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Alas Plymouth, We Knew Thee Well!

As it was a Plymouth that got me into this whole mess of Mopar in the first place it makes me sad on an almost daily basis that the once mighty name of Plymouth is gone today. As a wee lad hanging out at the New England Dragway with my Dad, I marveled at the huge wings and favorite cartoon characters emblazoned on Superbirds and Road Runners. I envisioned these cars the wheeled equivalent of anvils screaming into forced perspective and supersonic desert birds. These cars, along with the Plymouths launching out of the box and fighting down the quarter mile were etched forever into my memory at that moment, and have never left. I remember thinking then and there how cool it was that the same cars out in the parking lot were out on the race track. My Dad, however, was an Oldsmobile man at the time. Olds rocket power later gave way to Super Sport Novas, and a Ford Pinto into the gas crunch of the Seventies. But I digress. Plymouth was with me no matter what happened, and always will be.

Into my driving years these memories were still alive. Even though I got to drive the mighty Ford Pinto until the doors literally fell off the car due to rust from Vermont winter road salt, my pals at high school and other pals parents had Plymouths of both utilitarian and sporty varieties. I'll not soon forget going up sideways on two wheels in a beige Plymouth Volare Wagon after my pal Peeto entered a sharp left-hander coming down from the hill from the local ski area a bit too hot. Even though we did our best up on two wheels Joei Chitwood Thrill Show imitation, a taller than the Volare snow bank cushioned our near demise. I remember wagon teetering right on the edge of no return after we hit the snowbank, and then us coming back down to the ground with the Volare with a whump and a storm of skis, poles and boots. The F-bodies were never known for their handling prowess. Other pals had Plymouths of the old school and new school variety. That a car with such a small engine could go fast was a source of great mystery. I had no idea what a turbo was then, but I knew if a Plymouth had one it was crazy fast.

Many years later and on another side of the country I bought a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda for 500 clams and subsequently spent every spare dime on restificating it. My newer pals in the bay area also had Mopars, so life was good. Trips to the junkyard and hanging out in garages led to engine swaps, car shows, and motoring down the dragstrip on grudge night. This of course led to more Mopar appreciative pals. Most of us could barely afford to pay our rent, no less swap engines in and out of cars as easy as putting on a new pair of Chuck Taylors, but we managed somehow. It was during this time I began to become more attune to the sorry state of Plymouth during this dark period. The once proud brand had somehow been polluted with also-rans. Gone were the tall wings, cartoon characters, and turbo madness. These cool things Plymouth had been replaced by meteorological mistakes like the Plymouth Breeze. Road Runner I get. Superbird is certainly awesome. The Plymouth Laser, aka DSM Mitsubishi Eclipse is cool in a sheer performance and eighties sci-tech chicks in metallic spandex with ray guns kind of way - but a BREEZE?!? This was certainly the coming of the end, and it soon came.

Recently a Plymouth Duster I was driving found itself stranded on a lift in St. George, Utah at the Painter Sun Dodge Dealership. The coolest things about the place besides all the people that helped was the super badass Plymouth Road Runner in the lobby, and that the sign out front still said Plymouth on it. It got me to ruminating how despite the fact that you can't even walk three steps without someone talking about how great the muscle car era was it has today left the financial grasp of the very folks muscle cars were designed for. The fact that the manufacturers are marching headlong back to the future with the old is new again 30K plus zoot performance versions of the Challenger, Camaro, and Mustang defies the concept that the real key to muscle car goodness was affordability. Even the guy that could barley pay his rent could most likely afford to drive off the lot of his local Plymouth dealer behind the wheel of a 340 Duster in 1972. Looking around at the prices of these new beasties can cause a bad case of engine lust and financial aggravation. There is a solution besides antacids.

Plymouth must return to its former screaming anvil supersonic glory with a newfound vengeance. Imagine a lineup of budget performance vehicles with V-8 and 4-banger turbo power under the hood teamed up with rear and all-wheel drive drivetrains putting the power to the ground. Modern suspension and brakes could round out the package. The entire lineup should follow the same cut the crap philosophy as the original Road Runner. No frills. Brutal performance. Bargain price. Race bred styling. Even better would be to offer the base vehicles packing maximum performance at an affordable price then tooling up a full line of Mopar Performance upgrade components and go fast bits, so the cash strapped could build as they own. One could step up performance to suit their favorite driving activity. Drag racing, road course, rally, or just plain carving up the canyons the Plymouth name would once again be proud and be remembered for thunder, not a gentle breeze. A man can dream can't he?  


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