Friday, June 27, 2014

1949 Plymouth DeLuxe 4-door Sedan

"Its distinctive styling goes far beyond just pleasing the eye. Here's design that flows naturally from advanced engineering  . . .  to fit form and function  . . .  to offer a great New Plymouth that, inside and out, is better in every way!"

Aside from the nice patina, this Plymouth DeLuxe from Havana still looks pretty much like when delivered 65 years ago. The classic car scene in the US would certainly call this car a "survivor": all trim is in its place and there's no sign of the fancy tuning attempts that you can witness on so many other vintage Cuban cars. Well, looks can be deceiving, but we like to believe that underneath the patina there is a well-kept original car waiting.

Like all other Chrysler divisions, Plymouth presented its first all-new postwar design in early 1949. When these cars were devised in the mid-40s, World War II had just come to end and civil car production resumed. With no supply over the last few years, customers were buying literally anything on wheels. Rather than good looks, practicability and reliability were the major buying reasons. In these disciplines, the new 1949 Plymouth certainly delivered spot-on. The cars were well-built, comfortable and offered ample interior space. But, as Plymouth soon should discover badly, in 1949, the automotive world had already changed.

Now, the own car increasingly began to become a personal statement, and buyers were looking for styling and brand image in their new automobiles. More than anyone else, GM hit the sweet spot, as all of its divisions were churning out stylish automotive sculptures. "Chrome and glamour" was the name of the new game, and these days, Harley Earl and his designers clearly were setting the trends in car styling.  Surprisingly enough, customers did accept little compromises. Tight headroom for the rear passengers? No problem, sir! Instrument gauges difficult to read? But it looks so marvelous, buddy!

In this climate, the "Keller Boxes", as Chrysler's offerings soon were dubbed, had a hard time. They sure were high-quality cars, but the aura of progress was severely missing. Even a 1949 Ford looked more modern in comparison. Many customers bought elsewhere, and Plymouth could sell only half as many cars as with the outdated 1948 lineup. It should take six more years before Chrysler would finally catch up and take the lead in American car styling.

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