Now here’s a car that’s really become rare on the street, the gen2 Cordoba LS. The LS was originally intended to be a Chrysler 300, with a decidedly sportier ambiance than the regular Cordoba. You would be excused for thinking this to be a Dodge, given its cross-hairs grille. But this is from before the time that Dodge took that for its look. In reality, the Coroba LS it shared much with the Dodge Mirada, including its soft nose cone.
Built only in 1980 and 1981. It did little to stimulate Cordoba sales, which dropped precipitously with the arrival of the more compact and boxy gen2 version. channaher posted this, and obviously, there’s a decided Mopar ambiance to this parking lot.
Here’s the rear view, and a better shot of the Dodge 600ES convertible, which is sporting those rather nice alloys that were available then. The Konvertibles were the nicest looking body style of the boxy bunch.
And next to the 600ES sits another vintage Dodge, a Rampage.
And an even older representative of the family, a 1965 Plymouth Satellite, the top-line version of the Belvedere. Classic mid-sixties Mopar.
Given the “formal roof brougham” culture of the era I’m amazed it didn’t sell better. Although if V8 RWD Mopar fans had known what was coming in the form of the K-car pure dominance they might have bought more of them.
Back in late 70’s, Mopar fans were sticking to pre ’72 rides, and hated the newer cars. “Too much emissions junk”, “No 6 packs” “Ugly/slow” blah blah…
Wasn’t until years later [90’s?] that F, J, and M bodies were finally accepted by Moparites.
If it weren’t for the Volare’ recalls, they’d been making more $ with A body trade ins. But many got turned off and switched to Ford/GM.
It’s not often I see a modernish domestic car I forgot existed. I feel like it probably would have sold better had they kept the more Brougham touches from the first one, despite the fact that I find most of this to a very clean design. The greenhouse is especially airy, and reminds me of the Ford Fairmont Futura coupe, but the rear window would look better as a single piece, like GM’s “hot wire process” rear window of the same era.
Sales of the original Cordoba had dropped rather precipitously by the time the 1980 models came out, the downward trend continued until the end of the line in 1983. Since my 81 Imperial is based off these cars, and it too did not catch on in the marketplace (before even the FI reputation developed) there has been considerable discussion on the subject. Chrysler was going through a trying time when the 1980s came out, all of the personal luxury cars were downsized around this time and all suffered drops in sales in addition to the overall drop in car sales in the early 80s. Unfortunately, I have come to believe that Chrysler was basically adrift by this point literally and figuratively in the market and the combination of that, the uncertainly in the market with the energy crisis, as well as the financial woes gangrene had set in. Many people thought that Chrysler was just dead meat, at least with the RWD cars. The combination of the bad timing with the 1974 restyle and the costs related to the Aspen/Volare recalls severely crippled Chrysler. The sales guys would track the Cordoba sales against the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and Cutlass coupe but not by 1980.
I have always found this generation of the J bodies to be cleaner and more attractive than the original Cordobas and of course the Imperial even more so. What I have always been curious about was why they chose to use single beam headlights unlike the dual beams they had on the last couple years of the old body style and were particularly attractive on the Imperial and even on the GM and Ford intermediates.
The six cylinder models were not particularly fast but probably on par with a 3.8V6 GM intermediate. For 1980 only the E58 was available but rare – when the Imperial was planned they originally intended to use the 360 as the basis for that car but could not get the emissions to work right. From what I have been told emissions more than fuel economy was the primary reason why the 360 was dropped after 1980 for all but the trucks. There was a package available that mimicked the 79 300 with the red/white/blue emblems and red bucket seats.
Dual shade glass moonroof was available for 1980-1981 on all the Js (and for 1981 on the Imperial as the only official option) which my Imperial also has that used a unique remotely located sunroof motor mounted on the rear package shelf that used a cable and chain drive to actuate the sunroof motor. Unlike just about all the other sunroof mechanisms where the motor is installed on the roof. In order to lubricate the system on my car to restore its smooth functionality, required practically the entire disassembly of the interior with the package shelf liner, rear seat roof headliner and side liner from the car.
The 1980-83 Cordoba/Mirada/Imperials were based off of the original Aspen/Volare platform with transverse torsion bars rather than the original Cordoba that utilized the B platform. So I suppose I could conceivably say that I am riding around in the most luxurious Volare coupe known to man… I will say this though, Chrysler learned its lesson about rust as all of the J/Y coupes used all galvanized bodies, the Imperial even more so, so most of the examples seen left on the road are typically very rust free.
On a related note, my mother-in-law once owned an 87 Charger and her, like some, mistakenly assumed they were K car derivatives when in fact they were based off of the Omni/Horizon. She had owned a Charger back in the 1960s and felt nostalgic although the experience was somewhat different.
How was Chrysler able to get away with selling that E58 engine for so long, and why hasn’t history made more of their existence? The Aspen/Volare with that option always seemed to be something like the last great “secret” factory muscle cars in the vein of the GM COPO vehicles. By the time the Mirada and this Cordoba debuted, it was down to 185-195HP (which wasn’t at all shabby for 1980!) but I know that as late as 1978 they were still putting down 220HP – which probably would have translated to something like 270-290 in the old gross ratings, making them easily the fastest non-Corvettes of the late 70s and undoubtedly in the realm of much more storied names from the late 60s. In reality, there were only a handful of smallblock V8s from the classic muscle car era that were more powerful than this, so how did Chrysler manage to keep the party going almost a full decade after the dawn of emissions regulations?
Information on these is very thin and kinda all over the place. I’ve always been fascinated by their existence, though.
There were two 360 options one had 2bbl one 4bbl. The E58 was nominally a “police” motor but found its way into some civilian cars. I have never seen a J/M car with a 360 but have seen plenty of R cars with 360.
400 was standard in the Cordoba through 1978 when only 318/360 was available for 1979. Of course the 400 was a big block motor and Chrysler discontinued big blocks in the cars after 1978. The 79 300 with the HD360 was pretty decent for what was still a big car.
Some of the achievement was with the Lean Burn system which actually allowed them to not use cats for a few years but they eventually go them.
I have never driven a J/Y car except my 81 Imperial with the EFI 318 which is relatively slow mostly due to the incredibly tall 2.24 rear end. I have notions to replace it with a 3.23 or 3.55 gear since it would have absolutely no effect on its originality (cant tell unless you open the pumpkin cover) and make the car far more enjoyable to drive around town. Fuel economy would probably drop on the highway of course but at this point its not going to see a lot of highway service (although I have driven it all over the east coast).
A 360 Cordoba/Mirada would probably drive pretty well considering especially with a 2.94 rear end or above.
If you are really ambitious, Sean since I think you are in the New York area? You can go to Carlisle in PA or Englishtown in NJ to one of the Allpar events and get your fill. There are a lot of these cars that show up a lot more than you would think would be left in the US.
On another note, COPO wasn’t just for 69 Camaros but technically still in operation today. Back then, at least with the domestics, you could find a creative and persistent dealer to order just about anything you wanted.
So even the E58 engines had the ELB system? Crazy…
Here’s a Mirada CMX with the E58 engine listed on craigslist in Florida. The listing claims it’s only 1 of 76 ’80 Miradas with that option:
I’ve been meaning to take a road trip to Carlisle forever!
That is right there were only 76 CMX E58 Miradas for 1980. The regular 360 option was 2bbl. It got real confusing then because emissions certification dictated what engines were viable for Federal, California, and High Altitude, not to mention the Canadian and export models. I think by then, everything had a LeanBurn and the pics from the Craigslist show a combustion computer attached to the air cleaner. The CHP kind of got screwed in 1980 with Newports with 318 4bbl. which were ok around town but struggled to get past 100 on the open road.
You should spend some time on allpar.com give you your fill of Mopar wants and needs.
hmmm interesting to hear about the set up of the moonroof- I find that sunroofs in general are kind of rare on 1980s-early 1990s chryslers….I have never seen a fifth avenue with one, nor a 1990-3 imperial…..yet I have seen couple of diplomats with the t-roof
It was the only official option on the Imperials pushing up the MSRP in 1981 to close to $20K.
Here is a picture of my car with the cabling assembly exposes you can see it run from the center of the roof to the front of the roof assembly back down the drivers side and underneath the package shelf.
My dad had an ’84 Fifth Avenue with a sunroof. I don’t think they were that rare of an option.
It was a nice car. Nice interior; the leather seats were very comfortable and seemed to be of high quality. The car was kind of slow and had little or no steering feel, but I liked driving it the few times my dad allowed me to (I was in high school).
I think this was the lot of Laurel Dodge, I haven’t been able to figure out when it closed, but Google Street View has this same quintet in an otherwise empty lot and the photography is identified as from September of 2011. Soft nose cone but chrome back bumper!
Ah yes the site of the old Laurel Dodge. My folks bought a 1986 Dodge Aries back in 1986 that lasted about 10 years.
Laurel Dodge closed up around 2009-2010. In the local paper(Laurel Leader) a story ran May 21st 2009 that stated that Chrysler was not renewing the franchise agreement as part of the bankruptcy. There is another Chrysler company dealer down the street(Fred Fredricks) so the company might have decided two of the company’s dealerships in a half a mile was not productive.
Last i heard they were trying to ether get another franchise or become and independent shop but I guess that failed as it is dead there
Didn’t they make a 300 with this body? I vaguely recall seeing one at the undercoat joint I moonlighted at. It was white with a red interior and I remember the owner saying it was a special edition model.
That ’65 looks good. I haven’t seen one that nice in a long time. I’m still a hot rodder at heart but it’s nice to see one of these left stock.
They made a run (Corrected: 5500, as per wiki) of 300s in the previous body style. I assume that was the basis of plans for one on this body.
Yeah, the Cordoba LS even had the same red, white, and blue circular emblem as the previous 300, except that it had ‘LS’ in the center, rather than ‘300’.
Overall, the LS was better looking than the Mirada. While the Mirada might have had a better looking ‘coffin-nose’ front end (aping the previous Magnum), it also had gimmicky stick-on front fender vents, along with a busier taillight treatment (4-segmented lens versus the LS’ 3-segment).
As the last RWD coupe from Chrysler, the Cordoba/Mirada was a much better send-off than the problem-laden Imperial. As a collector car, this might be one of the better finds (esp a 1980 version with a 360) since one in excellent condition could surely be had for not much coin.
Maybe that’s what I’m remembering. The owner made a big deal about it being a limited production car. 30 odd years has a way of blurring memories…..
The Cordoba LS was not called “300” due to Gas Crisis hysteria.
The Mirada was always my favorite Chrysler of that generation, although the racy looks were just that, looks. they took that body to the track and it was so much slower than the rest of the field that Richard Petty ended his Chrysler affiliation once and for all. Seeing this Cordoba made me want one again.
I always thought it was more of a handling issue that drove Petty away plus the fact that Chrysler was not supporting the NASCAR program very well. Ironically, with the 1980 redesign, several drivers, most notably Buddy Arrington, championed the Imperial body instead of the Mirada due to it being slightly more aerodynamic. When I attended the 2009 Racers Reunion event in Mooresville I brought the Imperial word got to Arrington who was being honored by the museum that day he came out to the car with some folks took pictures reminisced etc. I believe that one of his cars is still in the Talladega museum.
The 1978 Dodge Magnum was essentially created so that petty could race NASCAR with it including the novel retractable headlamp covers that improved aerodynamics.
No, the Mirada had a bad coefficient of drag and was around 8 miles per hour slower than the other makes in testing. Petty saw that and ran.
Paul, various websites show anywhere from 3800 to 4200 or so of the 79 300’s built. Those 79’s are actually kinda cool, with some interesting pieces on them versus a regular Cordoba. Unfortunately, I have seen 2 of those in the last 3 years here at a pick-a-part here in Albuquerque.
Back to the ‘doba LS’s – I had a friend in PA who had one, sure was a nice car, but it seemed bog slow with a 318. I think the 81-83 Imp is truly a handsome car and I’ve even seen pics of an Imp stretch limo and IIRC I think Burt Reynolds drove one in the Cannonball Run II? Can anyone verify this?
Whoops, I meant to write 5500 (as per wikipedia). My bad. Still doesn’t jive with your numbers, but…
http://www.imperialclub.com/Movies/Cannonball/ and owned another stretch for a number of years. There were several dozen stretches from a number of companies including one for Frank Sinatra.
Wow, what a parking lot! IMO, the Mirada/Cordoba (2nd generation) was one of the most interesting, tasteful and progressive takes on the Brougham Personal Luxury Coupe… it only makes too much sense that it ended up a complete failure. I often wish large American cars had continued developing along this trajectory instead of sticking around as anachronisms throughout the 80s and into the early 90s. The modern Chrysler 300 and Cadillac CTS have proven there is a market for them, even at a time when fuel economy and emissions are just as big of a deal as they were in 1980. Ford kept going for awhile with the Thunderbird and it was a thing of beauty, at least until it got that pinched snout in it’s last few years… and what caused that platform to peter out was not that RWD had become unattractive, it was that the Personal Luxury Coupe had become unattractive. Meanwhile, in Germany…
I know the Big Three apologists will say “Yes, but you see… back in the 80s everyone thought that anything but 1-cylinder engines would be outlawed by 1990, and that by that time no one would want them anyway because we would all be issued government mandated 9V battery powered flying transportation pods to travel in the express lane of the information superhighway!” OK, sure. I’m not really criticizing, nobody could have seen the future. I’m just saying that I wish it played out differently. I wish Detroit had given us a 1986 Cutlass where “4-4-2” stood for an independent suspension and disc brakes at four corners plus twin turbos, or at least 2-valves per cylinder on a 307TPI.
30 years of technology has a way of doing that. I have a CTS (4 door) I wouldn’t consider it a personal luxury car, more like a sports sedan. Looking back, what is put out today is truly impressive. The 1999 Riviera was the last personal luxury car that I can thing of that generally fit the description historically. The T-Bird came back but it was more of a novelty vehicle than what the Birds were for most of their life. PLCs generally sold well until the late 1980s when the dropped off rather rapidly.
As for the 442 Cutlass, well they kinda sort did give us that (minus the twin turbos) in the 1988 Cutlass but, IMO, spelled the beginning of the end for Oldsmobile. The 307 was never going to be fuel injected although it was efficient enough to be certified for carb through the 1990 model year. The last domestic carbureted engine while a few Mazda trucks lingered on with carbs through 1992. The 350TPI for 1985 used in the F cars and Corvettes was a pretty impressive step for V8 technology in the 80s. Ford only had CFI 302s and Chrysler of course never had a fuel injected V8 in a car until 2005MY. Personally, I loved me a 1987 Pontiac Trans Am GTA with the 350TPI WS6 in dark red with gold wheels, that was a nasty nasty car.
I’m not necessarily extolling the virtues of personal luxury and/or coupes, just RWD American cars in general. With 30 years of hindsight behind me, I feel comfortable saying that had Detroit kept developing these platforms it would have, at the very least, given them something the Japanese couldn’t really match on the automotive socioeconomic ladder.
I think one of the biggest bright spots for GM in the 80s was the EFI system they developed and it’s a shame the really hot versions like the 305/350TPI were limited to the F-Body and Corvette for so many years. IMO, in this area they were just as competent as any other manufacturer at that time – and I think they were actually a little ahead of the curve on sequential fuel injection and crank-triggered ignition. When all the “good stuff” finally made it into the whale B-Body, everyone agreed that it was awesome. Too bad they didn’t do it ten years earlier, because the technology was there.
Thanks for more cars I never knew about.The Satellite is a beauty,I really like this site for showing forgotten or unknown cars,I didn’t bother buying the classic magazine this month again ,another dose of the same old medicine,Mustang,Charge,GTX and 59 Caddy America’s.finest cars again!
Yeah that Satelite is cool not a model Ive seen though plenty of Bevederes were roaming here.
Another fan of the final Doba here. I always thought that the car looked a bit like the Mark V. I know that Don DeLarossa (who did the Mark V at Lincoln) went over to Chrysler styling, but not sure if he made it in time to influence this car. Certainly looks like he did, but perhaps the Mark V look was the influence from the beginning.
The car looks better with blind quarters than with the big opera window. I will also confess to forgetting about the LS.
That 600ES convertible was always my favorite of those early Super K convertibles. That Satellite is quite nice, also. It is, however, one of my least favorite Satellites – by 1965, I think most folks were ready to move past the 1962-64 Plymouth body, but it was made to work for one more year to hold a place for the new 1966 B body.
Funny about the ’65. I like all the ’65-’67 B-bodiy hardtops. I saw the white one and thought that once Paul launches the CC IPO and I cash in all my options, I’d put a pristine ’65 at the top of my list. The later cars would be easier to get parts for, but the transition year has just that little bit of funky Exner left, before the Full Origami sets in.
Frankly, my favorite cars on the Cordoba/Mirada platform were the 81-83 Chrysler Imperial and the 78-80 Dodge Magnum.
If only they would have produced the clayups. They were close but these were sharp.
I thought they did a pretty decent job in 1982 with a landau roof option:
My dad leased a ’78 LeBaron coupe with a 318 Lean-Burn (not working properly) and a 2.45 rear. This was after an Ford Elite with a 460. What a come-down. That thing was slow as molasses, and the highway MPGs weren’t a whole lot better than the 460. How I coveted that E58, but they were very rare. None on the lot at purchase time, in fact rarely seen. Other than E38 Police Cars, they were part of a “Heavy Duty Trailer Assist Package”. 195 HP in ’78 was nothing to sneer at. E58 equipped F & J bodies could easily be spotted by the extra wide tires and rear sway bar, as well as the duals. As noted above, in the light F-bodies, these things were screamers. I knew someone who had an ex-RCMP one, and even as a 14 year old beater was something else, at least for the time.
Too bad then Chrysler dropped them too soon. We could wonder what if they did some little upgrades here and there like GM G-bodies or even giving the aero styling a la “Aero-bird” and add the Magnum 5.2L who’ll later equip the Dakota and the Ram if things could had been different?
Also, Nissan redesigned the Datsun 200SX for the 1980 model year and the notchback version looked a bit like a shrunken Cordoba/Mirada when we check the C-pillar. http://www.oldparkedcars.com/2010/01/1980-datsun-200sx-coupe.html Did the staff of Nissan spied Chrysler J-bodies? 😉
Chrysler pulled the plug on these cars because in 1981-82, everyone thought that fuel prices would continue to rise and that large, V8 rwd cars were the walking dead. Everyone had dumped large amounts into these large platforms in 1979-80, so the cars stayed around for the 2 or 3 years of their life cycles. Both Ford and GM saw business start to improve in these, and issued one stay of execution after another as the big cars started to really sell in 1984-85. Chrysler was a special case. Iacocca was convinced that the company was not strong enough to compete everywhere, but would have to pick and choose where to stay and fight. It seemed to make little sense (at the time) to keep these around, as they were not selling well and were taking up valuable plant space. I think we can agree that a decision to keep these would have been a horrible decision, if it had meant that there was no excess production capacity for a minivan. I believe that these could have been competitive through the 80s, with some updates. However, they would certainly never have become market leaders like the minivan did.
In Imperial circles, it has been discussed as to what would have happened if the Imperial had been successful as planned (25,000/yr) considering. If Chrysler kept it probably would have had it moved to the St Louis plant with the M cars since they were very similar in design. I suppose the J cars would have gone there too if there would have been a business case for keeping the cars.
Chrysler did make money with the M bodies, and was wise to make more sedans than the dying coupes. 5th Avenues made a huge comeback, with the Crown Vics and Caprices.
I’ll take any of those cars. The one that tugs at me the most is the Kleenex box with an attitude, i.e., the EEK convertible.
Or the Rampage. I could use one of those right now…
Where were all these cars at once? I looks like they were for sale, but it looks like its in the middle of an empty parking lot.
I wonder if Lido toyed with a K-car based Cordoba to replace the RWD one?
I mean the Doba has everything Lido liked in car design in one package.
That 65 Plymouth looks good, real good.
The LeBaron coupe and TC were probably the natural progression there since they were greenlighted around the time the J/Ys were discontinued. There was no where to go but on the K platorm. The LeBaron coupe was pretty decent of a PLC all things considering. As I think about my 81 Imperial many of the styling cues are evident.
I alway kinda think of the 87 hidden headlight LeBaron as kind of a Cordoba in spirit.
They live on the side of a now defunct dealership that was called Laurel Dodge in Laurel Maryland. Chrysler yanked franchise agreements from many dealers due to the bankruptcy. Though this dealership was successful for the most part but they sold only Dodge. Just down the street is a dealer called Fred Fredricks which sold Chrysler cars. It now sells Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Ram so they(Chrysler corp) may have decided to have one dealer in Laurel selling all models instead of two selling Mopar products
I remember in 1983 these cars looked really old with the introduction of the new T-Bird and Cougar. They even looked old compared to the restyled GM A/G body cars in 1981 which had neater tidier more aerodynamic exteriors and sportier interiors with the bucket seat floor shifter option. I remember test driving a 1981 white Mirada coupe with the 85 Hp Slant 6 and solid blue bench seat in cloth. It was like driving a slower Volare and the suspension seemed even softer and less controlled. I ended up buying the 1981 white Grand Prix LJ coupe sitting 4 cars down with 4.3 V8, buckets and rally wheels. It felt like a sports car in comparison.