19 April 2016

Ask the Man Who Owns One: In praise of sedans – Bob Markovich and His 1962 Plymouth Fury

Many thought the 1962 Dodge and Plymouth “full-size” models were downright weird when they debuted. The Dodge, particularly stood out due to its grille, headlights and taillights seemingly separate from the body. Still, Bob Markovich is pleasantly surprised by all the attention his 1962 Plymouth Fury draws, especially the admiring glances and remarks from 20-somethings.

He acknowledges that much of the attention stems from the car’s design, which after more than 50 years could still be considered controversial. But Markovich only sees beauty, at least in an underdog kind of way.

“I always thought the ’62 Plymouth and Doge were beautiful cars. They seemed very jet-age,” he says. He remembers one in particular, the ’62 Dodge Dart that his grandfather owned, and was looking for such a Dodge when he spotted an ad for this ’62 Plymouth for sale about 70 miles south of his home in Pleasantville, N.Y.

When you mention the ‘62s to Mopar fans, many think of the low-line two-doors equipped with a 413 ci Max Wedge engine, the factory Super Stock packages built to bury Fords, Chevys and Pontiacs at the drag strip. At least in that venue, the downsized Mopars introduced for 1962 were enormously successful. It was in the showrooms where they suffered.

Yet Markovich loves their history, feeling it makes them all the more special. He relayed the often-told story of how Chrysler’s then-president, William Newberg, somehow overheard a GM executive talking about a smaller Chevrolet model coming for 1962, in 1959. Newberg ordered the design team, working under Virgil Exner, to shrink the 1962 full-size cars’ clay models then under review. They had a theme based on Exner’s FliteWing concept car, a daring if somewhat bizarre extension of ideas publicly revealed on the ‘60 Valiant.

The proposed designs, which to some seemed overcooked, did not translate well to the smaller package, which was sized more like the new-for-‘62 Ford Fairlane. Unlike the “intermediate” Ford, the ’62 Mopars had no full-size cars above them. They were the full-size cars, with full-size prices. (As for that mystery “small” Chevy, that was the 1962 Chevy II compact, or perhaps the 1964 Chevelle.)

Dodge hastily added a real full-size model to its 1962 line-up by grafting the 1961 front end onto the Chrysler Newport body, not even changing that car’s taillights. Plymouth’s next real full-sizer didn't arrive until 1965.

The Plymouth Markovich saw in Jersey won him over for several reasons. First, it had his favorite engine, the 318 “Poly,” a descendant of the original Hemi that used one rocker shaft and poly-spherical combustion chambers.

“It’s unique,” he says. “It’s a ‘semi-hemi.’ I love the scalloped valve covers.”

And, he loves the engineering, which includes a stout bottom end with a forged crankshaft. Most of all though, he loves the way the Fury runs.

“It’s fantastic on low-end torque,” Markovich says. “In college, I remember driving a friend’s ’63 Fury. To me it felt like more engine than 318 cubic inches, and road tests of the day said the same. I feel it’s an underdog kind of engine.”

For many years, Markovich was the auto and outdoor equipment editor of Home Mechanix magazine before spending 16 years as outdoor equipment editor at Consumer Reports. This year he joined “This Old House” magazine as an editor. His other toys include an Austin Healey 3000 and a modified Mazda Miata.

Markovich was also thrilled to see the Plymouth was a Canadian-market model.

“It was like getting into my grandfather’s car, because the Plymouths from Canada had the full Dodge dash and interior,” he says.

And finally, Markovich loves that the car is a Fury, which was plusher than the lower-line Savoy, and it was a four-door hardtop (no B-pillar).

The Plymouth’s 318 is not original. As a Canadian car, it came with a Canada-only 313, a smaller-bore version of the 318 poly-head. It now has a '65 Canadian 318 that came out of a wreck with just 8,000 original miles.

“I was told this engine was on display at Chrysler Canada headquarters for decades until someone there retired and toted it home,” says Markovich. “I've since added an original, cast-iron four-barrel manifold, which was optional on the 318 poly through 1962,” he said. A Pertronix electronic ignition adds reliability and dual Flowmaster mufflers give the car a muscular sound.

Markovich made the Fury more roadworthy, adding 15-inch Canadian “cop car” wheels and anti-sway bars that he says greatly improve handling. He’s considering an upgrade to front disc brakes, a faster steering system and a later 3.23-geared axle to replace the 2.76 unit.

He had the Fury repainted in plain white to cover the metallic-white finish it wore in Canada following some rust repair. The interior freshening included a refinished steering wheel and re-sprayed armrests.

The finishing touch is a set of 1961 Valiant hubcaps, which Markovich prefers to the originals, which he stores.

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