Ugly Duckling? 1961 Plymouth Custom Suburban Wagon

It seems that from reading contemporary reports, the buying public and motoring journalists seem to have had a love/hate relationship with the 1961 Plymouth Custom Suburban Wagon. Some of them loved it, while some of them hated it. Barn Finder Ikey H referred this one through to us, so thank you for that Ikey. This solid looking Plymouth is located in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set the price for the Wagon at $3,750.

The love/hate relationship with the ’61 Suburban seemed to revolve around its styling. Many found it to be disjointed, with a mass of curves and straight lines that didn’t seem to gel together. Time can tend to mellow these opinions, and whether you do like it or hate it, it is nothing if not distinctive. This one is a solid example, and apart from a coating of surface corrosion, there is no actual rot visible in the car. The original color combination of Airforce Blue and White would have stood out, and while there are a couple of minor trim pieces missing, the car does appear to be largely complete.

The owner states that the 318ci V8 under the hood doesn’t run. This is the lower spec version of the 318 that was available in the Suburban, but it was still capable of pushing out a healthy 230hp. The transmission is the venerable 3-speed TorqueFlite, with the famous push-button selector. It isn’t clear whether the engine turns freely, so we’re a bit in the dark there. It does appear that the car may have been sitting for an extended period, so there will undoubtedly be some work required to get it back into a fit state to hit the road again.

The interior of the Plymouth is also largely complete but is going to need some work. The blue and white theme from the outside of the vehicle is carried through to the interior and must have been quite attractive when the car was new. One of the great attractions of this car is that it does feature a third row, and that does make it a true 9-seater. I originally only thought that it would seat 8 people, but the Plymouth advertising information at the time definitely states that it is a 9-seater. The dash itself looks to be quite good, and I like the style of the clock that is situated straight below the speedometer. The rest of the upholstered surfaces will require new covers, while the front seat will also need fresh padding.

In a weird sort of way, I quite like this ’61 Plymouth Custom Suburban. It isn’t really an attractive car, and I think that this might be part of the attraction. It’s a bit of an ugly duckling, and this front shot really demonstrates the contradiction of curves and straight lines that caused it to receive so much criticism. Once restored, it is definitely a car that would stand out. However, I am interested to see whether or not our readers like this old Plymouth.


  1. Anthony in RI

    My vote is for ugly… hard to believe these came from the same styling dept that created the beautiful 57 – 59 models

  2. local_sheriff

    Personally I simply love the design – but I love the 61 Dodge too, obviously making my taste weird by others’ standards.
    While I’ll agree it isn’t necessarily beautiful it is indeed übercool and fully in style with the UFO inspired trends of its day. Being a longroof makes it even more appealing; how cool must it have been back in 1961 when you could go for a road trip with your family in such a mother ship?

    Like 3
    • Miguel

      I fully agree sheriff.

      You don’t want to see this car barrelling down on you in your rear view mirror.

      Like 1
  3. Kenneth Carney

    If you want to stand out from the crowd, this car is for you! I’d drive this one with pride knowing that I’d have the only one around in Inverness. Oh sure, the styling might be out there, but under the skin, it’s all down to earth with conventional stuff that Plymouth lovers can be happy about. There’s nothing more bulletproof than the 318/Torqueflite tranny. As for the styling, that was Plymouth’s idea as to what the car of the future might look like. The Space age was dawning and Sci-fi
    was king. Too bad this wasn’t made as a 4-door hardtop model as Chrysler’s was..It would’ve been a hit IMHO.

    Like 3
  4. gord

    i did not know they are air conditioned/ventilated seats back then (smile) Rare option!

    Like 1
  5. glen

    I like it, I’d like it even more, as a 2 door.

    Like 1
  6. Will Fox

    Regardless of the nay-sayers, I love `61 Chrysler products. Where this wagon is concerned, there aren’t nearly enough of these left, so when a decent one comes along, grab it! This one looks fairly solid, and a buyer could always build a “Sonoramic Commando” rendition of the cross-ram 383 V8 for under the hood. Here again, too few remain to pro-street rod this wagon. It deserves a full restoration. The vast majority of these were 6-pass. models, and this being a 9-passenger makes it especially rare. Buy it, and give it the TLC it deserves. (Even if the front end looks like the “monster that ate Tokyo”!)

    Like 3
  7. Dave

    Love it. Chrysler dared to be different.

    Like 3
  8. Gaspumpchas

    Friend of mines had one like this in turquoise- 3 on the tree with the poly 318. Scooted right along and served him well as he was a handyman carpenter. Very cool car, so ugly its cool. Good luck to the new owner!

    Like 3
  9. Rick ball

    Love it like a good science fiction movie from the same era.

    Like 1

    Ugly…and yet something about it…

    Like 2
  11. 71FXSuperGlide

    Love these early 60’s MoPars, all very unique. This one seems solid, body wise, at least.

    What’s up with the air cleaner?

    • Del

      This would make a great custom.

      All it needs is a 440 and new paint and seats.

      Alas another non-runner at a ridculous price.

  12. Mr.BZ

    My 5 siblings and i grew up in one of these 61’s, with us 3 boys sitting in the back seat, facing out the electric rear window and naming every make/model of car/truck we could see. The push-button automatic was cool, but the coolest feature was the unique speedometer with slots below the numbers that filled up as speed increased. Dad was an aircraft mechanic and I remember him asking us boys if we knew how it worked. After 3 failed guesses, he grabbed a paper towel roll and drew it out for us to see. The Queen Mary, as she came to be known, will always be my idea of a great family car.

    Like 4
  13. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    Compared with Fords and Chevys of 61 the styling does seem quite extreme. The 318 was a very strong and economical engine. The torqueflite held up quite well, so you could get quite a few trouble free miles out of these wagons for the most part. The rear seats were really designed for small people in most cases children. This could be a very nice grocery getter for the right owner.
    God bless America

    Like 2
  14. Spud

    I too grew up in/with one of these. Ours was kind of a sand/beige color with a white roof. My dad bought it a couple of years used (I’m a ’61 model too) and it forms my earliest memory of “car”. We had it from probably about 1964 until 1970 and drove it all over the northeast on many memorable road trips.

    This is the car that taught me what the words “vapor lock” meant (as a 7 year old sitting in a stalled out car on the side of a newly-minted interstate in Maine). I still remember the time dad changed the plugs and didn’t torque one down well enough and it shot out of the block and into the hood like a rifle round. I loved the mirror on the stalk on the dash. And the push-button transmission. And the little rubber step things on the back bumper.

    To me, the car’s face reminded me of my great-grandmother’s cat-eye glasses. Ugly? Well sure, but in a great-grandma kind of way. Nice people don’t talk about things like that.

    If I could get this one (hummmmmm…’s a damn shame it doesn’t run as I’m just not into transporting this from SD) I’d restore the interior and leave the exterior just as it is. It’s tempting. Very tempting.

    Like 3
  15. Fin Guy

    You sure Lexus did not copy this grille? Or the movie, Predator? Hummm, all three from Virgil?

    Like 1
  16. W9BAG

    I can appreciate the rear view mirror on the dash instead of on the windshield. My ’57 Dodge had that, and it was very intuitive. You just glanced to the right to see what was behind you. It may seem strange, but it actually required less eye movement. Great car, and I hope that the next owner does it justice.

    Like 2
  17. robbert

    Love it.

  18. Joe Machado

    This is a Belvedere wagon. I have a 61, 6 passenger wagon, but it is a Savoy.
    Same color, paint code, DD1.
    Mine is a 318, 3 auto.
    A missing pushbutton could mean its a Powerflite 2 speed auto. I have never had one.
    Hole for speaker in door panel.
    Ya know, Lexus did copy the grill!

    Like 2
  19. Bob

    Were are the front turn signals?

    • Miguel

      They are under the headlights right in between the two.

  20. nelson belot

    The car is so neat.I want it.At least its all one color.Get it running and driving and leave it alone.Not many of them left in that state.

  21. Pete Phillips

    Look underneath and between the headlights for the turn signals/parking lights.

  22. Jubjub

    The folks had one of these way before I was born in a metallic violet with a white top. Several family photos by it. My mother named her Violence. Not sure of the fate of that one, but it was replaced by a much loved, low spec, midnight blue, ‘64 Belvedere wagon…that my older sister wrecked.

  23. Chris M.

    Beautiful freak!!! Love this design. Tempting to find a junkyard 5.7 Hemi and don’t touch it other than a few cosmetics. Certainly a keeper in my book. It’s too clean not to enjoy.

  24. theGasHole

    I have always loved this style, and I realize I’m in the minority. That steering wheel is straight up awesome! Question: what’s with the holes in the air cleaner assembly? I’ve had a few 60’s Mopars (even a 61 300G) but never seen that before. Oh and FYI the wagon is sold.

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