Q: Hi Greg. I just read your article responding to the lady with the ’56 Plymouth. I had a four-door ‘56 Belvedere in the 1960’s with the flathead six cylinder and three-speed column shift manual transmission. I loved that car!
To me, the ’56 Plymouth was just as good looking as the ‘56 Chevy and ’56 Ford. I sold it when I went into the Air Force. My Belvedere was a two-tone green and white.
I think the ‘56 model is just now being recognized for the great car it was and have noticed recently the ‘56 Plymouths have gone up in price dramatically over the last few years. Do you agree? I also owned a 1960 Plymouth Valiant and a 1974 Plymouth Duster, both with the popular slant six cylinder engines. I currently drive a 2013 Dart so I am all “MOPAR” once again! I see your columns in many newspapers and online. Thanks very much for your reply. I read your article in the “Auto Source” section of the Wilkes-Barre, Pa Citizen’s Voice newspaper. Loren Keiser, Pennsylvania.
A: Loren, thanks for your letter and for your insight as to the popularity increase for the Chrysler Corporation cars from the 1950s. For our readers who don’t know what “MOPAR” stands for, it is simply “Motor Parts,” trademarked by Chrysler in 1937 for its first official brand of antifreeze.
As for your question, it seems that through all the hoopla surrounding Chevys first ever small block V8 in 1955, specifically the 265-incher, and all of the news surrounding Ford and its new “Y-block”239-inch V8 that debuted in 1954, Plymouth got a little lost in the shuffle.
Plymouth, meanwhile, also brought to market its first V8 in 1955, available in two versions of 241 cubic inches and 260 inches. By 1956, Chrysler and its associated makes (DeSoto, Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge, Imperial) were promoting aerodynamics and a forward look they called “Flight Swept.” When you check the design of the 1956 Chevy and 1956 Ford, it is clear the Chrysler Corporation cars had them covered when it came to forward look styling.
As the years went on, all three manufacturers enhanced the performance and size of their V8 engines, and by 1961 through 1963, all were dominant players in the ultra high performance craze that spawned lots of horsepower and even hit songs on the radio like “Shutdown” by the Beach Boys, which sang of a close drag race between a fuel injected Corvette and a Super Stock Dodge 413 (sibling to the Plymouth 413). Jan and Dean also hit the song charts with their “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” and her Super Stock Dodge. All of this extra promotion played into the popularity of the big three manufacturers and its drag race ready cars available at showrooms across America.
You are correct that collectors everywhere are spending more for the MOPARS of the mid-1950s through the entire decade of the 1960s. From that special 1956 Belvedere with the 303-inch “Power Pack” option we spoke of in a recent column, (which brings easily over $45,000 at auctions) to the granddaddy of all collector cars, the ’70 Hemi Cuda , which does an easy six figures nowadays.
In ending, the 1960 Valiant you once owned is now also bringing more money on the collector scene and that 1974 Plymouth Duster is a favorite of drag racing enthusiasts everywhere. Thanks for your letter, and enjoy your 2013 Dodge Dart, which is similar albeit a bit smaller than the Chrysler 200.
(Greg Zyla writes weekly about cars and welcomes reader input at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18848 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org)