The downsized 1980 Continental Mk VI—which we looked at here the other day—is pretty universally seen as a botched styling job, what with its truncated body and way too boxy and upright greenhouse. Given how much the gen2 Cordoba looks like its beloved predecessor Mark V, you’d think its arrival in 1980 would have sparked some defection and consumption, especially given that it cost half as much (of course that’s not necessarily a positive). But no; the gen2 Cordoba was a genuine dud. We’ll, it’s first year (1980) wasn’t exactly a total disaster, as it sold some 53k units, down from 88k in 1979.
But that was its high water mark, and the ebb went unabated until it quietly slipped away after a dismal 13k units in 1983. Buyers had moved on to newer and more attractive coupes, and the Cordoba became just another relic from the 70s Chrysler RWD era to be swept away in the face of the new K cars, in this case the diminutive LeBaron. Out with old; in with the New Chrysler.
Ricardo Montalban may have exclaimed “I like what they’ve done to my car”, in this ad, but it didn’t really come off convincing. Folks wanted to hear him extol the virtues of “soft Corinthian leather“, not a geeky Chrysler engineer talking about how the Cordoba was redesigned for greater efficiency. Or maybe they were just tired of his shtick altogether.
Admittedly, the new Cordoba had a handsome profile, and did an excellent job of disguising its Volare underpinnings. Now called the J-Body, it still sat on the same 112.7″ wheelbase used by all the coupe versions of its various platform mates. Dodge shared the body shell for its Dodge stablemate, the Mirada, which was even more of a dud.
There was also an LS model of the Cordoba, which had been intended to be a Chrysler 300. It did poorly too, and was cancelled after two years. (CC here). Just as well, as a 300 with the strangled engines on tap would have been numerical sacrilege.
Under that long hood sat two of the most impotent Chrysler engines ever. The standard 225 (3.7 L) slant six was rated at 90 net hp in 1980, and then 85 net hp for 1981-1983. The optional 318 (5.2 L) started its run in 1980 with all of 120 net hp, but managed to get a bump to 130 for the remainder of the Cordoba’s run. The Cordoba Malaise. I can just hear Ricardo roll that off his tongue: The Cordoba Malaise edition, with soft Corinthian leather and limp engines…in Cordoba, I have what I can get, not what I want
Technically, the 185 hp E36 360 V8 was also optional in 1980, but apparently that was discontinued after only some 100 units were sold. This was of course in the depths of the second energy crisis that had everyone avoiding gas guzzlers like the plague. So folks tootled around in 85 hp slant six Cordobas, until the gas crisis was over; and then so was the Cordoba. it was now the eighties, and buyers had moved on to other toys.
This Cordoba is lacking the opera window that some sported. That is a good thing. As are the handsome alloy wheels.
GM’s E-platform coupes were dominant in this era, thanks to their better proportions and styling, which was just more sophisticated, as well as their more advanced FWD drive train, diesels and HT4100 excepted. The V6 and V8 powered Buick Riviera and Olds Toronado simply exuded more class, panache and prestige than the Chrysler coupes, even when old and sitting in a field.
The gen2 Cordoba has become a rare bird on the streets, and this is our first look at a non-LS version, thanks to the Cohort. Undoubtedly, the remaining ones have found their way into the hands of aficionados. They obviously like what they’d done to their car.
In-Motion Classic: 1981 Cordoba LS J. Dennis