By on May 1, 2012

Back when I bought my very first car at age 15, the fastest cars on the island were three early-70s Plymouth Satellites. They had 440s, tunnel-ram intakes with great big carbs perched way over the hoods, wild lumpy cams, unruly glasspack mufflers, and absurd 70s-style “stinkbug stance” jacked-up rears. One of them even had a big “55″ with circle-and-slash emblem painted on the diff cover, complete with little spotlights to illuminate this statement at night. Rumor had it that these Satellites ran 10s at Baylands Raceway, but what they were really all about was street racing for cash. These cars were gloriously evil to the young driver of a ’69 Corona, and I’ve wanted a ’71-74 “fuselage” Satellite coupe ever since. Even though this one is a sedan, it still reminds me of the Fastest Cars In Alameda, 1981.
With a stock 318, this car was probably capable of running 17s at the dragstrip. Well, maybe not even that, if it was running at high-altitude Bandimere, where naturally-aspirated cars lose 20% of their horsepower due to lack of oxygen.
Back in the early 1970s, Detroit was very good at building big, cheap sedans with enough luxury to make drivers feel they’d hacked off a nice chunk of the American Dream. The Satellite and its competitors drank gas, but (prior to October, 1973) who cared?
The now-defunct Gates Rubber plant, where Neal Cassady toiled as a teenager, is just a few miles from this Denver self-service yard. Maybe this radiator hose was made there before the plant closed in ’96.
This car has been pretty well used up, but there are still many good parts left on it. I might go back and grab the transmission kickdown linkage for my A100 Hell Project.

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45 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1972 Plymouth Satellite Sedan...”


  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Chrysler expected folks to somehow fall in love with this car when it had nothing over the Valiant sitting next to it in the Plymouth showroom.

    “Take a look at this new Satellite!”
    “You guys still selling the Valiant?”
    “Yeah – but look at this new Satellite!”
    “The Valiant can seat six”
    “So can this Satellite!”
    “The Valiant can be upgraded with a 318.”
    “The Satellite comes with the 318 standard.”
    “The Valiant never breaks down.”
    “The Satellite has the same quality!”
    “The Valiant is a lot less money than the Satellite.”
    “Yeah – but take a look at this new Satellite!”

    “I’ll take the Valiant.”
    “The Valiant is a great car!”

    The Dart/Valiant proved that a reliable compact car that seat six and went for thousands less than an intermediate car that seat six and was too large for economical usage, will sell over the intermediate sized car that weighed too much and cost too much.

    Ford killed off the Falcon in order to sell the Torino. The Maverick never encroached upon the Torino line. Chrysler couldn’t do that because their pony cars never sunk their popular compacts. This meant that their Satellites and Polaras ended up doing fleet duty after severe discounts.

    So Chrysler ended up with sloppy intermediates when the market shifted away from large cars later in the 1970s. Chrysler ended up constantly flat-footed when the Market shifted, and by the end of the decade was flopping around without air like a dying tuna.

    The Dart/Valiant kept Chrysler alive, but at the expense of any popular intermediate line where the action was.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s a great analysis Dude.

      I always blamed ChryCo’s flat-footedness on their 1962 downsizing disaster…which I thought was forward-thinking on the Mopar’s part until learning it was actually a knee-jerk response to a comment overheard – out of context – at a cocktail party.

      Aaron Severson ‘splained it all in “The Dodge That (Almost) Ate Detroit” over on Ate Up With Motor. Actually reading what was going on oat ChryCo in those days makes me amazed the company survived at all.

      It took Lee Iacocca and another near-death experience to reset the mindset, which yielded the K-Cars and minivans.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Yeah – Ate Up is a good read on this disaster.

        Chrysler was a utter mess throughout the 1960s. In 1960, Chrysler had a dying DeSoto, a fabulous Dodge Dart, and floundering Imperial, a successful Valiant, and a middling Chrysler line up.

        When DeSoto was killed off and Dodge had to let Plymouth into their Dart success, the atmosphere got bad. Plymouth had Valiant, but had to share with Dodge, Dodge saw it’s DeSoto crumbs given to Chrysler and forced into sharing bodies with Plymouth and the top execs weren’t trusted to tell the truth about anything. The pie was shrinking and Dodge was getting the squeeze between a Chrysler Newport and a Plymouth Fury. Dodge execs felt vulnerable. Each division fought with the other for survival.

        While new markets were opening, (pony cars and intermediates), Chrysler divisions were too busy fighting one another. Full sizers got fixed in 1965, the Valiant/Dart kept succeeding with a sturdy old 1966 design, Imperial got absorbed by Chrysler, and Plymouth and Dodge fought a civil war for anything offered.

        Just imagine how everything would have been different for Chrysler if they offered formal intermediate sized cars, instead of formal full sized cars. They would have been able to catch the wave for personal luxury cars, smaller full sized cars, smaller engines, lighter vehicles and would have just phased out their old fuselage full sizers. That is what they had to do anyway, right?

        By 1972, the fuselage look was three years old. The Market loved the formal look, and Chrysler didn’t offer it. By the time Chrysler offered the formal look, it sunk everything it had into full sized cars with V8s when the gas crisis hit. Chrysler typically failed to keep up with the Market. By the late 1970s, this repeatedly bad Market timing was taking the Company down.

        So who would want this car? We remember their muscle cars, not this. But this was what was supposed to pay the bills. The Satellite didn’t have the new look of the Torino, it didn’t have the neat new look of the Malibu, and it couldn’t even compete with the six year old Valiant design. As a two door, it didn’t look formal enough to make the transition to a personal luxury car. The only company dumber than Chrysler in this market was AMC which threw everything it had into a redesign in 1974 which whiffed completely. Formal was in, but Chrysler and AMC couldn’t read.

        Worse, this situation wasn’t fixed for several more years! By the time this generation of mid sized car was ended, Chrysler was giving these cars away as fleet.

        So, did this happen because of the 1962 debacle? Possibly. Ten years isn’t a long time back then. It took years to get a new design out the door. Chrysler couldn’t compete, that’s for sure.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      “chrysler expected folks to somehow fall in love with this car when it had nothing over the valiant sitting next to it in the showroom.”
      For one thing 6 people could fit in the B body easier, especially in the 4 door and wagon version. 6,000 lb. towing capacity. You had a wide choice of luxury options, or it could be outfitted to look pretty sharp in the 2 door versions with bucket seats, consoole and a slapstick shifter with the automatic.
      All of chrysler’s rugged engines and drivetrains were available, including the industrial strength 727 and every engine size up to the 440.
      Tighter body structure than the flimsy ford and GM midsize offerings, along with the famous torsion bar and offset mounted leaf spring suspension.

      • 0 avatar
        Firestorm 500

        Back in the day, we regarded Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth products as crude, weird, tinny, and cheap. What you got if you couldn’t afford a GM or Ford product.

        But we respected them for their powerful engines and great (727) transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        gottacook

        Friends of ours bought a new 1971 Satellite wagon with the same green interior and matching exterior. It was a good-sized wagon, not monstrous like Chrysler’s larger fuselage wagons. But I still think the new-for-1967 Valiant and Dart lines should have continued to offer wagons; given how well the Aspen and Volare wagons sold, possibly someone at Chrysler regretted the nearly 10-year gap as well.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        Folks didn’t buy these cars to keep them a decade. Cars rusted and financing didn’t go beyond 36 months. Sinking extra money into a rather ugly oversized intermediate when there was a perfectly good large compact car sitting next to it that everyone knew would start every morning, made this car a loser.

        If you had wanted a muscle car, you could buy the one parked on the other side of this vehicle. This Satellite was a bust.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Faster than the speed of light.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Wow, this one sure has been used up alright, that front seat is the worst I’ve seen and it looks like someone tried to mount ultra cheap speakers in an odd place, judging by what I see on the front passenger door.

    I know the car is raised up on the junkyard’s version of blocks, but those wheels/tires look too small to be stock and those ticky, tacky cheap plastic wheel covers don’t help matters any.

    A very cool find. The car I’d have is the 71 2 door Belvedere, if I have it right that Daisy Duke drove in the Dukes of Hazard (I can never remember exactly which model hers was) in that exact color scheme/stripe, but with stock rally wheels though.

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      I think that was the standard wheel and tire setup for this car (horrible wheelcovers notwithstanding). These cars were wider-bodied than the ’68-’70 B-body but had the same track width. We’re so used to seeing these ’71-’74 B-bodies with 15″ Rallye wheels or wide police steelies that it’s easy to forgot how lost the 14″ wheels on non-power-brake-equipped models looked.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        While the wheels look like the standard and tiny 14×5 inchers, the tires are almost certainly far from the correct size. This car would have shipped with F78 or H78x14 tires. The closest modern day equivalent would be 205-225/75R14 tires, but good luck finding them. The ones on this car look to be something around 185/65R14s, which would be appropriate for a ten year old, 2,500 lb compact. The fitted tires are an inch or two too narrow and three inches too short.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, you could find them in about this shape as early as ’78. Amazing this one soldiered on that long.

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      The last year of the Belvedere was 1970. With the new 1971 bodies, all the Plymouth intermediates (except for trim levels like the Road Runner and GTX coupes) became Satellites, at least until 1975 when they all became Furys.

  • avatar
    salhany

    IIRC Daisy’s was the ’74.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Actually, in the first season of the Dukes of Hazard, she actually drove a ’74 Road Runner, later shows used a 71 Satellite with the same road runner stripe before it was replaced with a Jeep CJ-7.

  • avatar
    nikita

    This must have been a special order car, tan with a green interior? Ah, for the days you could get something other than beige or gray inside.

    I always liked the fuselage-style Mopars. The LASD downsized from Fury to Belvedere squads back then. The 383 still made them reasonably quick compared to the 440 in the heavier cars, and slightly more nimble on city streets.

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    I owned one of these. It was a company car and I was very young, which is why I didn’t refuse to drive it. They deserved to die. They had brakes so bad, it was wise to tape a card with your insurance agent’s number to the dash and carry an extra pair or two of underwear.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Gad, what an embarassing POS…and I thought my 1974 Maverick with the guacamole green interior was bad.

    The seventies were hell, in many respects…

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      Comparing your maverick to a Satellite is embarrassing, the Sat was a much better car in just about every way. I had a ’74 roadrunner, which has been restored and is looking better than new. Once it got over a few new car issues, it was pretty much bulletproof for the next 3 years I had it. I got pickup truck fever and stupidly traded it in. I knew a bunch of people with Sats and runners and they were all well liked. Looked a thousand times better than the awfully ugly Torino.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    My brother had a 73 Satellite with the 318 – it was slow but steady, with no hope of snow traction whatsoever.

  • avatar
    millmech

    What’s with the scabby roof? Is that what grows under the vinyl top?

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      The vinyl looks like its still (mostly) there, just very badly worn and sunbaked, with the rusted metal roof showing through in spots and the rust stains penetrating the vinyl in others. One example of many why ornamental fabric doesn’t belong on the outside of a car.

  • avatar
    wmba

    In a moderate gusty crosswind and a highly crowned road, I have never under any circumstances driven a more dangerous vehicle. The steering felt connected by bits of used coat-hanger wire, and was about as confidence inducing as the rope steering on a go-kart I made at the age of twelve with an ex-lawn mower engine.

    By the early 70s, I think the tooling must have been wearing out on the finger light Chrysler power steering system. Three and a half turns lock to lock and zero feel whatsoever. The Aspens and Volares were pretty bad as well.

    • 0 avatar
      texan01

      you were lucky with 3 1/2 turns. My buddy’s ’74 Dart in HS had I think 4 -5 turns and felt like steering the arcarde version of Pole Position, The lack of swaybars didn’t help the steering response either. My ’76 Chevelle was down right supercar-like in comparison, and it was somewhat of a lazy handler as well.

  • avatar

    Saw one of these on the freeway in Northern Virginia just two days ago. Bright green, with Alabama plates. It was reasonably warm out (I had my AC on) and the Satellite passed me (I was doing 75 or so) with his windows closed, implying that he had functioning AC as well. It was an impressive sight.

  • avatar
    msquare

    Finally somebody mentions the Aspen/Volare. These cars were actually spot-on for the marketplace of the time. Ford was selling Granadas like hotcakes and the Aspen/Volare itself was a door-buster initially. It was a good enough car, sized and appointed correctly for the hottest market segment, but of course as everyone knows, it was let down by poor quality.

    At the end of the day, just about every Chrysler deadly sin can be traced to lapses in build quality rather than design or marketing. What let down the “Forward Look” cars of the ’50′s and the “cab-forward” cars of the ’90′s? Had they gotten the Aspen/Volare right out of the gate, none of the other stuff would have mattered.

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      Some of Chrylser’s deadly sins were styling, 1930′s Airflow, late ’40′s early ’50′s tall homely cars and the weird early 1960′s.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        Stodgy late ’80s and early ’90s styling, too. Turn-of-the-’90s cars like the Dodge Dynasty and Chrysler New Yorker looked like Kleenex boxes next to a Taurus or Sable. The ’93 LH cars came just in the nick of time.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The Airflow wasn’t just styling. It was the first modern car.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        But it was the early Airflow styling that put some people off. It didn’t help that Chrysler delayed production long enough for rival makers like GM to set up a smear campaign against the cars. Notice that as early as 1935, Chrysler was trying to put a “proper” hood on the nose of the Airflow.

      • 0 avatar
        nikita

        That is my point. There was nothing wrong with the engineering or build quality of the cars I mentioned. They failed in the marketplace on styling alone. The 1962 Dodge was arguably superior to a Pontiac or Mercury, except for the body, just as the Airflow was superior in engineering to its contemporaries.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    The 1971 intermediates were a wrong move for Chrysler – too fat and blobby with, as mentioned by others, not much more useful room than a Valiant. Amazingly, Chrysler didn’t use the re-do to come out with a proper “personal luxury” coupe based on the Satellite coupe or Charger platform. It took until 1975 before the company got into this mega-profitable segment with the Cordoba and they were almost too late.

  • avatar
    Raises hand tentatively

    Things didn’t change much. I had a ’59 Plymouth with a 318 that ran 16.80. The only things I ever beat were other Plymouths and a guy who missed a shift in his ’57 Chevy.

  • avatar

    Always liked these cars, a high school buddy used to drive the wheels off his mother’s ’71 back in the day. They looked like they belonged in a ‘Dirty Harry’ shoot at the time, a fact that made them even cooler for me.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I still have my April 2004 issue of hot rod, in which there is an article about internet car guys.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “We remember their muscle cars, not this. But this was what was supposed to pay the bills…”

    So true! Gearheads and casual car fans go ape shyt over the ’69 Charger and Hemi Cudas, but Mopar didn’t sell enough ‘bread and butter’ to Middle America. While they had good sales in the 60′s of full/mid size cars. By early 70′s, Mr and Mrs Middle Class wanted ‘class’, not Hot Rods.

    The racy fuselage looks had them heading to GM and Ford showrooms, while the swoopy Polaras, Furys, Monacos, Coronets, and Satellites were parked in train yards with no buyers. I.E. “Sales Bank”.

    While Mopar is known for muscle cars, they nearly went belly up from pushing them so late in the market. Young car buyers in 1971 couldn’t afford to buy and insure Hemis. So, by the time Chrysler reacted with Cordobas, it was 1975 model year, and their old sales bank was rusting away.

    It’s easy to look back and go ‘those [fuselage] cars were so hot looking’, but the reality of the time said otherwise.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    There’s no disputing the statements that chrysler was too late in bringing out a personal luxury car, which was the rage during that time. The satellites like the one shown were not meant to compete in that field, they were aimed toward the chevelle and torino.
    Can’t dispute the fact that they didn’t sell, they were not what people were into at that time.
    But that doesn’t make them out to be crap like some of these guys that can barely change a tire make them out to be. They were built on the solid B body platform of the earlier musclecars, which makes them a great piece to work with.
    There are alot of nice 2 door satellites and chargers from the 70′s out there, they have really taken off in popularity over the past 20 years or so due to the high prices of the 60′s B bodies, and the owners couldn’t care less about what the public wanted during the time that they were built.

  • avatar
    Mr Nosy

    Let’s also not forget that this bulk rate Mopar is what enabled ’70′s cop & detective shows to budget for blowout car chases,usually in the last half hour of every episode.Satellites were always the T.V. equivalent of the expendable extra,vehicular fodder of choice for any chase that required lots of fish-tailing,coupled with the ability to get air from from a mere dip in the road.All whilst flinging off hubcaps and other trim bits like some common nightclub stripper,until smashing delightfully into(usually)another Satellite,or Galaxie500.

    • 0 avatar
      CAMeyer

      Aficionados of such spectacles should check out The Thing with Two Heads, in which Ray Milland and Rosy Grier, sharing Grier’s body, flee on motorcycle and are pursued by what seems (through the miracle of film editing) to be scores of Plymouth police cars, with the occasional Galaxie 500 or Biscayne thrown in. Eventually, in what seems to take up half the length of the movie, all cars are demolished and all police humiliated.
      The best thing about the Satellite was its name. The B52s thought it was cool, and so do I. The car itself? Well, I guess you could say it had more flair than the Volare,

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    A GF’s father drove one of these – maybe a 1971 but just like this with that quirky Mopar mustard colored vinyl interior . He gave me a ride in it a few times . One thing I remember clearly , confirmed by the photos here , was the awful , possibly the worst in the industry – bogus “woodgrain” interior . It looks vile , totally plasticky , glossy and cheesily shiny and bearing no relation to any real or imagined wood . He was a surgeon and at the time (youthful suburban snob as I was ) wondered why he had this POS instead of a Caddy or Lincoln like all the other doctors then .And at the time I thought the exterior styling was absolutely awful, even for a four door sedan . But friends back in the day did swear by the 318.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    My next door neighbor growing up had this exact car same color too. It always served them well till around 76 they moved a bit upmarket and traded it in for a medium blue Cordoba with white corinthian leather. They were big smokers but the corinthian leather managed to resist any burns.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Ugly but fast. Interiors designed as an afterthought. Lots of sheetmetal too. I’ve never liked the Satellite, preferring the Barracuda and Challenger styles.

  • avatar
    cheyenps

    Around here these were used as Sheriff’s cars for several years. I remember them for the placement of the parking lamps between the headlights, notable because the change to parking lamps that ran whenever the headlights were on had just taken place.

    These were the only cars that had the parking lamps located that way and being as the only ones on the road were Sheriff cars it was real easy to spot one in the mirror at night and slow down/hide the whatever.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    I like the speaker in the right front door. Factory?


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