In 1977, Chrysler found itself in a rather precarious situation. They were losing money at a rapid rate, their newest model the 1976 Volaré and Aspen, had serious quality issues and rust problems, their midsize Coronet and Fury were popular only with little old men, taxi operators and law enforcement, and there would be no relief in the form of a new product—the FWD Omni and Horizon–until MY 1978. And then there were the full-sizers.
The redesigned full-size Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler never really got a chance. Production was still in its early stages when the “oil shortage” caused by events overseas caused the sale of Big Three biggies to plummet rapidly. GM and Ford did not get hurt as bad as Chrysler due to their overall better shape and subcompacts like the Vega and Pinto. Stop laughing, they sold! If not for the A-body Slant Six Dart and Valiant, Ma Mopar may not have lived to fight another day. But at any rate, the C-body Mopars never regained the popularity they had had in the 1965-73 period.
The one-two punch of the gas crisis and subsequent 1975 recession hurt all car sales, but in 1976 things were picking up and most Americans were eager to ditch their little penalty boxes for some full-size comfort. Everything from LTDs to Caprice Classics and Lincoln Continentals and Caddys got a healthy sales uptick–even the Chrysler New Yorker and Newport. But for whatever reason, the Dodge and Plymouth C-bodies never got much of a boost, and were discontinued after 1977. But the Chryslers sold!
Maybe it was because folks ponying up for a big Mopar wanted the prestige of the Chrysler name for not a whole lot more money. Maybe it was due to the fact that they did not want drive the same unit as many local police officers and fire chiefs.
Or maybe because the Chrysler was arguably the best looking–though I must confess a soft spot for the hidden-headlighted Royal Monaco–especially as a coupe with the rarely-seen Diplomat landau roof! But today’s post is about the Chryslers, isn’t it?
While the New Yorker Brougham (née 1974-75 Imperial LeBaron) had a lot to do with the Chrysler sales boost, with its elegant roofline, fender skirts, waterfall grille and hidden headlights, the Newport was nothing to sneeze at, either.
Especially one in the right colors and options, such as this lovely ’77 example in Burnished Copper Metallic with beige vinyl roof, beige interior, whitewall tires and Premier wheel covers. Pretty!
If you wanted a pillared full-size Chrysler in 1977, this was your only option, as the New Yorker Brougham came as a two-door coupe (with opera window) or four-door hardtop only. All Newports came standard with a 400 CID V8, the excellent TorqueFlite automatic transmission, 15 x 5.5 steel wheels with HR78 x 15 BSW tires (whitewalls optional), torsion bar front suspension, and asymmetrical rear leaf springs.
These cars were full-size and proud of it, with a 124-inch wheelbase (same as the flossier NYB), 226.6″ overall length, 79.7″ width and room for six real people–not four adults and one kid, as is the case with many cars today.
That’s right, you had a bench seat. No center console was available, even as an option. You want stretch-out room? You got it! As was the case in most every full-size car up to about 1985. And unlike the Ford LTD, Caprice, and Marquis, you actually got more than a gas gauge and a speedometer: All Chryslers (and Royal Monacos, and Gran Furys) received alternator and temperature gauges too.
As the 1977 Chrysler brochure stated, “A look inside Newport reveals the richness of deep, body-conforming foam cushioning…bench seating with folding center armrest in beautiful cloth and vinyl…and finely detailed door panels.”
But despite the ladling on of praise in the brochure, the 1977 Newport still had to have several option boxes checked to make it really nice: air conditioning, tilt/telescope steering column, power windows, power locks, rear window defroster and stereo radio were all optional. Even an AM-only radio was optional!
Another interesting difference in cars of the ’70s vs. today is that smoking was more important than drinking. Indeed, ashtrays were the ’70s version of cupholders when it came to cars. Even rear passengers got a place to park their butts! On luxury models like Cadillac and Lincoln, they were lighted–and even had their own lighter. It was a different time…
So, anyway, I lurk on eBay on a regular basis, checking out the cars available. One of the richest veins for high quality Curbside Classics on the “Bay of E” is classicsllc, which is where I spotted this burnt orange (okay, okay, copper) ’77 last year. I was very impressed with it, primarily due to the fact that it was a Newport (New Yorker Broughams seem to have survived in far greater numbers), and that it was in a really appealing color combination.
It’s flashy and all with its fancy wheelcovers, cool paint, snazzy vinyl roof and even A/C, but look! No radio! Maybe the original owner just liked to whistle as he drove? Or maybe he had four kids and appreciated the silence on the way to work.
I’ve always liked the chrome emblems on the dashes of old cars. Some regard them as silly (Well, Bob forgot what car he was driving, so he looked over and remembered it was a Chrysler! Yuk yuk yuk!) but I think they’re pretty neat, and just a part of the attention given to style over plain old function. I think this is more attractive than many of the melted-candybar dashes found on many 2014 models.
So, no radio, no power windows, guess the original owner was a little old-fashioned. I can dig it; I for one appreciate the fact that both of my cars have knobs and buttons on the radio, with no silly touch screens in sight. Guess I’m the new generation of automotive throwback!
And underneath the proud hood? Why a nice big V8–all the better to tow your Airstream or new speedboat. And was a towing package available? Well of course! The 440 V8 was also optionally available if the 400 didn’t have enough oomph for your taste.
I have no idea what this car sold for, but whoever the new owner is, I imagine the contrast from going from a 2014 Fusion or Accord to something like this, with no infotainment system, no GPS and–gasp!–no center console will find it strange and unusual. And hopefully, pleasantly refreshing!