That any 1961 Plymouth Belvedere survived is incredible by itself, but a New England car that still drives on is that much more impressive. Promotional materials from the period introduced the Plymouth as the new solid beauty. This particular car is not only solid, but powered by a polyspherical 318 cubic inch V-8 backed by a push-button controlled Torqueflite automatic transmission. The car found its present caretaker Dave Meczywor at the dealership where he works with a just over 20K on the odometer. Dave has racked up additional miles on the Plymouth using it for its intended purpose of modern motoring.
The 1961 Belvedere was among the last of the Plymouth lineup to feature designer Virgil Exner’s forward look design language. Exner’s designs were so advanced, that in 1957 the Plymouth marketing and advertising department declared that suddenly, it was 1960 – a full three years in ahead of time! Perhaps Exner was too far ahead, and sadly the forward look was scuppered in favor of more staid designs for 1962 models, a year after Exner made his exit from Chrysler.
The 1961 Belvedere is a car out of time, looking less like a classic than it does a car from a future that we were promised which never quite came to pass. The future with flying cars and helper robots. The future with push button technology that makes our lives easier instead of one that prompts us slam the touch fee paper towel dispenser with a clenched fist. The technology in the Belvedere seems basic now, but a V-8 backed by a push-button automatic was top line stuff for 1961.
Dave drives the car all over the greater Massachusetts-Vermont-New York Tri-State region for the three-seasons, and sometimes even motors into the fourth if not more cruel wintery mix. The car may look like it is from the future, but it takes Dave back to another time. “We had a 1958 Dodge station wagon growing up with all the push buttons. I remember these cars fondly”, said Dave. The Belvedere does not travel vast distances, but does get out on an alarmingly regular basis.
The only major parts Dave has had to replace on the car were the rear brake wheel cylinders, which were causing some drag and wheel hang ups after five decades on the backing plates. Dave said the car performs flawlessly, even if the push button transmission is still unusual and took some getting used to. Regular service and driving combined with low miles make for a very smooth running Belvedere. The forward look holds up well and stands out as a departure into an alternate future, even if the Sixties really are in the past.
Clunkbucket ran into Dave and his Belvedere at the once-a-month Bridging the Gap car show, which gathers on the first Friday of every month May through October at the Home Depot parking lot in Bennington, Vermont. Show starts around 5PM. Everyone is welcome.
1961 Plymouth Belvedere Specifications
Engine: A-series 318 cubic inch V-8 with polyspherical cylinder heads and 2-bbl carburetor.
Horsepower: 230 at 4400 rpm
Torque: 340 lbs.-ft. at 2400 rpm
Transmission: Push button controlled Torqueflite three-speed automatic
Length: 209.5 inches
Width: 80 inches
Weight: 3500 pounds
Price new: $2500
Average price now: $4500 (source: NADA)