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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.

 

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6 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk
    Erm…these are so not for me! The roofs on their own are bad enough, but combined with some of the interiors…truly migraine (and worse) inducing. I can see why they were short lived…
    Reply
  2. YrHmblHst
    Mod Tops are certainly NOT my thing, but i guess you had to be there/here to understand. Ive seen a few ; remember Cox Chrysler Plymouth having a Barracuda on the showroom floor with one like the opening pic on the showroom floor. [oh…and does that green 70 Cuda have ‘Hemi’ on the hockey stick?!? if so, thats a one of one I can guarantee you w/o asking Galen Glovier… In fact, I never remember seeing a mod top on any car with a high performance driveline; I know theres a claim/rumour of one on a Daytona, but I doubt it VERY seriously – hasta be dealer installed after the fact…]
    Anyway, remember too that Chrysler had an ‘Alligator’ vinyl top option also at the time. Those were more common than the flowers, but still pretty rare.
    Personally, I like vinyl tops on many cars; there are actually some that i greatly prefer vinyls on. Memory says that the first vinyl tops as we’re talking about here – not counting ‘vinyl’ coverings on roofs or partials pre war – were brought out in 63 by Chevrolet – dont quote me or bet the farm on it tho – to complement the new for 62 hardtop rooflines on the Impala that were wrinkled to make a hardtop look like a convertible. The vinyl covering added to the ‘look’.
    Of course, i may be a bit prejudiced as my first car was a Plymouth, built in 70 and sporting a vinyl top. It was bright white tho – no mod tops for me! especially at 16 years old… :)
    Reply
  3. Anders Bilidt
    @tony-wawryk and , I do fully understand why you don’t like them. To me though, they’re just so outrageous that I feel compelled to love them. They’re hilarious!

    Granted, trying to imagine myself aged 16 back in the day, and I strongly suspect I too would have steered well clear of them. But today, seen through rose-tainted nostalgic sunglasses and with a fair amount of self irony in place, and I think it would be great fun cruising around in a Mod Top. But then, I’m also the freak who aged 24 bought a Lilac metallic Sunbeam Imp Sport with the most Mauve-coloured interior you could possibly imagine. And I loved it! :-)
    So rose-tainted glasses neatly in place, self irony applied, and I’m now ready for a Mod Top in my life…

    Reply
  4. Tony Wawryk
    I can’t think of a time ever when I would have wanted a Mod Top…
    I’m with you on vinyl roofs, which I find much more acceptable, and indeed there are cars that look better with one than without, such as the Triumph Dolomite Sprint, a car many of us here admire. Ford Cortina Mark III’s the same.
    Reply
  5. YrHmblHst
    Ya know, NOW, Im glad they did them Mr Bilidt; very different and SO period. If the otherwise perfect car came up at the right price, I wouldnt “not-consider” it due to the top these days- Im just not gonna pay the premium people ask for them just to get it. Of course, Im gettin old and more comfortable in my own skin now too…
    As much as I love Plymouths ‘High Impact” colours, I’m still not that hip to a pink car either. Knew a guy in high school who had a pink Cuda. [with a white interior] Always thought it was kinda cool, but wouldnt have been caught dead driving one at that point. He got a lot of krap about it I tell ya….Now, maybe for the right car, but not gonna pay the premium people expect for the paint.
    [quick story about the pink cuda…saw the car all thru high school. saw the car for years and years around the area – its kinda hard NOT to see a Panther Pink 70 Cuda. Then didnt see it any more. Fast forward to 3 or 4 years ago, and I was discussing FM3 coloured cars with a internet] friend in Canada. Have never met this guy, nor even talked to him, but he has become one of my best buds. Anyway, he was collecting High Impact cars and was looking for a purple one. I mentioned the lack of a pink car and he countered he did indeed have one, a 70 Cuda. I didnt know about it and asked the particulars; said it was sitting in the warehouse due to a bad motor – transport driver killed it trying to unload the thing in -20 degrees when delivering it. LONG story short is that it turned out to be the exact car from the little suburban burgh in the middle of nowhere that I attended high school in! small world…]

    And yes Mr Wawryk, agreed on both the models you mention as well as several others like 68 to 72 Novas. Oh, and 70 Cudas? make mine Lemon Twist with a black vinyl top please. No mod top if I can help it… ;)

    Reply
  6. Anders Bilidt
    Mmmmmm…. , if I could only afford a Panther Pink ’70 ‘Cuda. Then I would make sure to buy back my Lilac metallic Sunbeam Imp Sport, at which point the jewel in the crown would obviously be a Mod Top. Oh, what a garage that would be!! :-D
    Reply

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