1956-1958 Plymouth Fury


Once the weak sister of sports-car companies, Plymouth jumped into the performance field for 1956 with its limited edition Plymouth Fury that did nothing but get better for 1957 and 1958. The first Furys were the plushest and most potent Plymouths of the decade. Today, they're coveted for their high style, low production, and great go.

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1956 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1956 Plymouth Fury helped Plymouth get into the performance-car game. See more classic car pictures.

Chrysler Corporation chairman Kaufman Thuma Keller previewed his company's all-new 1955 models shortly before they went into production. At the Plymouth studio he saw a clay model unlike any previous Plymouth, with sleek lines, peaked fenders, and a clean bar grille. Stylists told him they thought it was pretty good. "It'd better be," old K.T. shot back. "We can't afford another mistake."

Keller admitted that he was partly responsible for Chrysler's styling inertia in the years following World War II. For the company's first post-war redesign of 1949, he'd insisted on cars "tall enough to get into while wearing a hat," and he got them.

Styling wasn't too crucial during the unprecedented seller's market of the late-1940s, but once competition toughened and Ford launched its 1953 sales blitz, Chrysler products were perceived as dumpy and outdated. Bread-winning Plymouth took a sales beating in 1954. Calendar year volume totaled only 399,000 units, a disappointing fifth-place finish that marked the first time since 1930 that Plymouth had not been number three.

But Keller could relax. The 1955 Plymouth was no mistake, and neither was its finned 1956 successor. Entirely restyled and available with Plymouth's first V-8, they were dramatically new, colorful, handsome, and quick.

Plymouth duly claimed fourth in industry production for both years, then regained third place in 1957. Its sister makes did equally well. Today, however, historians remember banner 1955 mainly for the rejuvenation it brought Chrysler Corporation.

A key figure in a more recent Chrysler rejuvenation, Lee Iacocca, has pointed out that once you're selling standard stuff at a good clip, you're allowed to have fun. For Iacocca, fun began with the reborn convertible. For Chrysler in the mid-1950s, fun meant high performance.

The company had introduced its hemispherical-head V-8 for 1951. Just four years later, this mighty engine was powering the first of the great Chrysler 300s, which quickly dominated NASCAR and AAA stock-car competition. The 300s allure was a big plus in the showroom, where it prompted many buyers to plump for a Windsor or New Yorker.

This sales value naturally encouraged other divisions to think similar thoughts, and each had a limited-production, high-performance special available for 1956. Dodge offered the D-500 option for any model in its lineup, while DeSoto added the Adventurer hardtop coupe and Plymouth fielded the Fury. The last outsold all its high-power stablemates combined.

Keep reading to learn more about the 1956 Plymouth Fury.

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1956 Plymouth Fury

Introduced at the Chicago Automobile Show on January 10, 1956, the Plymouth Fury was as exciting as anything Plymouth had put out in some time. Though it shared the same body used for the ordinary Savoy and Belvedere two-door hardtops, it sported several distinctive styling features that set it apart decisively.

1956 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1956 Plymouth Fury was essentially the same body as the Belvedere.

On the outside was one-tone eggshell white paint, set off by a full-length bodyside sweepspear with a gold-anodized aluminum insert. Anodized gold also decorated the grille center and the special "spoke" wheel covers. (The latter interchanged with those of the DeSoto Adventurer, except that the hubs were plain on the Plymouth Fury, monogrammed "DeS" on the Adventurer.)

Inside was eggshell vinyl upholstery with black jacquard inserts. On the sharply finned 1956 hardtop body, all this looked rather dashing indeed. But what really made the Plymouth Fury memorable was what happened when you floored its accelerator.

In addressing Fury performance, Plymouth engineers did not soup up an existing V-8 like Ford and Chevy. They deemed their 277-cubic-inch polyspherical-head engine too small and decided against taking any chances with superchargers or fuel injection.

Unexpectedly, they also shunned using one of the corporate hemis, though it's not known whether this was out of choice or because other divisions wouldn't cooperate. What they did do was choose an engine from across the river: the 303-cid poly-head V-8 from the Canadian Chrysler Windsor and Dodge Royal. The 303 was a prime pick, because it was right at the top of the displacement limit for NASCAR Class 5 (259-305 cid).

1956 plymouth fury instrument panel
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1956 Plymouth Fury's instrument panel.

To this basic block the engineers applied a high-lift cam, solid lifters, domed pistons, a four-barrel carb, free-flow dual exhausts, and 9.25:1 compression. The result was 240 horsepower, about .8 horses per cubic inch. (It's a comment on the pace of the 1950s "horsepower race" that Chevrolet achieved a full 1.0 horsepower per cubic inch just one year later, though the 1956 Chrysler 300B also managed that magic mark, with optional high-compression heads.)

To handle the extra poke, the Fury was equipped with heavy-duty springs and shocks, jumbo Dodge brakes of 11-inch diameter, wide 7.10 x 15 tires, and a front anti-sway bar. Putting it on the road was a heavy-duty three-speed manual transmission with beefed-up clutch. Optional was Chrysler's two-speed PowerFlite automatic, now with pushbutton control.

While other 1956 Plymouths looked pretty high-sided, the Fury hunkered down on its well-damped suspension an inch closer to the road. It was visibly different and looked like it meant business.

The Fury may have looked nice, but how did it perform? Go to the next page to find out.

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1956 Plymouth Fury Performance

The 1956 Plymouth Fury looked exciting on the showroom floor, but car enthusiasts wanted to know how it performed where it really mattered.

1956 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1956 Plymouth Fury nearly set a record at Daytona Beach's annual Speed Week.

But if anybody doubted that "business" was exactly what Plymouth intended, they had only to read about the exploits of a pre-production 1956 Fury that ran on the sands of Daytona Beach, Florida, on the same day the new model was being shown in Chicago.

Driven by Phil Walters, fresh from campaigns with the Chrysler-powered Cunningham racers, it blasted through the flying mile at 124 mph, with a best one-way speed of 124.611 mph, and covered the standing mile at 82.54
mph -- extraordinary for a near-stock passenger car weighing 3,650 pounds. (The only nod to streamlining was masking off the headlamp housings and removing the wheel covers.)

The new Fury looked like a sure winner at the Daytona Speed Weeks in February, but NASCAR regulations intervened. Plymouth was informed that the Fury did not qualify for the Stock class because it had not been in production the required 90 days. The only alternative was to run it as a Factory Experimental against what promised to be rather more serious competition.

Plymouth gave it a try, fitting a higher-lift cam, new heads with close to 10:1 compression, and a Chrysler manifold carrying twin four-barrel carbs. On its first run, this modified Fury scorched through the traps at 143.596 mph, but a faulty fuel cap created a tank vacuum that starved the car for gas on the return trip, when Walters fell short of 130 mph.

In any case, the Plymouth Fury would have been beaten: A Mercury prepared by Bill Stroppe soon turned in a 147.26 mph average in the same class. Nevertheless, it was an impressive performance.

1956 plymouth fury dual exhausts
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Features such as dual exhausts helped the 1956 Plymouth Fury exceed performance expectations.

But what would a Fury do right off a dealer's lot, with no streamlining tricks or razor-edge tuning by factory experts? Surprisingly, the answer was almost as well.

Motor Trend magazine's example, "Though no Daytona car . . . still clocked a furious 114 mph on its 3.73 axle; the not-too-precise Fury tachometer was registering 4,400-4,600 rpm. Plymouth engineers suggested that with a longer run, we would have nudged it nearer to 118-120 at 4,900 rpm."

MT
's test car did the 0-60 mph dash in 9.5 seconds and the standing quarter-mile at 83.5 mph in 16.9 seconds. It rode about as well as any Belvedere but had less pitch over bumps and less body roll, which translated into more accurate steering.

The editors felt certain Fury features were obvious afterthoughts. The tach was shoveled under two small gauges where a knob and the ignition switch were located on standard Plymouths, and you needed orangutan arms to reach the relocated ignition. On the whole, though, this was one capable and fast road car.

Continue to the next page to read about the 1957 Plymouth Fury.

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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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1957 Plymouth Fury Performance

Like the 1956 model, the 1957 Plymouth Fury arrived slightly behind the rest of the line, and Plymouth retained a limited production schedule for it. Exner retained the previous off-white and gold color scheme, and it looked better than ever on the much sleeker new body.

He removed the anodized gold from the wheel covers, which were now just slightly modified stock units, and applied it instead to the entire grille. Bumper extenders, optional on lesser Plymouths, were standard on the Fury, which added 1 1/2 inches to overall 1957 length.

1957 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1957 Plymouth Fury was touted for its sleeker body.

Like its lesser linemates, the Fury rode a three-inch longer (118-inch) wheelbase and measured a startling 5.5 inches lower. Wheel diameter shrunk an inch, and tire size increased to 8.00 x 15.

As before, optional equipment included "Full-Time" power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, electric seat and windows, whitewalls and, though not prominently advertised, dealer-installed seatbelts. Standards included two-tone steering wheel, variable-speed electric wipers, padded dash and sun-visors, foam-rubber seat cushions, and a "sweep-second self-regulating watch."

1957 plymouth fury interior
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
1957 Fury interiors featured a custom instrument panel and two-tone steering wheel.

But once more, the big news was mechanical. The Plymouth Fury now bored the Canadian 303 to 318 cubic inches (bore and stroke: 3.91 x 3.31 inches) and fitted dual four-barrel carbs. Retained from 1956 were the high-compression heads, domed pistons, free-flow dual exhausts, high-lift cam, and heavy-duty valve springs.

Dubbed "V-800," this powerplant delivered a hefty 290 horsepower and 325 lbs/ft peak torque. (Incidentally, it was also an option for any 1957 Plymouth from high-line Belvedere down to detrimmed Plaza, which made the latter quite a Q-ship and inspired a neat ad at the expense of Chevy.)

Icing on the 1957 cake was provided by what would prove to be one of the finest automatic transmissions in industry history, Chrysler's new three-speed TorqueFlite. Still with pushbutton control, it pulled a 3.36:1 rear axle in the Plymouth Fury, with other ratios available for both it and the standard heavy-duty "three-on-the-tree."

1957 plymouth fury transmission
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Pushbuttons controlled the Fury's TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission.

On top of all this was Chrysler's new corporate-wide torsion-bar independent front suspension. A solid improvement on the old setup, it provided effortless high-speed cruising, competence on rough surfaces, and a new level of handling precision. Plymouth was easily the best-handling of the "Low-Priced Three" this year.

With its heavy-duty suspension components, the Plymouth Fury was exceptional. "The Fury will power through hard turns, can be drifted by a true believer," wrote Motor Trend editor Joe Wherry. "The only handling minus was the lack of self-centering action inherent in the power steering system, but the fast steering (a shade under 3 1/2 turns lock to lock) allowed quick corrections."
While any well-driven Plymouth Fury could show its heels to a fuelie Chev or a standard Ford on a winding road, what everybody wanted to know about was straightline performance. The Fury had it.

Wherry's test car leaped from 0 to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, though admittedly with the benefit of stickshift. He guessed a well-broken-in example would do that in eight seconds flat, and estimated top speed at 120 mph. "For the ordinary driver, this car is a potential handful," he confessed.

Though the Fury's base price was still under $3,000, most 1957s went out the door at around $3,500 (Belvedere V-8 hardtops cost only $2,449). Nevertheless, there still appeared to be a sizable market for this premium flyer, because model year production was 7,438, the three-year high for the Fury as a separate offering.

Plymouth perhaps overdid things by running ads in which sporting gentlemen were shown sipping Scotches before a fire-place, with a painting of the 1957 hung over the mantel. But make no mistake: the division did have a very special car here.

The Fury's main problem was common to most every car Chrysler built that season: susceptibility to the dreaded tinworm. Rust claimed a high number of the 1957s -- and 1958s, too -- one of the reasons so few survive today.

Sadly, the Fury was only destined to last one more year. Keep reading to learn about the last Fury model.

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1958 Plymouth Fury

Stylewise, the 1958 Plymouth Fury was a repeat of the 1957, except for the newly legalized quad headlamps, a tube grille with matching under-bumper stone shield, and smaller "lollipop" taillights. Again it had the distinctive gold/white color scheme, with the sweepspear slightly modified at the rear, but wheel covers were now stock issue. Base price rose to $3,067.

1958 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Production bugs and high price precluded volume sales of the 1958 Plymouth Fury.

The V-800 returned at its previous 290 horsepower, but it was now the standard V-8 across the board, rated at 225 horsepower with a quarter-point drop in compression (to 9.00:1) and minus the 290 version's hop-up goodies. As before, the Fury's "power pack" engine was available for any 1958 Plymouth.

Optional for all models, including Fury, was a new 350-cid wedge-head V-8. Called "Golden Commando," it pumped out 305 or 315 horsepower -- the latter via fuel injection -- making this the fastest Fury yet. The typical 315-horsepower example would clock 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds and turn the standing quarter-mile in 16 seconds flat at close to 90 mph.

Unfortunately for those who had come to love this unique driver's Plymouth, 1958 was the last year for the limited-edition Plymouth Fury. The national economic recession that occurred that year was severe, and Plymouth suffered like most every other make. Model year sales dropped by about 300,000 units, of which only 5,303 were Furys.

1958 plymouth fury engine
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The 1958 Plymouth Fury featured a Golden Commando V-8 engine.

Since this was essentially a sportier Belvedere hardtop with some relatively inexpensive modifications, it didn't make much corporate cogitating to capitalize on the Fury name, if not the concept. The result was a new "standard" Fury series for 1959, displacing Belvedere at the top of the line but offered in the same full range of body styles, plus a new Sport Fury hardtop coupe and convertible, the true successor to the 1956-1958 original.

In common with other models, the Sport Fury was heavily face-lifted, came with conventional torsion-bar suspension and in any color you liked (but no gold sweepspear), and offered optional swivel seats and "Highway Hi-Fi" record player. A 260-horsepower 318, optional on lesser models, was standard, and more spirited acceleration was available from a new 361 Golden Commando V-8 with 305 horses.

The Sport Fury was a distinctive car, but it wasn't quite the thoroughbred the 1956-1958 Plymouth Furys were and it didn't last. The subseries was dropped for 1960, when you could buy a four-door Fury sedan with a six-cylinder engine.

Check out the specifications of the 1956-1958 Plymouth Fury on the next page.

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1956-1958 Plymouth Fury Specifications

The demise of the limited-production Plymouth Fury was more the result of the 1958 recession than the Automobile Manufacturers Association's infamous decision to "discourage" the use of competition results in advertising. The AMA "ban" came down with a clang shortly after Daytona 1957 -- which is probably just as well, because the Plymouth Fury had not done well at the industry's last formal speedfest.

1957 plymouth fury
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Due to their susceptibility to rust, few Plymouth Furys survive today.

Although Wally Parks of Hot Rod magazine won the Experimental class flying mile in one, the car had a Chrysler engine with Hilborn fuel injection. The Stock class was a Chevrolet parade, with the best car scoring 118.460 mph in the flying mile (notably, 5.5 mph slower than the 1956 Fury's unofficial run).

Even without the "ban," the Fury would not have been seen very often once its engine was extended to the lesser but lighter Plymouths. The factory's stock-car team would have used the bare-bones Plaza two-door, and some independents actually did.

Thus, Chrysler's decision to make the Fury a higher-volume product was a logical move from the publicity standpoint.

For collectors, the great gold-and-white rockets of 1956-1958 have appeal not only as the first but also as clearly the best Furys. Whether these high-strung machines are going to be permanently happy on unleaded gasoline is an unanswered question, but they'll need lots of fuel in any case.

Nevertheless, the Fury's place in Chrysler history is as secure as its place in our affections, and that counts for a lot.

Check out the following charts to see more about the Plymouth Fury's specifications.

1956-1958 Plymouth Fury Basic Specifications


1956 1957
1958
Production4,485 7,438
5,303
Price (new)
$2,866 $2,925 $3,067
Wheelbase (in.)
115.0 118.0 118.0
Overall Length (in.)
204.8 206.0
206.0
Overall Width (in.)
74.6
79.4
79.4
Overall Height (in.) 58.8
53.5
53.5
Curb Weight (lbs) 3,650
3,595
3,510
Wheels (dia. x width, in.) 15 x 5.50
14 x 6
14 x 6
Standard Tires 7.10 x 15
8.00 x 14
8.00 x 14
Front Suspension Independent; unequal length A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar. Independent; upper and lower control arms, longitudinal torsion bars.
Rear Suspension Live axle on longitudinal leaf springs. Live axle on longitudinal leaf springs.
Brake Type F/R drum/drum drum/drum
drum/drum
Brake Diameter F/R (in.) 11.0/11.0 11.0/11.0
11.0/11.0
Brake Lining Area (sq. in) 173.5 184.0
184.0
Steering Type worm & roller
worm & roller
worm & roller
Note: All Models Hardtop Coupes
Sources: Chrysler Corporation; Langworth, Encyclopedia of American Cars 1930-1980

1956-1958 Plymouth Fury Drivetrain Specifications


1956 1957-1958
1958
Type ohv V-8 ohv V-8
ohv V-8
Bore x Stroke (in.) 3.81 x 3.31
3.91 x 3.31
4.06 x 3.38
Displacement (cu. in.) 303
318
350
Compression Ratio (:1) 9.25
9.25
10
Carburetion (bbl. x #) 4 x 1
4 x 2
4 x 2 (a)
Horsepower @ rpm 240@4,800 290@5,400
305@5,000 (a)
Torque @ rpm (lbs/ft) 310@2,800
325@4,000 (b)
370@3,600
Standard Transmission 3-sp. manual
3-sp. manual
3-sp. manual
Standard Final Drive (:1)
3.73
3.73
3.73
Optional Transmission 2-sp. auto (c) 3-sp. auto (d)
3-sp. auto (d)
Optional Final Drive (:1) 3.73
3.36 (e)
3.315
(a): Fuel injection optional: factory claimed no extra horsepower, but some sources list 315 horses. (b): Rated 330 lbs/ft. (c): PowerFlite. (d): Pushbutton TorqueFlite. (e): 2.93, 3.15, 3.54, 3.90, 4.10 available.
Sources: Chrysler Corporation; Langworth, Encyclopedia of American Cars 1930-1980

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