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Carchive New Year Special: The 1937 Plymouths

Chris Haining December 30, 2016 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 4 Comments

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As 2016 dons its hat and scarf and prepares itself to hobble uselessly into history, a brand spanking new year has beamed in from the future and is presesently plumping up the sofa cushions, ready to make itself comfortable.

How better for The Carchive to welcome 2017 than by peering back a solid 80 years into the past? For one last time, I ask you to follow me down the the dank, dark staircase into the dungeons that house ghosts from roads gone by. Let’s take a look at the ‘new for ’37’ Plymouth line.

All images can be zoomed upon at the click of a mouse.

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“Never before in all its history has Plymouth provided so much value for the buyer of a low-priced car”

All its history? It seems astonishing, but Plymouth had only really been around for nine years when this brochure was produced, but then time was marching on at one heck of a pace in the inter-war period. And no doubt an America that was only just emerging from the Great Depression would see consumers ears prick up when “low cost cars” were mentioned.

What’s more, engineering advancements had been made, too. Inside the gasoline filler pipe no longer ran through the trunk, so there was much improved luggage room, while the cabin – enlivened by “jewel-like fittings” was no longer encumbered by a transmission tunnel.

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“Newest note in motor-car design – Plymouth’s Safety Styling. You see it in the inward curve of door handles… in the heavily padded roll of the front seat back…”

I know that safety – along with glamour – has long been emphasised among the greatest selling points of the automobile, but I had no idea that its consumer appeal stretched back quite so far. In ’37 Plymouth was justly proud of its round-edged instrument panel that was free of protruding knobs or controls.

Plymouth even gave safety a higher billing in its brochure than it did to styling; “The sparkling beauty of this big new Plymouth is an abiding source of pride..”, yet it only makes it to the second paragraph.

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“Plymouth was a pioneer in the use of all-steel bodies in the low price field. Much of Plymouth’s sensational success is due to the public demand for this protection”

It also seems astonishing to consider that all-metal construction should have ever been considered a novelty, but in Europe there were still many manufacturers who would use planes and saws to shape the structural components of their cars long after Plymouth had turned to presses and welders. It would take the coach-building industry even longer – buses wouldn’t see wood being phased out until the ’70s.

Plymouth also promised that -with “five kinds of special sound-deadening material, in addition to rubber” the ’37 Plymouth had the most silent ride of any low-priced car.

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“A few years ago only a small minority of all American cars had hydraulic brakes. Plymouth’s dramatic success called public attention to the superiority of hydraulic brakes over other types”

Well, you can chalk this up as another think I didn’t realise Plymouth was so good at. If they really did champion of pressurised braking systems for low-spending motorists that they say, then I tip my hat. In fact, the brochure shares a fact here; “Since 1924, all automobiles built by Chrysler  Motors have had hydraulic brakes.”

Good, that. Drum brakes all around, natch, but anything was better than the crap rod-operated set up that thousands of non-Chrysler owning families were entrusting their lives to all over the globe.

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“18-24 miles to the gallon of gasoline is the astounding mileage reported by 1936 Plymouth owners all over the country- with amazingly little oil used”.

To be fair, even the most clunky of British engines didn’t technically use a whole lot of oil, it’s just that not all of it could be relied upon to remain where it was wanted. Is oil being consumed if it can be collected in a drip-tray and then poured back in? Whatever, 18-24mpg (21.6 to 28.9mpg in real, Man-sized Queen’s Gallons) was pretty fair for a six-cylinder engine with a sky-high compression ratio of 6.7 to 1 (a third of a modern turbodiesel).

Sporty? Not really. But performance wasn’t really the Plymouth game.

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“A boulevard ride no matter where you go”

The word was, you see, that “no over low-priced car” contained “as many engineering advancements to make the ride level and shockless under all conditions“. This was thanks in part to the Plymouth’s weight being “scientifically distributed”, but no doubt the AeroHydraulic shock absorbers deserved some of the credit.

There was considerable boasting about just how well suppressed engine vibrations were, too, and the body somehow “floated” free from the chassis, anchored only by rubber mounts. And bolts. And bits of metal.

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In truth, any of the features discussed at length in the ’37 Plymouth could have merited equal coverage in any Plymouth brochure up to 2001 when the marque was quietly taken to a quiet part of its property and dispatched ‘to the farm’ in a reasonably humane way.

What exciting new developments does 2017 have in store that may one day appear in The Carchive of the future? Well, car development appears to be happening in fits and starts; BMW introduced the Martian i8 some years back, and nothing since then has appeared to be even remotely as forward-thinking, but you never know.

An extremely happy new year to everybody.

(All images are of original manufacturer’s publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Chrysler, or Fiat, in other words. Major hat tip to Mike Harrell. Enjoy the kind of thing you’ve been reading? Follow me, if you like, @RoadworkUK)