The significance of this car should not be underestimated. For while it’s true that the Plymouth Savoy isn’t many people’s immediate go-to when quizzed about 1950s Americana, this is the car that was right at the cutting edge of chrome-laden space-age styling. This was very much the era of the model-year in the US, the cash-rich post-war market demanding fresh new takes every year, and the first-generation Savoy of 1954 had been a relatively pedestrian affair – a crisply styled but arguably rather humdrum three-box saloon. But for the 1955 model-year, they rolled out the car you see before you, the second-generation Savoy, and immediately every designer in Detroit’s ears pricked up. Look at the two-tone colour scheme, the broad chrome bumpers, the slightest suggestion of tailfins at the rear – this was very much the design template of the coming decade or so.
It was a versatile range of cars too, including two-door coupes, four-door sedans and even station wagons; they had such on-trend features as power steering, optional seatbelts and even the option of a Highway Hi-Fi record player! The powertrain range comprised straight-sixes and V8s, all with silky dash-shift auto transmissions, and the sheer scale of the thing was oh-so fifties America – cavernous interiors, vast boot space, and an engine bay big enough to climb into. Everything about the second-gen Savoy is so evocative of the era – and in the sanitised and homogenised 2020s, it looks more fabulous than ever.
This car is a spectacular rarity. The owner believes it to be the only second-gen Savoy in the south-east, and possibly even in the whole of the UK. But that’s not the only factor to consider; no, what really makes it rare is the mileage and condition. That super-low figure on the odometer? That’s genuine – this car has covered 5,883 miles since 1955, and the condition and spec is all-original… and that’s something you’re pretty unlikely to find anywhere, even in the States.
The car came to the UK back in 1996, when a collector had found it for sale with a specialist dealer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Duffy’s Collectible Cars, a firm which is still very much in business today – and had it shipped over. At that time, the Savoy was showing just 2,970 miles. The paperwork outlines how it had been owned by the proverbial little old lady who was nervous to drive it and didn’t use it very much; it then passed into the hands of a Mopar collector who kept it in a climate-controlled collection.
Fast-forward to the present day, and we find the car’s V5 showing two previous owners in the UK; the current owner has had it for a few months, and the one before him (who bought it from the original UK owner who’d imported it) had it for six months and only used it once. Why is the current keeper now selling? Well, quite simply it’s a case of not wanting to put the miles on such a rare and original car – he bought it because it fits in with his lifestyle (he’s a rock ‘n’ roll DJ and double-bassist among other things) and has owned various other American classics, but this one simply feels too good for him to use. So it’s time to pass it to another keeper, who can make their own decision on whether to drive it or simply admire it…
The history file with this car makes for fascinating reading. Most endearing of all is the presence of the original Plymouth manuals and literature, which offer a period-perfect snapshot of what it was like to buy a car in 1950s America – the manual describes the car as having ‘sleek, modern lines with no suggestion of a boxy bustle’, while ‘the rakish headlight hoods are an integral part of the car’s design… not tacked on as an afterthought like the competition’s’.
In addition, it’s very useful to have all of the sales literature from Duffy’s Collectible Cars – this includes full typed description of the spec, condition and background as well as official documentation and a substantial sheaf of period photographs of the car, to verify that its condition back then was just as it is now. The import documentation is also present, and there’s a sheaf of receipts for work carried out on the car since it’s been in the UK, including a new radiator in 2018, and a new master cylinder in early 2020. There’s an insurance valuation certificate from Hagerty, placing the car’s agreed value at £25,000. The V5 correctly shows that the Savoy was first registered in the UK on 29th April 1996, having been manufactured in 1955 and previously registered overseas. The car also comes with two keys.
This car really is of great-quality – a period snapshot of a bygone age, and the all-original interior is utterly magnificent to behold. Trimmed in two-tone turquoise Brocade, the seats and door cards are all in fantastic condition, save for a very small tear tucked away down the side of the front bench on the passenger side. The headlining is in excellent condition, and the dashboard (which the manuals refer to as a ‘Flite-Deck’) is frankly incredible – a body-colour masterpiece with chrome bezels and details. The car was equipped from new with the full instrument pack, with oil, amp, fuel and temp gauges, along with the air temp heater, defroster and ventilation system. The two-spoke aqua steering wheel with its chrome horn ring is in unmarked condition, and as far as we can tell everything is working correctly, including the electric two-speed wipers. Brilliantly, the cigar lighter is labelled with the word ‘LITER’. It really is a splendid interior – almost unbelievably tidy.
Inside the boot, it’s all as dry, solid and clean as you’d expect. The correct and unused spare wheel is in place complete with as-new tyre, along with the original jack (which is massive!) and boot-mounted sticker explaining jack usage. The owner is also happy to include a bootful of quality car-cleaning gear to keep the body tip-top, including an electric polisher and a number of bottles of Mer.
Finished in Tampa Turquoise and Orlando Ivory paint, the Savoy’s body is a supremely stylish thing. The full-length side mouldings end in what they call ‘sweep spears’, which make a strong statement – this certainly isn’t a car for shrinking violets. It’s pleasing to note that, as you’d hope of a super-low-mileage car that’s always been owned by collectors, all of the correct exterior trim is in place: the bumpers, moulding trims, light surrounds, badges, it’s all here – even the little hockey stick piece around the fuel filler. All of the chrome gleams like new too, with no tarnishing, pitting or corrosion. The window glass is excellent and the rubber seals don’t appear to have perished. And the body is in fantastic condition – we couldn’t find any visible corrosion in the wings, door bottoms, bonnet and boot edges, or anywhere else; it’s extremely clean inside the door shuts and around the gutters and hinges, making it plainly evident that this car has spent much of its life indoors away from the elements. The underneath of the car appears impressively solid and unwelded, with just a little surface corrosion across the front anti-roll bar and nearby mountings. The wheels are the correct painted steels with chromed hubcaps – they’re wearing radials for road use, but the owner also has a set of cross-ply whitewalls that will come with the car.
Again, much like the interior, the exterior of this Plymouth is of enviable-quality. You’re very unlikely to find another Savoy this good. Swap out those modern number plates for something more classic and the 1955 timewarp is complete.
This Savoy came fitted with the entry-level engine, the 225ci (3.7-litre) straight-six, mated to the Powerflite automatic transmission. The engine was specced from new with the optional oil-bath air cleaner and Chrysler oil filter. It’s all in totally original condition, aside from the radiator, master cylinder and battery which have recently been replaced – it’s even still running its factory six-volt electrics. Despite its incredibly modest miles, the engine is very eager to fire into life; before our shoot the owner hadn’t used it for a number of weeks, and yet it started on the first turn of the key and idled perfectly happily. The owner reports that the car is a dream to drive, super-smooth and happy to cruise, with no noises, leaks or issues from the engine and transmission, and with perhaps the engine just needing a service to ensure it’s performing at its best. The driving experience is all very of-its-time, with the suspension being factory-set to maximum wallow, the all-round drum brakes requiring a little planning ahead, and the unassisted steering needing a strong pair of forearms when parking, but this is all just as a Savoy would have been when it was new – everything’s working correctly here.
“I used to have one of those,” said a passer-by as we photographed the Plymouth. We were incredulous, as you can imagine. “No really,” he assured us, “I grew up in the States and I used to have a Savoy like this. What these cars really need is a good run on the freeway.”
He may have a point. Cars of this era were built to cruise, be it to the drive-thru with Peggy Sue or coast-to-coast on a hedonistic road trip. So in a sense, perhaps this time-warp Savoy has missed its calling – but its loss is our gain, as we’re awarded the unique opportunity to view a desirable 1955 car in what is effectively as-new condition. With such incredibly low mileage, and a full history to back it up, this really is a rare find – and the fact that it’s been so well looked after and that everything throughout is tidy, correct and original? This is surely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The question is… do you fulfil its destiny and take it on that coast-to-coast road trip, or do you keep it pristine and preserve that staggering originality? Either way, it’s a wonderful quandary to ponder. And while you muse on it, you can sit on that stunning bench seat, picture yourself at the drive-in (although be very careful not to spill your milkshake on the fabric), and allow this wonderful time-machine to transport you back to a simpler age.
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