The cars we loved.
In a big family with plenty of over achievers, it’s easy to overlook some siblings. Take late 60’s Chrysler, with names like Barracuda, Charger and Challenger getting all the press and attention, it’s easy to overlook equally capable, if not as glamorous cars like the Plymouth GTX. Intended to be a gentleman’s muscle car, the Plymouth GTX represented the more refined edge of what was available in the world of supercars (or muscle cars as we call them today). The GTX competed with heavy hitters like Ford’s Galaxie, the Pontiac GTO and to some degree with Chrysler’s own Barracuda Gran Coupe. The GTX offered most of the performance goodies that performance enthusiasts would seek out at the showroom or add-on to their cars in the aftermarket.
The ideal of a more luxury-like muscle car was not new, especially for Plymouth. The first GTX cars were high trim versions of the Belvidere, called the Belvidere GTX in 1967. The low, wide and boxy shape gave way to a more sleek and modern third generation design in 1971.
Designed by John Herlitz, the 71′ model year used the coke bottle theme that was becoming popular with everything from Javelins to the Corvettes. In the Satellite line of cars, the curves were not as graceful as those on the more successful Charger. The curvaceous natures of the design help mitigate the heft of the GTX visually. Either way, there was no denying that the new GTX was modern and attractive looking. In addition to being available as a coupe, the GTX was also available as a convertible before its final body style in 1971. The convertible was especially attractive due to its emphasis on the long, low and wide styling of the 1968-1970 model years.
The GTX came out the gate with two V8’s, a 440 and a Hemi 426. Depending on the year, the manliest of men (or women) could opt for the Hemi with as much as 426 hp! Although the GTX was the top model, other trim levels like the GT were similarly equipped for less and used the same engines.
Features like hidden wipers and flush door handles were becoming popular by 1971 and the GTX was merely keeping pace. Design innovations were mostly attributed to the flashier Charger. In keeping with its positioning as a luxury performance coupe, the GTX did come loaded. The long list of luxury options did not always equate to technical sophistication, but insured comfort and amusement with options like air conditioning and stereo AM/FM radios with 8 track players. Like many other Detroit performance cars of the era, the GTX featured a live axle leaf sprung setup with thick front and rear anti-roll bars. 14in wheels were standard with large for the time 15in rollers being optional. Brakes were standard muscle car fare with discs up front and rear drums.
The interior was a bit more distinctive than the technical specifications. It featured contoured bucket seats with a thick, smaller diameter “Tuff” steering wheel.
By the time the slick 71′ models made their appearance the four and two barrel versions of the 440 engine had taken a slight power hit due to emerging emissions standards. The Hemi would retain its high power output, even as EPA rules tightened. All of that did not matter as it seemed as the sales of the GTX and its stalemate the Satellite were taking a nose dive. By the late 60’s GM’s beautiful new “A” bodies were growing in popularity, quicking the downward spiral. The coffin was being sealed for the GTX with Chrysler’s own new Duster stealing all the sales and media attention, even as the GTX wore new digs for its fourth generation.
The declining sales trajectory meant that the GTX would be stripped of some of its luxury acumen. The TorqueFlite four speed automatic transmissions that were available in previous years would not be after 1970. The only shifting for 71’ models came from a four-speed manual. 1971 would also be the last year that the GTX would be its own model. With only 3,000 produced in its final year, the GTX label would return as an option package on Road Runners. In keeping with it’s status as an under dog, the one bit of near exposure came mistakenly from the popular 80’s television show The Dukes of Hazzard. The Plymouth featured in the was not a GTX, but in fact was a later model Road Runner. The real car star of that show was of the Charger and so it was in automotive history.