Curbside Capsule: 1977 Chrysler Newport – A Tested And Trustworthy Mopar

What does a mid-1970s Chrysler have in common with national politics?  I don’t have a sincere interest in either.  This 1977 (my best estimate) Newport, however, is far too nice (unlike most political campaigns) not to share.

A nice car deserves a nice, period bumper sticker, such as this one for Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale’s reelection campaign from 1980.  Jimmy Carter, like Chrysler Corporation, was seen as an outlier, as his reputation as a “nice guy” put him at odds with the cutthroat world of the Beltway.  Carter and Mondale’s motto for this go-round was “A Tested and Trustworthy Team,” but their ill-fated campaign had about as much a chance of succeeding as a Chrysler Newport in an American car-buying landscape that was fraught with peril for cars of its size and weight.

But that’s all in the past now.  Jimmy Carter has settled into a groove as a well-respected elder statesman, Chrysler has been bought and sold about 183 times, and this big Newport is still plying the roads as if it were 1980 and a grain of salt has never touched its verdant flanks.

Having generally ignored this era’s C-Body offerings, I was in for an educational mini-adventure to determine the model year of this Newport.  At first, I thought it was a 1976 model because of the front license plate (a Michigan bicentennial plate, which was used from 1976 through 1978).  The grille of this car, however, was only used on the Newport Custom in 1976, and those wore a “Newport Custom” emblem on the front fender.  In 1977, the standard Newport earned the Custom’s grille from the previous model year and the Custom was dropped.  In 1978, the four-door sedan was dropped and only the two and four-door hardtops were available.  Therefore, through a process of elimination, and because this car has a center pillar, I learned that this is (probably) a 1977 Newport four-door sedan.

OK, so we’re dealing with a pristine green Mopar from the year of my birth.  I found this fabulous Newport in the parking lot at Henry Ford Museum’s “Motor Muster” car show in June, and it was as entertaining as anything inside the walls of that fan-favorite event.  There were no signs of rust anywhere, even under this unblemished vinyl roof in a complementary green of its own.

This Newport had the optional “Williamsburg Cloth” bench seat, which is hideous and awesome at the same time.  It is, like the rest of the car, in perfect condition.

Our featured Newport wears “Jade Green Metallic” paint, although it doesn’t wear these useful trailer towing mirrors.

According to the brochure, the Lean Burn (yuck) 400 with a Thermoquad was standard equipment in the Newport, as long as you were not a resident of California or a high-altitude area.  In those unfortunate cases, your Newport was equipped with the “lowly” 360, which was still a good engine.  In fact, the 360 might have been preferable in this case because it didn’t include the  Lean Burn System (according to this brochure).

Regardless of the engine choice or means of fuel and ignition management, this may be the nicest 1977 Newport in the world.  Because of who I am, I ran around this car taking pictures and not really paying attention to how I looked or who was watching.  It might as well have been a UFO – it was immaculate enough that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

In a way, President Carter and our featured Newport have a little bit in common.  Both were maligned during their most formative years, both endured a form of reckoning (a lost election and a government loan), and both lived through that reckoning to emerge as something to be treasured and respected.  Who would have called that in 1980?