Curbside Classic: 1977 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham Coupe – The Recycled Imperial and the Recycled CC

(first posted 5/3/2017)    It’s 5PM, Tuesday. I’ve just come in from tearing a bathroom apart while thinking about the Promaster conversion. There’s no CC scheduled for Wednesday morning. What to write up? Where to find inspiration? I flip through the pages of my notebook, where the hundreds (thousands, actually) of cars I’ve shot but not written up reside. I see “1977 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham Coupe”. Hmm. I think I have an angle on that, if not a terribly inspired or original one.

This New Yorker is of course a recycled ’74-’75 Imperial. So why not recycle some of my ’74 Imperial coupe CC, from back in 2010 at the other site?  I wrote that article under somewhat similar circumstances: needing to create a CC for the next morning. But back then, it was late in the evening and I was on my third glass of wine, or so. The result was a bit…different. Inspired? I’ll let you decide. Here’s the opening (the two previous CCs had been the VW Rabbit and Toyota Starlet):

Enough with these pathetic little Briggs and Stratton powered sidewalk toys like the Rabbit and Starlet! We need us a real car to counterbalance that axis of Cozy Coupes. Hell, this Imperial weighs a half a ton more than both of them together. Its 7.2 liter engine is almost three times as big as their egg beaters combined. And its got enough torque to twist those little tin cans into shreds.

There must be something about these big Chrysler coupes that inspires rather extreme comparisons. How about another one, and not borrowed?

I guessed that the big Chrysler was about the same length as the Promaster. Looking it up, it’s actually three inches shorter. Close enough. And the New Yorker actually weighs 200 lbs less than the Promaster. Close enough too. But these two really are the ultimate extremes of how to turn ∼20 feet (6 meters) into a production mass-produced vehicle, especially when limiting them to ones sold by Chrysler. I don’t think I need to elaborate on all the differences. The real question is to find something they have in common. Actually, with this white Imperial, it would be four wheel disc brakes.

This is a New Yorker dressed up as an Imperial, due to the demise of the marque after the 1975 model year. The New Yorker got the Imperial’s hand-me down exterior for 1976, minus the rear disc brakes, and ran with it through 1978. And it enjoyed a bit of a renaissance, as sales ticked up; quite a bit for 1977 actually, due in part no doubt to an improving economy as well as a reaction to the downsized 1977 GM cars. Lincoln got a nice bump from that too.

Seeing this interior, I’m going to go grab and recycle another paragraph from that old article, which makes reference to the impact and eventual demise of these giant cars from the 1973-1974 OPEC oil embargo:

Yes, the Arabs put a kibosh on this barge that Cleopatra would have been proud to float down the Nile on. And her tush would have been sitting pretty on all those acres of gen-u-ine Corinthian leather. The 440’s blubbering dual exhausts didn’t even need to be submerged under water to sound like an old Chris Craft speed boat. They don’t call these barges for nothing.

And since I’m looking for as much inspiration (more like plagiarization) from that old article, how about from the comments? Our own Jim Cavanaugh owned a sedan version, and he left this comment summarizing his experience:

I owned a 77 New Yorker. Mine was factory equipped with HD suspension and was one of the best handling big cars I ever owned. Mine was anything but floaty. You want floaty, go with a FoMoCo car of that era. The GMs were floaty too, but not as quiet or as smoooth. And I drove many examples of those big-uns back in the late 70s.

My biggest complaint with mine was that miserable lean burn system. An early 70s 440 swap would have done wonders for mine. Also, I didn’t like the “wide ratio” Torqueflite as well as the old unit. I must also take exception to anyone who questions the structural rigidity of the bodies on these never paid attention. It is odd that the sedans (with pillars) of this series of C body was not very rigid. But the 4 door hardtops (pillarless) were tight, tight cars.

It is another example of Chrysler’s horrible timing that its all new C body cars hit the market during a terrible recession. The poor Imperial didn’t stand a chance in 1974-75. But as a New Yorker, they sold scads of them.

My mother bought mine used in about 1982. It was a new car trade at a Chrysler dealer and had 34k on the clock. It is still one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen. Russet Sunfire Metallic (a reddish burnt orange) with beige vinyl on the roof and beige velour inside. A pretty, pretty car.

The other problem on these was the electric headlight doors. We learned to open them and unplug them during the winter months, as ice buildup on the bumpers could prevent them from opening or closing, and they would make a terrible racket when they got stuck.

Another issue on these was the severe tuck-under of the rear quarter panels. That lower surface would get a terrible sand-blasting from the rear tires. I had to repaint mine more than once. The light colored cars showed a lot of rusty lower fenders after a few years.

All in all, this more than any other is the car I wanted to love, but that kept kicking me. Sort of like the handsome ivy league kid who is an underachieving alcoholic. Worse, I owned the New Yorker right after my little 71 Scamp, that was kind of like Rudy Rudiger (of the Notre Dame Football movie fame). I didn’t expect much from it, but it just worked its heart out for me.
Anyway, the Imperial today brings back a flood of memories from one of the great love-hate relationships of my life.

I should just have had Jim write this one up. But it’s not the first time I’ve taken one of his invariably insightful comments and used them in a post. In fact, I “turned” him, into an author here, by taking his comments about a ’59 Plymouth Fury and turning it into a post, his first of so many. I can’t link to it right now, because it’s going to re-run here shortly, which puts it in limbo temporarily.

And there’s one more comment I’ll filch from that post, by a current owner of a ’78 new Yorker, who went by Moparman426:

I happen to own a 78 New Yorker Brougham, which is the same car. The difference was that Chrysler dropped the 4 wheel disc brakes, and made some of the equipment which was standard on the Imperial optional on the New Yorker.

Motor trend picked this car over the Lincoln and Caddy in July of 75. They rated the car superior in handling, road feel, materials used in the interior as well as fit and finish, and trunk space. They also praised the car in many other areas. Road test magazine also talks of the car’s superiority in handling over the Lincoln and Caddy in their august 75 issue.

These cars go down the highway very well, especially for their size, with none of the pitch and wallowing that most cars from this era are known for. I put about 1,500 miles per year on mine going to car shows and such, these cars are very comfortable on the highway.

The space inside is cavernous, and the transmission hump is smaller than in the Lincolns and Caddies as well. The interiors in these cars are made of great materials, and use far less plastic than any Camry or Accord; sorry, posters. The bottom of the instrument panel is metal. The knobs are even metal, except for the wiper and power antenna switch.

The car has 118k on it, and has no squeaks or rattles whatsoever. Everything in the interior is intact, and the driver’s door opens and closes perfectly with the original bushings in the hinges. Not many GM cars can make that last claim.
To the poster that said these cars have crappy brakes, these cars use the exact same brakes as the fullsize 1/2 ton trucks of the 70’s.

To the poster that made the comment about switching to an earlier motor without lean burn…..they are the same engine. All you have to do, is replace the distributor with one from an earlier engine, as well as the carb. Or you could use an aftermarket distributor and carb. I switched mine to an earlier factory electronic unit, and used an edelbrock 750 carb for better driveability, power and mileage. I used an open element air cleaner, and advance the timing a few degrees. The car has excellent throttle response and runs very well on the highway, and with the cruise control set at 65 I manage 14 MPG easily, which is a big improvement over the factory thermoquad/lean burn system.

I plan to add a gear vendors overdrive to the torqueflite, which should easily add 2-3 mpg. These cars weigh in the vicinity of 5,000 lbs.

People that bought these cars were luxury car buyers, so I doubt that many ended up buying Camrys or Accords. Maybe a Mercedes or something similar, but not Accords or Camrys.

This New Yorker borrowed its duds from the Imperial, and I borrowed this New Yorker CC from an Imperial CC. How’s that for a bit of appropriate circularity? And so, with a little help from the past, we’ve got us a semi-doable CC now, in just about an hour. Necessity is the mother of recycling. Chrysler knew that back in 1976.