MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Award-Winning Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Chrysler Archives, Robert Tate Collection, ClassicCars.com
Published 2.7.2024

1956 Plymouth advertising Robert Tate Collection RESIZED 31956 Plymouth advertising (Robert Tate Collection)

Under the great design leadership of Virgil Exner, Plymouth continued to keep its number four position in sales for the auto industry in 1956. For 1956, Plymouth and DeSoto models offered modifications to the concepts introduced in 1955.

For the 1956 model year, Plymouth introduced the Savoy and Plaza, as well as the Belvedere and Suburban models, which became very popular. The Plaza and Savoy models had three body types, the Belvedere had five, and the Suburban line offered four choices. Plymouth also offered a very popular four-door hardtop which was called the Sport Sedan, it was only available in the Belvedere series.

Factory production 1956 Plymouth models Chrysler Archives RESIZED 1Factory production 1956 Plymouth models (Chrysler Archives)

The biggest news for the Plymouth line in 1956 was the introduction of the high-performance Fury at the Chicago Automobile Show on January 10, 1956. The 1956 Fury nearly set a record at Daytona Beach’s annual Speed Week, which had set a bar for high performance for Plymouth fans. The 1956 Fury was a sub-series of the Plymouth Belvedere models offered a 303-solid V8 engine, and they were painted off-white with gold-anodized aluminum side trim. The sticker price for a 1956 Fury was $2,866. Plymouth also offered a convertible that was introduced in its Belvedere series that sold for $2,478.

1956 Plymouth Fury information Chrysler Archives CROPPED AND RESIZED 21956 Plymouth Fury information (Chrysler Archives)

1955 had been record sales year for Chrysler Corporation. Automotive historians stated that Chrysler’s advertising and promotion started using slogans like the “100 Million Dollar Look” or “The Forward Look,” which meant tailfins were offered for its 1956 models. Aside from modest tailfins, the design for the 1956 Plymouths was altered little from the popular 1955 models.

1956 Plymouth advertising Robert Tate Collection CROPPED AND RESIZED 4A 1956 Plymouth ad (Robert Tate Collection)

In 1956, Plymouth offered its PowerFlite automatic transmission that introduced pushbutton range selections for the driver. All Chrysler-built cars introduced pushbutton controls for the automatic transmission that year.

1956 Plymouth advertising Robert Tate Collection 5Another 1956 Plymouth ad (Robert Tate Collection)

In addition, the 1956 Plymouth models offered a mild facelift, introducing taller finned rear fender housing with slim vertical taillights and a wraparound windshield design. Don Butler, author of “The Plymouth and DeSoto Story,” said this about the 1956 Plymouth models: “1955/56 was a year of exceptional prosperity, which brought the industry out of the mild sag of 1954 and boosted it to a record high. The best year since its previous record was set in 1950, a better one would not come until 1965.”

1956 Plymouth advertising Robert Tate Collection RESIZED 6A two-page spread 1956 Plymouth ad (Robert Tate Collection)

During the 1950s, Chrysler started to experiment with gas turbine engines, which began with a 1954 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Coupe. In 1956, Chrysler came up with another gas turbine engine that was installed in a 1956 Plymouth Belvedere four-door sedan model. Automotive historians have said this was the first turbine-engine to make a trans-continental run, completing a 3,020-mile trip from New York City to Los Angeles in four days to test the engine’s performance.  

1956 Plymouth Belvedere rear design ClassicCar.com CROPPED AND RESIZED 7The 1956 Plymouth Belvedere rear view (ClassicCar.com) 

In conclusion, the 1956 Plymouth models were big sellers for Chrysler. The great styling under the direction of Virgil Exner provided a clean and pleasing design that will always be a part of our automotive history and culture.

1956 Plymouth turbine engine car Chrysler Archives RESIZED 8A 1956 Plymouth turbine engine car (Chrysler Archives)

Bibliography

Ross, Scott. “1956 Plymouth Fury - First Fury.” Motor Trend/Hot Rod magazine. January 4, 2010.  

Butler, Don. “The Plymouth and DeSoto Story.” Crestline Publishing, 1978.

Plymouth original 1956 sales material and advertising. Robert Tate Collection.