Plymouth Satellite Series 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
When a new, larger Plymouth Fury was introduced for 1965
on Chrysler's full-size C platform, the Plymouth Belvedere name was moved to Plymouth's "new" mid-size line which was really a continuation of Plymouth's full-size 1962
models. The Belvedere Satellite was the top trim model in the series, above the Belvedere I and II. It was only available as a two-door hardtop or convertible.
Offered with bucket seats and center console as standard, the Satellite was available exclusively with V8 engines. For 1965, the standard engine was the 273 c.i.d., and optional choices were the 318, and 361, 383 and 426 "Commando" engines. This 426 had the wedge combustion chamber design, and is not the 426 "Hemi" offered in 1966
. The front end was simple: a single headlight on each side, and a grille divided into four thin rectangles laid horizontally. The concurrent Fury was given a "stacked" dual headlight design.
Chrysler Lost Its Buttons
, Chrysler Corp. lost its buttons, joining the rest of the industry's practice of offering only floor or steering
column-mounted shift levers
. Chrysler market analysts had discovered, by 1965, that prospective buyers were shying away from the buttons, apparently due to a combination of their unfamiliarity and the difficulty of accepting the button as a power symbol. So, as far as Chrysler was concerned, the buttons were long gone.
Today we love the push-button selector - but the console-mounted, in-line selector as used on the Satellite was still very good - communicating with the optional TorqueFlite transmission
. Chrysler were able to convey the idea of strength in its transmission by using a thick, chromed lever and big knob. The TorqueFlite was, of course, Chrysler's rugged and time-proven 3-speed automatic which was introduced in 1958
and by 1965 it was still recognized as one of the industry's most durable, positive-acting transmissions
During the preceding 7 years it had gathered minor improvements, few of which make good copy, but all combining to keep it competitive. The news flash for 1965 was typical of the era: A sliding spline in the transmission
and new cross and roller front universal joint to reduce drive-line vibration, as well as anti-creep torque converter improvements. In addition to the transmission, the other big news was the optional 330-bhp, 383-cu. in. V-8 engine (a 273-cu. in. V-8 was standard) a dependable source of stimulation and enjoyment.
Fed by a single 4-barrel carburetor and with its digestion aided by a special long-duration camshaft, "unsilenced" air cleaner and dual exhausts, the big, healthy powerplant begged for excitement. Though hampered by a too-long 2.93:1 rear axle ratio and pulling an air-conditioning
unit, the Satellite managed a 16.2 sec. standing 1/4 mile - strong medicine for a mid 1960s 2-ton Plymouth
. The press release proclaimed "Although basically a family car, it [the Belvedere line] may be adapted to compete successfully in competitive motor sports" - but as good as the Satelitte was, most road testers were underwhelmed when they got behind the wheel - simply put, the motor sports claim was a little over ambitious. Part of the reason road testers of the time were disappointed was that, in family sedan mode as the car rolled off the production line, the rear axle ratio was designed to give low rev and good economy highway miles. The 383-cu. in. engine should have been accompanied by a 3.23:1 ratio, which would have produced notably improved acceleration - and then it would have lived up to the claims.
The Big Daddy 426
High-performance buffs would have been interested in the availability of Chrysler's three 426-cu. in. engine packages for the Belvederes. They ranged from 365 through 470 bhp (the latter with a thumping 480 lb.-ft. of torque at 4400 rpm), with increased carburetion and compression ratio. The Big Daddy 426 was meant for the tracks and strips, and was "not recommended for general highway driving," and was "not covered by Chrysler's 5-year/50,000-mile engine and drive-train warranty." Option the Satelitte up and it was easy to add more than $1000 to the sticker price - the most popular of these being air-conditioning
. The standard fold-forward bucket seats were firm and comfortable and, though sports car addicts would have been disappointed with their lack of strong lateral body support, the individually adjustable seats were a boon to physically mismatched front passengers. All-vinyl trim throughout was standard in the Satellites. The console between the seats was roomy and useful, and visibility out of the wide-open hardtop window area was excellent.
The exterior appearance was also pleasing, continuing Plymouth's welcome adoption of simplicity of line and balanced mass. Decorated only with narrow stainless steel wheel opening and sill trim, wheel covers with spinner hubs, stainless window framing and a furtive little flock of vertical ribs huddled at the rear flank (whose only purpose was to aid Satellite identification) the car was refreshingly free too much decoration. Overall Plymouth design had come a long way since the fin era of the 1950s. The configuration of the Satellite bodies (this model was also available as a convertible) was all but identical to that of the 1964 Plymouth Sport Fury, with little more than guards, grille and trim to bring it individuality.
Changes To The Belvedere Line
Overall Belvedere length was reduced by 3.1 in., to 203.4 in., with the Chevelle and Fairlane "intermediate" market as its intended target; the Satellite was the top, and sporty, member of the line. The entire 8-car Savoy series was dropped for 1965 and the Belvedere models increased in number from eight to eighteen. The line was divided into three categories, ranging upward in appointments and price through the Belvedere I, Belvedere II and Satellite. The I and II models were all available with either Chrysler's 225-cu. in. 145-bhp ohv Slant Six or the 273-cu. in. 180-bhp V-8, both listed as standard engines. The V-8, however, was standard at extra cost - about $89 additional. Satellites were not available with the Six.
As standard packages, the Belvederes come already equipped with a plenitude of niceties, including front seat belts, electric windshield wipers, self-adjusting brakes
, armrests all around, separate ashtrays in the rear and a heating/defrosting system. The air-conditioning
ducts were completely variable and could be pulled up and back from over the instrument panel to blow directly at the front-seat occupants. The Satellite heater was a powerful, flexible system and some care must be exercised in its use - in cool conditions if you pulled the heat control halfway down and turned on the blower, the windshield would be instantly covered with mist and you would find yourself driving blind. Thankfully there was a "Defrost" button, which worked well.
Behind the Wheel
The torsion-bar and ball-joint front/ leaf-spring rear suspension
was another Chrysler tradition of the time. Again, however, correction and improvement had taken place each year without fanfare. The Satellite was a little firmer over the bumps, a little more controllable in the curves and generally a better handling, more manageable Plymouth
than its predecessors. The Satelitte was put togther well too, the body and interior were tight, sound, quiet and comfortable. Listed mechanical improvements to the Belvedere series for 1965 constituted somewhat less than a revolutionary threat to the industry.
They included anti-creep, anti-vibration measures, plus improvements to the electrical system for reliability and convenience. The starter motor, spark plugs and alternator were strengthened and a new hard-rubber battery
cover installed, to seal in the individual battery
cells and the intercell connectors. Another innovation was the use of "buffable" acrylic enamel. The instrument panel of the Satellite was simple, readable and glare free, happily passing up the styling temptations brought by advances in juke-box technology. There were no protruding hyper-thyroid hemispheres, rolling multi-colored cylinders or deep-dish chrome salads - just instruments with black and white dials, numerals and moving needles.
All, that is, but the oil gauge, whose light gauges only the sudden loss of oil pressure. The warning value of a red light was undeniable, but any car enthusiast would have preferred the quantitative gauge. In an automotive era whose products largely equalled or exceeded tyre
manufacturers' weight limits, when researching the specifications it was surprising to find that the Satellite's 8.25-14s were comfortably within their load ratings. Indeed, this plus factor may be taken as evidence of the overall character of the Satellite, because most road testers of the time found it to be a tough, strong car capable of doing its intended job easily and well, with that important little extra left over for emergencies.
Satellite 2-door hardtop had a production run of 23,341. In standard trim the 2-door hardtop weighed 3,220 lb (1,460 kg) and cost $2,612. The convertible saw a production figure of 1,860 weighing 3,325 lb (1,508 kg) and costing $2,827 in standard trim. In 1966, along with a redesigning, the Satellite was available with the newly optional "Street Hemi" engine, which had two 4-barrel carburetors, and 10.25:1 compression. This engine was rated at 425 hp (317 kW) at 5,000 rpm and 490 lbft of torque at 4,000 rpm. The other V8 engine options for 1966 remained the standard 180 hp (130 kW) 273, plus the popular 318 at 230 hp (170 kW) and the 265 hp (198 kW) Commando 361 and Commando 383 at 325 hp (242 kW), down from the 330 hp (250 kW) it had on tap in 1965.
The 1967 Satellite did not see any sheet metal changes from 1966, but there were several trim changes. A new grille featured dual side-by-side headlights, a change in the rear trunk finish panel and taillights included multiple horizontal ribs. New horizontal aluminum trim at the lower body crease with silver paint below gave all 1967 Satellites essentially a two-tone paint scheme. For 1966
, the interior vinyl seats and door panels were treated to a unique 'Western Scroll' design which mimicked tooled leather in appearance. This was the 'premium' interior shared with the GTX in 1967
. For 1966
the Satellite was again offered only in 2-door hardtop and convertible form and was powered exclusively by V8 engines. The 361 was eliminated for 1967
models, but a 2-barrel 383 at 270 hp (200 kW) was continued with the most powerful Satellite offering for 1967 being a 383 4-barrel rated at 325 hp (242 kW). Production figures for 1966
were 35,399 hardtops and 2,759 convertibles.