My father purchased exactly one brand new car during his lifetime.
The car was a 1966 Plymouth Belvedere I and I can still recall how that four-door sedan rocked my world as a kid.
The first thing I remember was the new car smell inside the Belvedere because it was indeed a brand new car when my dad purchased the car that spring. A Belvedere I was the lowest model in the Plymouth caste system, but it was a super star car in my young kid world.
My father’s car was equipped with a 318 Poly engine, an automatic transmission, and an AM radio on its short list of options. It had a basic trim package with a minimalist approach to chrome along the side of the car because the bling was located near the rocker panels so Chrysler could let others know the car was a base model.
A higher price tag meant the buyer stepped up to a Belvedere II model where the extra chrome rode higher on the car and became even more generously applied when the customer stepped up to the Satellite models in 1966.
My dad’s Belvedere I had dog dish hubcaps and black wall tires right from the factory and that simple combination was exactly the same when he sold the car and bought a more blinged-out 1967 Dodge Dart four-door sedan with a vinyl roof.
His Dart was an upscale version of the basic compact model so somebody else had experienced its depreciation and my father got a good deal on it.
However, this article is about my father’s 1966 Belvedere I and its place in the grand scheme of things for mid-60s Plymouth B-bodies.
The Belvedere was one year into its 1965 debut as an intermediate Plymouth model. The Plymouth Fury was the land yacht-sized version, while the Plymouth Valiant was the compact model. The wild-looking Plymouth Barracuda had Valiant roots-but there was zero chance my father would have considered this model for a new car purchase.
He wanted the 116-inch wheelbase Plymouth Belvedere because it offered the best of all worlds for him. It was a Mopar, it was smaller than an ocean liner, it had four doors, plus it had a V-8 engine that offered a solid combination of power and economy for my dad.
My father drove his cars for a living during his long career with the Alberta Highway Patrol and they allowed their members to drive their own cars during the course of a work day. My father received a significant compensation package for the use of his personal car and was able to benefit from the use of his cars for his job over the years.
The Belvedere I was fitted with a siren, loud-hailer speaker and portable roof light for use when my dad required the emergency lights during the course of a work day. The Plymouth was essentially a ghost car (unmarked car), so the low key approach to a trim package on his ‘66 Belvedere I was an asset to his line of work.
Few drivers would have taken a chrome-laden 1966 Plymouth Satellite two-door hardtop seriously if my dad had chosen one for his work-plus he was a practical guy who only needed a basic sedan for his world (on and off the job).
Nevertheless, all of us shared in his unbridled excitement when he brought his first brand new car home all those years ago. It was a garden variety four door sedan-but it was an instant four-wheeled rock star in our family that memorable spring day in 1966.
BY: Jim Sutherland
Jim Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer whose work has been published by many major print and online publications. The list includes Calgary Herald, The Truth About Cars, Red Deer Advocate, RPM Magazine, Edmonton Journal, Montreal Gazette, Windsor Star, Vancouver Province, and Post Media Wheels Section.