Throughout automotive history, marketing departments have truly come up with some pretty wacky ideas. I’m sure none of us are so naive that we don’t realise that the sole intention is of course to sell more cars. Truth be told, the vast majority of all these special editions and limited editions are painfully dull and blatant marketing exercises. But every so often, some individual in marketing seems to have been smoking just a tad too much weed, and subsequently come up with a fabulously smile-inducing explosion of fun, fantasy and colours!
Now I’m not talking about some random car manufacturer taking a model which is close to its last sell-by date, adding heated seats, heated door mirrors and headlight washers (all of which was already individual optional items on the accessory list anyway) and then calling it the St. Moritz Edition. I really couldn’t care less! They need to try harder than that. And sometimes they do…
In fact, I can think of quite a few special editions which really struck a chord with me. After all, who doesn’t love a JPS Commemorative Esprit S2? But whatever the special edition, it needs to bring something new to the table which hasn’t just been borrowed from the optional accessories list. Perhaps a unique body colour, maybe a high-quality tweed interior or some sort of a performance enhancing package… There are plenty of ways in which the various marketing departments can catch our imagination. But one of my very favourites was when Plymouth and Dodge decided to launch themselves onto the psychedelic bandwagon in 1969 with a floral burst the likes of which the car buying public have never seen before or since.
Vinyl roofs were in vogue, but they were practically always black with the slightly more adventurous opting for poo brown. Of course, if you were an aspiring pimp, you could spec your Cadillac with a white vinyl roof. Clearly there was scope for something different. So for a select few Plymouth and Dodge models, the Chrysler Corporation brought out the Mod Top. In an attempt to win over the new and growing segment of female customers, these rather eye-catching new special editions came with wildly patterned floral vinyl roofs available in either yellow, green or blue. It was certainly different if nothing else! Yet it didn’t stop there, as you could even get a matching interior, where both the seats and the door card inserts wowed you with a similar floral pattern, which Plymouth and Dodge compared with the trendy pop art of the era.
Initially it was the Plymouth Satellite which was used to launch the yellow floral roof for the 1969 model year, but soon after followed both the green and the blue versions. The Mod Top was also made available on other models and soon enough you could go all flower power on both the Satellite, Barracuda, Swinger, Dart, Super Bee and Coronet.
As utterly bonkers as this might seem, one could argue that the floral Mod Tops were very much in tune with their time. This was after all the same era which gave us colours like Go Mango orange and Plum Crazy purple. So due credit to the Chrysler Corporation for daring to be different. And some did indeed opt for these psychedelic, floral pop art special editions, however not near as many as Plymouth and Dodge had hoped for. For the following 1970 model year, the Mod Top was only available for the brand new Barracuda and ‘Cuda models, and hardly any left the factory sporting a flowery roof. After only two years of the Mod Top, it withered and died off.
History will tell you that the marketing department got it wrong. The cold facts are that over the two years that the bizarre Mod Tops were available, only 2,876 vehicles were produced with the option. A sales flop! But today as classic cars, this of course only makes them even more interesting. They’re rare, they’re coveted and they command a premium over their sister models which left the factory with ordinary roofs.
Still today, the Mod Top is obviously not for everyone. Some find them too feminine (which humours me somewhat as that was of course the whole point), while others feel they’re just plain garish. Each to their own of course, but personally I find the Mod Top fabulous! So period and such a statement. More than anything, it’s certainly a special edition which offered something never seen before – or since. A lot more exciting than that St. Moritz Edition…
But what do you, dear ViaRETRO reader, make of the Mod Top? Is it hot or is it not? Would you own one yourself, and would you dare drive it with pride? And if not, then share with us which factory special edition is your favourite?
Source: The excellent Mod Top Registry on Moore’s Mopars.