(first posted 4/8/2011) The eighties were shaped by two very powerful divergent influences: the price of oil and the desire for the trappings of luxury and prestige. These two do tend to be mutually exclusive. But the human mind is an infinitely flexible organ and there are ways to bridge almost any gap with a bit of creativity and a cutting torch.
The most perfect example (the TC runs a close second) is this Chrysler Executive Limousine: a K-car seven passenger limo powered by a 93 hp four cylinder engine. You either experienced the early eighties, or you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to make sense of them. Or both.
The whole history of the American car, as well as our whole built environment, lifestyle and everything that spins off from that has been shaped by the price of oil more than anything else. In 1980, the average price of oil was $92 (adjusted), a record that has not yet been broken, until perhaps this year? Worse than that, the projections in 1980 were that oil would just keep zooming up. How else could one explain Chrysler green-lighting this doomed project? Just plain poor judgement?
The premise was pretty ridiculous, high oil and all: the K car was a very compact affair to start with; it looks tiny in today’s traffic. Imagine building a Ford Focus limo today; that would get a few laughs. The truth was that the Executive was just way too small to carry even two executives in the comfort they were used to, let alone seven. Munchkins, perhaps.
from allpar’s piece on the Executive:
The sedan lasted two years, while the limousine lasted four. Bob Wilson noted that Bob Marcks presented the idea to Robert Lutz [ED: not correct; Lutz started with Chrysler in 1986. Iacocca, more likely], who approved it. Details are at Bob’s web site (see below). Bob Wilson noted:
They were discontinued because they were not “real” limos in the sense that you could not carry three people in the back seat and two more for the jump seats, despite the fact that they were rated by the EPA as a seven-passenger car. The jump seats had no seat belts.
Making an Executive involved sending a Le Baron coupe to ASC, where it was cut in two, and a new center section grafted in. There were even two versions: a slightly shorter “five passenger” Executive sedan, and this “seven passenger” limo.
The other profound limitation was in the engine compartment. All Chrysler had at the time was its own 2.2 and the Mitsu 2.6, which was drafted for the first three years. For the grand finale, the new 2.2 turbo was bestowed on the Executive. What a combo, with the three-speed automatic. Unlike turbos of today, then they were riddled with holes and buzzes. The V6 was still a distant dream.
And to think that just twenty years earlier, Chrysler’s limo looked like this:
A grand total of 1698 of these Executives were built, and I consider myself fortunate indeed to have found this one looking for a new buyer ($6820). Oil is up; so maybe the Executive is just getting ready to find its second wind.