CC Capsule: 1976 Chrysler Cordoba – The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of


(first posted 11/12/2014)    Have you ever had an amazing dream? A dream that was equal parts awesomeness, fulfillment and a sensation that what you have done was the best thing ever done? Did you find out later that said dream was actually quite dumb? This “Small” Chrysler represented that for me. And I have no idea why.

Really. Every time I see this car, I think equal parts how much I would love to own one of them and at the same time how much of an idiot I am for wanting one. Why would I want one anyway? Could it be the fact that I naturally hover towards very large and impractical cars? Could it be the fact that cars from the ‘70s are not getting any more plentiful and it’s a decade of cars I haven’t driven yet? (‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s and ‘10s are all present and correct.) Or it could just be the marketing campaign with Ricardo Montalban’s soothing voice telling me all about its soft, Corinthian leather while a Spanish guitar and horns provide the atmosphere.

“But look closely” says that tiny voice in all our heads to fill us with either common sense or fear, depending on perspective. “You know it’s based on the same platform as the Dodge Dart, only that with a decade of bloat over it. It’s not even the Correct B-Body. Wait a year or so for Chevrolet to figure that one out.”


I hate to admit it, but the voice may have a point there. The “Small Chrysler” was right around the size of the whaletastic Full-Size Chevrolets that were about to be forced into the Atkins diet. The Chrysler B-Body could trace its origin to the old 1962 Dart, an endearingly weird looking thing in itself. But between it and Cordoba it had gained no less than 500lbs and 12 inches of length, yet it lost an inch of wheelbase. The 318 LA V8 had been declawed like everything else on the market, only managing to eke out 145 HP. The big 400 was also around, providing 185 HP for those ready to have occasional flings with single-digit fuel economy. Then we get to the interior…


It’s all fine with full instrumentation and a lovely dashboard but there is something to address. The proverbial elephant in the room. Something that, when you find out, you will never be able to forget. There’s no way of putting it lightly, so I will just say it. The Corinthian leather that Chrysler so proudly presented in its blurb is a phony, it’s a fraud, it’s a fake. At no point did it even went near Corinth. It was all a ploy created by marketing, once again proving that it’s only as good as the person in charge of it. That exotic sounding material, supposedly coming from that faraway Greek land of immense beauty and eternal sunshine was actually coming from Newark, New Jersey.


New Jersey.

Poor Ricardo would’ve certainly been disappointed if he ever found out “Whatever do you mean it is not coming from Greece?” He would ask. In an alternate Universe he could even go Francisco Scaramanga on them. Or maybe he was in on the whole thing. Notice how in that timeless ad, the soft Corinthian leather looks suspiciously like normal red Velour. It’s not like he couldn’t convince you that he was none the wiser about the whole thing.

Of course, having ranted about everything this is the part of the Document where I have to type “And Yet.” So here it goes: And yet, even as I write this article I find myself wanting one. Whenever someone asks me what would be the one car I would buy given all the money in the world I just say “X308 Jaguar XJR”, but the 1976 Cordoba always makes the Top 5 (Currently sitting at #3 between a Mercedes R63 AMG and a Fiat 500C Abarth.). The year is also oddly specific, I guess my subconscious wants to avoid being a Beta-Tester with a ’75 and I don’t care for the “Inspired by Monte-Carlo” ’78 and ’79. A smidgen of rationality in an irrational want.


1980 brought us a new Cordoba, sharing the J-Platform with the Sinatra-endorsed Imperial. It had a slant six as the base engine now. Which come to think of it may be actually an upgrade because it meant that unlike the Imperial the Cordoba had a sporting chance of starting in the morning. But now the best engine you could get was that choked down 318 V8 that had been a base engine on the last generation. Now even less capable at 120 wheezing anemic hamsters. I don’t know what to make of them. I know what to make about the original though, and I will no-doubt be driving it soon enough, just after I go to bed.