Plymouth GTX - Unique Mopar of the late 1960s
Canada | June 01, 2019
The Plymouth division of Chrysler corporation had produced some outstanding muscle cars during the 1960s. They had a wide range of models for all price ranges, as almost all American car brands had. Plymouth was Chrysler’s budget brand, much like Chevrolet was GM’s budget brand. The top of the line muscle car was the Plymouth GTX (Grand Touring X, I presume). For me, The GTX has a special place in my heart. As a teenager in Ontario, I owned two of them. And I was the only kid in the neighbourhood who had one, so when my friends saw the car they knew it was me. Because I enjoyed those cars so much, its story needed a honoured place on my blog. Note that this article was first published on DriveTribe.com.
Muscle Cars of the 1960s
In the 1960s, all North American car brands needed to come out with a powerful model as a demonstration of engineering prowess. Chevrolet had the Camero and of course the Corvette. Ford had the Mustang and the Fairlane. AMC had the Javelin. Even luxury brands such as Oldsmobile had their muscle car - the Cutlass.
But Chrysler had a stable full of powerful vehicles. Who can forget the Dodge Charger being chased by Steve McQueen in his Ford Mustang in the movie “Bullitt”. Plymouth had barn all its own full of some of the most iconic models of the 1960s. This included the Barracuda, the Road Runner, the Sport Satellite and the top of the line GTX. The Plymouth GTX combined the mid-sized spaciousness of the Satellite, energetic body markings and colours, interior “luxury” details, solid appearance and two powerful engines to choose from. It was an upscale muscle car for buyers who wanted power plus luxury. It was called “The gentleman’s Muscle Car”.
Unfortunately, this Plymouth model only lasted a short time - from 1967 to 1971. Plymouth had too many great cars and oil prices were beginning to rise. So, Chrysler started grooming their offerings and the GTX production ended. But maybe that was good. It makes this model all that more rare. Sorta makes me regret selling my two GTXs.
1967 Plymouth GTX - 1st generation
In 1967, and all subsequent years, the Plymouth GTX was based on the mid-sized Belvedere platform. This vehicle was a no-nonsense family car for budget-minded folks. Starting from this base model, Plymouth engineers built up the GTX. They added a blacked-out grill, a chrome facia for the back tail lights including the trunk lid, a set of fiberglass non-functioning hood scoops, and a tach mounted on the center console. And for fun, dual white racing stripes could be purchased on the lower body sides and wrapping around and ending at a chrome mounted GTX badge.
1967 Plymouth GTX. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
This model was built for speed. A buyer could only select from two engine options: the base engine which was a standard 440 cubic inch powerplant capable of doing 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. Buyers could order the optional the 426 cubic inch “Hemi” engine that smashed its way to 60 mph at 4.8 seconds. It was called the “Hemi” because the combustion chambers were shaped in a hemispherical upper end which meant more fuel could be injected and compressed, thus packing quite a punch to drive the piston down. It was the dream engine of my peers, and of most other motor enthusiasts, but that is for another story.
1968 Plymouth GTX - 2nd generation
In 1968, the GTX was moved upscale with the addition of the Plymouth Road Runner for the budget-minded buyers. Both were based on the Belvedere platform but the Road Runner was as basic as it comes. It was basically a Belvedere with a powerful 383 Magnum V8 punching 335 hp. It has cute Road Runner badges, bucket seats and not much else. And it outsold the GTX in great numbers. Even kids could afford it. But let’s get back to the GTX.
In 1968, the Belvedere platform underwent significant styling changes. The car was larger and had an enhanced with new front grillwork and light placement and back taillight changes. The body was more curvy and rounded. It looked less boxy. The hood design changed with different non-functional hood vents and matt black striping. Like the 1967 version, a buyer could choose either a two door hardtop or convertible as well as select from the two engines (440 or 426 Hemi).
As for the interior, the 1968 GTX came with the well-appointed Sport Satellite cabin that included that great feature of the 1960s - fake woodgrain and chrome elements.
The GTX looked upscale with standard chrome wheel-lip moldings (which were just great places to generate rust), a bright chrome tail panel with tail lights incorporated into the chrome. And for good measure it included double side stripes in either black or white depending on the colour chosen for the car.
This was my model GTX. I had both a Canadian version and an American version, the key difference being the speedometer. The Canadian model had a speedo up to 160 mph while the American had one up to 120 mph. Don’t really know why, but this was a marketing choice, I suppose. Freezing temperatures eventually killed the 1968 model in Calgary Alberta when the block cracked. I was too young and too short of cash to save it. But it was a fun car and lots of great memories. My dad was left with the job of disposing of my other model.
1968 Plymouth GTX. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
The mighty powerplants - 440 and 426 Hemi
Like the 1967 version, the 1968 GTX came with the 440 cubic inch V8 as standard with the 426 cubic inch Hemi as the only engine option. It came with the TorqueFlite automatic transmission as standard with a four speed manual transmission as a no cost option. Mine were automatics. Suspension upgrades provided a stiffer ride and better handling, especially during cornering. It included wide-oval tires and wheel changes. A buyer could upgrade with front disc brakes and a limited slip differential.
This car was not for budget buyers. You could drive home from the Plymouth dealership with $3,355 for the GTX hardtop or an additional $564 for the optional Hemi. Only 450 GTXs (414 hardtops and 36 convertibles) were ordered with the 426 Hemi, and probably for good reason. The 426 was a pain to keep in tune. The 440 was easier to maintain and keep in tune. It was better for driving as it has lots of low-end torque. The ride was typical of muscle cars of the times - a stiff ride, power steering that was a bit to assisted, and a bit crazy to handle on rough roads. But given all these problems, it was still a fun car to drive, and the sound was ear-splitting on acceleration.
1969 Plymouth GTX - 3rd generation
The 1969 model came with the changes made to all Belvedere-based models. These included new front end form, a more rounded side body, changed tail lamp and additional chromage around the wheels, as well as changes to the interior. For all intents and purposes it was identical with the 1968 version.
The standard GTX package was applied to this new model with the same engine options as the 1968 models.
1969 Plymouth GTX. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
But sales were cannibalized by the popular Road Runner, a potent - and cheap - muscle car.
1970 Plymouth GTX - 4th generation
Following the design changes to the Satellite Super Sport, the 1970 Plymouth GTX was, in my opinion, the beauty of the GTX versions. It had this smooth body starting from its growly, fighter-pilot glasses front-end with the bold GTX highlighted on its matt-black grill to its equally challenging double striped lighting on its tail. My buddy owned one and it looked sweet coming down the road. Don’t know why I didn’t sell my 1968s and pickup a 1970 model. Probably the cash, which as a teenager was hard to come by.
1970 Plymouth GTX. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Look at the hood. It had the now familiar double-black (or white) stripes ending in a faux-air intact behind the door with the bold GTX emblem reminding challengers (including Dodge Challengers) that power resided under that hood. Like the 1969 versions, the body side was a soft, curvy round shape, chrome wheel openings, and chrome liberally sprinkled around the car. And like the previous versions, the interior had luxurious touches, high-back bucket seats, and roominess that came with the Belvedere body form.
But sales were declining. Buyers wanted smaller muscle cars and Chevrolet Camaros, Ford Mustangs and even the Plymouth Cuda outsold the GTX. Plymouth managed to only sell eleven models with the 426 hemi power packs. What’s more, buyers knew the US and Canadian governments were planning on introducing stricter emissions standards to all vehicles. And of course, the price of fuel was beginning to rise.
The denouement: 1971 Plymouth GTX
The end was nigh. For 1971, it was to be the last year for the GTX. Like the Road Runner, it was based on the Satellite. But to me this model just looked weird. It had this really odd bumper masking the headlamps, probably an engineering solution to safety requirements. The engineers could have come up with a better idea, but this is what happens when a new requirement is bandaged on top of an old solution.
1971 Plymouth GTX. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
I suppose with the right paint job, the 1971 GTX might look menacing and powerful but I just could not get over that weird look. There isn’t much to say about this last model, except it was the end of the line for a once great car.
Road Runner wins the race
So, that was it. Road Runners continued to be produced for a while and the GTX badge became an amendment to the Road Runner name.
Somehow, Plymouth dropped the ball with this car. Either they should have made one car - the Road Runner or stick with the GTX and come up with another design for the Road Runner. After all, they had the ‘Cuda which predated the GTX. Somehow, Chrysler was in a mad competition for dwindling buyers trying to segment the market like all the different flavoured toothpastes in a grocery store. Eventually, one of the flavours has to go.
Reviving the GTX?
This was the fate of the Plymouth GTX. I recall writing Chrysler in the late 1970s asking if they had planned on renewing the GTX. They replied that it served Plymouth well but they had no plans to revive it. They did send me as a gift a GTX badge, which I though was a kind gesture on their part. So, here we are today and Chrysler-Fiat is producing the Challenger, including the powerful Hellcat. and it is selling well. Maybe someday they will get inspired and produce an all-electric all-wheel drive GTX on a Dodge. Plymouth as a division of Chrysler is no more.
Dodge Challenger Hellcat
So, here is some inspiration to remind you that once upon a time, driving a very powerful and fast car down the backroads of Ontario was just the sort of fun me and my buddies used to do on Friday nights. Today, we could not outrun the police (I am glad to say I never tried anyway and my uncle who was a Toronto Police Captain would have disapproved) because they are driving cars much more powerful than any I have ever owned.
2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat. Image courtesy Dodge.com.
- 2D Coupe: 17,914
- 2D Convertible: 1,026.
- 426 Hemi V8 425bhp@5000rpm, 490lb-ft@4000rpm.
- 440 V8 375bhp@4600rpm, 480lb-ft@3200rpm.
- 426/425bhp: 1/4 mile in low 13s.
- 440/375bhp: 0-60 in 6.6 sec, 1/4 mile in 15.2 sec @ 97mph