It's so ugly, it's beautiful. That's how many Mopar folks describe the "mid-sized" '62 Plymouths.
Considered ugly as a result of their hurried downsizing, ordered by upper management a year before start-of-production, the resulting '62 Plymouths-and their Dodge counterparts-may have looked like "plucked chickens" in the mind of soon-to-be-former styling boss Virgil Exner, who took the blame for their lack of sales success. But they were the first cars built on the now-legendary B-Body platform, which stayed in production through 1979.
This 408-inch stroker small-block...
This 408-inch stroker small-block from Marshall Engines' BluePrint Series (sourced from Jegs) replaced a well-worn replacement for the original 318.
And, if they've spent much of their lives in the sun belt as opposed to the snow belt, B-Body '62 Plymouths still turn eyes well into the 21st Century.
At least Michael Bir's Fury does. He says he found this car just about a decade ago, in much the shape you see it now. "The paint that's on it now was on it then-[previous owners] painted right over the original paint," he says of the Fury's outside hue, which he found to be on the rough side. "They painted it with the trim [still] on it," he says of the previous owner's body refinishing. "So a friend of mine who did paintwork, Steven Snell, thought it was thick enough that we could wet-sand it and buff it." Off came the trim, out came the sander, then the buffer, and the result was the Ermine White finish you see here.
While the trim was off, Michael learned-by experience-how to straighten and polish all that original trim, even the pot-metal items. Good thing, because that vintage trim-like a lot of early B-Body sheetmetal-has yet to be reproduced.
Plenty of info in a smaller...
Plenty of info in a smaller space-that sums up the dash design inside '62 Plymouths. Seats and interior trim are repros, while the radio and speaker are originals.
We mention the paint and exterior trim work, because no rust or crash-damage repair work was needed on the Fury's original unibody. "There's no rust on the car," Michael says from his Fort Wayne, Indiana, home. "It was built in California (at Ma Mopar's L.A. Assembly Plant in Bellflower), and it spent most of its life out in the Southwest. There are no patch panels or anything reproduction on it."
Inside, the stock bench-seat interior was freshened-including the "typewriter" dash-mounted shifter for the original 727 TorqueFlite.
Under the hood is another story, though a familiar one. The original engine was long gone when Michael got this '62, replaced by a '68-vintage 318. "I was going to build a 406 small-block for it, and I was looking for parts when I came across Marshall Engines' 408-inch Chrysler BluePrint Series engine," he says of the Jegs-sourced crate engine that succeeded the 318 (and likely an original 318 Poly before that). "I couldn't build it for what they sold it for."
American Racing Torq-Thrust...
American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels are period-correct for '62. They're now mounted on Uniroyal Tiger Paws, instead of the Dunlop blackwalls seen here.
The looks and comments that Michael gets when he takes his Fury out are priceless. "It's amazing," he says. "Some people will say, 'My grandpa had one like that,' or 'My great-aunt had one like that.'" He adds that a lot of people give it a really close look, because they've never seen anything like it. "They're not sure what they're looking at, because it doesn't say "Plymouth" anyplace except on the very front of the hood."
What's it like to drive? "I love driving that car," says Michael. "It actually drives pretty good." He adds, "Somewhere along the line, I read that this was the lightest B-Body that they ever built. They're runners!"
A previous repaint in the...
A previous repaint in the original Ermine White came out looking good after color-sanding and buffing, and the unreproduced chrome trim responded to the same kind of restorative attention.
That's not surprising. The '62 Plymouth's smaller size-eight inches shorter than the '61's-and lighter weight led to success on the racetrack from day one of the '62 season. In NASCAR's Grand National series, Richard Petty finished second in the Daytona 500, then reeled off eight wins-including his first winning streak-plus 31 more top 5 finishes and 38 more top 10s on his way to his best year to date, finishing second in the season standings behind champ Joe Weatherley. The Petty shop had five other drivers race '62 Plymouths that year, all of them scoring top 10-or-better finishes. Jim Paschal added three more wins to the Petty Enterprises total for '62-and Lee Petty drove a '62 Plymouth to a fifth place finish at Martinsville, in his first race since his crash at Daytona the year before. Plus, when the first batch of 50 413-cubic-inch "Max Wedge"-powered Plymouths hit the dragstrips that spring, they started winning rounds-and races-on quarter-mile and eighth-mile strips across the country.
But smaller size didn't translate into bigger sales for Plymouth in 1962. Sales totaled just 182,220 B-Body Plymouths in all series' (Savoy, Belvedere, Fury, and Sport Fury). Add in 157,294 Valiants, and Plymouth moved just 339,514 cars out the door in model-year 1962, good for only eighth place in the sales race--down from 7th in 1961, and fourth in 1960. However, things were about to start looking up for Plymouth, sales-wise. 1963 brought the first-annual styling freshening for the B-Body, as well as a new five-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty-both of which helped move Plymouth's sales upward again.
What the best-dressed '62...
What the best-dressed '62 Plymouths wore in front then-and now. New front bumper adds sparkle to the Fury's front end, which also features a restored grille and headlight/hood trim.
Some Mopar lovers have had more than one '62 Plymouth in their garage, and that includes Michael. "I got attached to these '62s," he says. "I had another '62 project that was so bad that it wasn't worth putting the money into. I did away with that car, and bought a couple of other parts cars. "He also says that, through the course of time, he became attached to this Fury simply because you don't see many of them. "You get a lot of double-takes with it, and I like that part," he says, and he adds, "It's good to be different, even if people say your car is so ugly it's beautiful."
If you think that '62 Plymouths are your kind of beautiful, Michael has this advice. "Buy one that's got fairly good sheetmetal on it, because for '62-'64s, there's not a lot of new stuff produced for them," noting the lack of early B-Body resto parts compared with '66-'67s and '68-'70 B-Bodies, especially. He adds, "The '62s are around, but they're not real plentiful."
But that number could increase, if you're as lucky as Michael was in finding his Fury.
'62 Plymouth Fury two-door hardtop
Owned by: Michael Bir, Fort Wayne, Indiana
- Engine: A 408-inch LA small-block, courtesy of Marshall Engines' BluePrint Series (and Jegs).
- Transmission: Michael rebuilt the OEM 727 TorqueFlite, and kept the original dash-mounted pushbutton shifter.
- Rearend: A 3.55-geared, Sure Grip-equipped, Mopar 8 3/4-inch one.
- Suspension: Refurbished original '62 Plymouth (Front) Longitudinal torsion bars with tubular shocks, plus a Just Suspensions anti-sway bar (Rear) Leaf springs with tubular shocks
- Brakes: 10x2.5-inch "Total Contact" drums all around, non-power-assisted
- Wheels and Tires: Polished 14x7-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels on repro Uniroyal "Tiger Paws" give the Fury good handling and a cool '60s look.
- Body: Original '62 Plymouth two-door hardtop unibody wears replacement bumpers and its original Fury trim
- Paint: The previous owner resprayed the original Ermine White, which Michael and his buddy, Steven Snell, color-sanded and buffed.
- Interior: Standard '62 Fury front//rear bench seats with repro carpets from Auto Custom Carpets. (If you wanted bucket seats back then, you waited until mid-year for the Sport Fury.)