The Leader of the Low-Price Field
Plymouth became the leader of the low-price field in the mid-1930s. The 1936 Plymouth frame was redesigned with half-inch deeper siderails (up to 5.5 inches), plus a straight front crossmember to replace the previous Y-brace, which allowed extending the X-member forward for greater torsional strength.
The 1935-1936 Plymouth models, including this
1935 Plymouth Deluxe, were a solid success.
Plymouth claimed these changes increased chassis rigidity by no less than 100 percent. Axles were enlarged, and the four-wheel semi-elliptic leaf springs were returned for better weight balance and fewer ride oscillations. A kick shackle was added to the left front spring to help absorb road shock, while rear spring shackles received "silent" rubber bushings.
The new chassis reduced ride height by one inch, which combined with updated styling for a somewhat sleeker look, announced by a taller, narrower "fencer's mask" grille. Body rigidity also improved with the addition of boxed A- and B-pillars, strengthened cowls, beaded fenders, diagonal cross girders in the front doors, and X-bracing behind the rear seat.
Plymouth's sturdy, reliable powertrain was basically unchanged, but a low-compression 65-bhp engine option was added, part of a package that also included the longer rear-axle ratio and other economy features of the previous PJE coupe.
Also new for '36 was a unique shift-lever design that didn't wobble when the car was in motion. Models and prices were much the same, but the Traveler sedan was dropped and the seven-passenger sedan was shortened to a 125-inch wheelbase. Also, each series got its own designation -- P1 for Business models, P2 for DeLuxes. Don Butler, in his book The Plymouth and DeSoto Story, says this was done by request of several state motor vehicle departments.
"Measured by all other cars ever before developed for the low-price field," proclaimed the 1936 sales brochure, "this . . . Plymouth is the peak of perfection. Never before has there been offered a car so fine in detail, so positively right in all its engineering. It is distinctive in styling. New beauty is apparent in every angle -- new radiator grille, ornament, headlamps and hood louvers -- new heavier fenders and more massive body -- all expressing greater value!" This year also introduced a new ad slogan -- "Plymouth Builds Great Cars" -- that would last well into the Fifties.
Plymouth certainly led the low-price field in several ways for '36. As Arch Brown noted in April 1998, Ford "offered nothing new apart from an exceptionally attractive facelift and a wider selection of body types; no seamless steel top, no independent front suspension, certainly no hydraulic brakes." Chevrolet finally matched Plymouth's hydraulic brakes, but still used wood-framed bodies and the trouble-prone Dubonnet independent front suspension.
While Chrysler would continue to push hard in the low-price field, buyers didn't always appreciate the innovations, and Plymouth would never rise beyond third in sales. Nevertheless, the 1935-36 models were a solid success that deserve credit for advancing the state of the art in "common man" cars.
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