First three pictures were taken during Lights and Sirens Cruise, in the summer of 2017, Ferndale Michigan.
Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue was spotted across the river in Windsor, Canada few days later.
These appeared when I was heavily into small(er) cars, and during one of Chrysler’s many brushes of financial meltdown.
However, if I had to chose from one of the iterations shown here, it would be the Dodge(?) police car with the slanted plastic headlight covers.
That Chrysler in the last photo is borderline appealing, yet somehow it is dripping too heavily in chrome bits.
Yep, those covers remind me of the Dodge Magnum, very nice.
That car with the plastic headlights is a Dodge St. Regis. I’m pretty sure they were made for two years before being discontinued because they weren’t very good, or so I’m told. I don’t know much about them. I still like the way it looks, though, but I would probably remove the plastic covers if I had that car.
Manufactured for 1979, 1980, and 1981. 1981 production was miniscule.
The clear plastic were headlight doors. California and some other states didn’t allow covered lights then, so the plastic retracted with headlights on, even on CHP cruisers. If you want them always open, turn headlights on, and with doors open, unplug them.
My aunt bought a new New Yorker in 1979. I always thought it was a very fancy and expensive-looking car. It was the standard model, white with red leather.
I remember it cost $11,000. Unfortunately, she had nothing but troubles with it.
My uncle traded his 1975 Imperial in on a 1979 New Yorker Fifth Avenue. He paid $13,000. That was big money in 79. He also had nothing but trouble with it. Chrysler lost him forever. Bad for them. He paid cash.
I think one of the real frustrations with Chrysler during the 1970s is that you could get a good car, or a terrible car. It was like playing automotive roulette.
My Great Aunt Berta was a serial New Yorker buyer, and got a new one every two years. I do remember that the 1975 New Yorker she had was nothing but trouble, but her ’77 New Yorker Brougham was a great car (I wish she’d kept that one, as a little kid I really liked it). But she traded as always, this time for a ’79 New Yorker Fifth Avenue in the Cream color-scheme. It was an expensive and loaded car–not sure what she paid but I do know it was fully equipped. Ironically, her ’79 was a pretty decent car–I’m not aware of her having any significant troubles with it (she bought the car in late Spring/early Summer, so it wasn’t an early build, which may have made a big difference). However, Chrysler’s troubles and near-bankruptcy finally scared her off–after owning Chrysler products basically for her entire adult life, she didn’t dare get an ’81 New Yorker and went for a Buick Electra Park Avenue instead.
My ’79 New Yorker was one of my favorite cars: I was a sucker for all the styling gimmicks! The best part? For it’s day, it was a sweet driving car; responsive steering with good road feel, solid handling, excellent driving position and visibility. Problems? Headlight doors would freeze shut in the cold (a constant issue in Western New York), but the worst part was all the rust that developed BETWEEN the paint and the metal. Within 6 months, the car was riddled with rust bubbles, and Chrysler would do nothing about it. I was told by a body shop owner that Chrysler was famous for building excess bare bodies, then set them outside until they were needed. They’d do their best to sandblast them, but they never got all the rust before painting them. Chrysler 70s quality control at it’s worst.
My brother and his wife had a Newport of this generation for a while. They had inherited it from her father, who used to work for Chrysler. It was a pleasant, roomy, cushy, quiet, fairly luxurious car, but they had a lot of trouble with it.
The Dodge St Regis was one of my favorite cars during the early 80s (which says an awful lot about the early 80s) Great proportions and those covered headlights made it look oh so sinister.
Good to see at least 1 St. Regis survived T.J. Hooker.
Wow! I’m impressed someone has a St. Regis in New Mexico State Police livery all the way out in Michigan. I remember when NMSP ran these units. Most were replaced by the Diplomat/Fury or Crown Vics, depending who had the state contract for the year.
The New Yorker is a pretty rare (even by R-car standards) 1981 model. The clue is the simple vertical grille – cleaner than the more ornate 1979-1980 models.
Although the R-bodies never proved popular with the public,but law enforcment liked these cars. I should clarify, the 360 powered R-bodies were well liked, while the 318 powered ones were infamous for their lack of performance. The 360 powered R-bodies were problaby the best performing police cars of their time. According to Edwin Sanow, the 360 R-Body was voted as one of the best all-round police cars by police officers (this would have been some time ago when he wrote his Chrysler Police car book).
I bought that book in ‘96, so it’s been a while.
As JP said, these are definitely “what if” cars.
You’re bang on Jason. I pulled the book out to check, and it was published 1996. I looked up the survey question details, and it looks like the survey was conducted in about 1991. The survey was sent to about 200 city, County and State police depts across the USA. The survey was only about Mopar police vehicles . One question was about the best all-round police car. As I remembered, the 1980 St. Regis was voted the best all round, with the E68 360. The ranking of the top five are as follows:
1st: 1980 St. Regis E68 360
2nd: 1978 Plymouth Fury E86 440
3rd: 1969 Dodge Polara 440 & 1968 Plymouth Belevedre (tie)
5th: 1984 Dodge Diplomat
For 1979 and 1980, the 360 powered R-body cars were the fastest overall cars in the MSP tests and it one overall for both years. Despite this, I would have still chosen a 9C1 Impala over the Mopars had I been selecting in that era. I am sure many fleet operators from that time were comfortable and familar with Mopar due to there great reputation as police cars from earlier years.
As other’s have mentioned the quailty and reliability of these cars were suspect. In fact, Sanow has an entire chapter on the Maine State Police having a “Reliabiity Crisis” with it’s Mopar squads. It highlights the major reliability issues that Maine State Police had with the 1978 Plymouth Fury’s and the 1980 Dodge St. Regis police cars (they used 1979 Chevrolet Impalas between). Because of all the problems, Maine stopped using Mopar police cars after the St. Regis. The ’78 Fury’s were reported to be more problematic than the St. Regis’.
I wonder if the reason the ’69 440 Polara didn’t rank higher (like #1) is because the timing of the survey meant that many of those surveyed had never used them.
In fact, the publish date would seem to indicate that the last, Corvette-powered Impala wasn’t included, either. It surely would have topped the #1 and #2 Mopars.
Timing was probably a big factor. The St. Regis would probably have been the most recent decently performing cop car during the time of the survey. It certainly performed much better than any of the 318 Diplomat’s. And fleet managers probably still had the K-frame failures and other front end issues fresh in there minds. While I am sure the survey sample had a much smaller percentage exposed to the older Mopars from the 1960s.
The St. Regis was the top of the class from the worst era of police car performance. That’s nothing to brag about.
I dug up some of the old tests here:
Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending these cars, just trying to share some history. The St. Regis 360 powered police cars did at least offer a last gasp at some semblance of performance before things got really bad in the early and mid 80’s. There was a very significant drop off in performance between 1979 and 1981. It wasn’t until the late 80’s when Chevrolet started to increase the performance to tolerable levels again.
The 351 Crown Victoria and 350 Caprice must really have been a couple of dogs to think that the 360 St. Regis was thought to be superior.
Vince, we’re very much on the same page! My statement on nothing to brag about can be compared to being valedictorian of a class of underachieving persons. Besides, most would have voted the St. Regis “most likely to succeed” and we can all see how that turned out. 🙂
The R body New yorker may be the greatest “what if” car of the 80s. If Chrysler would have committed to the car (including the development of an OD automatic) they would have had the most satisfying big car on the market by 1985-86 when GM killed the RWD B and C body Buick and Olds.
Although the Newport and St. Regis were a little plain, the New Yorker did a better job of translating the traditional American luxury car to a smaller size. If only they had not been so badly botched at launch. Had they been selling in some normal proportion to the competition, Iacocca might have had to rethink whether to kill them.
I know a lot of cops that were on the job in those years that hated those cars after being spoiled by the earlier C-bodies. They were good-looking cars that should have competed with the GM B-Bodies but they were slow and poorly built; one guy said he had one that was about a year old when the ball joint separated and he lost a wheel on the interstate.
That’s the car that drove police departments into Chevys and Fords.
The ’62 B-body chassis underneath is rock-solid engineering, but these cars were (and the few that remain are) low-quality, poorly-built, shoddy junk. Not competitive with Ford’s Panthers, and not even remotely competitive with the GM B-bodies.
Back in the day, my FIL had a 79 or 80 St. Regis as a company car. He worked for a Chrysler supplier back then, and got a new one every year. I don’t want to pile on, but it was troublesome car for him and the Mirada that followed.
Since then, I’ve become a fan of the R bodies, but have a healthy respect for their foibles.
I had had a 78 diplomat and later on an 79 Newport. I remember being disappointed at how similar they were to drive. I know they were the same under the skin but at that time to me getting a “Chrysler” meant getting a step up.
Actually they not the same under the skin at all. The M-Body Diplomat uses transverse torsion bars, as the F and J bodies. The R-Body Newport uses the older longitudinal torsion bars derived from the original 1962 B-Body.
I actually like the cleaner, lower-end Fury and Newport models better than the fancier headlight-cover and goofy rear door glass models, and agree with others that it’s a shame that the ‘coffin’ R-body wasn’t better built. Supposedly, it was pretty bad, even by Chrysler standards, which is really saying something.
Many thought that the late-seventies, pre-Iaccoca Chrysler was a dead company walking on its last legs, and the stories that quickly went around about the quality issues of the R-body didn’t help one bit. Those who were old enough to remember Studebaker’s final days thought it was dejá vu.
I wish I could find it again; there’s an old road test of one of these—can’t recall if it’s a Chrysler, Plymouth, or Dodge (as if it matters), but hooboy. Brand new car: step on the brakes and lose power to the dashboard. Instrument lights, radio…all dead. Whee!
(Chrysler had money for ridiculous, useless, problem-prone, all-cost, no-benefit retractable plastic covers over the headlamps of the St Regis, but no money to put the damn cars together better than it could be done by a spazzed-out six-year-old on meth, as it seems…)
Update: Found it. It’s here on EwTube. I misremembered the exact nature of the brake/dash fault; that was actually two (out of many) faults that they mentioned in the test car. Oh, and it got 12.3 mpg. Oh, and the air conditioner quit. And the brake lights failed. And the paint was shoddy. And the doors stuck. And water leaked in. And all this could be yours for $9096 (base price), or $31k adjusted. We havin’ fun yet?
Sheesh. Ads like these were scarcely even necessary, but very well justified.
Arrgh. Ads like these.
Funniest part of that video is, after detailing all the faults of the Chrysler, he says that next week’s test is an Olds 98 Diesel, out of the frying pan…
Best line from the review: “generally well-built”. Maybe for 1979 but I can’t imagine how something with the described issues would sell in today’s world of instant information.
These are nice looking cars, even if derivative of GM styling at the time. A shame Chrysler had such a hard time putting cars together well.
The 69 Polara 440 is often mentioned as the top cop car of all time. I’ve wondered why the 69? What was better about it than a 68 or 70, or even a 71 or 72 before the engines started getting seriously weaker. Why not the Fury?
I’m guessing the ’69 Polara was the most used and the best looking of the big-engined Mopar police cars of the time. A 1969 440 Fury would have been just as good, performance-wise, but not as stylish or in use in as many departments.
Then, the earlier Mopars were boxes, and the later ones with their massive wrap-around front bumpers also didn’t look nearly as good as the first fuselage cars. So, the ’69 Polara gets the nod as the high-point.
The reason for the ’69 Polara is folklore. It is the car that for the longest time held the highest speed attained by a police car. It ran 147 mph at the Chrysler Chelsea proving grounds. Because of this, in the police car world, it was always seen as the ultimate police car.
No doubt these big 440 Mopars were the fastest police cars for some time, but I have questioned the 147 mph claim. The 440 cars were very fast, but it’d take a ton of power to move that brick through the air at those speeds. Car life tested a 1969 Dodge Polara with the same 375hp 440 Magnum that the police cars had. It had a properly measured top speed of 127 MPH. This was with 3.23 gears that most police cars also used. At that speed, it was revving 5100 RPM. To hit 147 MPH, it’d have to rev near 6000 RPM. A Hemi could rev to that, but a 440 with a peak hp at 4800 RPM, I can’t see reving that high and have the power to keep pushing that big Dodge to nearly 150 MPH. I am sure with a long enough track these cars could have made it past 130 MPH, but to almost 150 MPH, I am not so sure.
Regardless of how fast these cars really were, there is no doubt they were the quickest and fastest police cars until the LT1 Caprices. And they’d probably still out accelerate an LT1 Caprice. However, in this day and age, with Hemi Chargers and Eco-boost Taurus’s, they’d leave those 440’s behind with ease.
Agreed. I’ve gone through the same computations myself before, and I call BS on that 147 mph top speed. The 127 that the CHP got sounds about right.
And it’s not just the additional rpm that would be required, but also the hp. Probably a good 100hp to take that box from 127 to 147.
Thanks for the correction roger628. I thought they were the same. Still didn’t feel like I thought a full size Chrysler should.
Theres a Regis locally rare here its claimed to be an ex police car but who knows it does have very large sway bars( I saw it on a hoist) and is said to handle well comes with a 440 for transplanting but nobodies bought it yet.
I believe the St. Regis may have the first ever American car to develop headlight cataracts. It’s also the only car whose light output isn’t effected by it….. well, if the door mechanisms don’t fail.
There is something oddly out of kilter in the design these, and I’ve never been able to put my finger on it. They remind me a lot of the Custom 880 in relation to GM and Ford’s offerings of the respective times, but it’s unfair to say that about the R body since the changes from the B body were much more extensive than the thrown together 880. It’s B-body hardpoints are just not a fit for the styling, the proportions make the passenger compartment look disconnected from the long ends
I’ve always thought the same: there is something out of kilter in the design of these. I think it’s the extreme level of copycatting, with design elements shamelessly lifted from GM (B-body) and Ford (Panther) and thrown together. And those weirdly short rear doors.
Also agree. There’s something decidedly off with the basic proportions and massing, compared to the GM B bodies. The box Panther also suffers in comparison to the GM, but in different ways.
That rear door on the New Yorker is one of the most egregious design sins ever. Yuck!
Very nice comparison of the R-body with the old Custom 880. In fact, it’s as if Chrysler had completely skipped the ’62 downsized cars and, instead, had the Custom 880 as their main full-size offering for that year.
I wonder if the specter of the ’62 fiasco was the very reason the R-body came out looking as it did. Ever since ’62, Chrysler full-size styling was typically based on GM’s last model cycle cars, usually Buick or Oldsmobile. The problem with the R-body was both GM and Ford had downsized so there wasn’t anything smaller for Chrysler’s stylists to copy. They were forced to come up with something that was ‘the same, but different’, and the disjointed R-body was the result.
I am based in Beirut LEBANON. I have small collection of american and other vintage cars. As the subject is R body Chrysler’s 2 years ago I bought R body 1980 New Yorker Fifth Avenue cream exterior color with cream leather interior 360 2B, Power windows, Factory AC, Factory AM/FM radio, wire wheel caps. car has 15K original miles with all documentation window sticker & owners manual. asking price was 14K I got it for 13K. I am attaching photo from original seller AD
I have a feeling you bought this car from Michigan. I saw the same model same color, with very minor different year/grill/trim options difference for sale here, and the background parking lot looks very Michigan. And I can’t imagine any other places in the US having more connection to Lebanon.
Its Not matter of connection to LEBANON. I was actually googling the 79 to 81 New Yorkers and the time this came up to be lowest mileage of bunch! I bought it from http://www.gollingchryslerjeepdodge.com
It’s the one I saw years ago, but I only saw it online and they must have put it away. I always wanted to see the car but never really got a chance.
My 80 New Yorker also came with some Trophies! and the I found in window sticker its originally purchased new from state of Tennessee
This is original seller Ad.
The tan 1979 Base Chrysler Newport is mine. This R-body came from Pa. where it was a factory executive car, then a pool car, and bought for a grandmother by a Chrysler
mechanic. Although not a package car, the car was used as Constables vehicle in western Pennsylvania. The car now has been built as a “Chiefs Buggy”. It is similar to cars the boss would drive. Now, the car has era correct equipment: Spotlight, push bumpers, wire screen, stationary radar, dash light, deck lights (strobe), grill lights (strobe), Motorola Micor radio, Federal Signal PA 200 siren, six position switch, leather ticket book, aluminum clipboard, and other equipment. It is as if the keys were left in the vehicle and the “boss” walked away. I would like to have a package car, but the rigors of duty, movie usage, and people beating them to death few survived. The car was only produced in 1979, 1980, and 1981 as the Chrysler Newport and Dodge St Regis. In 1980 and 1981 Plymouth used the R body as the Gran Fury. They weren’t bad cars. The biggest complaint was NO MORE BIG BLOCK availability. I want to add also that cops are gossips and repeat much of what is heard-hence the 147 mph claim. With MoPar bowing out of the Police cars many cops started to bad mouth the R body.
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