Power and panache in a full-size package from PlymouthPlymouth’s legendary “Suddenly it’s 1960” ad tagline of 1957 had boomeranged; by the time it actually was 1960, and GM had launched its longer-lower-wider models in a bid to catch up, Mopar had advanced very little style-wise in that same period. Plymouth was still third in the national sales race, thanks in large part to a boost from the hot-selling Valiant. Without Valiant, the division sold barely a quarter-million cars.
This 1960 Plymouth Fury is the very picture of 1950s opulence and splendor. Fins? Jukebox instrument panel? Wide whites on wire wheels? Swivel-out front seats? Tri-tone interior? The odd placement of carefully designed logos and scripts around the body? Sport deck, an optional trunk lid with a faux-spare tire molded in? Hectares of chrome slathered on all surfaces? Skirts, fer cryin’ out loud? How many kitschy mid-century styling cues could a single car carry? Size, proportion, the evolution of the “Forward Look,” everything you can readily see on this convertible fairly screams of the decade of Eisenhower.
Step inside, and your opinion won’t be swayed. If you’re used to the stark simplicity of the ’60s, man, it’s a whole different world in here. No shifter up through the floor, no tachometer, no bucket seats (well, it’s sort of a bucket, as it’s able to spin to make it simpler to get in and out), no console, none of the fripperies that have come to be associated with what we know to be a muscle car. Itchy cloth seating areas display a seemingly random pattern sewn into the fabric. A pattern of what exactly, we don’t know. The steering wheel is shaped like a TV screen, with sparkly clear bits top and bottom, solid grips for your hands at 9 and 3 o’clock, and a big chrome burst in the middle, just because. The gauges jut out from the dashboard, with white numbers on a black background demarking the brightly colored ribbon speedometer with red hash marks. The legendary Mopar pushbutton shifter is in the dash, conveniently placed at the left hand. It’s all texture and _ ash, delightfully tactile yet ultimately hollow, a last gasp of that ’50s exuberance before the somber ’60s came to play. A hardtop was available, of course, but the convertible only adds to the retro-liveliness.
Yet, if you look deeper, this particular 1960 Fury is a car at a crossroads. Yes, the body is all about the ’50s. Still, if you scratch through the surface excitement, there are some significant leaps forward here. First up is unitized construction. Mopar tried to popularize it as early as the mid-1930s, in its controversial Air_ ow—all of Rambler’s chest-beating over how its predecessor, Nash, pioneered this innovation was a little disingenuous—but every new 1960 Plymouth (including the compact Valiant) had unit-body construction. Plymouth claimed it took 5,400 welds to put together a fullsize unit-body (Savoy, Belvedere, or Fury, no matter), and as a result offered 100-percent greater body rigidity and 40-percent greater beam strength than its contemporary competition from GM and Ford, despite elements that were up to 75-percent heavier than competitors’. Six separate chemical sprays and seven chemical baths, plus four coats of paint, prevented rust on the inner structure; before the paint went on, all of the seams were shot with a weld sealant that expanded and dried as the body dried in the paint oven. Additional soundproofing was provided by larger rear-spring bushings, a new driveshaft designed to reduce hum, special liquid sealant and fibrous matting throughout. The result? A lighter car and a smoother in-cabin experience. The engine was held in its own separate subframe, isolated from the rest of the car.
As for the engine… you’ll recall that Plymouth never got a Hemi of its own in the ’50s. With the Hemi’s passing after 1958, however, Chrysler let Plymouth into the performance game. Enter SonoRamic, Plymouth’s name for a radical-looking ram-induction setup. Two separate aluminum intake manifolds, each topped with a Carter four-barrel, stretched across the engine’s valley pan to feed the opposite cylinder bank. Each intake measured 30 inches from the carburetor venturi to the intake valve; it force-fed fuel-air mixture toward the cylinder, even when the intake valve was closed, and so a denser air-fuel charge was built up and forced into the combustion chamber once it opened. The length of the manifold affects the rev range where optimum boost occurs; short runners are fine for high-revving engines, but for high-torque monsters like a 361, with peak torque at 2,800 rpm, the runners needed to be 2½-feet long. From the top, it looked like an octopus was trying to swallow your valve cover. From behind the wheel, it felt like heaven.
Perched atop a 361-cube B-series Chrysler V-8 engine, this combination was good for 310 hp and a glorious, tire-shredding 435 lb-ft of torque. Dodge’s version in the D500 was rated at 320 hp, quite possibly because it was in a car that was higher up the food chain (the engines were identical)— but in the smaller, lighter Plymouth, it caught the attention of many who saw great things in its performance potential. Like Lee and Richard Petty, to drop a couple of names.
Alas, while the SonoRamic V-8 was excellent for the street, and excelled in accelerating and passing power, it didn’t quite do the trick at the high revs that most racers needed, and so fell out of favor; there were no more SonoRamic Furys past 1961, although lessons learned here were put to work on other Mopars, including the fearsome Max Wedge racers that dominated the early-to-mid-’60s racing scene. Plymouth produced 7,080 Fury convertibles for 1960; it is estimated that 20 to 25 of these were equipped with the SonoRamic 361 engine.
This Plymouth is a bridge between eras, spanning the ostentatious tri-tone glamour of the ’50s and the no-nonsense speed of the ’60s. Rarely has straddling the fence— between decades, between luxury and performance—seemed so comfortable.
Engine OHV Chrysler B-series V-8
Horsepower 310 @ 4,800 rpm
Fuel system Dual four-barrel Carter carburetors, each atop a 30-inch intake runner
Transmission Chrysler TorqueFlite three-speed automatic
Wheelbase 118 inches
Length 209.4 inches
Width 78.6 inches
Height 54.9 inches
Shipping weight 3,630 pounds
Production 20-25 (est.)
Article courtesy of Hemmings Motor News, written by Jeff Koch.