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1959 Plymouth Sport Fury

The trunklid decor on the 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury was supposed to look like an outside spare tire.
The trunklid decor on the 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury was supposed to look like an outside spare tire.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Plymouth had roared back into third place in sales on the strength of its handsome 1957 models. Chrysler wanted to keep it there, so after detail changes for 1958, Plymouth received a more substantial restyling for the last iteration of its three-year design cycle, including the 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury.

As face-lifts go, the 1959 wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either, just different. Curiously, Sport Furys wore no identifying script, just a large circular crest above a broad swath of anodized aluminum on the rear flanks.

Chrysler design chief Virgil Exner had been taken with the idea of translating classic-era motifs to modern cars, and his first attempt appeared this year in a new Plymouth option: a trunklid appliqué that supposedly suggested an outside spare tire but looked more like a trash-can lid.

Chrysler laid on a lot of other gimmicks for 1959, and even Plymouth buyers could order an electronic headlight dimmer, self-dimming rearview mirror (unpopular then, but destined for greater success in its 1980s reincarnation) and, for convertibles and hardtop coupes, individual bucket seats that swiveled outward when a door was opened to assist entry/exit.

Mechanically, Plymouth mostly marked time for 1959. The ancient "PowerFlow" L-head six was in its final year and basically unchanged, V-8s began with the 318 first seen in the 1957 Fury, now producing 230 horsepower in base V-800 trim or 260 horsepower with optional "Superpak" four-barrel carb and dual exhausts.

A bore job took the top "Golden Commando" engine from 350 to 361 cubic inches, but horsepower remained 305 on the same 10.0:1 compression. Fuel injection, a brief and troublesome 1958 flirtation, was no more.

Plymouth belatedly joined Detroit's short-lived fling with air suspension by offering an optional rear-only setup for 1959. This used both air bags and lighter leaf springs, plus modified front-torsion-bar geometry. Installations are unknown, but couldn't have been significant.

And for about six years after 1959, neither was Plymouth. With 1960's all-new "Unibody" line began a dark period of oddball styling, abortive downsizing, sloppy workmanship, halting corrective measures, and disappointing sales. Not until the 1970s would Plymouth regain third place, and it didn't hold onto it for long.

The Sport Fury proved somewhat hardier: temporarily abandoned but reinstated for 1962 as the most youthful full-size Plymouth, which it remained through 1971, when Chrysler started playing name games again.

Check out specifications for the 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury on the next page.

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