I am that person who will smile at dogs I pass while walking somewhere. Unless they’re barking or foaming at the mouth, dogs inherently look, to me, like they’re smiling, especially when they’re panting or even when they just have their mouths open. And so I smile back! I often forget to even make eye contact with their owners / walkers as I’m passing on the sidewalk, so I’ve made recent efforts to be more aware of this tendency and to look up, exchange a verbal or nonverbal greeting with their humans, and not look completely nuts or antisocial to the people with whom I share my neighborhood. Also, I don’t how, when or why this tendency started, but I have seen “faces” on cars since a very young age.
For this same reason, seeing certain cars will elicit the same kind of visceral response from me, depending on how I perceive their facial expressions. The very first Chrysler Cordoba, which made its debut for 1975 and continued through ’77 with only minor changes, has a gorgeous face. It has a big, round eyes, and a warm, inviting smile. This car looks happy and content, and I can’t help but smile back at it when I see one. Its expression seems to be saying, “Hi, Baby,” in a very sexy, quasi-foreign manner. By contrast, the ’76 Pontiac Grand Prix, with its waterfall grille canted downward toward the center, looks like its brows are furrowed and that it’s either disdainful or annoyed at something. It’s also a beautiful car, but it looks upset. Many new cars don’t just look angry, but just plain busted in the face. I’m hoping this gaping-jawed mouth / grille look goes away within the next decade or so.
This is not the case with the Cordoba. It’s beautiful and classy, and its smile is a quietly confident one. Another car that makes me smile is the early Colonnade-era (1973 – ’75) Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Not only does it have an engaging, toothy smile, but it has “cheekbones” and “dimples” in the form of the leading edges of its pontoon-sculpted fenders to complement its grin. I honestly can’t remember if I walked around the Back To The Bricks car festival in my hometown of Flint, Michigan (where I spotted both cars) smiling at the faces of cars I saw and completely ignored their owners, but it’s a possibility. Next summer, perhaps, I’ll make greater efforts to actually talk to the drivers of the cars I find interesting so I can write about them in more detail here at Curbside Classic. (Empath problems.)
Downtown Flint, Michigan.
Cordoba: Friday, August 16, 2013.
Monte Carlo: Friday, August 19, 2011.
I miss my ’76 Cordoba… nice car. Big, confident, with a reliable 318. Should have kept it. Mine was maroon with a white vinyl top.
I like the styling of both cars. GM should have demanded royalty payments from Chrysler for stealing the design. Later on, the horrible “stacked rectangular headlight affliction” would just kill the looks of these cars. As well as all the rest of the victims of this disease.
I also like the looks of both. While I can see general similarities between the two cars, both being personal luxury cars, I don’t think they look that alike. I think the tail end of the ’78 models slightly resembles the ’74 – ’77 Pontiac Grand Prix, but only when I squint really hard.
Yes, I skipped over my reasons for stating that Chrysler “stole” the designs. In 1974 the Chryslers were only offered in the Newport and New Yorker, full size cars, using the fuselage style. The mid-size Dodge and Plymouth cars
(115″ – ish wheelbase) were also fuselage designed. The 1975 design change resulted in different looking ’75 Dodge Chargers and ’75 Plymouth Fury/Road Runners. The swoopy fuselage look was gone. The sculpted look of the GM colonnade cars was in.
The new mid-sized car look was the basis for the new Chrysler Cordoba.
The raised center section of the hoods, the raised sections over the headlights, the forward prow of the front fenders, side sculpting etc. looked awfully close to me.
I wrote as I felt at that time. Today I might just say “meh, so what, there’s a lot of that going around”.
I think the MC absolutely inspired it, like most 60s-70s Mopar designs that GM’s lead in styling, but I don’t consider it stolen any more than the Torino Elite or Matador coupe did. They all have similar noses but the body designs are all pretty distinctive from the Monte Carlo, though the roofline is the closest on the Chrysler.
They’re all stealing ideas from this thing at the end of the day
Right, it is now so long ago, but we forget that at one time there were no Chryslers other than full sized ones…the Cordoba was the first car to be “Dodge” or even “Plymouth” sized. I think there was a quote of some Chrysler executive at the time (from Allpar as I remember) to the effect of “no junior editions” (I’m sure that was in terms of size)…and that all ended in 1975. With the fuel shortages, that’s probably timely, but in the next decade after that, Chryslers got even smaller, to the point that even the largest one was probably smaller than the Cordoba (though the Cordoba was a coupe, and other Chryslers were roomier).
My Grandfather only owned one car in his lifetime, he was an immigrant coal miner who saved up enough to start a Mom and Pop grocery store, and saved even more until he could afford a car (he used it to stock his store…not every supplier delivered especially to an urban store with no parking nearby)…and it was a 1951 Chrysler Windsor. It did have the “entry” flathead 6 that they’d been making since the early 30’s, but it was full sized (well, maybe not as big as the Imperial) and had a semiautomatic transmission. It was of course the car my Mother learned to drive, and upon my Grandfather’s passing my Uncle inherited, took him through 4 years of undergraduate studies.
Getting back to the Cordoba, I never drove one, but as a transporter for Hertz back in the 70’s I did get to drive a green Dodge Magnum, which was the same size…I really liked the car, though they made it for only a couple of years before it was downsized into the Mirada and 3 years later disappeared. One of the guys I worked with was a big Chrysler fan, and he had a Mirada, I didn’t know at the time how rare the car would become, but did get to ride in it a few times….but that was the end of mid-sized coupes from Chrysler….less than a decade later they were no longer offered.
don’t look a Mazda 3 from 2010-2011 or you’ll be smiling back all day.
In that case I’m scared, that’s a clown smile!
I’ve always seen faces in the fronts of vehicles, which probably explains, at least in part, my love of Tri-Five Chevies, the ’57 in particular.
I have to go with the 55 chevy, it looks like it means business but can get along with anyone. The 63 and 64 Cadillacs look like they will beat the crap out of you if you get in their way.
I’m the same way with dogs when I walk, I try to be more conscious about it and avert my gaze back to the owner with a smile or nod but it’s hard. But based on my experiences on the other side as the owner/walker of a dog , it’s way more common than not that the happy fur ball gets all of the attention from passers by. Don’t worry about being perceived as antisocial, they get it
These were really great looking cars for the times. The “plain” GM and Chrysler cars that adopted single headlights during this time all looked like downgrades from their direct predecessors in the front end, but these neoclassical specialty bodies wore them well. It’s a shame they were so performance strangled and effectively grouped into the malaise bin of everything else of the time, because these were as good looking as a lot of sought after 50s-60s designs.
The Cordoba is interesting in that it not only emulates the Chevy Monte Carlo, but in its headlight/running light arrangement greatly resembles the 70-73 Camaro RS as well.
Matt, now that you mention the resemblance to the ’70 – ’73 Camaro RS up front, I totally see it. Great observation.
The headlight, running light look, in both the Camaro and especially the Cordoba, borrowed quite heavily from contemporary Jaguars.
Definitely in terms of the big/little light arrangement, but as use as marker lights for the little ones and the center gunsight trim, that detail originated squarely on the Camaro if I’m not mistaken. The Matador borrowed that as well.
I cannot recall ever having had any seat time in a Cordoba, but I loved those cars. I did have a Monte Carlo once to drive around for a day or two, I think it was a 1973, and I liked that car a lot.
A friend had a 1975 Cordoba, and he loved it, his was navy blue with a white vinyl roof. I can still see him sitting in it listening to the morning news before heading in to the plant for work. Us Mopar guys would all try to park together, his Cordoba, my Dart, and Larry’s Satellite, all backed in three abreast.
I don’t see many Cordobas today, even at Mopar car shows. They must not have been seen as collectible or worth saving from the crusher. Nice cars these, and yes, a strong resemblance both up front and on the rear view as well.
they fall under the same affliction as most post ’72 cars. the snobs don’t want them at shows, because no one made cars after 72 and therefore are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
Pretty much. Additionally I stopped watching TV auctions a few years ago after being continuously teased by a mid 70s – 90s car I like coming up behind a Chevelle SS454 or Hemi Cuda and like clockwork being deprived of it by a commercial break.
We had a ’76 Cordoba that we inherited after my father passed away in 1982. It was black with the bordello red interior and lightly used with 17k miles on it. It proceeded to nickle and dime us so badly that my wife and I would not discuss money while driving, lest the car overhear us. I swear that car knew when payday was, as it would crap out a starter or something the day after. My wife finally refused to drive it anymore after it broke down in a sketchy neighborhood on her way home from work and we traded it in on a new ’84 Honda Accord sedan. Then she grew concerned about the gas gauge in the Honda when it didn’t move after two days of driving. She was so used to the Cordoba swilling gas that the Honda’s fuel sipping ways made her question the gauges accuracy.
That whole experience sounds ghastly. Your Cordoba must have been a Monday or Friday car. It wasn’t even a first-year model! Wow.
This put a smile on my face – until my old iPad had a problem with this page (happens a lot) and had to reload it, losing my uncompleted comment in the process. Oh well….
Like you, I smile at dogs. But I also talk to the dog rather than the owner. Some people look at you strangely when you do that, but dog owners tend to understand.
I also see faces in the front of cars. I think it goes back to a line I’ve never forgotten, from one of my Dad’s old car magazines (ca. 1960), referring to American cars as having ‘the thundercloud look of a goutish business tycoon’. Growing up in an area where I saw quite a few American cars, I knew exactly what the author meant!
Stacked rectangular lights remind me of somebody looking at you over the tops of their glasses – generally not a pleasant experience, so I tend to avoid this sort. The cars too.
Peak ‘happy face’ to me is found in early nineties Japanese cars, Mazdas in particular. I love the cute face of the ‘bubble’ Mazda 121; the welcome it gives is almost enough to make up for its dynamic shortcomings. Almost. The early MX5 is similarly happy except for having hidden lights. Maybe it’s sleeping.
Today’s vehicles just look awkwardly contrived. Frowning faces with eyes like slits, angular gashes like bulging jowls, and grilles more like the firebox door of an old steam boiler rather than anything anthropomorphic. Except for BMWs; their oversized nostrils ringed with chrome look like the victim of some particularly nasty flesh-eating disease. Who wants to be reminded of cancerous pathology when looking at their car?
Roll on the day when styling moves beyond this ‘transformer’ phase.
Thanks, Pete! I was unfamiliar with this generation of 121 (I had heard of the 121, but they weren’t sold here in the U.S.). Your red example definitely looks like a happy car.
I think you could be right about early ’90s Japanese cars having the largest abundance of happy-looking cars.
For a counterpoint, consider the 1959 Dodge….
That’s a grimace, and it looks like it’s about to bite me…
John Carpenter missed an opportunity here. “Christine”, the ’58 Plymouth Fury (actually a Belvedere) doesn’t look half as menacing as this Dodge. Car looks livid.
“Christine” should have been written about the 1959 Buick . . . an evil, grinning monster who is delighted that it’s about to swallow you whole. When I was a little kid in the 1960s, I would often have nightmares about these!
… or a 1961 Plymouth.
The Dodge looks angry; the Plymouth like it’s going to throw up…
To be honest, the Cordoba and the Colonnade Monte Carlo are two of my least favorite cars of the seventies. But, to be equally honest, Joseph, your anthropometric descriptions of their frontal aspects made me look at them in a new light, and I do think they look a bit better now. Just a bit, but thanks for steering me towards a more positive attitude.
Thanks, Dman! I do what I can around here. 🙂
…or make ME throw up…
Fun topic, and lovely pics Joseph! I must give you great credit for conceptualizing so many creative and fascinating subjects with your stories. Your profession is insurance, but you have a strong creative side. So glad you have an outlet for your passion here at Paul’s site. Your articles are like automotive Kinder Surprises. lol
And their popularity in the comments reflects this.
I do the same, smiling at dogs whenever I meet them. As they are highly receptive to a warm, friendly expression. Cats as well.
Excellent facial analysis on the Cordoba GP, and Monte Carlo. I find the increased distance between the Cordoba’s headlights (eyes) almost gives it a Jackie Kennedy appearance. With the Cordoba of course reflecting her beauty and elegance. Some may find the Cordoba has a man’s face? I find it has a feminine quality to its beauty.
I’ve applied faces to cars since I was very young. In fact, when I was a little boy, I used to apply ‘faces’ to the side profile of cars as well. With the wheels and tires representing eyes. And wheel arches, the eye lids.
A very early connection I recall making was the bulbous and droopy wheel arches on the late 60s Olds Cutlass always reminded me of the grandfather clock on Captain Kangaroo. lol With his droopy/sleepy eye lids. And I thought the corporate Olds wheel cover looked just like his bright eyes. 🙂
Jackie Kennedy and her wide eye spacing. Like the Cordoba’s.
Thanks, Daniel! This one was fun to write. I was a little on the fence about posting it, thinking it might be just a bit to “out there”, but others also see faces, so I felt justified in writing this.
Anthropomorphism is an interesting thing. We become emotionally attached to our cars, and thus assign human qualities to them. I think the relatively wide spacing of the headlights really works to the Cordoba’s visual benefit. I like that the slightly inboard turn signals mirror the shape of the headlights.
The term for it I like is “Pareidolia”.
Seeing faces (and patterns in general) is a definite human trait.
And like the rest of you guys, I see faces in cars as well.
Someone beat me to it above, but the “face” of that ‘59 Buick is a face only a horror movie could love. And that ‘59 Dodge looks like it should be chomping on a big fat cigar like that insult dog, whatever his name is…. wait… the bad guy in Popeye comes to mind… the one that was always trying to steal his girlfriend… what was his name? Bruto, Blato, Bronto, eh… something like that.
One of the happiest, most confident faces ever: Austin-Healy 3000
Austin Healy 3000
Third try to post photo Austin Healy 3000
Try, try, again…
I’ve always seen cars as horses. Especially ’30s cars with free-standing headlights, resembling the side-facing eyes of ruminants.
Round eyes are correct on cars that retain an organic shape, but to me the squared-off Engel style of the ’70s looks more like architecture than animals. So rectangular lights (windows) look better on cars like the Cordoba and Monte.
What a great read Dennis, it put a smile on my face. I too have seen faces in cars over the years, but never really looked at these two cars in particular. Your analysis is pretty spot on. I actually don’t mind either of these car with the stacked rectangular headlights too. I thought the Monte Carlo in particular, took to the stack lights well, certainly much better than its Malibu Cousin.
But does it have soft Corinthian leather?
You know, Don, I should have taken pictures of the interior! I was really blown away by this example, especially with its two-tone paint.
Chrysler picked the right pitchman for this car called a “Cordoba”. I remember reading that Montalban was disgusted that Chrysler’s pronunciation put the emphasis on the second syllable, rather than the first – like the actual Córdoba city in Spain.
The fine vertical “teeth” in the grille of the ’76 (like the one in the commercial) was my favorite grille of the first three-year run.
Is it just me, or does the Cordoba front end copy not only the Monte Carlo but also a split bumper 2nd gen Camaro?
I think the Cordoba’s the better looking of the two by a little, but I also like the Monte Carlo. The square headlight versions were a step backward, in my opinion, but I always love ’70s Chevrolets.
Aaron, XR7Matt also found that connection. You’re both onto something – and I also see that similarity.
I created a YouTube video about car “faces” a few years ago that nobody liked. I thought it was at least a little clever.
Pete: This is very clever and entertaining! Please do one on some of the older cars. For example, the 1954-56 Cadillacs always remind me of Sir Winston Churchill. Maybe it’s the “cigars”!
Thanks. And sometimes I wonder if those old Caddies were designed to look like the cigar-puffing gangsters of the era.
I thought a 1954 Buick Skylark looked like a bit Chairman Mao, but it didn’t make the cut.
Well worth watching. You have quite the eye!
Very clever, love these comparisons!
PeterPuck, your video is *absolutely brilliant*.
The mid-seventies were depressing, but at least cars still had round, sealed-beam headlights. Musclecars were all but dead (save for the Trans Am and last 360 Mopar A-bodies), but there were still some fine personal luxury cars, and the 1st gen Cordoba and 2nd gen Monte Carlo were far from the worst choices one could make (at least from a styling perspective).
Yes I do love the 2nd generation Monte Carlo I had 2 a 75 and 77, but don’t forget the olds Cutlass had a 77 also so as you can see I loved that body style, they sure were comfortable and s nice cruser.
Thanks for your article ..here’s a pic of mine
And my 75 Monte
And the 77 Monte
Love it, Joe. I have always found the early ‘Doba attractive, but you brought out the face in it for me.
Im mostly a Mopar fan but I never loved the Cordoba, I always thought the Dodge Magnum was the best looking of the Mopar PLCs.
I also smile at dogs, mainly because dogs > people
I absolutely enjoyed re-reading through the comments, everyone. There’s some really great stuff in there.
I remember reading my “Encyclopedia of American Cars” (2003 edition) from the Editors of Consumer Guide that the (early) Cordoba resembled a cross between a Jaguar XJ6 and a Monte Carlo. I used to liken this to being the son of two parents that couldn’t be more different from one another (like the XJ6 and Monte).
I’d like to think that the Cordoba was “Fashionably Late” to the personal luxury party – which it was. (I hope Ramsey Lewis approved the use of this sample… ♪♫)
I’m surprised that no one mentioned the Neon?? Or the “bug eyed” Sprite? 🙂