Thursday, April 5, 2012

1961 Plymouth Fury Design Tweak

Refining One of Virgil Exner's Last Masterpieces
For this week's design tweak, I chose a 1961 Plymouth Fury 2 door hardtop. While I find the original Exner design stunning, its contemporary buying public didn't agree. Many automotive hacks wracked their brains trying to colorfully describe this car—The Car that Ate Tokyo—a riff on the Japanese horror flicks of the day, comes to mind, and they still do to this day in classic car magazines. The "pinched" grille and dramatic headlight placement seems to be the car's main issues, although the suddenly finless body was referred to as a "plucked chicken" by Exner himself. My main issues are with the details. There are fussy chrome doodads, fussy side sculpturing and an abundance of shiny chrome slathered in the front. Ironically, Lexus is just now introducing its new "spindle" grille across its entire lineup, and it's almost exactly the same shape as this '61 Plymouth. See the BTW sidebar at the end of this post. Let me describe how I "fixed" it to my own tastes.

T H E   C H O P — First I "radiused" the rear wheel wells. This means I opened up the fenders to reveal the entire wheel and tire. The original had a very low wheel opening which didn't really relate to the front wheel well and made the rear end look like it was dragging. I think this change did the most for "lightening" the look of the car. I resculpted the sides, continuing the front fender shoulder all the way to the back of the car instead of ending it at the front door. I also eliminated the ornate trim behind the front doors, and lowered the entire car about 3 inches so it sat closer to the ground hugging the tires more. At the front, I blackened-out the grille, which simplified the look of it, and made the dramatic "swoosh" around the protruding headlights work better. I added a satin chrome "header" above the now-black grille, with P-L-Y-M-O-U-T-H letterspaced across it. This serves to "rationalize" the grille shape, giving more prominence to the horizontal aspects of it, rather than the angularity of the opening. The front bumper was simplified too, deleting the rather baroque center section with its five raised ridges, and I raised it a few inches so it wasn't so close to the ground.

The original photo of the '61 Fury. Note the odd way the front fender shoulder sculpturing stops at the front door cutline, though the chrome trim continues. Also, just behind the front door is a set of chrome hash marks that seem really out of place, though they do serve as a start for a small sliver of white paint, matching the two-toned roof. The rear of the car seems to drag, a combination of the now-finless rear fenders and very low wheel well opening.


Exner has the last laugh after all, as Lexus introduces its brand new "Spindle" grille on its entire lineup. I call it an updated '61 Plymouth grille!

U P D A T E :  For some reason my chop wasn't enlarging from the thumbnail. Now it should be.


  1. I love this! It looks amazing. What strikes me first is that the C pillar and full wheel cutouts remind me of the BMW 6 Series from the 70s and the windshield and A pillars look very Chrysler-ish, which they obviously were! And I like the color you used too. Very nice work.

    And I love that you point out the similarities to the new Lexus -- that's hilarious -- I guess Lexus steals only from the best!

    Paul, NYC

  2. thanks, Paul! I would love to see some customizers work on cars like this and work on the lines of the car rather than just taking all the chrome off and giving them wild paint jobs and grilles/taillights from other cars.

  3. I'm just looking at your chop again and I see a lot of the 63 Chrysler in it -- one of my favorite Chryslers -- and it really ties Chrysler and Plymouth together! It was a strange time at Chrysler and they really rebounded starting with the 65s and while I love those cars, I think they were not as imaginative as they were during the chaotic period!

    Paul, NYC

  4. I love what you've done to the sides. The blacked-out grille helps, but it still suffers from the odd shape. At first I thought that the way to fix it would be to smooth out the swoosh and have the points of the trim meet, making the grille into a vee. It ended up looking pinched.

    Then I figured it out. If the character line encircles the car (a la Covair) it really simplifies the front end. I put a quick example of what it could look like here:

    There is a hint of Chevyness about it, but only a little. More could probably be done to better define the shape of the grille, but it looks less monster-like, at least. It's a little plainer and probably loses some personality, but it's also more commercial, I think.

    1. Nice, Chris! That really does clean up the front. I sort of like the pinched look, but I like your variation a lot. Thanks for participating, lol! I'm happy to look at links you provide anytime.

  5. This is much better, much cleaner and upscale looking. I think much has to do with your color scheme. Would love to see your take out back.