the view through the windshield
1957 Plymouth - 'Suddenly It's 1960!' (posted 1/28/13)

Plymouth's ad campaign for 1957 claimed that the restyled Plymouth was three years ahead of its time. It certainly looked the part - the entire Chrysler lineup looked like nothing else on the road with swoopy lines and soaring tailfins.

When General Motors found out about Virgil Exner's new 1957 designs, the styling department almost soiled its corporate trousers. Suddenly, The General realized that Harley Earl's age of high 'power dome' hoods and chrome applied by the bucketful with a trowel was over.

It was too late to do anything about the '58 models (the '58 Buicks and Oldsmobiles are case studies in high hoods and excess brightwork), but a crash program was initiated to make GM's 1959 models as wild as Chrysler's. Earl was retired in 1958.

Plymouth referred to the new look as "dramatic Flight Sweep styling." One ad proclaimed, "3 years ahead ... the only car that dares to break the time barrier!"

The '57 Plymouth also offered a host of other new features, including torsion-bar front suspension. A Plymouth could outhandle any other car in its class on a twisty road. Motor Trend named the entire Chrysler Corporation lineup as its 'Car of The Year' for superior handling and roadability of all its cars.

Several engines were offered in the 1957 Plymouth models. The entry-level, tried-and-true 230 cubic-inch flathead six (derived from the original introduced in the 1933 Plymouth) was rated at 132 horsepower. Five different V8s were available, ranging from the 197 horse, 218 cubic inch model to the 318 cubic inch, 290 horsepower dual quad motor available exclusively in the high performance Fury model.

All Plymouth models rode on a 118 inch wheelbase, except for the station wagon models which had a 122-inch wheelbase. Prices began at $1,899 for the base Plaza business coupe. The Fury two-door hardtop had a starting price of $2,925. All Plymouths offered factory options; other accessories could be purchased from aftermarket vendors such as J.C. Whitney.

Sadly, '57 Plymouths had an Achilles' heel - quality. The 1957s started to rust within several months of being built. They leaked water on both sides of the windshield posts. Torsion bars broke, upholstery split, seams tore, seat springs popped through, paint deteriorated, hubcaps wouldn't stay on, door handles broke, and trim sometimes fell off. These problems occurred throughout the Chrysler lineup.

Plymouth accounted for over half of Chrysler Corporation's 1957 sales; 762,771 Plymouths were sold during the model year. The breakdown by model was 122,259 entry-level Plaza models, 247, 657 Savoys, 280,584 Belvederes, 7,988 Fury models and 105,293 Suburban station models of various trim levels.

I have a personal memory involving a 1957 Plymouth. My friend Joe P. was driving his dad's '57 two-door Savoy hardtop - white over black. It had the ol' flathead six with three-on-the tree. In late 1961 or early '62, I was riding with him when the Plymouth was broadsided at Castor Ave. and Pratt St. in Northeast Philadelphia by a motorist running a red light. Joe P. and I were unhurt - but the Plymouth was totaled.

The 1957 may have been a flawed model but the Plymouth was stylish enough to be the Lord's favorite. It's in the bible: "... then God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Paradise in a Fury."

Remember When: 1957
auto blogIn 1957, the U.S. established the Eisenhower Doctrine and extended the Truman Doctrine to protect the Middle East.

In the Arctic, the Distant Early Warning System began operation. Three USAF B-52s completed the first nonstop jet circuit of the world in just over 45 hours.

New U.S. products included Sta-Puf fabric softener, pink plastic flamingo lawn ornaments and electric can openers.

'57 American cars were longer, lower and wider. Every Big Three offering was either all-new or extensively restyled but Chrysler's second-generation Forward Look was the most dramatic and outrageous with soaring fins on all models. Chrysler Corp. offered torsion-bar suspension throughout its model lines; Chevy and Pontiac had fuel-injection on their hottest engines and Oldsmobile offered a three-carb J-2 performance option.

The '57 Ford Skyliner became the first U.S. production automobile featuring a metal retractable hardtop. The 1957 Mercury was all new with styling inspired by the 1956 XM Turnpike Cruiser dream car.

The top-of-the-line '57 model was given the Turnpike Cruiser name and featured a wrap-over windshield and reverse-slant, retracting rear window.

'West Side Story' and 'The Music Man' debuted on Broadway. New words included 'baby-sitter', 'scuba' and 'moonlighting'.

Top 1957 record hits included 'All Shook Up', 'Teddy Bear', 'Too Much' and 'Jailhouse Rock' by Elvis Presley, 'You Send Me' - Sam Cooke, 'Chances Are' by Johnny Mathis, 'Whole Lotta Shakin' by Jerry Lee Lewis, 'Bye-Bye Love', 'Wake Up, Little Suzie' by the Everly Brothers and 'Honeycomb' by Jimmie Rodgers. 'Wake Up, Little Suzie' was banned in Boston as too suggestive. In '57, many radio stations throughout the U.S. switched to a Top 40 format.

The postwar American baby boom crested with a one-year record of 4,308,000 1957 births. For the first time, margarine outsold butter. Wham-O introduced the Pluto Platter - soon to be rechristened as the Frisbee. The new $55,000 IBM 610 - described as "the size of a spinet piano" - could solve a six-hour calculator computation in a mere 20 minutes.

Memorable 1957 movies included 'Peyton Place', 'Jailhouse Rock', '12 Angry Men', 'A Face In The Crowd', 'Funny Face' and 'The Bridge on the River Kwai'. A poll found that 50% of American teenagers went to the movies at least once every week.

New '57 television shows included 'Have Gun, Will Travel', 'Leave It To Beaver', 'Perry Mason' and 'The Price Is Right'. A long-time Philadelphia favorite, 'American Bandstand', went national in August. Kermit the Frog made his television debut on Steve Allen's 'Tonight Show'.

Significant new books debuted in 1957, including James Agee's 'A Death in the Family', Vance Packard's 'The Hidden Persuaders' and Jack Kerouac's 'On The Road'.

Deaths included Humphrey Bogart, Oliver Hardy, Louis B. Mayer, Jimmy Dorsey, Christian Dior, Joe McCarthy, Bugsy Moran and Elliot Ness.

In California, Don Bowden became the first American to break the four-minute mile. And, the Milwaukee Braves won the World Series, beating the NY Yankees 4-3.

Read more about 1957 America here.


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copyright 2012-13 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved.
Drawing copyright 2003 Joseph M. Sherlock. All rights reserved.


Disclaimer

The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.


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