DimlerChrysler Corporation's Plymouth Division may be just a heartbeat away from extinction, but the performance legacy the "value brand from Highland Park" leaves behind will never be forgotten.
By the time the GTX was introduced in 1967, Plymouth already had a rock-solid reputation for delivering serious performance to those on a limited budget. The GTX was not a bare-bones street and strip warrior like the Road Runner yet to come, but it did offer the quintessential musclecar formula of big-inch/high-horse engines in a relatively light package.
Plymouth first brought that package, Chrysler Corporation's B-Body, to market in 1966 with the Belvedere and Satellite models. Like other mid-size cars of the era, they offered a very marketable combination of snappy styling, good performance, comfortable ride, ample passenger and luggage capacity, and all around good value.
In the spirit of Pontiac's Tempest-turned-GTO, Oldsmobile's Cutlass-turned-442, Chevrolet's Malibu-turned-Super-Sport and Ford's Fairlane-turned-GT, Chrysler's B-Body platform also offered ample opportunity to tilt the balance toward greater performance in a big way. When launched in 1967 the GTX came standard with the Super Commando 440, rated at 375 horsepower and 480 lb/ft of torque. And for about $546 extra, buyers could step up to the 425 horsepower Street Hemi.
Helping put the big-block's twist to the ground were heavier front-torsion bars, a fatter front anti-sway bar, extra-stiff rear springs, tuned shocks, and Goodyear redline tires. Chassis upgrades were even more extensive with the Hemi, including a super-stout Dana rear that was better able to handle the monster's torque.
Like the entire Plymouth and Dodge B-Body line, the GTX benefited from a major redesign in 1968. Also, it was reclassified as a separate model rather than a Belvedere spin-off: In '67 it was officially called a Belvedere GTX. The Road Runner also debuted 1968, which, together with GTX, formed a two-model series in the company's mid-size palette.
In keeping with just about all of the offerings from Motor City, Plymouth's GTX got more standard equipment and more expensive in 1968. That trend continued in 1969, the year our stunning feature car was born. The '69s started out with a price tag of $3,416 for hardtops and $3,635 for drop-tops, but could approach $5,000 if loaded with performance enhancers or if other available options were added. Whether equipped with the standard 440 or optional 426 Hemi, all GTXs sported a fresh-air hood.
That was the case with the Dark Green Metallic convertible shown, which is now part of Otis Chandler's outstanding collection of super-fast, super-unusual cars and motorcycles. Chandler has actually pared down the musclecar content of his world-class ensemble in recent years, but he couldn't resist the GTX. It is one of only 11 Hemi powered convertibles built in 1969, and by far represents the finest surviving example. The car still sports its original dealer emblem, and though the bright trim insert on the rear is not normally seen on a GTX, photographs document that this car came with it when new.
Unlike many elephant-driven Mopars, this car was never cut, tubbed, or otherwise modified, and actually led a relatively sedate life. In fact, it was in good enough condition prior to restoration that a lot of people would probably have refrained from restoring it. But those same qualities that made it a high quality survivor also made it a luscious restoration candidate. With the exception of normal wear items like hoses, exhaust, tires, and the battery, just about every original bit and piece was present and accounted for. The factory interior, weatherstrip, and other soft-trim items were beautifully preserved, and the sheetmetal was nearly virgin with virtually no rust or collision damage.
When one begins with a perfect restoration candidate, it makes perfect sense to perform a perfect restoration, and that's exactly what a previous owner had done. But what really sets this car apart is the no-stone-will-be-left-unturned, no-expense-will-be-spared prodigious use of NOS parts. With the proliferation of the reproduction parts during the past 10 or 15 years, almost anything a restorer could need, especially expendables like hoses, belts, ignition wires, tires, exhaust components, and the like is only a phone call away. The restorer of this GTX chose to forsake that route however, and devoted untold hours, mind boggling effort, and more than a piddling of cold hard cash to procure the genuine articles. Battery cables, plug wires, hoses, belts, mufflers, pipes, and even the brake shoes are among the date-code and part-number correct Chrysler-issued pieces. And how about those tires and wheels? You are looking at perfect original Goodyear Red Streaks hugging nearly impossible to find original Kelsey Hayes aluminum mags. The wheels were initially offered as an option, but due to a distressingly high number of casting flaws they were quickly discontinued, and the few sets that had been released were recalled. Equally expensive and difficult to find were the wheel's trim rings, which were apparently not used on anything else.
Though GTX would survive through 1971 as a distinct model and into 1972 as an option package for the Road Runner, the qualities that endeared it to buyers began to dissipate after 1969. Overstuffed insurance industry executives and overzealous do-gooders from our nation's capitol saw to that.
Because the magic seemed to fade afterward, many enthusiasts consider 1969 a high-water mark for Plymouth's GTX. The increased number of standard features in concert with an impressively long list of extra-cost options allowed each buyer to order precisely what he wanted. The '69 model's styling also added to the appeal, as it was up to date, crisp, and aggressive without being overdone. The same can be said for the car's body graphics, badging, color choices, and general appointments, particularly in light of what was destined to come out of Detroit in the next couple of decades.