After such a large and expensive effort the year before, the 1970 Plymouth was merely face-lifted. Yet the changes made a striking difference. To the betterment of the entire car, fronts and rears received the most attention.
The 1970 Sport Fury S/23 was the big
Plymouth's 'starter' muscle car.
In place of the board-straight front end of 1969, the 1970 Plymouths sported a new loop-style front bumper with tall ends that jutted ahead of the hood, creating a pleasing and different plan view.
Styled by Neil Walling -- then a beginning co-op student, but destined to become vice-president for design -- the bumper's plan view resembled the arc of a bow.
"Elwood wanted a peak line [a sharp break] in the center," Clayton remembers. "He'd come in to the studio and draw a center line peak in the clay, but I didn't want to do it. So we didn't. Eventually, he gave up asking."
The stacked lamps originally preferred for the 1969 weren't considered, says Clayton, because the bumper standards ruled them out. Basically, since the height required for vertical headlights would have resulted in weaker-than-desired bumper ends, the headlights had to remain horizontal. Faced with this reality, the studio came up with something better -- it hid the lamps.
On Sport Fury and Sport Suburban models, headlights were concealed behind a recessed, blacked-out grille texture, accented by an offset red, white, and blue medallion. Amazing -- hidden headlamps on a Plymouth!
Clayton admits he and Macadam pushed hard for the look the studio wanted, but obviously someone must have loosened the divisional purse strings. Of course, competitive pressures helped. Pontiac added concealed lamps on the Grand Prix for 1967-1968, as did Chevrolet on its 1969 Caprice, as did Mercury on the 1969 and beyond Marquis/Marauder lines. Even Ford jumped aboard with its 1968-1970 LTD and XL.
Of course, the real competition came from Dodge, which had introduced hidden headlamps on the 1966 Charger. If the Dodge boys over the wall could come up with the money for hidden lamps, why not Plymouth?
Clayton attributes much of the success in upgrading the 1970 Plymouths to a man he still characterizes as "the world's greatest product planner," Gordon Cherry. The close rapport between Clayton and Cherry would soon pay even bigger dividends.
Whatever the cost, the loop bumper and disappearing lamps together made a truly handsome ensemble. Even the exposed lamps on lesser Furys looked good, tucked inside the loop bumper in a field of bright horizontal grille bars.
Out back, the rear was also given a loop bumper complete with integral horizontal taillights. Both front and rear bumpers seemed to "float" between the hood (or deck lid) and the body color valence panels below. The loop bumpers and hidden lamps went a long way toward giving the big Plymouths the look to which the stylists originally aspired.
Hoods sported muscular, parallel bulges while a color-keyed, vinyl-filled molding was added to Fury III and Sport Fury bodysides. In another small styling victory, the deck lid's key-lock cylinder was moved to an off-center location over the right-side taillight and tucked inside a rectangular series medallion.
Clayton was jubilant. "I raged against the 'belly buttons,' as I called the exposed, center-mount key cylinders. And Mac endorsed the offset idea because it might encourage owners to access the trunk from the [safer] curb side."
To learn more about the 1970 Plymouth lineup, continue on to the next page.
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