I used to get into some pretty serious debates when I owned a ’59 Plymouth–it was always about the weight of the car .
The term “boat” came up more often than the term “sketchy” does with online money requests from Nigerian royalty.
Boat is an uninformed opinion when it’s assigned to older cars because the facts don’t back up the fallacy.
Take the 1959 Plymouth for example. They weighed just under 3400 pounds (318 V-8) from the factory so here are some comparative numbers. The 2018 Dodge Charger RT (5.7 V-8) weighs in at a mighty 4264 pounds and you never hear them referred to as boats. The 2018 Toyota Corolla tops out at just under 2900 pounds so 500 pounds separates the old ‘boat’ from the Japanese compact while the non-boat new Charger is 864 pounds heavier.
The full load 2018 Dodge Laramie truck is a more dramatic example at 7131 pounds because it literally weighs more than two 1959 Plymouth Belvederes.
Here’s another comparison. The 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Ville weighs about 4890 pounds so it’s just over 600 pounds heavier than a 2018 Charger. The 2018 Escalade weighs in at a hefty 55-5800 pounds depending on whether it’s two or four-wheel drive. The diminutive 2018 Cadillac CST twin turbo tips the scales at just under 4000 pounds – a mere 890 pounds less than the ’59 Coupe De Ville.
What about the large and in charge 70s iron? The 70s era Mercury Grand Marquis two-door hardtop weighs in at 4678 pounds and it looks like a massive car. Conversely, the 2018 Ford Police Interceptor weighs 4136 pounds and it looks tiny beside the big Merc but the weight difference is a mere 542 pounds. A new Nissan SL weighs 5900 pounds (1300 more than the Gran Marquis) but nobody compares Nissan SLs to the Queen Mary.
The 1958 Chevy is another great example of perception versus reality. The 1958 Impala weighs 3640 pounds and it’s defined as a boat by 2018 standards. Sixty years later, the 2018 Impala outweighs it at 3662 pounds but the ’58 will get called a land yacht long before the new Impala.
B-body Mopars are definitely called large boats but again—reality and perception are two different concepts. The legendary ’68 Road Runner (technically an intermediate sized car in its day) weighs 3400 pounds with the stock 383 under the hood. A new Chrysler 300 has a base curb weight of 4267 pounds so the ‘runner is over 800 pounds lighter—if you go by weight, the 300 is a slug. The Durango SRT weighs in at a whopping 5500 pounds with a 6.4 Hemi under the hood but unlike the Road Runner, it’s never compared to the Queen Mary—even though it has a full ton on the legendary muscle car.
What does all this tell you? It tells you that a boat by any other name may not really be a boat—that’s why I got into so many pointless debates about the ’59 Plymouth.
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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