(first posted 2/11/2015) If Chrysler’s mid-1970s full-size lineup confuses you a bit, you’re not alone. During this time, there was an onslaught of similar looking cars with similar sounding names, often differing very little from one another in features and appearance. To make matters worse, Chrysler kept shuffling names around, adding and dropping them on a seemingly annual basis. From 1974-1978, the full-size Chryslers included the Newport, Newport Custom, Newport St. Regis, Newport Custom St. Regis, New Yorker, New Yorker Brougham, New Yorker Brougham St. Regis, Town & Country, and the Imperial, the last of which, was, for all intents and purposes a Chrysler in everything buy name. Does this clarify things a bit?
First and foremost, our featured car is a Deep Sherwood Green 1975 Chrysler Newport Custom 4-door hardtop. With 11,626 produced, the Newport Custom 4-door hardtop was the third most popular Chrysler for 1975, after the Newport sedan and New Yorker Brougham 4-door hardtop.
The Newport Custom first appeared in 1967 as a “step-up” from the regular Newport, which was then Chrysler’s lowest-priced car line. By 1975, the Newport Custom still occupied the same niche between Newport and New Yorker – basically a Newport with a few extra options.
Things would be shuffled around the following year, with the discontinuation of Imperial. This event caused the Chrysler New Yorker Brougham (all New Yorkers sported the “Brougham” suffix after 1974) and Newport Custom each to essentially move up a rung, filling in the gaps. The New Yorker Brougham now comfortable occupied the former Imperial’s body, and the Newport Custom went movin’ on up
to the East Side into the previous-year New Yorker Brougham’s body. To confuse people again, in 1977, the Newport Custom name and the regular Newport’s body shell would fall by the wayside, with the Newport inheriting the Newport Custom’s (neé New Yorker) styling.
For 1975 though, Newport Customs were more difficult to distinguish from regular Newports, differing only in badging and the addition of standard paint stripes.
Inside, all Newport Customs added a 50/50 divided bench seat with dual center armrests, with four-door models adding a passenger’s side recliner. Cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl were available in seven color schemes. This car features a more subdued “parchment” color, but with its woodgrain, brown dash, and exterior colors, I think it fits this car well.
The Newport Custom also gained additional woodgrain trim and unique door panels, for more upscale aura. That being said, this particular woodgrain pattern reminds me of the laminate-covered desks of my elementary school. Love it or hate it though, this same fake wood was found in every Mopar product with woodgrain. It doesn’t look half-bad on the door panels, but on the dash it somehow comes across far cheaper looking.
Power windows, air conditioning, AM/FM stereo, manual vent windows, and rear speakers were all options that this car is equipped with.
Unlike other automakers, who merely provided a speedometer and fuel level gauge by this point, Chrysler is notable in that it continued to offer a fuller complement of gauges, at least as optional in most of its vehicles, through the Malaise Era and beyond. Although hardly cockpit-like in layout, the assortment of gauges, buttons, and levers on this dash do give a more commanding feel of driver involvement, even if it’s only a feeling.
The most unusual feature of this particular Newport is this funky aftermarket hood ornament. When it left the factory, this Newport Custom did not have a hood ornament, as none did this year. It seems odd to me that someone would go through the trouble of adding one on, and not use a period-specific Chrysler “coat of arms”, or at the very least, a more widely available Pentastar. There are certainly much worse aftermarket parts that could’ve been added to this car, but it still annoys me to some degree.
The Newport Custom was available as a 2-door hardtop, 4-door sedan, and 4-door hardtop like our featured car. The 4-door hardtop body style of the 1974-1978 Chryslers was by far one of the most elegant silhouettes of its time. Its vinyl roof, and the slight concavity to its rear windshield and C-pillar made its roof look like a graceful canopy. Especially with the windows down, this roofline blended tastefully with its gently sloping long deck.
For these same reasons, the 4-door sedan looked rather clumsy by comparison, with its very upright roofline sitting atop the body in a far less integrated manner.
As it’s been said before, these final C-body Chrysler Newports and New Yorkers were the last true American pillar-less hardtops when they ended production in 1978. It is unfortunate that these cars never got a proper send off. Instead, their significance is often overshadowed by their untimely release at the height of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo, corresponding sales disappointment, quality woes, and Chrysler’s shaky overall state during this period.
That’s a shame because in truth, these were among the most beautiful cars of their era. The hardtop’s styling, combined with their formal radiator grilles and other neoclassical design elements came across as elegant, but in a more graceful and less gaudy manner than competitors from GM and Ford. Their chiseled shape also made for an interesting transition between the wind tunnel Fuselages and the straight-edged R-bodies. While they may not have been the most popular cars then, it’s good to see that they have a loyal fan base among collectors, especially the higher-trimmed “civilian” Chrysler versions.