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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