1967 Plymouth Hemi GTX. Photos by Russ Rocknak, courtesy Owls Head Transportation Museum.
Introduced in the fall of 1966, Plymouth’s GTX was billed as “the gentleman’s hot rod,” blending equal parts performance, style, and (to some degree) luxury. Packing a 440 V-8 as standard equipment, the GTX was also available with the legendary 426-cu.in. Street Hemi engine for buyers wanting maximum performance. This August, a well-documented 1967 Plymouth Hemi GTX two-door hardtop will cross the auction stage in Owls Head, Maine, offered to the public for the first time since leaving a Skowhegan, Maine, Plymouth dealership in April of 1967.
In its first model year, the GTX, available in two-door hardtop and convertible forms, was listed under the Belvedere family. To avoid any confusion with the Belvedere owned by Aunt Agnes, the GTX received a different grille and rear fascia (similar to those used on the Satellite), lost the bright side molding, gained a chrome flip-top fuel filler on the driver’s side, and earned a pair of non-functional hood scoops. Inside, bucket seats and a 150 MPH speedometer gave notice that this was no ordinary grocery-getter, and a console-mounted tachometer was an available extra.
All GTX models came with a heavy-duty suspension, 7.75×14 Red Streak tires and 11-inch drum brakes (3-inches wide up front and 2.5 inches wide in the rear), though power disc brakes were an available option. The base 440 V-8 produced 375 horsepower and came mated to a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic, unless buyers checked the option box for the four-speed manual. For those not wanting to waste 6.5 seconds in reaching 60 MPH, checking the option box for the 425-horsepower Street Hemi, (also available in TorqueFlite and four-speed manual forms) dropped the wait to 4.8 seconds. In stock form, the Hemi-powered GTX could run the quarter-mile in a then impressive 13.5 seconds, at a trap speed of 105 MPH.
Decoding how many were built of each GTX model, engine and transmission combination has proven difficult, if not impossible. While some sources cite a number as low as 60 for GTX hardtops with the 426 and the A-833 four-speed, Galen Govier’s research seems to indicate that 312 cars were built in this combination for 1967. Assuming this higher number to be accurate, Street Hemi four-speeds are still incredibly rare, totaling less than three-percent of first-year GTX production. After nearly 50 years, not many survive intact.
The red over red example that will be crossing the block in Maine was built to the original owner’s specifications, ordered with the 426 and four-speed; the Sure-Grip differential (a Dana 60 originally fitted with 3.55:1 gears); the console tachometer; a 26-inch radiator; hood stripe delete; power front disc brakes; and an AM radio. The selling dealership, James Rodden’s Rodden Motor Company, took a 1961 Cadillac convertible in trade, granting an allowance of $1,332 towards the purchase of the GTX, which yielded an out-the-door price (including tax) of $3,222.96.
Rodden Motors was so excited about selling its first Street Hemi powered car that the dealership filmed a video of the car, with just seven miles on the odometer, driving through the streets of Skowhegen. The first owner only kept the car for a year, until the warranty expired, and the red GTX passed through two or three more owners until 1971, when it was acquired by Mopar collector Bruce Bartell. As Pat Rodden, son of James Rodden, former owner of the GTX and current owner of Rodden Motors, explained to us, “Bruce was responsible for saving this car.”
Bruce also liked what he liked. All cars in his collection were painted black, but understanding the value of the GTX, the door jambs and engine bay were left in the original red. The troublesome Kelsey Hayes disc brakes were removed and replaced with the standard issue 11-inch drums (which the car wears today), and the power brake booster was removed to allow easier access to the number seven spark plug. Not satisfied with the stock 426’s output, Bruce pulled the original engine and replaced it with a blown Hemi, then took the car on the road, showing it at Mopar events from coast to coast.
In 1985, the GTX was purchased by Sprague Chrysler Plymouth, the dealership that had purchased the franchise from Rodden Motors. With Pat Rodden’s help, the dealership was able to verify the car as the same Hemi GTX sold in Skowhegan in April of 1967, and the Plymouth was returned to its original red hue after being taken down to bare metal. Rust spots on the rear quarter panels were patched, and the car was sprayed with a base coat and clear coat finish, considered state-of-the-art in 1986. The original 426 Street Hemi, rebuilt by Bruce Bartell, was reunited with the car, which remained with the Sprague family until 1999.
Fittingly, Pat Rodden was the car’s next owner. Unhappy with the way the car stopped on unboosted drum brakes, Pat tracked down an original Mopar offset mount for the brake booster, than pulled a period-correct unit for his own collection to restore the car’s power brakes. Aside from that, Pat left well enough alone, enjoying the car during fair weather months. Pat confirmed to us that the Hemi V-8 is original to the car, as is the upholstery. “In fact,” Pat said, “I don’t even think the carpeting has been replaced.”
We asked the consignor, who still has an enviable assemblage of Mopar muscle, why he was selling this particular car, and his response was, “things change.” His wife of 35 years died two years ago, about a year after he acquired the GTX, so perhaps it’s too much of a reminder of that time. Selling the car, he believes, will give him money to travel while he’s still young enough to do so and enjoy it.
Though it’s hard to call a Hemi-powered car discreet, especially one that’s painted red, perhaps this one fits in the refined category, with a tasteful absence of graphics and oversized wheels. Yes, this B-body will still be a beast when the hammer is dropped, but isn’t that all part of its beauty?
Owls Head is projecting a selling price between $80,000 and $100,000 when the car crosses the block on Saturday, August 20. For more information on the 39th Annual New England Auto Auction, visit OwlsHead.org.