Curbside Classic: 1971 Chrysler New Yorker – Living Large

(first posted 7/30/2013)    One of the reasons I love 1970s luxury cars is because not many have survived to the present day–and Mopars in particular. Why, you ask? Simple. From the late ’70s through today, many Imperials, New Yorkers, Fury IIIs and Monacos have had their big-block 440 CID mills unceremoniously yanked, and the rest crushed, just so some bozo can shoehorn one into his Slant Six-equipped Dart, Belvedere or Duster. Never once does it occur to these dim-witted individuals that perhaps that Polara Custom or Sport Fury might be enjoyable transportation in itself. But this survivor has beaten the odds. It was a joy to see!

Chrysler Corporation–to say the least–had its share of ups and downs throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The shrunken and bizarrely-styled 1962 full-sizers was the Airflow all over again, and only the clean, attractive new biggies of 1965, courtesy of Elwood Engel, saved Chrysler’s bacon. The 1965-68 Chryslers were well-made cars that brought back a fair share of luster to Chrysler’s once-proud engineering credibility.

In 1969, all full-size Dodges, Chryslers, Plymouths and Imperials were redesigned. Their “fuselage” C-bodies were meant to recall aircraft design–a road-going 747, if you will– and their big styling feature was a profile that was one consistent curve from the rocker panels to the roof. It was a big change, not only for Chrysler but for the industry, as the roofs of most contemporary domestic rolling stock appeared to be separate from the body, with a ridge between the tops of the fenders and the A, B and C-pillars.

In your author’s opinion, the curved sides were rather attractive but sadly, 95% of these cars had a vinyl roof, which effectively masked the fuselage look. Still, they were very cleanly styled in all their Mopar variants, although the Plymouths had a bit of an anonymous look from the front, at least in the plain-grille, non-Sport Fury versions. But let’s focus on Mopar’s namesake nameplate: the Chrysler Newport, Newport Custom, and that Electra 225 competitor, the lovely New Yorker. Today’s CC looks quite sharp in silver-blue paint, whitewalls, black top and a blue interior, but its attractive lines did not translate into big sales.

Unfortunately, the fuselage C-bodies were introduced at the beginning of yet another crisis in Highland Park. Today, we can look back at cool cars like the E-body Challenger and Barracuda, Charger Daytona, Superbird, GTX, et. al. and think, “Chrysler was at the top of its game.” That wasn’t the case, however, as Chrysler started to experience slipping sales–again–going into 1970. The fuselage cars were not horrible sellers, but still were not meeting expectations: 260,771 full-size 1969 Chryslers were built–less than 1968 production of 264,863. Not good, when you consider that the ’68 was a three-year-old design.

Things got much worse in 1970, as model year production dropped by 30 percent. Indeed, Chrysler was moving from the “fat” years of 1964-68 to yet another “lean” period. It didn’t help that Chrysler’s quality remained hit-or-miss despite the company’s efforts to shed the rusty tin can reputation that started with the rushed-into-production 1957 models. If you got a good one, you got a really good one–and if you got a bad one, you got a really, REALLY bad one. That wasn’t the case with the B- and C-body Oldsmobiles and Buicks, at least prior to the ’71 model year.

But enough of Chrysler’s corporate ups and downs; let’s focus on the car itself. There’s something about a Chrysler New Yorker that always catches my interest. Personally, I think “Chrysler New Yorker,” along with “Lincoln Continental” and “Buick Electra,” is among my top ten best-ever car names. They always were a cut above, unless you plumped for the pricey Imperial–actually just a fancier version of this car–at least after 1966.

Nineteen seventy-one was the last year for the original fuselage styling. Oh sure, the taillights, grilles and other trim minutiae changed year-to-year, but starting in ’72 they would get new sheet metal and a blockier roofline. Compared with the less-prestigious Newport and Newport Custom, the New Yorker received a fancier, prow-like grille; wide, chrome side moldings; plush Cairo cloth-and-vinyl upholstery; an electric clock; fender skirts, and more. The cheapest variant was the $5,555 four-door sedan, and the four-door hardtop, at $5,686, was dearest. In the middle was the two-door hardtop–the best of the bunch, style-wise. The 4,250-lb. coupe cost you a not-inconsiderable $4,250.

The coupe was also the least popular New Yorker, with only 4,485 built. No, even when new these cars didn’t exactly grow on trees! Indeed, any 1971 New Yorker is a find these days, since only 34,968 were made. Every one of them had standard power brakes, power steering, and a 440 CID, 335-hp V8.

That standard mill is the reason so few are seen today. The cars never were worth much (and really aren’t even today), so many people building fake Challenger R/Ts or ‘cudas would buy one for peanuts, rip out the heart of these once-proud luxury cars and then pop it into their former secretary-special Duster or Barracuda. A shame, as these cars are big, plush and comfy.

Yes, big! The ’71 New Yorker coupe was 224.6″ long, with an impressive 124″ wheelbase. Interior room was ample, as this large, comfy high-back bench seat shows. Our featured CC is an original car. Despite being the top non-Imperial Chrysler, plenty of options were available to those who wanted more, including factory air ($426; $501 with Automatic Temperature Control), AM/FM with cassette ($407) and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel ($91).

I was on my way to the library after work when I saw the nose of this car while at an intersection. I initially thought it was merely a four-door (there are a few sedans around here), but became much more interested when I saw it was a two-door. Immediate detour!

As I was taking my many, many pictures, the owner came over, wondering what I was up to. He was happy to open up the car for better interior pictures, and he even popped the hood and started it up for me! It sounded very healthy and very happy. He has had the car a few years, and other than a possible repaint in the original color (it looks good in the pictures, but is a bit more worn in person), he is keeping it just the way it is. I was happy to meet another C-body fan. I was beginning to think myself, JPCavanaugh and 73ImpCapn were the only ones!