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Looking to take a bite out of the lower end of the medium-price field, Ford debuted its luxury-oriented LTD for 1965.
Plymouth's smaller big cars measured 202 inches overall, compared to 209.3 inches for the standard Ford, which measured 119 inches between the wheels. Plymouth's 116-inch stretch seemed a dramatic -- and unnecessary -- departure, for by 1962 the 1958 recession was only a memory and big-car buyers insisted on big cars. And, of course, fuel economy didn't have quite the importance it does today.
Though Plymouth's intent might have been noble, the result was a car line that was shunned by both compact and full-size car buyers. And again, out-of-step styling alienated many. However, it was this year that Plymouth set the record for the fastest speed by a stock-bodied car at the Bonneville Time Trials; a modified Plymouth hit an astounding 190 miles per hour. But few noticed or cared about Plymouth's athletic abilities -- output slipped to eighth place.
Elwood Engel, who had replaced Virgil Exner as Chrysler's chief designer in 1961, tried a quick fix to give the 1962 bodies more conventional styling for 1963. Straight lines replaced curves, bulges were planed smooth, and overall length grew to 205 inches. The public approved. Plymouth built about 150,000 more cars, nearly half a million in total, and regained fourth place.
In 1964, Plymouth was lengthened again, to 206.5 inches. Output rose by another 50,000 units, to 551,633, though Plymouth had to be content with another fourth place finish, behind Pontiac.
Obviously, as the cars grew, so did sales. This lesson, which Dodge had learned when it rushed the big Chrysler-based Custom 880 to dealers in mid-1962, caused Plymouth officials to plan for a true full-size car for 1965. They no doubt had visions of skyrocketing sales, which would help the division recapture its traditional third-place industry standing. The Plymouth revival was on, and 1965 would see its first big blossom.
On the next page, read about Plymouth's 1965 Fury I and Fury II.
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