1969 Plymouth Fury III – Furious Fuselage

It’s funny, ever since I stopped regularly writing two years or so ago, I keep stumbling on old photo files and finding cars shot years ago that I totally forgot about. Whenever I see an interesting old car, I get all excited and think “I will write this up tonight! It’s so cool!” Then three or four years go by. Such is the case with this 1969 full-size Plymouth.

I had been on the four-lane, on my way to the folks’ for dinner, when I saw this car sitting out in front of the local John Deere dealership. So naturally I had to pull over and inspect it. It was in very decent condition, and it had the cop tires, though I never found out if it had cop suspension or cop shocks.

Yes, in 1969 Plymouth and Dodge were still high on the list of preferred locomotion for local, state and federal constabularies nationwide. And while the classic TV show Adam-12 featured midsize Belvederes, the big Fury was popular as well.

It was also all-new this year. While the 1967-68 Plymouths had been a little on the boxy side, even in Fast Top two-door hardtop mode, the 1969s were smooth and fulsome. I especially liked the four-door hardtop. Sinister. And if you squinted your eyes just a little, it could be a Chrysler New Yorker.

Deemed “Fuselage” styling, the roof no longer sat on top of the body like a chimney on a house. Instead, it curved in a more or less continuous line from roof to rocker panel, like the side of a then-new Boeing 747. It was especially noticeable on the Chryslers.

It must have been pretty striking at the time, though the then-au courant vinyl tops must have made it less cohesive from an aesthetic standpoint.

Speaking of, this particular Fury had an interesting vinyl toupee, with a faux-crocodile pattern that I’d never seen before. The for sale sign claimed it was a rare option. It did appear to be factory and original to the car.

In the big-Plymouth hierarchy, the Fury III was the well-equipped, but not top-of-the-line model, roughly equivalent to an Impala Custom or Galaxie 500. There was also the Fury I, basically taxi- and police-spec with zero brightwork and plain interior. Next up was the Fury II, with a teeny bit of chrome and slightly less cheap-looking seats.

The top of the line was the VIP, then in its final year. It was supposed to be an LTD competitor, but it never really took off. It was only in production from 1966-69, and they were not popular, so if you ever see one, you’ll be in luck. Primary differences over the much more common Fury III included a flossier grille, fender skirts, a full-length lower bodyside molding and of course, the expected fancier interior with lots and lots of woodgrain trim. Less than 14,000 were made in its final year.

In contrast, the Fury III was the most plentiful big Plymouth by a wide margin, to the tune of over 230,000. And our featured car, the four-door sedan, was the most common bodystyle of the most common model, so statistically, it was the most likely full-size Plymouth to be seen back in October 2013 when I spied this one. A Sport Fury convertible would be nice, but I have yet to see one. And I go to a LOT of car shows.

The 1969-73 Plymouth Furys would really be the last hurrah for the division’s bread and butter, sales-wise. After the all-new 1974 Fury was unveiled just before the 1973 gas crisis, the sales never really recovered. Oh sure, plenty of police versions were sold in 1974-77, but at the same time the midsize Fury (formerly the Satellite, it became the “small Fury” in ’75, when the biggies became the “Gran Fury.” Confusing? You bet!) with 440 V8 power was gaining ground with police departments everywhere.

And at the same time, retail units were tanking. In 1973 261,187 Furys were sold, but by 1975 it was down to 79,184. The big Gran Fury got the axe after the 1977 model year, and even the midsize Fury, that darling of Hill Street Blues and countless 1980s action movies, also disappeared.

The R-Body Gran Fury came back for 1980, however, and though it didn’t really set the world on fire, in 1982 the nameplate was moved to the former Volare chassis, shared with the Dodge Diplomat. And though it was only about three trim pieces different from the Dodge, it brought Plymouth back in force to police departments everywhere. Believe it or not, civilian versions were also available, though rarely seen, and usually driven by your great-Uncle Harold. The Mike Ehrmantraut-approved Chrysler Fifth Avenue was the retail darling of the trio!

Hard to believe that the year this ’69 model came off the line, among countless others, that less than a decade from then the big Plymouth would be on the ropes, only to stage a mini-comeback in the ’80s. But that’s what makes automotive history so interesting to me. You never know what’s going to happen!

Oh, and though this car was for sale at the time, I haven’t seen it since. Hopefully it went to a good home! It would have been a cool car to drive in the summer and take to cruise nights every now and then.

22 Replies to “1969 Plymouth Fury III – Furious Fuselage”

  1. jz78817

    the mid ’70s is about when Plymouth became little more than badge-engineering, no? I grew up around these cars and I’d still have a hard time telling you the differences between a late 70’s Fury, Coronet, St. Regis, Diplomat, etc…

  2. Dirty Dingus McGee

    As a freshly licensed driver in 73, with a hot rod, these and their later brothers became the bane of our antics. State Patrol, and most local PD’s, used them and you learned real quick the pattern of the front parking lamps. Usually by then it was too late unfortunately. And the sound the 440 made when the go pedal hit the floor. Sounded like it was sucking every molecule of air up, reminiscent of a Hoover vacuum cleaner on steroids.

  3. Felis Concolor

    In the mid-80s, a friend of mine obtained a similar vintage Coronet 500 as a lucky purchase from a local pastor whose parish chipped in to replace his gas-guzzler with something a little more frugal; I think it was Toyota’s 1st-gen UJC Camry. My friend continually complained to me about its fuel consumption, and I understood just why once I was given permission to pop open the hood and view that glorious big block with its 4-barrel carb hidden beneath a monstrous air cleaner.

    As he enjoyed surfing but despised paying for fuel by himself, he would gather together another 3 or 4 like-minded individuals and trundle off to the North Shore surfing areas for a day of fun in the water. Parked among the other dinosaurs, that faded green Coronet looked like just another island cruiser, enjoying a few years of easy rolling before the inexorable corrosion produced by the islands’ salt air would eat its structure away into a pile of red oxide.

    As the afternoon progressed and fatigue set in, we would return to shore and strap our boards atop the huge roof, using a double wide set of soft racks clipped to the drip rails: one way a surfer knew it was time for another beater was when the rails corroded to the point where racks could no longer be attached. Driving through Haleiwa’s crowded main street – the bypass highway wasn’t even a proposal back then – we’d stop at a local pizza parlor and order a couple of large pies to sate our enormous appetites. Pulling back out onto the Kam Hwy, we’d cruise back to Honolulu and our respective dwellings.

    For those who’d like to imagine just how bad the traffic situation was back then, simply visit a mapping site which shows you Haleiwa and then brush out the Joseph Leong highway and replace that giant roundabout with a simple intersection. Yes, every bit of North Shore traffic had to fit through that part of the Kam Hwy.

    Having taken the highway route circling Wahiawa and passing by Schofield Barracks, I noted a 280ZX Turbo merging alongside our decrepit behemoth, a very clean-cut driver behind the wheel. I caught his eye and held up my finger. Taking the challenge, he took off even as I turned to my friend and said, “go get him. Do it. Floor it. NOW! GOGOGO!!!” Overcoming his astonishment at my outburst, he pushed the throttle pedal to the floor for what was likely the first time in his ownership of the monster sedan, and the secondaries opened with a bellowing whoosh which temporarily overcame the sound of the air rushing past the car.

    A titanic hand SHOVED us back into our seats. The nose of the car lifted towards the sky, and the howling Coronet gave chase to the no longer receding 280ZX. The drumming from the surfboards coupled with the sound from the old car’s engine and chassis nearly overcame my screamed orders to “KEEP YOUR FOOT IN IT!” The speedometer kept ticking upwards on that gigantic linear scale: 115; 120; 125. We blew past the Nissan right by the north entrance to Mililani, just as the road began its downward trajectory across one of the many valleys O’ahu possesses. I screamed “IT’S BANKED; KEEP GOING! FULL SPEED!” and the big Chrysler barreled through onto the long ridgetop section, where the sweeping curves led to Honolulu proper. By this time the Z-car and its driver were nowhere to be seen; we were less than a mile from the H-2/H-1 interchange; and here comes that retaining wall. My friend prudently lifted his foot from the throttle, and the enormous drag generated by the car’s body along with a batch of surfboards projecting above the roofline hauled us back down to a speed the aging sedan’s disc/drum combination could more readily handle. We had already merged onto H-1 heading towards Pearlridge when the Turbo ZX driver blew past us in a proto-ricer flyby. Cheers erupted from the back seat: back then I thought it was for the high speed victory over the new-and-improved Nissan, but now I realize it was just a bunch of young men happy to still be alive. We reduced our speed to a primaries-only fuel conserving trundle, then cheerfully ponied up the monies required to fill the gigantic fuel tank before being dropped off at our separate apartments and dormitories.

    Perhaps it was a mistake to encourage my friend to explore the capabilities of that monster motor before I made my offer to take it off his hands, because after I mentioned to him I’d be more than willing to give him enough money for a decent used Toyota purchase, he continually declined. After experiencing the joys of that Coronet, he just couldn’t see himself in a Corona.

  4. WhiskeyRiver

    I was 14 years old and already a car guy in 1969. My dad and a lot of his friends had long ago transcended to “family” cars but they liked big powerful family cars. One of his friends had a ’69 Sport Fury Coupe with a 426 RB hemi. It was a total beast on the interstate and it looked pretty cool in the driveway.

  5. Robot Battler

    My father had a ’69 Sport Suburban, the Fury III equivalent wagon, complete with fake wood paneling and a rear-facing third seat. I got sick in the third seat after dinner one night, soon after he got it. This car replaced a ’65 Fury II wagon which replaced a ’60 Fury I wagon. It was his final Plymouth wagon, before moving to Mercury and Oldsmobile. (He had a Pontiac back in the ’50s too — four dead brands.). Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  6. Joe

    I don’t how close the 1970 dodge Polara I owned was to this Plymouth fury, but it was a full sized car, I think I paid 400 dollars for it in 1977, came with a 318 which I replaced with a 440 that I took from my 67 Chrysler 300 hardtop, I learned a lot about wrenching and modifying on those old cars, in this day and age we don’t have it as easy as it was back then, but then again performance is a little bit cheaper and a lot more reliable now. Brings back a lot of memories!

  7. Joe

    P.S. Tom Thank you for explaining what the Big Chrysler fusalage cars are, often heard or read the term, did not know how they got the name.

  8. DirtRoads

    Love these stories.

    When I was a kid, my Dad had one of those finned Furies with the six pack under the hood. We used to ride back and forth (about 45 minutes each way) to church in it. My sister and I would sit in back while Mom and Dad sat in front and smoked. They’d have their little wing windows open, but I still got sick at least once with the dense smoke. It’s a wonder we all lived through those years, as poisonous as society likes to say everything is nowadays.

    Wish I had that car now.

  9. ArBee

    I didn’t like the fuselage Mopars when they were new – in those days I preferred the boxy but roomy 1965-68 models – but through the years they’ve been looking better. That black four door hardtop is a fine looking car. In fact, I think the Plymouths were better looking than the more expensive Dodges and Chryslers. The one real problem I had with them was interior room. I’m 6’4″ and they were little cramped behind the wheel, both for head room and foot room.

  10. Mitchell MacLeod

    Memories….a friend in the military had a 1969 Fury II four door sedan with a 383-2bbl. It was replaced by a 1969 Super Bee with a 383-4bbl….now that was a car!

    • Mitchell MacLeod

      Come to think of it our neighbours in Montreal had a 1969 Fury III sedan like this one, except was maroon red in colour. My parents had a 1970 Sport Satellite sedan this gold colour.

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