The 1962 Plymouth Dumbsizing

How the 1962 B Body Mopars were redesigned.

Excerpted from 1962-64 Dodge: "The New Lean Breed" by Jeffrey I. Godshall, Collectible Automobile magazine, October, 1992, page 52:

[Chrysler corporate executive Bill Newberg] had overheard or found out from Chevy chief Ed Cole "that Chevrolet was going to downsize its cars for 1962," following an existing industry trend toward smaller, more compact cars. Of course, this was nonsense-the Impala remained aggressively full-sized; it was the smaller compact-size Chevy 11 that was added in '62. Newberg, convinced nonetheless that the Impala was going to be downsized, summarily ordered the shrinking of the '62 Dodge and Plymouth from their planned 119-inch wheelbase to a new 116-inch chassis.

"Newberg,"recalls [retired Chrysler styling executive Cliff] Voss, "junked everything we had." His abrupt, ill-timed, and ill-advised turnaround required a crash program to accomplish the distasteful, to Styling at least, redesign. Normally, separate studios were maintained for Dodge and Plymouth, but the massive job and the shortness of time dictated that the cars be done in the same room. There was so much work- and so little time -that for a few frantic months Styling worked nights as well as days.

Exner was directed, with Engineering looking over his shoulder, to somehow adapt the design of the standard-size cars to this suddenly smaller, narrower package -and to take money out as well. The curved side glass went first and windshields and backlights shrank, since glass costs more than sheetmetal. The shorter, narrower Dodge that resulted lacked the proportions so necessary to bring off the look Exner had intended. As a result, both the Dodge and Plymouth ended up looking like overgrown Lancers and Valiants. Exner was not happy with the results.

"The cars," he told senior management, "are 'plucked chickens.' They are not competitive and Styling should not be held responsible."

Yet in the end, Styling-Exner-was held responsible. When the new downsized Dodges and Plymouths failed in the marketplace following introduction, Exner was called into Chrysler president Lynn Townsend's office in the fall of 1961 and fired. It was a bum rap for one of the finest talents ever to head a Big Three design staff.

Picture of the original 1962 Plymouth designThe Original 1962 Plymouth Design (large graphic)

May 24, 1997; June 29, 2003
Revised and moved to the new web site garage August 16, 1999.

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