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1952 PLYMOUTH CAMBRIDGE—A TYPICAL AMERICAN CAR

ROAD AND TRACK, MARCH 1952, wrote, “If you’re looking for a functional car, built along American lines, and in the American concept of great roominess and simplicity of operation—there’s no reason why you won’t be happy with the 1952 Plymouth.” 

Hardly enthusiastic raving from the self-professed “Motor Enthusiast’s Magazine,” but a factual assessment: “Tho it does not have the gaudy sumptuousness of the Cadillac, the brute horsepower of the Chrysler, the youthful jauntiness of the Henry J, the Plymouth Cambridge will get you there and back… simply, easily, quickly.” 

Practicality. “The Plymouth is easy to drive,” the magazine said. “It is the kind of car you don’t mind jumping into and running to the corner grocery, or using daily to get to and from work. The soft tires, used currently by all American manufacturers, make the car heavy to steer when parking—that is, when the car is at a dead stop—but the instant the car is rolling, the steering is as light as one could ask for.” 

Power-assisted steering was around back then, though rare. Wikipedia notes it was available on the 1951 Chrysler Imperial as “Hydraguide” and on the 1952 Cadillac based on GM hardware designed almost 20 years earlier. By the mid-1950s, power-assisted steering was widely available, often as an option.

The magazine noted, “The Plymouth, under severe braking, stops quickly without swerving… nose down and tail up in the typical soft-sprung American manner.” This and the following from Road and Track, March 1952.

Spreading the Enthusiast Ethic. “Almost without exception,” the magazine wrote, “American cars roll and pitch unless they are moving over an absolutely flat surface in a straight line—and this produces unnecessary fatigue in both driver and passenger alike.”

“The staff,” it continued, “was very much interested in the Oriflow shocks—one of Chrysler’s big selling points. Over a second-grade asphalt road the Plymouth seemed vastly superior to most of the other American cars, altho somewhat inferior to most European imports.”

Road and Track conceded, “Not much experimenting was done by the test staff to determine the Plymouth’s cornering ability. It is not a sports type car in any way and is not intended for such purposes. Turns, for the sake of driver and passenger comfort, should be taken slowly, in typical American car fashion and the driver will feel an uncomfortable amount of roll long before the spin-out point of the Plymouth is reached.”

To put the six-cylinder Cambridge’s $1994 price in perspective, a Ford Customline tested in April 1952 cost $2026 for the six, $2285 for the V-8. An MG TD went for $2215; a Jaguar XK-120, $3940.

Conclusion. “To sum up the Plymouth handling qualities (a difficult job for anyone accustomed to light, quick European cars): The Plymouth is as good as any of “the big three” in most respects—better in some.”

Some Personal Comments. Wife Dottie remembered a Plymouth being one of her early used car purchases. I also recall a friend of my Cleveland youth owning a four-door Plymouth of approximately this vintage. The magazine’s mention of “electric windshield wipers… quiet and steady running under all conditions” suggests my friend’s car must have been an earlier one because its wipers were vacuum-actuated, not electric. 

The word “quiet” jogs another memory: Likely by accident, we learned that disconnecting the vacuum hose’s carburetor-to-wiper link had two profound effects: It deactivated the wipers, of course. What’s more, this leakage upset the carburetor’s fuel/air mixture to yield a wonderfully sporty “backing-off” rap of the car’s exhaust note. 

The magazine couldn’t entertain itself with this enthusiast’s touch. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022 

3 comments on “1952 PLYMOUTH CAMBRIDGE—A TYPICAL AMERICAN CAR

  1. -Nate
    March 29, 2022

    Don’t forget the better brakes than Chevy , too bad they didn’t quite grasp the styling . I too think these were good if stodgy cars for their time . -Nate

    • Mark
      March 31, 2022

      Styling was certainly a weak point for Chrysler Corp back in those days. It’s said the gamble on the Airflow and its failure to catch on caused management to go ultra conservative and to try to sell through better engineering.
      I always thought Plymouth often took the worst of it, looking the stodgiest of all compared to its ‘low-priced 3’ competition.

  2. -Nate
    April 8, 2022

    You’re certainly right about that Mark ;

    Nevertheless MoPars were decidedy better cars at that time .

    I was in the Ca. desert this past weekend and spotted a nice ed 1953 Cranbrook 4 door sedan with a white top and Fulton visor headed to Maryland on a trailer, good to see some are still out there and being loved .

    -Nate

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