Inasmuch as the 1972 Plymouth line was entering its fourth model year with the same basic bodies, much more money was allotted to freshening the cars for 1972, indeed enough money to change nearly every panel on the car.
With the Sport Fury retired, the 1972 Plymouth
Gran Coupe was the new top of the Plymouth line.
While the 1972 Furys were being completed, Clayton was transferred to the Imperial Studio. His place as C-body styling manager was taken by Pete Loda, who finished the 1972s and then headed the styling efforts on the 1973s.
A new and ambitious loop bumper graced the front, comprised of twin, open-loop rectangles joined by a smooth, recessed center section. The rectangular openings were filled with horizontally split grillework on exposed-lamp cars, recessed bright vertical bars in hidden-headlamp models.
An open rectangle stamped into the new bumper's center section housed the Plymouth nameplate, a neat touch. The result was a good-looking, even striking, front end (especially with hidden lamps). The hood stamping was of course new to accommodate the fresh design.
Rears were fitted with yet another new bumper. The same formula of short and long versions of horizontal taillights was employed, this time with the license plate relegated to the valence panel where it had last been in 1970.
Sheetmetal was entirely new, smoother and much more highly styled. The fussy breaks and sharp crease lines on the body sides were replaced by a long, supple horizontal "bone line" that ran the whole length of the car from the top of the front bumper. The look was clean, neat, and tasty, though the bone line was often obscured by a vinyl-filled molding.
To appreciate what was really unusual in the new design, one only had to look at the rear quarters. On four-door sedans and hardtops, the quarter panels below the bone line dropped nearly vertical, compared with the inward-sloping sides of the lower body forward of the rear wheel.
The two disparate surfaces were joined at a rakish angle, swept back in side view, from the bone line to the rear wheel opening. This workout added a lot more verve to the bodyside, eliminating the extruded look of previous years. But it was with the two-door cars that Plymouth stylists really got inventive.
Body sides of the formal two-door hardtops mimicked the look of the four-door cars. But the rear quarters of the sportier regular hardtops were quite different. While the metal over the rear wheel also dropped vertically, the sheetmetal aft of the rear wheel mimicked the inward slope of the body forward of the rear wheel, creating an upside-down trapezoid.
As C-body styling manager, Clayton pushed hard for the tricky quarters, recalling how hard modeler Del Holliday worked with designers Walling and Schimmelphen to track the highlights on the clay model. Combined with the lower fender skirt, the creative quarters made the car look especially low and slinky. At last, Plymouth stylists had achieved what they had failed to achieve in the 1969 model: the hunkered down, "lead sled" custom look.
But clever as it undoubtedly was, the workout wasn't universally admired. Some of the buying public just didn't get it. Clayton remembers that the company "got too many comments about 'bashed-in' quarter panels right from day one." Despite the negative comments, the more controversial styling of the regular hardtops proved more popular than the tamer formal variants.
For more on the 1972 Plymouth lineup, see the next page.
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