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Category: Plymouth

Junkyard Gem: 1998 Plymouth Voyager Expresso

For the 1994 Chicago Auto Show, Chrysler brought a Neon-based concept car that looked like something families would drive around the Mars Base in the year 2094. This was the Plymouth Expresso, and you’d never have guessed that the Plymouth Division itself would be terminated just seven years later while gazing at its whimsical shape. As often happens with concept cars, the Expresso’s design itself was a dead end (though some claim it influenced the later Chrysler PT Cruiser), but its name survived… on an option package.

As the 1990s began, Chrysler felt Plymouth remained relevant despite few American car shoppers understanding that the brand was supposed to live below Dodge in the company’s prestige hierarchy. The PT Cruiser originally was planned as a Plymouth, and the Prowler really did start out bearing the badging of the Chrysler division named after a brand of twine popular with 1920s farmers.

The first use of the Expresso name on a Plymouth came in the 1996 model year, when Plymouth Neon and Breeze buyers could get the Expresso Package for $375 (about $762 in 2024 dollars). The reviewer for Edmunds was scathing about “a new transparently-named Expresso package aimed at so-called Generation X buyers who supposedly spend all their time slacking off at the Coffee Plantation sipping java.” By 1998, every single Plymouth model except the Prowler could be Expresso-ized.

Expressos got these rad badges (see: Mercury Tracer Trio), body-colored trim and a halfway decent AM/FM/cassette radio. As a member of Generation X who had just hit age 30 at the time, I had no urge to trade in my 1965 Impala or 1985 CRX for a Plymouth Expresso, but my reaction may have been atypical (it wasn’t).

Under the pitiless rule of DaimlerChrysler, the Plymouth Division suffered indignity after indignity during the late 1990s. Even before the axe fell on Plymouth’s outstretched neck, the Voyager was snatched away and given Chrysler badging. The Prowler stayed a Plymouth through 2001, then spent a single overlooked year as a Chrysler.

As you can see, this Junkyard Gem is more about the Expresso Package and the decline of Plymouth than the Voyager itself, because sometimes junkyard automotive history works that way.

The Voyager was the cheapest of all the Chrysler minivans for 1998, which made it a very strong deal for the money despite the depressingly forced-cheerful Expresso badges. The MSRP for the base 1998 Voyager was $17,995, or about $34,915 in 2024 dollars; its Dodge Caravan sibling started at $20,535 ($39,843 after inflation).

This generation of Chrysler minivan (the third) was sold in the United States for the 1996 through 2000 model years. European minivan shoppers could buy them with Chrysler Voyager and, later on, Lancia Voyager badging.

Get up to $1,000 cash back! Hurry, before Plymouth itself disappears.

Wait, make that up to $2,145 back in “total values.”

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Junkyard Gem: 1954 Plymouth Belvedere Four Door Sedan

Chrysler’s low-price Plymouth division did very well in the United States after the guns of World War II fell silent, with strong sales of its cheap and sensible cars through the early 1950s. By 1954, however, Plymouth was slipping in the standings, its sales numbers being surpassed by GM’s Oldsmobile and Buick divisions during that year. Much of the reason for that was the increasingly antiquated appearance of the ’54 Plymouths, which hadn’t changed much since 1949, but well over 400,000 cars still drove out of Plymouth showrooms as 1954 models. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those cars, found in a Denver-area self-service yard recently.

The Plymouth Belvedere name began its life on two-door hardtop Cranbrooks in the 1951 model year, then became a model name in its own right for 1954.

For that year, the Plaza was the cheapest Plymouth, with the Savoy as the midgrade offering. The Belvedere stood at the top of the Plymouth pyramid for ’54, priced just below its most affordable Dodge siblings that year. We saw a discarded purple ’54 Savoy in this series a couple of years back.

This car’s MSRP was $1,933, while the Plaza four-door started at $1,745 (those prices would be $22,444 and $20,261, respectively, in 2024 dollars). Meanwhile, a new 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan listed for $1,884 ($21,875 after inflation).

The Chevy had an overhead-valve straight-six under its hood, while the Plymouth made do with an old-fashioned flathead straight-six (to be fair, the Plymouth’s engine made 110 horsepower, only five fewer than the Chevrolet’s Stovebolt).

Chrysler stuck with the flathead six in U.S.-market production cars all the way through 1959, though production continued long after that for use in military trucks and generators.

A “Hy-Drive” automatic transmission was available in the 1954 Plymouths, but this car has the base three-speed column-shift manual.

This car has the optional automatic overdrive, which added $97.55 ($1,133 in today’s money) to the car’s price.

It also has the optional single-speaker AM radio, which cost $82.50 ($958 now). Note the Civil Defense symbols at 640 and 1240 kHz; those indicate the CONELRAD emergency frequencies Americans were supposed to tune to when atomic-bomb-carrying Soviet bombers were on their way. These marks were required on U.S.-market radios from 1953 through 1964.

The Plymouth division originally took its name from a brand of rope popular with American farmers, but later on the branding shifted to emphasize the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock. For the middle 1950s, the Plymouth logo included depictions of Wampanoag people offering gifts to their future conquerors.

This car is quite solid and complete, but everyman post sedans of this era aren’t worth much even when in nice condition.

I had a 100-year-old Ansco film camera with me when I found this car, as one does.

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