The Fury script first graced a Plymouth in 1956. The name was appropriate for the performance-oriented Mopar, which was similar in concept to Chrysler’s 300. Performance continued to dominate in the design of the Fury through 1958. By the following year, the concept changed, and high-performance became an option.
Plymouth took advantage of the Fury’s image and applied the name to what had represented a Belvedere in previous years (something the Chrysler nameplate would do later with the 300). The Belvedere slipped down a notch in the hierarchy, along with the remaining cars in the lineup, and the Plaza was dropped entirely. At this point, the Sport Fury represented the top of the line, but for 1960 and 1961, there were no Sport versions of the Fury. Furys and/or Sport Furys rode on a 118-inch wheelbase from 1957 through 1961. The following year, things changed drastically.
While new designs were close to being finalized for the ’62 Plymouths, Chrysler’s Executive Vice President, William Newberg, overheard a conversation involving Chevrolet’s General Manager, Ed Cole, in which Cole referred to the new compact Chevy II. Newberg somehow got the impression that Chevy would downsize its Impala/Bel Air line for 1962, and he panicked.
The next day he ordered that Plymouth (as well as Dodge) would downsize for 1962. With time running out fast, designers had to adapt the new designs, already in the advanced stage, to the compact Valiant/Lancer body shell-a nearly impossible task. A “fury” ensued to meet the demand.
Virgil Exner, chief stylist at the time, objected to the revisions because he knew the end result would not be competitive. He was right-the ’62s were considered a sales disaster. Even though the resulting ’62 models were not Exner’s doing, he got blamed by unhappy dealers for the unsuc-cessful cars. Bringing back the Sport Fury at midyear did little to help sales.
Lynn Townsend (who by this point had taken over the company’s presidency) fired Exner due to pressure from the dealers. Ironically, it was Townsend who had assured Exner that he would not get axed. A short time after the ’62 model year fiasco, it became apparent that the new Plymouth was a flop.
With the mistake already made, there was little to do but make the best of the situation. Thus, the next year’s model received a facelift. This effort proved to be much more successful, as shown by an increase of more than 40 percent above the previous year’s output.
Besides the improved styling, the Plymouth line received some mechanical improvements and some upgrades for the engine compartment. A 361 with a two-barrel carb replaced the 318 4-bbl, and the 361 4-bbl was supplanted by a 383. At midyear, a competition-only 426 made it to the options list, as did the Warner T-10 four-speed, which could be had with the 318 (2-bbl), the 361, and the 383. Just as noteworthy, for the first time in the company’s history, Chrysler Corporation offered a five-year or 50,000-mile warranty on all models.
Motor Trend magazine performed a road test on a ’63 Sport Fury equipped with a 383, TorqueFlite, and power steering and brakes. The test driver was quite impressed with the new Plymouth as shown by his statement that “…the Sport Fury is a car that’s completely at home in heavy traffic, out on the open road, or at the Sunday drags.
” He further reported, “Plymouths are still just about the best all-around handling cars in their price class.” The applauded handling characteristics came from torsion bars in front and asymmetrical semi-elliptic leaf springs in back (the same as in ’62 models). After Plymouth switched from four-ply tires to two-ply in 1963, the test driver complained about excessive understeer in tight corners. Other favorable observations made in the Jan. ’63 Motor Trend report praised the padded front bucket seats and bucket-styled rear bench seat, easy-to-read instruments, and interior materials.
Performance figures for the Motor Trend test car showed the 383-powered car could complete the quarter-mile trial in 15.9 seconds at 95 mph, and 0-60 mph could be managed in as little as 7.2 seconds with a passenger and a full load of fuel.
Perhaps the Motor Trend test had some influence on the original owner of the feature car, or maybe he was a longtime Mopar fan. What is certain is that the first owner of this Sport Fury convertible was a part of Red Adair’s oil well fire-fighting team, and he opted for the 265hp 361, TorqueFlite automatic, 3.23:1 Sure Grip, air conditioning, tinted glass, power steering, power brakes, power top, and bumper guards.
The sporty convertible had been financed through a Lufkin, Texas, bank-it became the next owner. After the bank repossessed the car, the bank president decided to pay the balance of the loan and give the Sport Fury to his wife. The couple drove the car through the ’70s.
The current owner, a Texas resident, purchased the car in 1983 after seeing an ad about it in a Houston newspaper. At some point, the convertible lost its original wheel covers, and that is why it now rolls on a set of Magnum Road Wheels. Other than the non-stock wheels and some cosmetic work, this Sport Fury remains original.