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1969-1973 Plymouth

The full-size Plymouth in the 1960s faced some turbulence. Right off, it entered the decade facing a new, popular, and unwelcome internal rival, the Dodge Dart.

Plymouth Image Gallery

Plymouth designers sought to create a low but thick
Plymouth designers sought to create a low but thick
"armored car" appearance for their 1969-1973 line.
See more pictures of Plymouths.

Next, it suffered an ill-considered downsizing in 1962 when the wheelbase was chopped back to 116-inches, a mistake not rectified until 1965, when the wheelbase was enlarged to 119 inches. But by the time Plymouths got to be full-size again, the automotive landscape had changed radically.

Internal turmoil and subsequent restructuring within Chrysler had the dubious effect of making Plymouth and Dodge equivalent makes, leaving the two divisions to fight over roughly the same price and size segments of the market.

Thus, in addition to traditional rivals Ford and Chevrolet, Plymouth ended up competing with Dodge as well, not to mention an aggressive, split-grille, Wide Track Pontiac that rudely ousted Plymouth from its traditional number-three position in industry sales.

Expensive but successful restylings of the larger Plymouth in 1965, and again in 1967, helped Plymouth to secure a solid hold on fourth place in industry sales, thanks in part to Elwood Engel, Chrysler's vice president of styling.

Recruited from Ford in the fall of 1961, Engel had moved quickly to purge the company's cars of their unique but out-of-the-mainstream styling favored by the departed Virgil Exner. Vestigial fins and sculptural Valiant-like styling was replaced with the rectangular, "fill the box to the corners" automotive design favored by Engel. Fortunately for Chrysler, Engel's instincts proved correct; by 1967, the corporation was commanding a nearly 19-percent share of the automotive market.

The 1969 models gave Engel his third chance since 1965 to oversee the redesign of the corporation's full-size cars. Out of a tooling budget of $180 million for all four of the large "C-body" cars, $61 million was allotted to the big Fury.

Plymouth Fury designers hoped to continue the 1965-1968 vertical headlights for 1969, as seen on this February 24, 1966, mockup.
Plymouth designers hoped to use vertical headlights
for 1969, as seen on this February 24, 1966 mockup.

­Replacing the previous straight-edge design was a new more rounded look called "fuselage" styling, a construction in which the cross-car section of the body was said to resemble a similar section cut through the fuselage of a jetliner. The effect was further enhanced by increasing the curvature of the side glass.

Compared with 1965-1968, belt lines were raised, resulting in taller body-sides below the belt and narrower windows above. The new Plymouths had a much more massive look, but the cars were in fact bigger, riding on a one-inch longer wheelbase of 120 inches and, at 214.5 inches, adding 1.5 inches of overall length. Suburban station wagons retained their 122-inch platform, but grew up to 3.1 inches overall. Width grew as well, from 78 to 79.6 inches.

Plymouth's interpretation of Chrysler's corporate "fuselage" styling theme presented many challenges to designers. At the same time, product planners were wrestling with how to properly work levels of performance and luxury into cars for a changing market.

For more on the 1969 Plymouth's styling, continue on to the next page.

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