(All the pictures from this post are taken from Google image search. None are of the actual cars)
Act 1: 1992 Plymouth Acclaim
I had just gotten a new job with a good raise (relatively speaking) and was ready for a newer car. I was very happy with my last COAL and was looking for something similar; namely, a reliable no frills conveyance. Since Dad found me my last vehicle, I asked him if he might be able to locate another “good one” for me again. Sure enough, he delivered in the form of a 42,000 mile one owner 1992 Plymouth Acclaim.
The AA bodies, the Chrysler LeBaron, Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim were evolved replacements of the K Cars. Engines ranged from the basic 100 hp 2.5 liter four which my car had, to the legendary 224 HP DOHC engine found in the Spirit RT
The previous owner of my Acclaim was an Executive of a large corporation who used the car as a daily driver/beater to commute to his office 10 miles away. In his garage, he had much nicer “high end” automobiles which he used for pleasure. The Acclaim was garage kept, well maintained, and immaculate. It was the nicest beater I had ever seen. However, aside from automatic, cruise, and air, it was a stripper. It did not even have a radio!
The interior, while basic, was actually very nice. The seats were very comfortable for long trips. I installed a nice stereo and the car served me well as a daily driver. The internet picture above does not show it clearly, but in the actual car, there was a gap between the front bucket seats. I’m guessing a console was optional and not ordered. My wife thought it was great because her purse fit perfectly in that spot.
I found the instrument panel attractive as well. Straightforward and clear with cruise control switches on the steering wheel. I used the cruise a lot on our numerous Maryland to New Jersey trips. I also liked the shelf above the climate control. It was perfect for storing parking and New Jersey Turnpike toll cards in the days before EZ Pass.
From a styling perspective, the front end bore a slight passing resemblance to a Mercedes Benz (or a Plymouth Reliant). I owned the car during the Chrysler merger with Daimler so my friends and family would tease me and say I owned a Mercedes!
From the beginning it was obvious that it was not a sports sedan. This is the only car that I have been pulled over in for going too slow! However, I must say that I found it to be smooth riding, competent, and quite comfortable.
My best memory of the car is Christmas night in 1999. We had just gotten the car and were driving my wife’s grandmother back to her home in Perry Hall, Maryland. I remember her sitting in the back seat remarking…”Fred, this is a nice car…what kind of car is this? I like this car!” When we got back to her house, she lit up her Christmas decorations, and we had a nice Christmas celebration just the three of us. That night, I felt that she became my Grandmother too.
Aside from minor driver’s door damage from a hit and run while the car was parked which I never did fix, the car needed nothing. Despite “extended” oil change intervals, it stayed true, never once stranding me or needing a single repair.
Prior to getting this car, my vehicles figured very prominently in my memories. I realize now that this was in part because the “eccentric” qualities of my previous cars ensured that any trip in them was far from uneventful. This car was the opposite, despite the fact that huge life milestones like getting married, buying a house, and moving back to New Jersey occurred during my ownership of this car. Aside from the Christmas memory I wrote about above, it does not figure prominently in my remembrances of those days. Maybe it’s because it worked as it should and nothing ever went wrong with it.
In the end, that’s why I got rid of it. It was pretty boring albeit very reliable, one of the most reliable cars I have ever owned. One day, on my way home from work, I saw a car from my past, a car that I always wanted. Impulsively that afternoon, the Acclaim was replaced by a future COAL which you will read about in two weeks.
Act 2: 1991 Chrysler New Yorker
My past few cars had been fairly utilitarian vehicles and I was having some serious Brougham withdrawal. Dad and his extra cars came to the rescue again.
In a previous COAL, I talked about my Dad’s policy of keeping extra cars around “in case someone needs them,” he would say. This time he had just the thing to cure my Brougham longings…a 1991 Chrysler New Yorker with 114,000 “little old lady” miles. Like my previous K car based “luxury sedans,” the C Body New Yorkers were also derived from the K Car. At the time, I was looking for something unique and traditionally comfortable. This vehicle delivered the goods.
On the inside, it had the fake wood and front bench seat that was standard fare on the American land yachts that I knew and loved.
On the outside, it had the oh so familiar upright grill with hood ornament, hidden headlights, and landau roof. While it did have strange proportions, it had all the prerequisite trimmings.
I had first encountered this generation of New Yorker when I stayed over a friend’s house for Spring Break a few years back. His Dad had a brand new one. It had the Bill Blass look as described here. I remember going out to dinner in it. Comfortable blue leather seats, smooth ride, and the soulful sound of Kenny G playing from its Chrysler Infinity sound system.
When my Dad gave us use of his New Yorker, we became a three car family with my wife’s car (next week’s COAL), my Plymouth Acclaim, mentioned above, and the New Yorker. We now had more cars than people.
Our New Yorker was brown with wire wheels. The exterior was flawless and the car was obviously garage kept.
The interior was red cloth and very comfortable. Yes, it did have the weird proportions, and the mini limo look but I found it roomy, especially the trunk. Maybe it was because it was just my wife and I; so there was plenty of room for the two of us. It did make for a pretty good daily driver.
Mechanically speaking, while reliable, the car seemed tired. There was a strange creaking and squeaking coming from the front end. Also, the 3.3 liter V6 engine ran OK but according to the oil pressure gauge, read a bit on the low side when the car warmed up. Enough to make me a little nervous anyway.
I eventually traded it and my Plymouth Acclaim for a COAL you will be reading about in two weeks.
This post is so titled because it is so deja vu with my COAL from a few weeks back. Both involved my Dad and his extra cars. It also made me rethink what I thought was my Dad’s affinity for GM cars. In writing this series, it made me realize that he had quite a few memorable Mopar vehicles in his collection as well.