The Plymouth Deluxe was produced from 1946 to 1950 in a variety of body styles that included 2 and 4 door sedan, 2 door coupe, 2 door convertible and 4 door station wagon. This was one of the first Post-War Plymouths to come, and was offered in two trim styles, Deluxe and Special Deluxe. The first car, a Deluxe rolled off the line on October 22nd 1945, while the first Special Deluxe followed it four days later. Plymouth claimed over fifty improvements over pre-war cars, including the electric starter, stating “You don’t grope for a starter button or pedal or pull a choke, you simply turn the ignition key – and the engine starts.”
A single engine choice was offered - a 3.6 litre (217 cubic inch) in-line carbureted six. The engine was rated at 95bhp for 1946-1948 models, and 97bhp for 1949-1950 models, and drove the rear wheels through a three-speed gearbox to a leaf-sprung rear axle. The car featured a 6-volt electrical system and vacuum-operated wipers.
The 1949 model we have here has an interesting history in that it was previously owned by Dr. Neville Fernando. The current owner Eranjika Jayawardena was one of Dr. Fernando’s patients as he was their family doctor. Jayawardena fondly recalls seeing this car at the doctor’s premises on each visit and falling in love with it. “This was the very car he used to drive to Parliament in, when he was an MP!” recalls Jayawardena. When Dr. Fernando planned to sell the car as he had no space for it, Jayawardena was one of the prospective owners but declined as the price was too high for him at the time. However, as fate would have it, the car was destined for his garage and in 1998 it took its place.
Jayawardena recalls that first drive from Avissawella to Panadura during which “the car didn’t let me down at all”. The car had already had most of the tinkering restoration done, so Jayawardena painted it in its original blue at the time. However, life commitments caught up with him and the car languished in his Panadura home from 2000 until 2010, when Jayawardena recalls “we charged the battery, replaced the spark plugs and fluids and the engine started right away!” He thereafter painted the car black and continued the restoration work which he says “is an ongoing process, as many little bits and pieces need to be sourced and procured”.
Opening the door reveals that the interior has been kept lovingly immaculate, right down to the bench seats and control surfaces. Jayawardena proudly points out that all the gauges – speed, amps, fuel, temperature are in working condition, untouched from the time they left the factory and that the engine is totally unmodified - or even opened up for that matter. Hearing him start the Plymouth to move around for our photo shoot, the 6v starter is relatively quiet and the engine catches immediately. He also says “it does very good on petrol which is a surprise”. The car is also a big hit with his children, and is a sure-fire head turner wherever it goes.
A bit of History of the Plymouth brand
Plymouth as a brand first appeared on a car in 1928, and was created by the Chrysler Corporation to compete in the lower-priced segment of the market at the time. Chrysler took over the troubled Maxwell-Chalmers car company and used the facilities and technology of the Maxwell automobile to create what would become the 1928 Chrysler-Plymouth Model Q, which was unveiled on July 7th 1928, at Madison Square Garden. The Chrysler part of the name was dropped in 1929 with the Model U. During the years of the Great Depression, Plymouth is credited with greatly helping the survival of the Chrysler Corporation, and the brand almost surpassed Ford’s leading sales figures in 1940 and 1941. Chrysler’s Turbine Car project (which was covered in a past issue of Motor) had its origins in a Plymouth where the prototype engine was installed.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Plymouth had its golden era where the brand introduced many well-known muscle car nameplates such as Fury, Roadrunner and Barracuda, which need no introduction as they contributed towards making the muscle car popular at the lower end of the market, in line with Chrysler Corporation’s positioning of Plymouth.
However, by the 1980s and 1990s, Plymouth had turned around into selling mostly badge-engineered Mitsubishi and Dodge models, and was losing its unique identity as well as overlapping with the more up market Dodge brand. Chrysler tried unsuccessfully to re-position Plymouth at the bottom of the market once again but this did not work well and sales continued on a downward slide.
The Plymouth Prowler of 1997 was an attempt to tap the Hot Rod market and make Plymouth desirable in USA, but its sole power train choice of a 3.5L V6 (initially 214bhp, later 253bhp), coupled to a 4-speed automatic transmission did not auger well with a crowd where a V8 was seen as the key entry criteria. The most powerful Prowler could do the 0-100km/h sprint in 5.9 seconds but this still wasn’t enough to sway demand in its favour. The last Plymouth was a Neon sedan which rolled off the line on July 28th 2001 and this iconic brand died a quiet death with it.
What’s in a Name?
Did you know why the name Plymouth was chosen? The obvious answer would point to Plymouth Rock, and indeed the early logo featured a rear view of the ship “Mayflower”, which landed at Plymouth Rock. However, the inspiration for the Plymouth name came from Plymouth Binder Twine, which was a popular twine among farmers. The name was chosen by Chrysler executive Joseph Frazer who came from Maxwell-Chalmers and was responsible for proposing to Walter P. Chrysler the idea of building a low-cost car to directly challenge Ford and GM. It is said that he stated to Chrysler “Why not call it Plymouth? That’s a good old American name…” His suggestion was met with skepticism by other Chrysler executives, but Walter P. Chrysler who had been a farmer himself understood the intention and replied “Every farmer in America knows about Plymouth Binder Twine…let’s give them a name they’re familiar with”.