Top-10 favorite Plymouths: Sound and Fury

In the spirit of ESPN and Hamilton, we continue our series, this time featuring favorite Plymouths

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Petty Plymouth seemed almost redundant during the heyday of NASCAR racing | Zach Catanzareti photo

Inspired by ESPN’s recent promotion of the debut of the Broadway musical Hamilton on Disney+, we’ve presented our twist on the Sports Center Top-10 with our Top-10 Favorite Fords, Top-10 Favorite Chevrolets and Top-10 Favorite Dodges.

Since no one has told us we have to stop this exercise of automotive and popular-culture whimsy, we continue today with our Top-10 favorite Plymouths:

10. Plymouth Rock (the rock) — Likely every child in the U.S. has learned during elementary school the tale of the arrival in December 1620 of the Mayflower and its Pilgrim passengers on the rocky coast of what would become Massachusetts.  

9. Plymouth Rock (the chicken) — First identified in Boston in 1849, the Plymouth Rock reportedly is the most popular breed of domesticated chicken in the U.S., where it is raised for its brown-shell eggs (the chickens themselves come in a variety of 7 colors) and for its meat.

Voyager III was a concept for a vehicle for 3 or for as many as 8

8. Plymouth Voyager III — This 1990 concept was two vehicles in one. The front section looked like an abbreviated minivan and was designed to carry as many as 3 people on around-town errands. Need to take the entire family and a few friends? Simply attach the larger rear seating section with room for 5 more people. Each half had a 4-cylinder engine, so combined you had 8 cylinders and all-wheel drive when combined.

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7. Plymouth red-bellied cooter — This was the first freshwater turtle placed on the endangered species list for the U.S. It is native only to Plymouth County, Massachusetts, but has been established in other areas of the state to keep it from extinction.

Pronto Spyder would have given Plymouth a Miata-style roadster

6. Plymouth Pronto Spyder — A hit on the auto show circuit in 1998, the Pronto Spyder was a 2-seat roadster concept with a mid-mounted and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual gearbox and a plastic body with retro styling that featured swoopy, curved fenders and a sharply creased and integrated rear spoiler.

5. Plymouth, Indiana — From Plymouth township, North Dakota, with fewer than 50 people to Plymouth, Minnesota, with around 75,000, the Boston Globe reports there are more than 2 dozen towns, cities and townships named Plymouth scattered across the U.S. They have various claims to fame and quaintness, but only one, Plymouth, Indiana, can claim to be the home of the very first brick-and-mortar department store established by mail-order company Montgomery Ward.

So what if the song long outlived the car?

4. Plymouth Volare — I was leaning toward the Plymouth Valiant, because of the way it successfully carried a classic design despite being a compact car. But I’m opting for the Plymouth Volare, not because it was remarkable as a car but because it took its name from the song Volari, inspired, said its creator, by Marc Chagall artwork. The song won one of the first Grammys (in 1959) and was made popular in the U.S. by the likes of Dean Martin, and then by Bobby Rydell, and more recently, and with  a “hot Latin” beat, by the Gipsy Kings (and, yes, that’s Penelope Cruz in the video). 

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Hell hath no fury like a Plymouth Fury that demands respect | Columbia Pictures
Hell hath no fury like a Plymouth Fury that demands respect | Columbia Pictures

3. Plymouth Fury — In production from the 1956 through the 1989 model years, the Plymouth Fury (or some years badged as the Sport Fury or even Gran Fury) was the full-size flagship of the Plymouth fleet. Tall rear wings gave way to scooped-out rear quarter panels in the early 1960s. Several other styling evolutions would follow. A 425 horsepower, 426cid “Wedge” V8 engine was among the powerplants propelling the Fury to live up to its name. Fury coupes were racy; sedans were popular as patrol cars with police departments. The ’65 Fury served as the pace car for the Indy 500. A ’58 Fury came to life as Christine in Stephen King’s frightening 1983 novel and subsequent movie.

2. Petty Plymouths — From 1959 through 1971, well, except for some races in 1969, Richard Petty drove his No. 43 Petty-blue Plymouth to 3 NASCAR championships and to 139 of his record 200 Grand National or Winston Cup race victories. Of his more than 1,100 starts in NASCAR’s top division, 515 were in Plymouths (and nearly another 200 more were in Dodges after Chrysler switched its stock car racing to that brand). Even in 1965, when Chrysler boycotted NASCAR after the Hemi engine was banned, Petty raced Hemi-powered Barracudas on the drag racing circuit.

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The Plymouth XNR took its name from its designer, Virgil Exner | Andy Reid photo (above), Larry Edsall photos (below)

1. Plymouth XNR — You have to wonder how things might have been different if Plymouth had turned its 1960 XNR concept car into a road-going rival for the new Chevrolet Corvette. XNR was short for Exner, as in Virgil Exner, head of design at Chrysler and the creator of a series of stunning concept cars he had built in Italy by Ghia. The asymmetrically placed headrest continued to the car’s tail, where it formed an “X” with the rear bumper. The car was built on a Valiant chassis and had a slant-6 engine tweaked to 250 horsepower.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I love your #1 choice, but with 10 slots to fill you made no mention of the original Plymouth Prowler, later rebadged as a Chrysler. And no photo of the Superbird?! My first car was a ’63 Plymouth Savoy station wagon with the 318 V8. In high school I had the big Plymouth stickers in the side back windows & flat black hood. It was all stock, but in my mind almost as cool as the Superbird. My dad had also driven a Plymouth pick-up truck in the ’50s, not sure what year, but I recall thinking how odd that Mopar had chosen to only use the Dodge badge for trucks around 1942. I’d sure like that truck today!

  2. Plymouth and Doges of all sizes ruled the streets of Orlando during almost the entire 60’s The first battle I saw at the strip between a 4 speed and automatic was a 61 Plymouth against a 61 Doge both with 413 engines. The 4 speed led halfway down the track and lost by rover 2 car lengths. I will never forget the crowd’s reaction as long as I live and I’m’ already 78

  3. Obviously you have not been to Plymouth, IN. famous for a very large fertilizer plant. My one hope driving by it on Highway 30 was not to get caught by the two stoplights; that was almost beyond endurance waiting for the light to change!

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