Curbside Classic: 1962 Chrysler New Yorker – Adios Fins

(first posted 1/5/2017)    Old cars can be like a neighborhood cat: When you see them sitting out in the summer, it can be hard to tell if someone loves them and is just letting them out, or if they are truly an abandoned stray. If they are still stuck outside when winter rolls around, then they are clearly a stray. I’ve seen this clearly unloved stray 1962 Chrysler New Yorker sitting out for years, and decided to make this my first CC.

Chrysler scored a home run with its “Forward Look” styling from 1957-59. Suddenly it’s 1960 indeed. Alas, the actual 1960 model year Chryslers weren’t as well-conceived, carrying some of the most overwrought, excessive styling ever to carry the Chrysler name (compare the featured car with a contemporary Lincoln Continental for a dramatic illustration of this).

1962 was a modest attempt to course correct. The most noticeable change was the complete elimination of tail fins, which by then had become quite unfashionable. The rear fenders are flat and flush with the trunkline, with the taillights neatly integrated with the trailing edges of the fender line. The rear fenders also tapered inward, giving the car some “hips.” The refreshed rear end is easily the most successful styling feature of this car.

Unfortunately, the other remaining vestiges of 1950s styling (diagonal headlights, wraparound rear window, and swept-back fender openings) would have to wait until the more comprehensive 1963 restyling before being removed.

The market responded favorably to the styling improvements: Sales improved 32% over the 1961 models, to a total of 127,000 units, making 1962 easily the best-selling year of the 1960-62 generation Chryslers.

Our featured New Yorker represented the pinnacle of the Chrysler brand’s lineup for 1962 (recall that Imperial was still a separate brand at the time). It rode on an exclusive 126″ wheelbase, while the lesser Newport and 300 models rode on a 122″ wheelbase. This would be the final year the New Yorker carried this distinction: Starting in 1963, all models would ride on the smaller 122″ wheelbase.

The four-door sedan body style this example wears outsold the four-door hardtop nearly 2-1, reflecting the waning popularity of the hardtop style. No two-door New Yorker was available (that was the domain of the 300), but Chrysler did offer a New Yorker Town and Country Station Wagon (not to be confused with the Newport Town and Country Station Wagon).  With sales measuring in the hundreds, good luck finding one today. One oddity is that both the Newport and New Yorker wagons came only in hardtop versions.

Befitting its position at the top of the line, the New Yorker sported a long list of standard equipment, including power steering, power brakes, power windows, map lights, and a Torqueflite automatic transmission. Curiously, an AM radio, whitewall tires, and even a heater/defroster were all still considered options, although I would guess that few, if any, were delivered without them.

Also standard equipment on the New Yorker (optional on lesser Chryslers) was the 4-bbl. 413 cubic-inch RB (Raised Block) V8, good for 340 gross HP and 480 ft-lb. of torque. For an extra $486, one could upgrade to a dual 4-bbl. version of this engine, bumping the gross HP to 380 and torque to a stump-pulling 525 ft-lb. Given that the price of this engine represents over 10% of the price of the car, precious few were sold with this option. I was unable to open the hood on this article’s featured car, but I would guess it has the more common single-carb setup.

Yes, the keys were just hanging in the ignition


I have saved the best part for last. These vintage Chryslers have hands down the best jet-age style instrument panel, with their “astradome” enclosure surrounding the steering column. Combine this with the nifty push-button transmission, you were well on your way to the real-life Jetsons. These cars also featured early electroluminescent lighting and were quite a sight to behold at night, as the photo below demonstrates.

Alas, our featured stray can only look back to these glorious days.