This is the last Plymouth ever made, and it could be yours
Plymouth, the value-priced brand in the Chrysler family tree since 1928, died an unceremonious death back in 2001. That’s because Chrysler (well, DaimlerChrysler in those days) offered no final farewell worthy of the brand’s domineering Superbirds, jaw-dropping Prowlers, or even the unexpected Q-ship that was the V-6-powered Sundance Duster.
Of course, Plymouth’s slow death over the course of the 1990s rendered the marque a shadow of its former self by the turn of the century. Its sad demise, however, did nothing to discourage true brand believers from saving important pieces of automotive history. Darrell Davis, former Senior Vice President of Parts and Service for DaimlerChrysler, is one of those believers. He made sure the final Plymouth to roll off of the assembly line in Belvidere, Illinois, would go to a good home—his own.
Yes, this 2001 Neon is the last Plymouth ever built. And Davis is the reason it didn’t wind up in the black hole of a corporate fleet, or scrapped after succumbing to a careless owner’s mistakes that would have eventually killed off any other ordinary Neon. He specced the car to his exact liking, including Bright Silver metallic, a fully-loaded options list, and a five-speed manual transmission in lieu of the optional three-speed automatic.
Davis tells Hagerty that there were no equipment restrictions when he placed the order, because Dodge Neon production continued beyond model year 2001. And because of his corporate connections, he bought this vehicle long before the public was aware of the mothership’s intentions to shutter the Plymouth brand. Once he took delivery, Davis squirreled it away into storage. Even today, two decades later, the Neon shows only 68 miles on the odometer.
When Davis asked both Ted Cunningham (EVP of Sales, Service and Marketing) and President Jim Holden for the privilege of owning the final Plymouth, he hoped it would arrive in the form of a Prowler. That didn’t happen, as DaimlerChrysler moved the retro roadster over to the Chrysler brand for its final years of production. While the Neon might seem like a downgrade to many enthusiasts, folks like me appreciate these honest economy cars, a number of which were converted into race cars. I’d go as far as considering the Neon a kind of American Alfa Romeo.
Davis had the pleasure of driving his Neon off the assembly line in Belvidere in June of 2001. It was then shipped to Daytona Chrysler-Plymouth where Orrin Stewart, the dealer principal and personal friend of Davis’, ensured that nobody “dealer prepped” the Neon and subsequently threw away the factory protective covers.
After taking delivery with 20 miles on the odometer, Davis did his own version of dealer prep, carefully storing plenty of equipment in the trunk. The factory radio antenna was never installed, the remote entry transmitters never used, and delivery manuals remained in the wrapper. The Neon’s window sticker is still on the driver’s rear door, but extra copies were printed for framing. All Plymouth literature, service manuals, memorabilia, and items from his visit to the Belvidere plant remain with the Neon. The haul even includes the center section of the celebratory banner hung over the assembly to commemorate the final Plymouth vehicle, which is also now framed.
The Neon survives as a 100 percent original time capsule, stored in Davis’ own climate-controlled garage.
While he got his wish to own the last Plymouth ever made, enough time has passed that he intends to find a new forever home for this special five-speed Neon.
“I am getting on in years so I need to reduce my collection of cars,” he says. “I have owned 160 cars titled in my name over the years, and likely drove a similar number of company cars in my 36-year career with Chrysler Corp.”
As of now, the plan is to take the Plymouth from storage to the online auction block—likely over at Bring a Trailer. I don’t get to say this—and really mean it—very often, but good luck with the sale, Mr. Davis. It takes a lot of respect and dedication to preserve a piece of history this way, and we hope the next owner carries the very same torch.