Monday, November 21, 2011

1950 Plymouth Special DeLuxe All-Metal Suburban

"It has a Country Club air about it – this beautiful new Plymouth Special Suburban. Note the lavish use of chrome – in the outside belt molding, in the windshield molding and center bar, in the side center window division bar and pull handle, in the outside tailgate hinges. The name plate on the rear and the lowered tail lights also add to the exterior beauty of this newest of all Plymouth models."

It might not look spectacular, but here you see Plymouth's most important contribution to the evolution of american car design: the first american all-steel station wagon, introduced by Plymouth in 1949. Until then, the car manufacturers had built their station wagons in traditional coach-building fashion, mounting wooden beams and panels onto a bare running chassis. These "Woodies" looked beautiful and all, but they were expensive to produce and required a lot of care, too. Perhaps for this reason you won't find a single "Woody" station wagon from before 1949 in it's original condition in Cuba.

Maybe Plymouth's product planners were initially not entirely convinced of their own idea, because in 1949 and 1950 you still could buy a wooden station wagon alongside of the new "all-steel" Suburban. But the advantages of the new Plymouth wagons were quite obvious, and soon other carmakers embraced the new production method and out-phased their "Woodies", too. Running on a short 111-inch wheelbase, Plymouth's Suburban just had two doors and room for six passengers. But it was a perfect fit for a small business or suburban commerce. Hence the name, which is by the way far from being unique, as different car makers used to call their own semi-commercial vehicles Suburban, too.

Based on a "Keller box" bodyframe, the Plymouths for 1950 drove as unexciting as they looked: with a rather lethargic six-cylinder engine whose origins trace back to 1935, you couldn't really expect sports-car behavior. On the other hand, Plymouths had a reputation for reliability and a solid construction, and a few years before styling did dictate everything else, they also had a solid customer base. For years, Plymouth was the third best-selling brand, trailing Ford and Chevrolet. Still today you can find quite a lot of postwar Plymouths on cuban roads, which passed their involuntary long-term test with a "Grade A".

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