1939 Plymouth P7 Road King
6-cyl. 201cid/70hp 1bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The U.S. auto industry rebounded in 1939, even as Europe slid inexorably towards war. Overall sales recovered 43 percent from the dismal 1938 result, and despite an eight-week strike, Chrysler Corporation gained 37.5 percent. Plymouth reported a 17.5 percent increase but still maintained third position nationally, selling 423,850 cars and trucks. The 3 millionth Plymouth was delivered in 1939.
Overall, Mopar results were mixed. Dodge picked up 75 percent but stayed in fifth place due to Buick’s success. Chrysler sales jumped 63 percent but the division dropped to 12th place, thanks to Ford’s popular new Mercury line. DeSoto equaled Chrysler’s growth but fell two places to 14th, again due to Mercury as well as the new Studebaker Champion and a Nash redesign.
The new 1939 Plymouth P7 Roadking and Plymouth P8 Deluxe debuted to general acclaim in September 1938. New front sheet metal added a vee windshield, horizontal-barred streamlined grille, and rectangular headlights in the fenders. The rest of the body was relatively unchanged, though a new roof stamping extended rear interior space. Teardrop taillights were fitted into the fenders. Plymouth Roadking models were immediately recognizable by the hood side trim which stopped part-way along the hood. Both P7 and P8 had “Plymouth” on the side of the nose.
P7 and P8 wheelbases were stretched 2 inches to 114 inches on base models, and 134-inches on long wheelbase, 7-passenger cars. Meanwhile, Plymouth introduced a Convertible Sedan, bodied by Murray. Previously offered in 1937 and 1938 as a Chrysler and Desoto, it used Dodge’s 117-inch wheelbase and was the only such design offered by any Chrysler Corporation division this year. This was also the last year for rumble seat models and the first for a Convertible power top, with twin vacuum cylinders behind the seats and a simple dashboard switch.
Plymouth returned to coil spring independent front suspension after four years of beam axles, and the chassis was stiffened. P8 Deluxe models adopted column gearshifts, while the P7 Roadking still had a floor shift. “Safety Signal” speedometers changed color from green to amber then red, as speed increased. The improved 201.3 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine was unchanged from the previous year and good for 82 bhp.
The Sedan Delivery returned to the Roadking line from the Commercial Car PT-81 line, now with a Utility Sedan, which was a 2-door Sedan without a back seat. A partition screen was optional behind the driver’s seat and there was no divider between the passenger compartment and the trunk. The Sedan Delivery and the Utility Sedan both carried a spare wheel in a side mount front fender, though side mounts were no longer available in other body styles.
The PT-81 Commercial Car line consisted of a Pickup and a Cab & Chassis. Both models shared a 116-inch chassis with the Dodge Pickup, featuring a 3-man cab. They were virtually indistinguishable from their Mopar sibling, though some Plymouth trucks did have Plymouth script on the tailgate. The PT-81 Pickup cab was moved three inches forward and the bed lengthened. The trusty 201.3 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine developed 70 bhp. P7 Roadking tires were 5.50 x 16 inches, P8 Deluxe and PT-81 were 6.00 x 16 inches.
Seven 1939 Plymouth P7 Roadking body styles were offered, plus two more for export, and a bare chassis. A total of 12 body styles were offered in the Plymouth P8 Deluxe line. The PT81 Commercial line was reduced to two models, the Dodge-based Pickup and the cab and chassis.
As usual, Plymouths were popular overseas, thanks to their simplicity, durability moderate size and competitive prices. Chrysler aimed them at markets in Sweden, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, South America, and British colonies in Africa. A number of export models were fitted with smaller 68-hp, 170 cubic-inch six-cylinder engines.