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.