Readers Rides

1970 Plymouth: Family Car To Powerhouse

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By Mark Weisseg

Looking at the sales brochure of a 1970 Plymouth, you would believe they were all for the mild, well heeled business person. A safe, large car with plenty of seating, an average size engine and based on the history of Plymouth, a reliable car for you and your family.

Ironically it did not take much to take this Mr Cleaver car and drop in a big engine, a four speed transmission and the car turned from Clark Kent to Superman right away.
The same can be said about many cars of that era. A mild mannered ’69 Chevelle, nothing outrageous about it and within a brief period of time add a 396 and blamo, a whole new animal rises.

These cars were nearly all big. They had a big hood, long quarter panels, big doors and truck lid. Not what one would normally think as a good candidate for a high performance car.
Once we showed OEM’s what could be done, it is they who followed our lead and began to get creative. Offering multitudes of engines and transmission packages, beefing up the suspensions and adding bigger tire and wheel set ups.
Suddenly the soft, gentle family Plymouth became a force to be reckoned with. The exteriors did not change much as the panels were still big and bulky but under the front panel everything changed and changed for the better.

From a small, reliable 318 V8, the next step was to bury in a 383 or a Super Commando 440. For the rare ones, a 426 Hemi. Not Mr. Cleavers car anymore at all. The grocery getter just found a way to get them there, but in a much faster way.

Interesting, it shows how one small good idea could turn out so much better with a little thought and some elbow grease. That was what made us Americans so good in automotive history. In some cases, we were not the first to have bragging rights but by golly we would nearly always find a way to make something our very own.

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