 Dodge and Plymouth. Asked by K.T. Keller what he thought of the early proposals for those makes, Exner had replied that they weren't worth a damn, and Keller took him literally.

The 1955-1956 Dodge thus ended up as the work of Ex and Maury Baldwin; the 1955-1956 Plymouth was by Ex and Henry King. Finally, for 1957, Exner had total executive control over the design of every Chrysler product. He altered them so dramatically and so well that Highland Park wrested the design initiative from GM, which played catch-up for a few years before regaining its traditional leadership role.

1957 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Despite the fins, the design of the 1957 Plymouth Fury seems surprisingly modern even today.

Unfairly, Exner is most remembered today for the tailfin, which grew to ridiculous size on some makes -- not all of them his -- by 1959. Yet the fact is that the tailfin was only one element in what he saw as a cohesive design theme.

His Plymouth was perhaps the most radically new 1957 Chrysler product of all, and most expressive of what the company called its "Forward Look." A daringly low beltline and acres of glass made it the most advanced car to date in those two respects. This Plymouth was also one of the first cars to bring hood and deck levels up even with the fenders, a relationship that still exists today.

"The most important thing about the 1957s," Virgil Exner, Jr., said, "was that they were sculptured. Today they don't look nearly as sculptured, but back then, the Ford and Chevy by comparison were fat-looking, and the Chrysler products were slim." Maury Baldwin added: "The fins were aerodynamic in the first concept -- we did quite a bit of aero work on them. Later they just became a styling thing."

At least there was no need to convince the ad writers. One 1958 Fury brochure described the fins as "directional stabilizers . . . wind-tunnel tested and proved to add materially to the new Fury's roadability by counteracting and minimizing the effect of crosswinds." Maybe so, but it's doubtful any driver ever noticed.

For information on the performance features of the 1957 Plymouth Fury, go to the next page.

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