In its day, Plymouth was one of the best-selling and most beloved brands in the U.S. Owned first by Chrysler and then by DaimlerChrysler, the marque existed for more than 70 years before being discontinued in 2001.
The Plymouth Motor Corporation was born in May of 1928 as a marketing subsidiary of the Chrysler Corporation, with Walter Chrysler as its president. The first Plymouth, the Plymouth 4, followed soon thereafter, cruising into showrooms in 1929. The car was based on a Chrysler model, the Chrysler 4. Its low price and solid quality established Plymouth as the brand to beat for consumers seeking affordable transportation.
The 1930s saw Plymouth investing in the development of a new vehicle; the Plymouth PA was launched in 1931. Featuring then-innovative rubber engine mounts, the car was a hit, and helped Plymouth sail past more established brands like Buick to nab the 3rd-place spot in national car sales, behind Ford and Chevrolet. By 1939, more than 3 million Plymouths had been built, and its name had been officially changed to the Plymouth Division.
In the years following World War II, Plymouth introduced models like the Cambridge, Suburban and Cranbrook. The look of the vehicles was a departure from the prevailing aesthetic of the time. They were chunky and tall whereas the most popular vehicles were long, lean and low. V8 engines and automatic transmissions were also new additions to the Plymouth brand in the '50s. By the time the decade drew to a close, more than 12 million Plymouths had been built.
The '60s saw the birth of the pony car, and Plymouth was at the forefront of the movement with its legendary Barracuda, which was initially based on the Valiant compact when it was introduced in 1964. As the years went on, the Barracuda offered a range of powerful V8 engines and a choice of body styles, including a convertible. The decade also saw the introduction of a pair of muscle cars based on the midsize Belvedere: the bare-bones Road Runner and the more luxurious GTX. The psychedelic era also gave rise to the brand's potent 426 Hemi V8 engine.
The fuel crisis of the mid-1970s spelled trouble for Plymouth, as high fuel prices caused poor sales for its larger models. Plymouth saw some success with its Valiant, Duster and Volare compacts. But the lone shining star on the sales charts was the subcompact Horizon. Otherwise, the company suffered slow sales due to an aged and dwindling lineup. Things didn't get much better for Plymouth during the '80s. In spite of the debut of the popular Voyager minivan and a couple of other new models like the Caravelle and Sundance, the brand continued to struggle.
By the time the '90s rolled around, Plymouth was no longer a full-line make. Chrysler had plans to reinvigorate the brand with the introduction of new models, but all that changed after the company's merger with Daimler at the end of the decade. At the close of the '90s, Plymouth's lineup had been reduced to just five vehicles: the Voyager and Grand Voyager minivans, the Breeze sedan, the Neon compact and the Prowler sports car. DaimlerChrysler soon decided to pull the plug on the long-neglected brand, with the last Plymouths being made in model-year 2001.