Curbside Classic: 1977 Chrysler Newport St. Regis – Old Soldier

Poor Chrysler. They have certainly had their issues, both in the distant and not so distant past, eh? But somehow, they manage to get up, dust themselves off and carry on. Even if you don’t agree with their business decisions through the years, you have to admire their moxie. In the mid to late 1970s, when this Newport came off the lines, Chrysler was in the soup – again.

1974 should have been a good year for Chrysler. While E-body fans mourn 1974 as the end of the line for the Barracuda and Challenger, Chrysler was looking forward to increased sales. And why not? All of their full size models, from plebeian Fury I to luxo-cruiser Imperial, were completely redesigned. While the Imperial was very attractive in your author’s humble opinion, the Chryslers were not too shabby either. They were certainly closer to the squared-off, sheer look that all good Broughams were adopting at the time.

Replacing the lean, smooth Fuselage Look was more rectilinear, creased styling, with more chrome and neoclassical radiator-type grilles. The base Chrysler was the plain ol’ Newport. If you had more green to spend, you could move up the ladder to a Newport Custom, New Yorker, New Yorker Brougham, or if you were really loaded, a classy Imperial LeBaron.

The 1974 models used the tried and true Mopar unibody construction, with front torsion bar suspension, electronic ignition and front disc/rear drum brakes. Depending on the model and the year, 1974-78 full size Chryslers could have a 360, 400 or 440 CID V8, all of which came with the storied Torqueflite automatic transmission.

Now, 1974-78 was a most Broughamiful time in the automotive industry. This was proved in what may possibly be the most Broughamy top treatment ever: the St. Regis landau roof, seen above on a 1975 New Yorker Brougham, natch. This top treatment, an option on New Yorker Broughams (and in slightly different form on Imperial LeBaron coupes) starting in 1975, was available from 1975-78, described thusly in the 1976 brochure:

St. Regis package (New Yorker Brougham and Newport Custom Hardtop only.) Padded canopy boar-grain vinyl roof with unique color-keyed molding trim. Available in 8 standard colors plus a unique silver vinyl roof (and) formal opera windows.

Go Brougham or go home, baby!

While you probably would have gotten all sorts of envious stares, pulling up to a fine dining establishment in a St. Regis-equipped Newport or New Yorker coupe, I would have much rather had the standard two-door hardtop. I’m sure Zackman is with me!

In fact, this hunter green and white 1976 Newport Custom hardtop from the ’76 Chrysler catalog is exactly what I would have gotten, had I been around and of driving age in 1976. I love the road wheels too!

The “Highlander” interior had been a feature on Chryslers of the 1940s, and it made a comeback in the Seventies, as seen above. I’d rather have that white vinyl interior however. I bet it would stay pretty cool in the summer too.

As for the full size Chryslers, the Imperial went away, if only in name, starting in 1976. Thus, the 1975 Imperial became the 1976 New Yorker Brougham and the 1975 New Yorker Brougham became the 1976 Newport Custom.

As for our featured CC, I spotted it on Monday afternoon, about a half hour before I stumbled upon the purple Taurus. I have actually seen this car before, but it’s been a while. It never really registered that it was a Newport St. Regis. I had previously thought only New Yorkers came with this roof, but as I passed it I clearly saw the Newport nose of this one.

It was in rough, but not terrible shape. It must have been garaged as the rust was relatively minor. It was more weathered than anything else, and in much nicer shape than the 1965 Newport Paul located some time ago.

It looked like something Burgess Meredith would have driven in Grumpy Old Men: an aging, tough old land yacht that makes no apologies to anyone, with an owner to match.

Despite the rocky start, full size Chrysler production got healthy after 1975. The ex-Imperial New Yorker Brougham was a hit, despite being virtually unchanged from the 1974-75 Imperial save less standard features and different badging.

As for the Newport itself, it carried on in much the same fashion through the 1978 model year. After that, Chrysler “pulled a GM” in which it hatched a new full size sedan out of the mid-size B-body. It was much less successful than the 1977 Caprice and friends, however, and Chrysler was on the cusp of yet another crisis. Here we go again…