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Plymouth Cars

Find information on the history of Plymouth cars.

There is an active market for the buying and selling of Plymouth classics. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
There is an active market for the buying and selling of Plymouth classics.

Plymouth cars have not been manufactured since 2001, but their memory lives on in the hearts of Plymouth collectors. Manufactured and marketed by Chrysler Corporation, later called DaimlerChrysler and currently called Chrysler LLC, Plymouth cars were produced for almost 75 years.

History of Plymouth Cars

The Plymouth brand was founded in 1928, but precursors of the brand date back to the early 1920s, when Chrysler founder Walter P. Chrysler gained control of the Maxwell-Chambers car company. Chrysler used the Maxwell-Chambers factories to build and launch Chrysler cars, which were actually re-branded Maxwell cars, beginning in 1924.

Four years later, the Plymouth brand was created to manufacture and market cars at a lower price point than Chrysler. Plymouth originally was intended to be Chrysler's first low-priced offering to compete with very popular cars being manufactured by Ford and Chevrolet. The first Plymouth, the Model U, was introduced in 1929. Even though Plymouth cars were initially priced slightly higher than the Ford and Chevrolet brands with which they were competing, the Plymouths stood out by offering standard external expanding hydraulic brakes, which the competitors did not.

During the Great Depression, Plymouth helped keep Chrysler in business with its lower prices. All three Chrysler divisions (Chrysler, Dodge and DeSoto) sold Plymouth cars beginning in 1930, and by the following year, Plymouth had become the third best-selling car in the United States.

Plymouth Gets Sporty, Grows and Ultimately Fades Away

According to Allpar.com, production of Plymouth's first open cars began in June 1928. "The first Plymouth roadster sold for $670 but after about a month's production the car was equipped with a rumble seat and the price was increased to $675. The rumble seat would be included on at least one of every open model until 1939. In addition to the roadster, a five-passenger phaeton was offered at a price of $695. It was the only Plymouth to feature a two-piece windshield."

At the 1939 World's Fair, Plymouth showed off its two-door roadster convertibles, which were the last Plymouth model to feature rumble seats. The cars were the first mass-production convertibles with power-operated folding tops. The roadster's 82-horsepower, 201-cubic-inch engine was a hit.

Plymouth remained one of the top-selling American automobiles throughout much of its history, jockeying with Ford in the 1940s for the no. 2 spot.

Through the mid-1950s, Plymouth had earned a reputation for affordable, durable cars with sound engineering. Later, the brand's reputation suffered due to occasionally sloppy assembly and rust problems. Those problems were compounded in the late 1950s and early 1960s by a lack of distinctive styling and competition from its sister division, Dodge. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, Plymouth enjoyed resurgence in popularity with its Valiant and Duster models.

Plymouth suffered from Chrysler's financial difficulties in the late 1970s, and the brand's sales continued to decline through the 1980s and 1990s. By the late 1990s, Plymouth was marketing only a handful of vehicles. Because Plymouth dealers also sold Chrysler cars, the decision was made in 1999 to discontinue the Plymouth brand. Discontinuing Dodge, by contrast, would have caused greater difficulties for the dealer network because Dodge dealers did not sell Chrysler or Plymouth cars.

According to CNN, when the Plymouth brand officially was discontinued, the remaining models were the Voyager and Grand Voyager minivans, which became products of Chrysler; the Breeze, which was discontinued; the subcompact Neon; and the hot-rod Prowler, both of which were built through the 2001 model year, then discontinued.

Plymouth Among Collectors

The 1935 Plymouth PJ is especially loved among automobile enthusiasts. Plymouth's Owners Club, Inc., dedicated to the 1935 Plymouth PJ, touts the changes made from the earlier versions, which were considered too "boxy."

Design changes also were made to the six-cylinder engine to include water jackets that ran the length of the cylinders. In addition, a water-distribution tube placed into the engine block behind the water pump enabled directional cooling. Enthusiasts describe this modification as particularly important because it helped to ensure that the valve seats and rear cylinders were properly cooled.

As far as the body of the car, the frame design was improved by increasing the number of body mounting points. This change, along with new spring technology that replaced independent front suspension, provided a much softer ride than previous Plymouth PJs.

The enthusiast's Web site also contains numerous details on the 1935 PJ, including factory photos, member photos, trivia and original 1935 advertising. It also includes detail on the restoration of 1935 Plymouths, including paint schemes, running changes, details on hardware, trim and firewalls, and serial numbers.

Plymouth Collector Cars for Sale

There is an active market for the buying and selling of Plymouth classics. Here are a few Web sites that list Plymouths for sale:

American Dream Cars
Collector Cars for Sale
Collector Car Ads
Car Corral.com

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