The 1937 Plymouth PT50 is a rare pickup truck that almost deserves a look back during this week’s retro review.
Of all the brands under the Chrysler Corporation, none were anywhere near as popular as Plymouth. In fact, it sold more than the rest of the Chrysler family put together in 1937. Executives decided to leverage that popularity with the introduction of the PT50. Plymouth had sold other truck-like vehicles in the past but they’d all been car-based. This was the first legitimate truck made by Plymouth. Today the PT50 is one of the more desirable classic trucks on the market.
Plymouth had sold a sedan with a delivery body but the PT50 was the first from the brand to rest on a truck chassis. Why add a pickup when the brand was already so popular? Just as many dealers pair up today to sell from the same location, Dodge and Plymouth often sold out of the same dealership. At times though, a Plymouth dealer would be mated to a Chrysler or DeSoto dealer. Adding the PT50 meant that every Plymouth dealer across the nation could offer a pickup truck regardless of what brand they might be paired up with.
Another similarity between that day and ours is that brands under the same corporate umbrella would share parts widely. That’s why the 1937 PT50 looks so similar to the Dodge MC Pickup Truck of the same vintage. In fact, the twins also share powertrains too. Of course, pulling the Dodge MC and turning it into a Plymouth was the most efficient solution. Both the Dodge and the Plymouth had an MSRP of around $500.
Considering that the PT50 was a direct clone of the Dodge MC, the PT50 didn’t feature any major advancements or innovations that the MC didn’t already possess. Despite that, its robust Flathead inline-six-cylinder engine and reliable three-speed manual transmission were well-regarded and desirable. The PT50 could be had in any one of four variations including Express Pickup, Cab and Chassis, Panel Delivery, and Station Wagon.
All four utilized the same engine and transmission combo. The 3.3-liter engine was factory-rated at about 75 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque, the same as one would find in the Dodge MC. Hydraulic drum brakes did the stopping at all four corners and Plymouth installed safety glass in all of the windows.
Of the four available body styles, the Cab and Chassis were the rarest with only about 150 having ever been made. By far, the most popular body style was the pickup but even then, Plymouth only made 10,709. As most have long since been put out to pasture, finding one in good shape today is a special treat.
Standard on every Plymouth PT50 was a spare tire mounted on the front right (passenger side) fender. Buyers could opt for that to be switched to the driver’s side fender for a bit more cash. Due to that, examples with the spare on the driver’s side are incredibly rare. Rarer still are the PT50s with the station wagon body and wood paneling. That’s right, this classic pickup was available as a woodie.
In fact, just as the PT50 was limited to 1937, the Woodie version was also limited to 1937. In total, 602 rolled off of the production line. Each one had its main PT50 chassis completed before it had a full wooden body and interior installed by U.S. Body and Forging. Due to the low production numbers and the inherent degradation of uncared-for woodies, these are rare and very desirable
In 1938, Plymouth decided to ditch the PT50 in favor of a new name, the PT57. While it was largely unchanged from the PT50 it marked a trend for Plymouth. Each of the next two years the truck lineup would get changed up again before ultimately being discontinued after 1941. Of course, Dodge would go on to build its pickup truck lineup with models like the Ramcharger and the D100 which ultimately led to the RAM brand splitting off on its own.
With the rise in popularity of pickup trucks, classic trucks like the Chevy Apache or Ford F-100 are seeing a boom in value as well. What makes the Plymouth PT50 special is that it’s an unconventional choice. In fact, it’s that uniqueness that’s made it more significant today than when it was new. It’s just as practical a choice in terms of maintenance and long-term value as the Dodge MC but it’s rarer.
It also features the classic pickup truck styling only found in this era. Of course, be ready to hunt for trim and other bits that are exclusive to the PT50 should you go down this route. Also, as with any steel-bodied vehicle, be sure to get a full inspection that’ll give you a complete picture of the truck’s condition.