1959 Plymouth Savoy
8-cyl. 361cid/305hp 2x4bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
The Plymouth Savoy series began as the new mid-range line for 1954 Plymouths in order to give them a little more competitive sales appeal against the major competition. Below Savoy was the Plaza, and above was the Belvedere.
The 1954 cars were largely carry-over cars from 1953, but consisted of a new grille, new trim and new nameplates. They were still only powered by Plymouth’s flathead six. Half way through the 1954 model year, the engine was stroked out slightly.
Plymouth was successful enough in 1954, retaining third place in the sales race. 1955 saw massive increases in car sales across the Big Three, disproportionately at GM’s Buick, which sailed past Chrysler’s low-priced Plymouth line, which now sat in fourth. This was in spite of an all-new body for the Savoy and other Plymouth lines, as well as a new Dodge-based poly-head 241 cid and 260 cid V-8. Even so, each series was still available with the old six, now improved with 117 hp.
The 1955 cars by Chrysler Corporation were advertised as having “the new 100-million-dollar look” and indeed, virtually all cars were all-new. There were wider wrap-around windshields, small fins encompassing taillights, wilder color choices, lower roofline, more massive-looking bodies, and lots of chrome.
For 1956, Plymouth came within some 600 cars of out-selling Buick, but had to be content with fourth place again. The Savoy line was still largest seller for Plymouth, and a popular new Sport Coupe body style was added. The usual facelift for the basic 1955 body-shells saw nascent fins added on top of fins, and two-tone on the body-sides became available across the board instead of on Belvedere only. The old 230.2 cube six was now 125 or 131 hp, the revised V-8s displaced 270 or 277 cid with power ratings of 180 and 187 hp, respectively, and the Power-Pack 277 V-8 made a full 200 hp.
1957 saw Plymouth (along with the rest of the Chrysler line-up) totally blow away the rest of the auto industry. Especially important for the company was Plymouth’s sales which leapt to over 726,000 units, which was over 320,000 more sales than Buick, enough to put Plymouth back into third place. The wheelbase grew slightly, and torsion bar front suspension was employed, vastly improving handling.
For 1959, the Plaza lower priced cars were discontinued. This also meant the elimination of the popular two-door hardtop body style, leaving club sedan, two-door business coupe and four-door sedan. The largest change under the hood was the big-block being bored out to 361 cid for 305 hp, and the fuel injection being dropped as an option. The Plymouth was substantially restyled to include a large die-cast cross-hatch grille.
The 1960 car bodies were all-new and featured unit construction. Only a club sedan and four-door sedan were offered, and sales began to taper off with most buyers moving to the new compact Valiant line or to the Belvedere or Fury. Under the hood, the ancient flathead six was gone, replaced by an all-new and vastly superior 225 cid, 145 hp “slant six” with modern overhead valves. The V-8’s were again small-block poly-head 318 or big-block wedge-head 361 with a new 383 version available with 330 hp. Fins made a return engagement and a very stylized front end was also new.
The 1961 Plymouth was “shorn” of its fins on the vertical plane, but they reappeared on a horizontal plane as part of the body lines at the rear. The wheelbase retained its 118-inch dimension, as it had for several years, and the cars were distinctly large with a lot of road presence. The TorqueFlight automatics were vastly improved with aluminum cases, reducing weight. Under the hood, a massive big-block, wedge-head, tall-deck 413 cubic inch monster of a V-8 engine was optional, with up to 375 hp.
1961 was the last year for a full-sized Plymouth carline until 1965. Chrysler executives were in disarray during this time with scandals, lawsuits, countersuits and firings. Suffice to say that the 1962-1964 down-sized Plymouths were a failure in the marketplace. By the time the full-sized Plymouth returned, the Savoy name had been consigned to history.