By all accounts, the mid-1960s were peak Chrysler Corporation. They were at the top of their game engineering-wise, and after some brief diversions in the early sixties, back on track stylistically with Elwood Engel firmly taking over the styling reins from Virgil Exner. You can clearly see Engel’s Continental influence at work in the featured 1966 New Yorker. Consumers responded as sales were steadily climbing year over year.
If the mid-’60s were peak Mopar, then the 1965-68 Chrysler branded models represent the pinnacle. (Forget about Imperial: For much of the 1960s this slow-selling brand was still riding on a platform that dated back to 1957).
1966, the year of our featured car, would be the apex of the Chrysler brand in terms of market share, reaching a level of penetration that the Chrysler would not achieve again until the mid-’70s.
Chrysler (the brand) offered a relatively full lineup of cars for 1966 (at least by the standards of the day). At the “entry” level you had the Newport (base price $3,052 – $24,000 in 2020), a name introduced in 1961 to take over the mid-market from DeSoto, which was then on its last gasp. The Newport represented the lion’s share of Chrysler brand sales and was available in a variety of body styles: Two-door, four-door (pillared, hardtop, and six-window), convertible and “Town & Country” wagon styles.
Next up the ladder in 1966 was the 300 ($3,583 – $28,000 in 2020), available in two- and four-door hardtops, plus a convertible. But with the letter series and glass-covered headlights from the previous year’s 300 now gone, it had little other than a 4-barrel version of the Newport’s 2-bbl. 383 V8 to distinguish itself (the new for 1966 440 V8 was available across the entire line as well). With the death of the letter series, the 300 would continue to suffer from poor differentiation, eventually being dropped in 1972.
At the top of the Chrysler lineup in 1966 was the New Yorker, available as (in order of increasing price) a 4-door six-window Town Sedan, 2-door hardtop, and the most expensive model, the featured 4-door hardtop ($4,233 – $35,000 in 2020). All New Yorkers were available only with the 440 V8.
The featured car appears to have most of the available options, including air conditioning ($510), power antenna, and the 40/20/40 vinyl bucket seats with a very awkward looking middle front seat. This likely pushed its sticker price over $5,000 (over $40,000 in 2020).
No trailer queen this car is. It wears just the right amount of patina and wears it well. The fact that it remains largely rust-free in a northern climate serves as a testament to how well these cars were built. For a brief period of time, Chrysler could go toe to toe with the best of GM and Ford, no asterisks required.
1966 must have been a welcome respite of calm for the Chrysler corporation, the eye of the hurricane if you will. The Exner styling excesses and the disastrous 1962 downsizing were behind it, and the full effect of Lynn Townsend’s cost-cutting and the Fuselage Deadly Sin was still to come. So for now we will let this New Yorker enjoy its time at the top of the heap.