Before ending their production in the mid-2000s, Plymouths were a visible presence on the market. Making everything from vans to sedans, to sports coupes and muscle cars, Plymouth had a respectable 90 something year run.
During those 90-plus-years Plymouth has graced us with marvels like the Road Runner and the Duster, to confused gimmicks like the Plymouth Prowler, which isn’t necessarily a bad car but its novelty didn’t make up for underwhelming performance (see below).
Breaking down their popularity, performance, and durability, these were the best and worst contributions to the performance car world by Plymouth and their parent company Chrysler.
10 Best: 1968 Plymouth Belvedere Sport Satellite
Belvederes were some of the best and most popular Plymouth cars ever made. Some considered them so representational of their era that one was once sealed in a time capsule in Oklahoma.
The 1968 Belvedere Sport Satellite came with a standard 318 cubic inch V8 engine block, making it one of the first Chrysler cars to feature this kind of engine. It was one of the best engines of the era and could reach 240 horsepower.
9 Best: 1972 Plymouth Duster 340
A car similar to the Plymouth Road Runner (see below) all Dusters came built with a V8 engine and 325 horsepower. The engine was a 5.6-liter 340 cubic inch block that sent all of its power to the rear wheels through a 3-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic.
It hit 60 mph in less than 7 seconds—impressive for an early 1970s design. Meant to be a compact version of the Plymouth Valiant, the Duster did much better on the market than the Valiant, selling over 1.3 million cars before production ended in 1976 and even earning Motor Trends “Car of the Year” award for its final model year.
8th Best: 1970 Plymouth Barracuda 383
While the Hemi Cuda and other renditions of this car all deserve the praises they get, the Baracuda 383 is the one to make this list because it was the first Barracuda to remove all previous commonalities with the Valiant, which Plymouth had been using as a chassis for almost all of their sports cars until this point.
The car’s V8 engine could achieve 335 horsepower with 425 lb-ft of torque. Barracudas also had an extensive list of engine options, ranging from four cylinders to V8 Hemis. The 383’s rear-wheel-drive also helped give this car a little extra push.
7 Best: 1971 Plymouth GTX
The last of the GTXs before being discontinued, the 1971 model was a completely different design than the preceding GTXs. The B-body platform was altered for the 1971 GTX and became Chrysler’s new rear-wheel-drive passenger car platform until 1979.
The GTX engine could either be a 7.2-liter (440 cubic inches) V8 or a 426 cubic inch Hemi V8 and had the option of either a 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual transmission. A Hemi-powered GTX could hit 425 horsepower. Plus, any Plymouth Road Runner that came with the 440 block was renamed the Plymouth Road Runner GTX.
6 Best: 1970 Plymouth Road Runner
This Road Runner’s 6.2-liter V8 engine produced 335 horsepower and 425 lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t long after being introduced in 1968 that the Road Runner became one of the most popular Plymouths ever to see production.
But 1970 was the year we saw the limited edition Road Runner Superbird, which was distinct for its long hood and horn sound that mimicked the Looney Tunes character the Road Runner, the car’s namesake. While the Road Runner was marketed as one of Plymouth’s most affordable cars at the time, today they can fetch over $150,000 at auction.
5 Worst: 1997 Plymouth Prowler
While there is a certain novelty about owning a drag roadster-inspired sports coupe that was built in the late 1990s. That said, if one is comparing it to other Plymouths it does fall short in significant ways.
It only had 180 horsepower. But its biggest drawback was trunk space. The trunk was so minimal that Plymouth sold a trailer attachment with the Prowler for an extra $5,000, and in addition to paying extra to use your own trunk, the tow hitch was useless. Towing anything but the factory-approved trailer attachment voided its warranty.
4 Worst: Plymouth Valiant 1961
While Valiants served as a chassis for several Plymouth cars well into the early 1970s, the 1961 Valiant is still a car to avoid. While redesigned to include a 3.7-liter six cylinders engine slant black engine and was one of Plymouth’s first unibody designs since the 1930s, it was not a consumer favorite.
This is mostly because the car’s engine had issues with overheating and shoddy exhaust manifolds that would crack easily and frequently. The crankcase ventilation system also required more maintenance and more frequent cleaning than other cars produced by Plymouth. Wet weather could also cause stalling and idle problems, allegedly.
3 Worst: Plymouth Gran Fury 1983
While the Gran Fury was one of Plymouth’s longest-running sedans and offered more interior room than cars like the Valiant, the third generation Grand Fury never generated the level of excitement that other Plymouths had.
The base model’s 3.7-liter slant six-cylinder engine only came to around 165 horsepower. Ultimately, according to the 2006 edition of The Encyclopedia Of American Cars, the 1983 release would see 3,000 fewer cars produced than its previous version.
2 Worst: Plymouth Volare 1976
The Volare was not only unpopular, but it was also dangerous. Volares, which are basically just Dodge Aspen’s of a different name, were recalled eight times by 1977. Problems with the car included component failures of the front suspension, brake lines corroding due to leaking battery acid, and chronic stalling.
Along with the car’s notorious structural problems, the Volares engine only had a pathetic 90 horsepower. Why Plymouth ever let this car onto the market remains a mystery. Both the Aspen and Volare were no longer produced after 1980.
1 Worst: Plymouth Volare 1980
It is no wonder that some consider this to be one of the worst muscle cars ever made. As mentioned above, this was the last hurrah of this awful and unsafe car. Finally getting the ax after multiple recalls, the 1980 Volare was just as bad if not worse than the 1976 as none of the redesigns on the final rendition were noticeable and they did nothing to solve the above-mentioned safety problems.
Also, Volare’s troubles included seat belts unlatching after hard deceleration, the exact moment when a seat belt is needed the most, and it could catch fire due to the fuel vapor line rubbing against the alternator drive belt. Whatever anyone spent on a Volare, it was always too much.