1969 and the Psychedelic Artwork of Paul Williams; when Plymouth Told It Like It Was

James Kraus

1969 Plymouth Cuda 340 Fastback.

1969. The turbulent coda of the nineteen-sixties. The Année Érotique.

Apollo 11 landed men on the moon, 400,000 attended the Woodstock Music & Art Fair and the world witnessed the maiden flights of the Concorde and Hugh Hefner’s DC-9 Big Bunny. 

The previous spring Plymouth was pushing their advertising agency, Young & Rubicam, to reinvigorate the ad campaign supporting their performance lineup. The agency turned to Paul Williams, a Y&R resident artist whose work presented for the project adroitly blended the proportional distortion and grotesqueries of the Ed “Big Daddy” Roth studio with the colours and Art Nouveau flourishes of psychedelia.

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Mr. Gasser, 1963.

The timely new style was perfect for attracting the eye of the youth market that Plymouth was fervently targeting for their Barracuda, GTX and Road Runner.

The Yardbirds, The Doors, James Cotton Blues Band and Richie Havens at The Fillmore auditorium, July 1967. Bonnie MacLean.

Preliminary ads appeared in the summer of 1968, with the campaign going into full swing in the fall with the debut of Plymouth’s ’69 models.

1968 Plymouth GTX.

The new artwork was ideal for 1969, that final year of the storied decade. Psychedelia was becoming more mainstream, but its popularity would prove ephemeral as the collective spirit of Woodstock morphed into the Me Decade.

The Byrds at The Fillmore, 7-8 February 1969.

Dean Martin as Matt Helm in The Wrecking Crew, June 1969.

Well it’s 1969 okay, all across the USA  –  Iggy Pop and The Stooges, 1969

1969 Plymouth GTX.

1969 Plymouth Road Runner illustrated with Option W23 15″ Kelsey-Hayes cast aluminium Road Wheels. These wheels were unfortunately defective and were recalled immediately to be replaced with pressed steel wheels. Only a few sets remain in the wild.

1969 Plymouth Road Runner 440 6 BBL introduced in spring ’69.

1969 Plymouth Road Runner.

1969 Plymouth Hemi Road Runner.

1969, a year so tumultuous and pivotal; it was reimagined and revisited fifty years later.

Cliff Booth passes the Capital Records Tower while cruising Hollywood Boulevard in Rick Dalton’s ’66 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, set in 1969.

Shortly after the calendar signaled the arrival of a new year and a new decade, Plymouth’s  hallucinationally colourful hand-illustrated psychedelic performance imagery was phased out in favor of innocuous straightforward photography.

3 thoughts on “1969 and the Psychedelic Artwork of Paul Williams; when Plymouth Told It Like It Was

  1. A great look back at a well-executed campaign set against the context of a long, strange year!

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