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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

1963 Dodge

Dodge sales had been dismal for the past two years. Chrysler’s President Townsend hated what he saw coming down the pike for Dodge in 1963 and pulled the fire alarm.  Virgil Exner was fired and replaced by Elwood Engel, who had designed the 1961 Lincoln. The full-sized marque needed to be completely reimagined.   This vehicle would be a crash program. The design team rolled up its collective sleeves and got to it in the spring of  1961. Burning the candle at both ends, the revamp was complete by November—only 5 1/2 months. It set an industry record.  The 1963 Dodge was hot stuff.

Wheelbase was increased by 76 millimetres (3 inches) to 3 022 millimetres (119 inches).
The stunning front end was inspired by Virgil Exner, and wisely retained. His trademark was that the grille would 'smile'.  It was the designer's last corporate hurrah. The grille was bold.  A veritable stylized Niagara of chrome, six dramatic waterfall divisions cascaded. The eye-catching divisions  wore a precipice-look, convex crease near the leading edge of the hood. That line formed the illusion of the classic light bar, as it aligned perfectly to the centre of the headlights, which in turn, tunnelled into the fenders. Within each section, four chrome streams plunged to the bumper. Sister lamps rode in the grille below the light bar crease. The front bumper was a tasteful wrap-around affair, with a pronounced up-turned lip. Turn signal lights nestled discreetly in the bumper.

The side envelope was refreshingly crisp and uncluttered. Wheelbase was increased by 76 millimetres (3 inches) to 3 022 millimetres (119 inches). A raised beauty crease ran from the top of the fender-mounted headlamps and ended its journey in a kicked-up C-pillar. The revised pillar was enlarged greatly and tasteful reverse-slant numerals were embellished there.The butter knife-line ran from the leading edge of the front fender and jutted brashly forward to crown the headlights. Dramatically, it raked back to emphasize fleetness. Dodge script was enshrined in a black and chrome rectangle.

Not for Canadians, the Dodge 800 and Custom 800 were sold Stateside.
To pick up DeSoto fans after the brand was scrubbed, Dodge created a much larger  800 and Custom 800 based on the Chrysler platform. The latter two were not available to Canadians because there was a zero interest in land yachts. 

Chrysler Canada pioneered the industry’s  5-year, 50,000 mile warranty. That alone generated unprecedented foot traffic into dealerships. This season all Dodge automobiles were blessed with an alternator and an anti-smog closed crankcase ventilation system. The clutch was improved. Engineers further kissed each Dodge with front Torsion Bar Suspension--to hug the road, reduce sway when corning, minimize nose dives, dips and rear-end squats. “Hailed by experts as the finest ever fitted to a Canadian car, the Dodge ride is level, steady and sure-footed." 

Rambler pioneered deep-dip rust proofing.
Bodies were now of unitized construction. Taking its cue from industry pioneer, Rambler, the galvanized steel and stainless steel  shell was not only immersed into seven anti-corrosive baths, it was further sprayed with corrosion-proofing compounds. Road cancer was vanquished—or at least significantly delayed.  Every Dodge was reputed to be ‘tough and solid’.

All engines were built in Chrysler Canada’s new plant. Wordsmiths promised that a Dodge owner would “win an economy run or a green light Grand Prix” with its trio of power plants.” 

The 3.7-litre (225-cubic inch) Slant Six engine was standard. Rugged and thrifty, it displaced 108 Kilowatts (145 horsepower). It had “a built in grudge against gas pumps and an inbred love of the open road.”

The heart of the 5.1-litre (313-cubic inch) V-8  was its polyspherical combustion chamber. Even with a two-barrel carb setup, churning out 168 Kilowatts (225 horsepower),  it needed only regular octane gasoline. It promised to be the perfect V-8 “for the family man, equally at home on crowded city streets or the open highway.”

Rounding out the engine offerings, the unique-to Canada 6.3-litre (383-cubic inch) Hi-Performance Dodge V-8 boasted brawny four-barrel carburation matched with dual exhaust. That kicked horsepower up  to 246 kilowatts (330 horsepower).  Tongue in cheek, advertising warned, “It’s not the kind of engine we can honestly recommend for Aunt Matilda’s trips to the supermarket.” 

The manual transmission was a three-speed synchromesh design. Torque-Flyte automatics operated with Mechanic Push-Button ease.

Two dozen B-bodied Dodge models were built in Windsor; nary a one was imported. 

The base 220 models, all equipped with Chrysler’s famed slant-six engine, were the best selling of the Dodge bunch. Budget-conscious Canadians snapped up 6,004 of them. The two-door sedan cost $2,675, the four-door sedan listed for $2,739. Six-seat wagon cost $2,172 and the nine-seater was $3,299. Advertising emphasized the engineering features. Not a word was wasted on describing interiors. Front and centre was engineering. For $120 extra, the optional V-8 was a steal.

With a total of 3,130 units built, the  330 models with the durable slant-six  mill was the second best seller. It was ‘a happy choice for the family man’. Although Dodge was clearly a full-sized car, publicity reported that it pinched on gas like many a compact.  The four-door sedan cost $2,901. The two-door hardtop cost $2,958. The six-passenger wagon was $3,287. The nine-passenger hauler commanded $3,414. Once again, the V-8 was available for $120 more on the barrel head. 

The 440 series showcased Dodge’s classy and sassy glamour gals. This was the Dodge with impeccable good taste, good manners and breeding. 

Contemporary upholstery choices were described as being rich, lustrous fabrics. However, one could upgrade to vinyl upholstery that ‘looks and feels and wears like leather’. The luxurious, chair-high bucket seat package featured a locking centre console, “providing a home for cigarettes, sunglasses and other motoring paraphernalia.” Special emphasis was placed on the deep, plush carpet, reinforced to ‘stop ladies’ stiletto heels from piercing it’.

A two- and four-door hardtop were priced at $3,080 and $3,157, when equipped with the six-cylinder engine.  A convertible and a four-door sedan. The sedan listed for $3,070 and the price tag on the ragtop read $3,412. For a modest $180 more, one could step up to the V-8 power plant. Consumers bought 2,613 of the 440 models with the V8 option. Of that number, 1,208 of them were convertibles.

The instrument panel was smart-looking, informative, yet simple. Controls and different-sized circular dials were housed in a stylish trapezoidal pod that floated atop a concave panel. Push-button transmission was placed on the left, the heater buttons to the right. Below the pod was a chrome insert that ran two-thirds of the way across the instrument panel. It housed the radio, ignition and parking brake. At the right flank of the chromium panel, one found the glove box. Above it was the marque’s insignia.

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Options were as long as the Confederation Bridge. Add-ons included the bucket seat package and the TorqueFlite  push-button automatic transmission. Low Impact Power Steering, Power Brakes, Prismatic Flip-Type Mirrors, Cigar Lighter Padded Dash, the Music Master Radio, All-Vinyl Interiors, Sure-Grip Differential, Electric Clock, Back-Up Lights (standard on 440), Variable Speed Electric Wipers, Glare-Reducing Solex Windshield, Seatbelts, Whitewall Tires, Deluxe Wheel Covers, Windshield Washers, Lights for the trunk, glovebox and finally, parking indicator Lamps.

Sales were solid. Workers at Chrysler Canada built 17,431 Dodge cars for the calendar year for domestic sales and 148 units were exported. 

© James C. Mays 2018 All rights reserved.

Friday, May 4, 2018

1955 Plymouth

The 1955 Plymouth lineup was as different from the previous year’s offerings as Charlottetown is from Montréal. Internal office memos enthusiastically described it ‘a Plymouth like no other’. Suddenly, Plymouth was all glorious glitz and glamour. The sassy, seductive look was courtesy of Chrysler Corporation’s new stylist, the visionary Virgil Exner. Plymouth’s metamorphosis was under the direction of Exner’s protégé, Maury Baldwin. ’55 Plymouth, bigger, brighter, more beautiful than ever! And all new from roof to road,” was the fanfare.

Virgil Exner was one of the world's foremost automotive  designers.

A gifted designer, Exner held the firm belief that form and function were an inseparable couple—a notion that every engineer in the automotive industry despised. Exner successfully wrested power from the Engineering Department in order to turn his dreams into reality. The only thing held over from 1954 seemed to be the models’ names and possibly the air in the tires.

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The Plymouth styling team was given carte blanche to create a new model from the ground up. It took eighteen months in the studios for the magic to happen. First, the wheelbase jumped to 2 920 millimetres (115 inches), accompanied by a breathtaking 26-centimetre (10.3-inch) stretch in overall length. Rooflines were dramatically lowered and front tread was widened. Low-slung and sleek—even when standing still—its fluid lines continued to surge, teasing the eye with the air of eager power.

The tasteful Plymouth Belvedere Club Coupe, equipped with the eight-cylinder engine, cost $2,601.
Plymouth’s elegant face was extroverted. A simple but disarming convex-bowed bumper was graced with attractive bumperettes. Above that was home to the parking light/turn signals, enwrapped in a pair of  chrome bars that raced  from the fenders, nearly to the centre before taking a dramatic dip. Suddenly, the outer bars were joined together by a tie bar—sassed up with a series of sharply-vee’d  slender vertical bars—evoking the trendy and fashionable Remington razors. A line of chrome accented the lip of the hood and melded sweetly into chrome bezels where headlights shone under a tasteful, rakishly visored brow.

Crowning the hood was a modern interpretation of the good ship Mayflower, long associated with the saga of religiously-persecuted refugees, their arduous trek to the New World and finally, safe harbour at Plymouth Rock. 

The side view of the Plymouth began with that a fast cant in the front fender. It empowered an absolutely serene slab-side design. They eye floated lazily until encountering a riptide crease that arose above the rear wheel well. It raced at breakneck speed to the rear of the car. 

The wrap-around “Full View” windshield was new, as was the design of the push-button door handles. 

Most people would see the newest Plymouth, from the rear. Trunk space was upped to 957 cubic litres (33.8 cubic feet).
Taillights brooded from slick reverse-canted fenders. The Plymouth script was affixed to the lower right of the trunk lid while a bold vee-shaped medallion emblazoned its centre. With the grace and power of Niagara Falls, the trunk lid’s lines flowed effortlessly to a pronounced cove that rode above the rear bumper. 

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A masterful understatement of speed, Canadians could catch Plymouth fever in any of 24 models. “Opening the door of the Plymouth is like opening a fashion magazine! The very latest in fabrics and colours pick up and compliment the exterior tones. The artistry of Plymouth stylists has brought high fashion to the highway!” All Plymouths came with suspended pedals, replacing the through-the-floor arrangement in use since 1928.

This Plymouth Plaza Suburban wears optional full wheel covers.
Plaza docked on shore with a quintet of cuties. People were dazzled by the modest-mannered beauty. Sales reps enthusiastically trotted out their finest spiels. “Advanced styling, with its big-car air, this is the lowest priced car in the Plymouth line!” 

While it was the least expensive Plymouth in the harbour, it was hardly a plain Jane. The style was stunning; the lines stood head and shoulders above the competition, even without adornment. Ornamentation was limited to a chrome strip at the belt line and the identifying Plaza script placed forward of the front wheel well.  
The good ship Mayflower.

Canadian Plymouth Plazas were shod with dog dish hubcaps with the good ship Mayflower emblazoned in the centre. This was in contrast with  ChryCo’s American cousins, where Plaza models were dressed in full wheel covers.  Plazas were built both in Windsor, Ontario and the Lynch Road Plant in Detroit. 

The base model offered a trio of cabin colour compliments. Built in Windsor, Ontario, 6,487 Plaza 6s rolled out the doors. The Business Coupe  sold for $2,213, the Club Sedan listed at $2,296, the Four-door Sedan cost $2,353 and the Two-door Suburban was priced at  $2,646. 

 The Savoy Club Coupe was not offered in Stateside. The six-cylinder, five-passenger sedan carried a list price of  $2,232.

Savoy was moored at the mid-price dock. Built both in Windsor and minutes away, across the Detroit River in the Lynch Road plant, Savoy was a snappier dresser than Plaza.

More than a third of the Plymouth’s 1955 production was sold in Québec.

As modern as tomorrow, Savoy “had captured in metal, the buoyant spirit of youth!” Ad copy could rightly brag that the Savoy was designed with fleetness as its basic styling theme. 

Promising to ‘carry a houseful’, the 1955 Plymouth Savoy four-door, six-cylinder sedan cost $2,384.

Flowing, finely moulded contours were tastefully embellished with discrete touches of glistening chrome. There was no doubt that the car quivered with the over-all look of motion, even when the parking brake was on. The four-door Savoy with the six-cylinder engine was the marque’s single most popular model. Canadians parked 15,932 of them in their driveways and garages, nearly half
the factory output.
Although built in the US, the 1955 Plymouth Savoy Suburban was not offered there. Canadians could drive one home for $2,847.

The six-cylinder Special Club Coupe cost $2,553. Savoy owners could select among four upholstery choices.

The Plymouth Belvedere V-8 Convertible was imported from the US and was priced at $3,089.

Belvedere was the line’s dashing, dramatic flagship.  With a quintet of six-cylinder choices and a trio of V-8s, this posh and pretty Plymouth was created to seduce. Marketing boys warned in advance: “Hold on to your heart, or you’ll lose it for sure to this lovely car!” Vibrant colours and shining chrome enhanced Belvedere’s clean lines. the flagship was daring and dramatic. 

The all new Full-Flight instrument panel was harmoniously symmetrical,  with a cavernous glove box positioned in the centre, below the radio.

Interiors were hailed as being ravishing’ and ‘so very chic in their rich upholstery’.  Belvedere’s cabin wowed, clad in Black Magic Bouclé fabric adorned with Lurex, a new, glittering metallic thread. Another choice was Ship and Shield, a tapestry-look jacquard material, with Lurex sewn in.

The one-third/two-third seat split, featured in two-door Plymouths, granted easier entrances and exits.

Though the mills were still imported, V-8 Belvederes were now built in Canada. A total of 5,977 were shipped f.o.b. Windsor.  The Club Coupe came with  with a price tag of $2,469.  Four-door Sedans arrived on showroom floors at $2,662 each and Special Club Coupes—a.k.a.-the hardtop convertible, listed for $2,699. The Belvedere convertible cost $3,089 and the priciest Plymouth, the Four-door Suburban could be had for $3,130.

The Plymouth four-door, eight-passenger Suburban was imported from Detroit.

Rare in the auto industry, was a new body and a new engine at the same time. Plymouth was a rare exception. It was the last member of the Chrysler family to get a V-8.

Powered to give the dash of V-8 performance at its best, the Hy-Fire V-8 cranked out 125 Kilowatts.
Engineers outshone themselves with the Hy-Fire, a new polyspherical-cylinder head mill. Wordsmiths let everyone know, “There’s a fiery, high-spirited engine that translates the Belvedere’s look of speed into thrilling reality.”

Emblems for the 1955 Plymouth V-8 and the six.

Much lighter in weight than the previous hemi power plants and using a single rocker shaft for each bank of cylinders, it cost much less to manufacture. Repositioning the spark plugs between the intake and exhaust valves afforded increased efficiency in the open combustion chamber. 

Lifting up the hood, salesmen made their pitch.  “Here is the great new ‘heart’ of the brilliant Belvedere V-8 models.” With a compression ratio of 7.5 to 1, it promised peak efficiency on regular octane gasoline. The 4.2-litre ( 260-cubic inch) engine generated 124 Kilowatts (167 horsepower). 

The PowerFlow Special engine delivered quietness and speed.

Next was the PowerFlow Special. Described as ‘husky’, the L-head 6-cylinder power was declared to be exceptionally smooth and responsive. This engine was required for all Plaza and Savoy models equipped with the corporation’s  PowerFlite automatic transmission—a $215 upgrade.  It was standard equipment on the Belvedere 6 models. 

The modest PowerFlow Six benefited from new carburettor setup—one that offered more power under all driving conditions. This base power plant was found in all Plaza and Savoy models equipped with standard Synchro-Silent transmission or Overdrive.  Wordsmiths announced,  “Here is smooth economical power to give you the extra driving pleasure that stems from peak engine performance!”  The 3.7-litre (228 cubic inch) mill punched out 85 Kilowatts (115-horsepower).

On Plymouths equipped with the optional $215 PowerFlyte automatic transmission, the lever was moved from the steering column to the instrument panel.

Optional equipment included such niceties as Full-Time Power Steering, Power Brakes, the two-way electric seat adjuster, electric window lifts, two-speed electric wipers, safety belts,  a heater, a heavy-duty oil filter, a plastic steering wheel for the Savoy, turn signals and back-up lights for Plaza and Savoy models. Two-tone colour paint schemes were an extra-cost addition. 

The Plymouth Division of Chrysler Canada hit a record of 33,325 cars built in Windsor, for the model year. Three Plymouths were exported. Chrysler Canada production jumped from 18% of the domestic market in 1954 to $23% in 1955 model year. W. J Blais, of the Shipping Division, was Chrysler Canada’s tallyman. After signing off, he thoughtfully added a handwritten sentence at the bottom of his report. He soberly noted Ford Canada’s 110-day strike that lasted from October 10th, 1954 to February 4th, 1955.

On Dec. 28, 1955, records showed the corporation carried 11,287 employees on payroll and 1,143 dealers from St. John’s to Victoria. And the good times at ChryCo were just beginning.

(will give credit for this photo or remove it)

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© James C. Mays 2018 All rights reserved.