Hooniverse Weekend Edition – The Chrysler A-Body, B-Body, and the F & M Body Cars

Continuing on with our Long Life Platform Series, we now turn to the Chrysler Platforms, most of them started production in the early 60s, and lived a long life. The Chrysler A-Body started out as the Plymouth Valiant and spawned at least five other nameplates. The Chrysler B-Body started out as the “Downsized” full-size Plymouth and Dodge models, and spawned more than a dozen models over its lifetime. The F & M Bodies started as a replacement for the A-Body platform, but morphed into higher line intermediates similar to the Ford Granada and Mercury Monarch, and went on to eventually become an Imperial.

The Chrysler A-Body was introduced at the 44th International Motor Show in London on October 26, 1959, and went on sale shortly thereafter. This was an all new chassis, with a new six-cylinder engine, and was styled a bit more radical that the conventional Ford Falcon, which was also introduced for 1960. The front suspension consisted of unequal length control arms with torsion bars, while the rear suspension used a live axle supported by asymmetric leaf springs. Chrysler used this design through the entire production life of the Valiant and other A-body models.

The A-Body would not be a Valiant all of its life, so in 1961 there would be a Dodge version called the Lancer. This was basically a badge engineered car, whipped up to satisfy the Dodge Dealers at that time. An all new Valiant and companion Dodge Dart made their debut in 1963, and this time, the Dart and the Valiant were visually distinctive, and had different wheelbases. By 1964, Plymouth introduced a different model called the Barracuda, which really predated the Ford Mustang by 2-weeks.

A-Bodies were redesigned for 1967, with crisper styling, and the deletion of the wagon based models. The Valiant and Dart models would carry this styling right to the end of their production in 1976. The Barracuda would be the sportier Plymouth, with two hardtop versions and the convertible, while Dodge would have a hardtop, sedan and convertible. The Barracuda would move up in size for 1970, so Plymouth once again came up with a sporty model using most of the Valiant sheet metal, and the Duster was born. It was so popular that Dodge management demanded a version of their own, and in 1971 they did. As a consolation, Plymouth received their version of the Dart Swinger hardtop, and named the Scamp. The A-Bodies Chryslers were produced for 17 years.

The B-Bodied Chryslers made their debut in 1962 as the Plymouth Savoy and Fury, and the Dodge Dart and Polara. These were hastily revised versions of the controversial Virgil Exner designs for the new full size product, on a rumor that GM would be introducing their own “downsized” full-sized cars. In fact, the GM cars in question were the new for 1964 intermediates that would replace the “Senior Compacts” by Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick. These cars were a sales disaster during their debut year, and with a redesign after redesign for almost every year until 1966, they were finally earning their way in the sales race.

These cars were offered in almost every nameplate under the Chrysler umbrella, including: The 1962 Dodge Dart, The 1962–1964 Dodge Polara, The 1962–1964 Plymouth Fury and Savoy, The 1962–1970 Plymouth Belvedere, 1963–1964 Dodge 330 and 440, The 1965–1974 Plymouth Satellite, The 1965–1976 Dodge Coronet, and gave birth to some Muscle Car Icons like The 1966–1978 Dodge Charger, The 1967–1971 Plymouth GTX, and 1968–1975 Plymouth Road Runner. They also went on to the Malaise Era with the 1975–1978 Plymouth Fury, The 1975–1979 Chrysler Cordoba, The 1977–1978 Dodge Monaco, The 1978–1979 Dodge Magnum, and a version of the Cordoba, the 1979 Chrysler 300. This platform survived for 18 years.

The B-Body actually lived on for 3 more years as the Chrysler R-Body, which was introduced in 1979 as the Chrysler Newport and New Yorker, the Dodge St. Regis, and in 1980, the Plymouth Grand Fury. These cars were introduced in the fall of 1978 in response to the GM Full Sized Cars, and the Ford Panther Cars, but proved very noncompetitive due to the age of the platform, and were discontinued halfway through the 1981 model year.

The Chrysler F-Body was introduced for the 1976 model year as the Plymouth Volare, and the Dodge Aspen. These were slightly larger cars than the A-Bodied Dart and Valiant they were meant to replace, but Chrysler took the same basic path Ford did with the Ford Granada and Monarch, and kept the A-Bodies for one more year. The F-Body had the dubious distinction of being the most recalled vehicle at the time of introduction, which didn’t help Chrysler’s reputation. In 1977, the M-body was introduced (a slightly re-worked F-Body) as the Chrysler LeBaron and Dodge Diplomat. While the Aspen and Volare were euthanized in 1980, the LeBaron was renamed the Chrysler New Yorker in 1982, and along with the Diplomat and a later version of the Plymouth Grand Fury, went on to be produced until 1989, making the F and M body production run of 14 years. These cars also had the distinction of being the final production passenger cars with semi-elliptical leaf springs sold in the U.S.

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