Curbside Musings: c. 1992 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue – Gingerbread

1992 or '93 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue. Edgewater Glen, Chicago, Illinois. Friday, July 12, 2019.

My grandparents had owned a Fifth Avenue in the mid-’80s.  It had seemed like a significant upgrade from their navy-colored 1980 LeBaron sedan, but even as a kid, I could tell that the Fifth Avenue was based on the same architecture as the older car.  This was especially apparent when three generations of my family would load into it to go somewhere.  I would be perched in the middle of the front bench seat between my grandpa (who was always behind the wheel) and my dad, his son-in-law, who would ride shotgun.  Everyone else would be in the back, with my younger brother riding on my mom’s lap.  I liked the front vantage point, even despite sitting over the transmission hump, as it gave me a bird’s eye view of the road and where we were going.  This would beat the pants off of sitting in the middle in the back, which, while comfortably upholstered in cranberry-colored crushed velour, felt like a cave with no view.

From sitting behind a familiar dashboard, it was unmistakable that my grandparents’ Fifth Avenue was a newer, nicer version of the same car they had traded for it.  It was a plush ride that seemed to have knickknacks and gadgets everywhere, including the digital clock… ahem, the Chrysler Chronometer (with its fitting nautical connotations), cruise control, a stereo equalizer, and even an aftermarket CB that Grandpa had installed.  They would use this communication device when they would travel as snowbirds between their farm in northwest Ohio and their vacation home in Florida.  Grandma would tell me how it would take a toothbrush to really get the wire wheel covers clean.  The vinyl roof cap needed to be specially cleaned and treated.  They took pride in and great care of that car, as with all of their vehicles over the years that I can remember.  That Fifth Avenue seemed to me to be a “kitchen sink” kind of car, both inside and out.

1992 Chrysler Imperial and New Yorker Fifth Avenue brochure pages, as sourced from the internet.

I spotted our featured car while on one of my evening neighborhood walks almost five years ago, and had thought initially that I had found an elusive, final-iteration Imperial.  This was a rookie mistake, as the horizontal taillamps would have been the first, easy, external indicator of that.  Once I had correctly identified it as a Y-Body New Yorker Fifth Avenue, I had several thoughts.  The first was how different its overall proportions seemed in comparison to my grandparents’ old Fifth Avenue, appearing taller and skinnier, like Stan Laurel to Oliver Hardy.

The second was how apt it seemed that it was parked in front of this giant, purple house.  I love this house, and I respect the bold decision-making that went into the choice of its shade of lilac paint.  This residence is like something out of a grape bubble gum-flavored fantasy, with seemingly every possible external embellishment on it.  Originally built in 1904, it’s got a big porch, that decorative, oval window of beveled glass, a bold paint scheme with contrasting, white trim, and a big yard – the latter of which is a true luxury in this area.  Imagine casually strolling past a house that’s significantly over a century old and in condition this fantastic.

1992 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue print ad, as sourced from the internet.

This Fifth Avenue’s Y-platform was a stretched version of the C-body, which was itself based on the venerable K which had made its debut for ’81.  Like this purple house, these underpinnings seemed almost a hundred years old by the time the first front-drive Fifth Avenue arrived for 1990.  Also similar to this mansion, this car also featured all of the things: a padded vinyl roof, wire wheel covers, hidden headlamps, a boxy, upright stance, and chrome for days.  This would all have been in vogue in the late ’70s.  This example, judging by its refreshed sheetmetal with its slightly rounded corners, was produced in the early ’90s.  I got these quick snaps five years ago only with the intent of sharing them on social media, so I didn’t think to get any other pictures of the car so that I could conduct a license plate search.  What I can tell is that this example is from one of the final two model years of this generation before the gorgeous, revolutionary LH cars arrived.

What I hadn’t realized before putting this together was that the “Salon” and “Fifth Avenue” editions of these New Yorkers weren’t simply trim levels.  The Fifth Avenue featured a five-inch wheelbase stretch (to 109.5″) over the C-body Salon.  For ’92, the Fifth Avenue sold 34,300 copies, which was almost exactly twice as many Salons (17,200).  In the next and final year for this generation, the gap closed somewhat, with 29,800 Fifth Avenues sold against 22,300 of its lesser stablemate.  Standard power for all New Yorkers came from a new 3.3 liter V6 with 147 horsepower, with an optional 3.8 liter V6 offering just three horses more.  Fifth Avenue curb weight started at around 3,400 pounds for both ’92 and ’93.

1992 or '93 Chrysler New Yorker Fifth Avenue. Edgewater Glen, Chicago, Illinois. Friday, July 12, 2019.

Thinking back to the tight, three-across seating in the front bench of my grandparents’ 1983 Fifth Avenue, this ’92 edition was about three and a half inches narrower, at 68.9″ wide.  I realize that there isn’t necessarily a direct correlation between exterior width and interior volume, and also that there are probably EPA numbers out there that catalog the front seat hip room of both model years.  My gut feeling, though, is that if it felt like close quarters in my grandparents’ car when I was just a skinny kid, there’s no way that three-across seating could be attempted in the ’92 (which did offer front bench seats, by the way).  I’ll leave you with the idea that even if the late, iconic musician Prince Rogers Nelson would have liked the ornate purple-ness of this house, I doubt he would have fancied the Fifth Avenue, even if it, too, had been painted purple.  Both house and car gave my eyes plenty to feast upon as I cleared my head at the end of the workweek.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, July 12, 2019.