Thursday, December 15, 2011

1939 Plymouth DeLuxe 4-door Touring Sedan

"It's this year's style sensation in the low price field. Glamorous new distinction in styling! Thrilling freshness of appearance from every viewpoint! Never before could you expect in a low price car such breathtaking beauty as the big 1939 Plymouth gives you to enjoy. And you get this beauty, this distinction now, in a car that is famous as being the best engineered low price car! Your lasting pride in the distinctive appearance of this great new De Luxe Plymouth will be matched by your satisfaction in its record economy and long life ... In your thrilling enjoyment of its sensational new ride."

Prewar cars are not uncommon on cuban roads, but not often do you see a Plymouth such as this 1939 DeLuxe Touring Sedan from Havana. Launched as Chrysler's low-priced sister brand in 1928, Plymouth's task was to compete with Ford and Chevrolet without undermining Chrysler's upmarket brand image. Because Plymouths were largely based on Chrysler constructions, they were a bit more advanced than Ford or Chevrolet in the early days. But despite their elaborate construction, Plymouths didn't have a strong identity. Yet, it didn't really matter because in a time when build quality was still more important than styling, Plymouth enjoyed a strong demand anyway.

Responsible for the design of the 1939 Plymouth was the well-known Raymond H. Dietrich, who had been co-founder of LeBaron coachbuilders, and by then was Chrysler's Chief Designer. He added the latest in automotive fashion to the cars: headlights moved into the fenders, and a new two-piece "Vee-type windshield" replaced the all-flat glass of the previous model year. The new Plymouths indeed looked distinctive now, but unfortunately, they also resembled a stodgy version of Fords or Lincolns of the era. Quite obviously, Dietrich had taken a heavy dose of inspiration from these competitor cars. The customers, however, didn't care too much for such details as long as the cars looked decent, and were reliable and affordable. And Plymouth delivered in all of these points.

Our pictured Plymouth still runs quietly on its original six-cylinder engine, even though leaking cylinder heads made it look like a limestone after more than seven decades of service. Almost everything still works, from the vacuum powered horn and windshield wipers up to the "Centrifuse" drum brakes that are dangerously assigned to only one single brake circuit. Just the distinctive sqare-ish headlights were someday replaced by common round housings, and the shiny chrome trim that once boldly adorned the thicker segments of the front grille is long gone. But regardless of these minor optical "issues", this automotive methusalem still serves its purpose every day. Try to imagine this with your modern car seventy years from now...

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