Plymouth Before World War II
The company was founded as the Plymouth Motor Corporation in May, 1928. From the start, Plymouth was essentially a subsidiary of Chrysler, and Walter Chrysler himself served as the company's president. The Plymouth division was introduced in order to gain entry into the low-priced auto field without sullying Chrysler's upmarket brand. One of brand's first successes was the Plymouth 4, which was a cut-price version of the Chrysler 4.
The 4 was followed by the Plymouth PA in 1931. The PA featured rubber engine mounts and was a big enough hit to temporarily allow Plymouth to rank third in U.S. auto sales, right behind Ford and Chevy. Throughout the 1930s, Plymouth's low-priced cars proved instrumental in helping Chrysler weather the Great Depression. By decade's end the company had built more than three million cars.
Plymouth After World War II
Throughout much of its existence, Plymouth was one of the top-selling automotive brands in the United States. Plymouth, Chevrolet, and Ford were known as the "low priced three" in the American automotive market. In fact, Plymouth nearly surpassed Ford in the 1940s to claim the number two spot.
It was during the 1940s that Plymouth introduced distinctive models such as the Cambridge, Suburban, and Cranbrook. In the 1950s, Plymouth began featuring V-8 engines and automatic transmissions. By the dawn of the 1960s, Plymouth had built more than 12 million cars.
It was in the 1960s that Plymouth produced a number of classic models. The Valiant, introduced in 1960, was a compact car developed to compete with the smaller import models becoming popular at the time. Released four years later, the Barracuda was a fastback A-body coupe that represented Plymouth's entry into the pony car market that was burgeoning at the time. The Barracuda, like most pony cars, was a sporty, affordable compact inspired by the success of the Ford Mustang. Plymouth followed the success of the Barracuda by developing two iconic American muscle cars in the Road Runner and the GTX. In the late 1960s, Plymouth also introduced the formidable 426 Hemi V-8 engine.
Like many American automakers, Plymouth ran down some rough roads in the 1970s as Middle East oil crisis loomed and gasoline crunches became a daily reality for many Americans. The company was able to weather the storm to some degree thanks to the success of its subcompact Horizon. Plymouth's profile with American drivers was raised slightly during the 1980s due to the popular Voyager minivan. However, the company's vehicle lineup was beginning to show its age, and by the end of the decade, it was no longer a full-line make.
Prior to merging with German automaker Daimler-Benz, Chrysler was planning to revitalize the Plymouth brand by introducing an influx of new models. However, the German side of the partnership wasn't particularly interested and when the new century arrived, Plymouth's lineup dwindled to just five different models. In 2001, the still newly formed DaimlerChrysler decided to call time on the Plymouth brand for good.
The Plymouth Voyager was originally a name given to a rebadged variant on the full-size Dodge Sportsman van. However, in its other incarnation, the Voyager was one of the most successful minivans of all time. Introduced in 1984, the Voyager helped define the entire minivan class before it was discontinued in 2000.
The Grand Voyager was introduced three years after the Voyager as a long-wheelbase variant of the original. It was also discontinued in 2000.
In 1996, the Breeze was introduced as a midsize four-door sedan. The Breeze was the last midsize model produced by Plymouth and was discontinued in 2000.
The Neon was a compact model introduced in 1995. The front-wheel drive Neon was available as a four-door sedan and as a two-door coupe. After Plymouth's demise, it survived for a time as the Chrysler Neon.
The last new model sports car to bear the Plymouth name, the Prowler, was introduced in 1997. Its retro look was meant to recall the glory days of the 1950s hot rod. However, while the Prowler was retro inspired in appearance, the vehicle itself was modern and powered by an overhead-cam V-6.
While the Plymouth brand may not have lasted, Plymouth earned a deserved reputation for producing quality, reliable cars that were affordable for most Americans. It is a testament to the quality of the brand and the cars it produced that thousands of Plymouths remain on the market as viable used car options today.