(first posted 4/6/2011) Hard to imagine now, but the word “compact” was actually used in early Cordoba marketing materials. Weighing in at two-plus tons and measuring 215 inches makes that a bit of a stretch. But that’s what these cars are all about: stretching our credibility. As if there really was such a thing as “Corinthian Leather”; or even a place pronounced Cor-DOH-ba. Who cared? People bought them, and some are still family heirlooms, like this one. The original owner was offered any new car in the world to replace her then fifteen-year old Cordoba, and turned it down. Now that is a stretch, but unlike Chrysler’s marketing, quite true.
What really made GM hum in its golden years was its its five distinct divisions, that never had to share with another one. Poor Ford and Chrysler could never quite get out of the trap they set for themselves with their Lincoln-Mercury and Chrysler-Plymouth pairings. While Chevrolet kept the low end fires burning, B-O-P romped freely all over the market, from stripper four cylinder Tempests to near-Caddy 98s and Electras. It was their killer formula.
Meanwhile, Chrysler and Plymouth fought against each other, which resulted in the death of one and Chrysler still trying to find its way today. The Cordoba was the first major step in that final battle: it was originally supposed to have been a Plymouth. Just think; popular culture might have been so much less rich without Ricardo Montalban extolling the Cordoba’s soft Corinthian Leather.
Chysler’s pairing with Plymouth meant that it was relegated strictly to big cars, really big ones. Chrysler just stayed away from all the compact and mid-sized offerings that GM was spewing on the market, in its perpetual identity crisis. That strategy was devastating when the first energy crisis hit in late 1973. Chrysler had painted themselves into a corner, and was in desperate need for something smaller.
The Monte Carlo and the Olds Cutlass Supreme were the hot thing in the early seventies, and Plymouth was working up its own version, along with a revised Dodge Charger. But very late in the game, the Plymouth coupe was transferred to Chrysler, on the (correct) assumption that it could be sold with a higher profit margin on the strength of the Chrysler name.
Cordoba, “the small Chrysler” arrived in 1975, along with the much less successful Charger, and it did the trick. It was a pretty handsome job, given that lead designer Allan Kornmiller still had to work with the basic B-Body from 1971, as is so clearly evidenced by the A-pillars and windshield. The formal front end is one of the better ones of the era, especially the original from ’75 – ’77. The change to stacked quad rectangular headlights was the latest trend, and a mighty stupid one at that. Pretty effectively destroyed the Cordoba’s Jag XJ-6 face.
The Cordoba accounted for no less than 60% of Chrysler’s sales in 1975, and it managed to outsell the Grand Prix. Undoubtedly, it also stole from the similar but “sportier” Charger; the luxury look was in and the Cordoba had it in spades.
The mispronounced Cor-DOH-ba bristled with facsimiles of an old Spanish coin, and offered buyers “a safe haven from the harsh reality of today’s traffic.” Yes, that’s what these cars were all about; smog, traffic, crime and paranoia were all up substantially in the seventies, and it accounts for the huge success of these affordable luxury coupes.
This particular Cordoba has quite a bit of family history too: it was given to the current owner’s mother by her husband as a 10th anniversary gift. And on their 25th anniversary, her husband offered to buy her any car of her choice. She turned him down to keep the beloved Cordoba. And the current owner continues to use it as a daily driver.
It came pretty fully loaded, including a sun roof and the combination stereo-CB radio, a nice vintage touch.
The Corinthian leather is holding up pretty well too. Cordobas came with a variety of the usual MoPar engines, from 318’s through big blocks. The owner of this one said it has the “small V8”, probably the 360. It doesn’t exactly exude a luxury car aural ambiance at start-up; more like that of a pickup truck. Or my 360-powered Chinook.
The Cordoba may have been Chrysler’s first smaller car, but it was hardly the last. In 1977, the Aspen-based Le Baron arrived, and within a few years, all sorts of baby Kryslers would be dominating the brand. Meanwhile, it Cordoba was one more coffin nail in Plymouth’s eventual demise.
Call me odd, but I was/am a fan of the 77 LeBaron, especially in the Town & Country Wagon guise.
But this isn’t the first instance of Chrysler eating it’s own family. You could point to a variety of points in the 50s where Dodge and Chrysler ate DeSoto first alive (while I never clearly understood why Chrysler just didn’t all out make DeSoto a full on Chrysler-Oldsmobile, up through the 40s DeSoto’s seemed to be cut from the same cloth as Oldsmobile, minus technical innovations. Maybe they should have offered Novocaine Power Steering and the Torqueflite as DeSoto exclusives first?) .
It’s weird to think how the basic Olds 88 and Buick Special were able to stay relatively successful during the 50s, but DeSoto Firedome/Firesweeps got eaten alive by Coronets and Windsors.
I always found the coupe version of the 77 LeBaron to be the best of the crop. The giant eyebrows over the headlamps were offputting on all of the models, and the sedan styling was far too boxy and generic. But the coupe had had some nice haunches on the rear fenders and an attractive boattail treatment to the trunk. Was this the last of the American boattails? Might have been.
I like the gunmetal gray/light gray color combination. Very subtle and classy for the late 1970s. I remember from my old car brochures that there was an optional landau top that had a light band that went across the roof in a continuous arc, but I’ve never seen one in person. I wonder if it was an early LED light?
The white LED hadn’t been invented yet, so probably no. More likely it was electroluminescent. (I’ve never seen the that roof treatment on a Cordoba either)
Probably…Chrysler was big on electroluminescent lighting for a while.
Isn’t it amazing how much better this car looks with proper round headlamps! When you scan the cars of the late ’70’s and the ’80’s, it seems that the rectangular headlamps that became all the rage at the time, in retrospect do not withstand the test of time as an attractive style. It obviously differs from model to model, but it is certainly a stark contrast on this Cordoba.
I agree…it’s the same with the GM Colonnade intermediates. The 1973-75 versions, with their round headlights, look better than the later versions. Although I do find the 1978-79 Dodge Magnum to be a very attractive car, and much better looking than the 1975-77 Charger. The Magnum should have been Dodge’s personal luxury offering from day one.
I know that as a pre-adolescent, I found the headlight covers on the ’78 Magnum to be ultra-futuristic. They mustn’t have sold well, because I rarely saw one the road. This scarcity made them seem even more exotic to a young boy.
I had a 1978 Dodge Magnum XE in High School. It was 2 yes old and was a huge paperweight. I mean REALLY huge. It had a 440 under the hood. While I agree the car looked great it couldn’t get out of its own way. I can’t count the number of times it blew the head gaskets, and the lens covers would retract when the lights were turned on, but wouldn’t go back up when shut off. The motor made a loud clicking sound as it tried to close, so you’d have to pull over and hand crank them closed. It looked great white with white leather bucket seats, and light blue interior.
I was delighted to find a Magnum at a car show recently and got to speak to the original owner. I hope it’s cool to put the link to that here: http://bit.ly/2ex0mu8
I’ve had 15-20 Magnums, and one Cordoba, almost identical to this one. The late B bodied Mopars are very much underappreciated. Quality-wise probably better than others, mainly because they didn’t sell well, assembly line moved slower. But, these cars had electronics light-years ahead of GM/Ford. Digital radios, digital clocks, electronic “leanburn” ignition computers. The first company to have a multi-processsing computer with sensors reporting real-time imputs. But wasn’t Chrysler’s engineering ahead? Just sayin’
Mopar was a bi-polar quality control company for all too many years. Either you got an excellent car or a POS.
In over 30 years of buying (not only) Mopars, my extended family got all of the above.
My Mother’s ’76 Cordoba, with the non-catalyst 400 4 barrel dual exhaust engine, was SO great that both of my brothers bought it when Mom got tired of it. Only normal replacement parts in almost 200K of family ownership! Even my teen age brother couldn’t kill that car! Gawd knows he tried hard enough.
My ’77 Volare was also an excellent build quality car, strong 360/Torqueflite powertrain that embarrassed a couple of “muscle cars”.
My sister’s ’81 Omni was such a POS she traded it off 3 days before the warranty expired.
My Father’s ’62 Fury was sold, under protest because his 4 full sized American kids outgrew it’s back seat. Dad mourned that car, literally, until the day he died!
I have a picture of my Mom & Dad together, turtle waxing their ’60 Valiant. (Dad would put it on, Mom would take it off.) The pride of ownership is evident in both their 30-something faces.
Yeah the square headlights say to me 1970s Chevrolet Malibu Classic. (I oughta know my Grandmother’s second husband had a Malibu Classic sedan.)
Or 1977-78 Plymouth Fury which shared the basic bodyshell (but not roofline or sheetmetal).
Agree! The round headlight Cordobas were my favorite. The front end of these models reminded me of a Jaguar XJ6 sedan.
Round headlights look like EYES and there’s just something about them that seems to appeal to the animal instinct.
Popular Mechanics used to have a feature where they polled buyers of a recently introduced car and asked for opinions and reported them. They noted that several owners particularly liked the round headlights and called the rectangular ones “faddish”. Chrysler should have taken heed. The only manufacturer that seemed able to resist rectangular lights was BMW.
Besides the Cordoba, the car that rectangular headlamps most ruined the look of was the Peugeot 505. Early U.S. cars had quad round sealed beams, but later ones got single rectangular sealed beams that clashed badly with the sloped surround intended to hold European lamps that could be custom shaped.
I agree. And yet even with the rectangular ones, there’s enough curvature to the headlamp housings that they don’t look too out of place, and they integrate with the curvy body styling – not like some of GM and Ford’s efforts that were like square pegs in round holes.
Plymouth was created by Chrysler to compete with Chevy and Ford. Most Chrysler dealers were by default also Plymouth dealers. Even their commercial jingles referred themselves as Chrysler-Plymouth (Chrysler-Plymouth…coming through…). Chrysler and Plymouth weren’t really fighting each other. It was the “other” Chrysler product, Dodge, with its redundant offerings, that killed Plymouth. Can you really tell the difference between a Dodge Aries and a Plymouth Reliant?
Plymouth’s problems started in 1960, when Chrysler Corporation took Plymouths away from Dodge dealers and gave them the Dodge Dart instead, which was based on the full-size Plymouth, but with different sheetmetal. The Dart competed directly with Chevrolet, Ford and Plymouth. Dodge even ran advertisements that compared the Dart to “Car C,” “Car F” and “Car P”!
Dodge set a sales record in 1960, thanks to the Dart. But the medium-price Dodges were rendered a footnote, and Plymouth would have fallen out of its third-place position if Valiant sales hadn’t been included in its totals.
In the 1960s, Dodge and Plymouth competed with each other as much as with the GM and Ford offerings.
In the 1970s, though, it was Chrysler that poached Plymouth sales by moving downmarket with the Cordoba and the LeBaron. Plymouth never offered a version of the Cordoba or first-generation LeBaron/Diplomat. This time Chrysler set the sales records, while Plymouth withered. Even Dodge limped along. In the 1970s, there wasn’t much point in buying a Dodge when a Chrysler could be had for virtually the same price.
Chrysler represented typical short-sighted Detroit thinking at its finest. It reaped short-term sales gains as it moved its various marques down in the market, but, over the long haul, it destroyed their brand equity. Today most people have a hard time believing that owning a Chrysler really meant something back in the 1950s and 1960s.
Actually Plymouth did an M-Body, the Caravelle, but only in Canada.
The M body was available as a Gran Fury in the states.
Chrysler represented typical short-sighted Detroit thinking at its finest. It reaped short-term sales gains as it moved its various marques down in the market, but, over the long haul, it destroyed their brand equity. Today most people have a hard time believing that owning a Chrysler really meant something back in the 1950s and 1960s.
I was at the auto wreckers last year looking for a replacement front fender for my wife’s car. While I was there, I inquired about a 196? Chrysler that a friend told me was in the yard. The guy at the counter said, “Yeah we got a mid-60s Chrysler in the u-pull section. I think it’s a Fury.” I said, “A Fury is a Plymouth, not a Chrysler.” He shrugged and said what’s the difference? I decided to have a little fun with this, so I replied “Poor people drive Plymouths, that’s the difference.” He replied, “Oh, you’re one of THOSE guys.”
Geeber, I think it started for Chrysler in the 60s with the sub $3000 Newport that poached not only sales from Plymouth, but Dodge. And filled a gap where DeSoto might have been.
+1 on the cannibalization of DeSoto by the other brands. Really, at that time only GM could afford the breadth of product to field five brands. Chrysler briefly had DeSoto, Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, and Imperial; Ford briefly had Ford, Edsel, Mercury, Lincoln and Continental. Neither had the resources to pull it off for long.
DeSoto was the main casualty of the Newburg fiasco of 1961. Chrysler was losing a ton of money, and the styling department was in total disarray. So to cut costs, and to reduce the styling burden from five brands to four (Imperial was considered a separate brand by Chrysler, but nobody else), management cut the weakest cow from the herd–DeSoto.
The real finishing stroke to Plymouth was during the consolidation of dealerships during the ’70s and ’80s. In 1989 I briefly worked at a dealership that sold Fords on one side of the lot, and Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge on the other side. There were a lot of dealerships like that, and Plymouth was totally outgunned on its own sales floor by both its stablemates, let alone outside competition. Perhaps the only thing Daimler did right during its mercenary possession of Chrysler was to kill Plymouth.
And golly gee, what did Chrysler do during the bankruptcy? Kill off most of the standalone Dodge or Jeep stores, and force dealers into a three-brand model. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it . . . .
Some places in Australia now have Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, Fiat, Abarth (separate brand) and Alfa Romeo all stuffed into a single dealership. Maybe some get Maserati too, not sure.
Cleaned a lot of these cars when new.They drove nice and the traveling salesman liked them for the excellent ride quality. You could drive them all day and not get tired.
Hey Paul, I wrecked one of these in 1977. It was brand new off the lot! Was told to take it to the Motorola/Quasar TV Dealer in Iowa City to have a CB Radio and antenna installed. CB’s were all the rage back then. A guy driving a ’74 F100 ran a stop sign and I stopped him. They towed the truck and I continued on to the TV store. Boss wasn’t happy,but I wasn’t charged with anything. The new owner accepted it after the body shop fixed it and everyone was happy.
The stacked quad lamps had to be the worst fad in auto design.
I actually prefer the stacked headlight ’77-’78 Fury sedans to the single round headlights of the ’75-’76 model. As a squad car I think there are few that best it in the styling department (see below).
As for stacked quad headlamps, they always looked pretty good to me on the ’65-’67 Galaxie, the ’63-’64 and ’66 Grand Prix, and the ’65-’68 Ambassador.
Oh, man, I’d love a mid-late Sixties Ambassador CC. Preferably an SST wagon, but any Ambassador would be great.
I love those Tans all the manufacturers had back then. They all look good just like all the Dove Grey’s did.
That looks better than the Buick Century of the same year…
I was never a fan of the 75+ Charger/Cordoba but the more I see them now I wouldn’t mind a round light version.
Detlef, you have a good point. I do like the the stacked round lights, but those cars were designed from the ground up with them in mind. The quad square lights just looked like an afterthought or tacked on to me.
You’re right with the Fury, that one does look handsome.
You’re right about the earlier cars being designed with stacked lights in mind. I wonder if the Cordoba would have looked better if Chrysler had put a cover on the stacked lamps, à la the Mercedes W111 and W112.
@detlef: Back then, those covers weren’t legal. IIRC, the covers on the Dodge Magnums flipped down out of the way, kind of like the hidden headlights on some other cars. I always thought that was dumb, but it was the law.
I agree that the round-light version is the better looking one. While the stacked-light car wasn’t bad, there was just something about it that made the car look larger and heavier then it was.
And I love that original commercial with Ricardo Montalban! In his later years I grew to really admire and respect him as a gracious and warm man.
As for this car overall, I kinda like it!
Why??? Well, refer to my screen name above…
Paul, I really enjoy your writing. Thanks for being here.
Nothing says “Fat, outdated ’70s intermediate” like stacked rectangular headlights.
Marketing this car as a Chrysler may well have been the final nail in Plymouth’s coffin, but it also saved the company. The ’74 big cars debuted just in time for the oil embargo, and the standard B-bodies just weren’t competitive with GM. With a Plymouth badge, the Cordoba probably wouldn’t have gotten any more traction than the Charger, but the Chrysler held enough prestige to capture buyers who would have otherwise bought a Newport, or an Olds Cutlass Supreme.
Also remember that Ford had been in the personal luxury coupe game since ’74 with the Elite, which was just a Torino with opera windows and a Monte Carlo-style front end. It sold well enough, but couldn’t touch the GM competition. When the Torino was facelifted and became the LTD II for 1977, the Elite became the “new” Thunderbird. The Thunderbird had become an expensive, prestigious near-Lincoln, but the downsized and substantially cheaper ’77 dramatically outsold both the ’76 model and the old Elite, moving more than 300,000 cars. Prestige sells, even when it’s fake, poorly-assembled prestige.
It could bring an interesting “what if?” here, what if Chrysler had redesigned the A or B-body for ’74 instead of the big C-body? I could even go a step further by wondering what if DeSoto was still around in the 1970s?
I always viewed the Cordoba as the car that got Chrysler back to even after all the development money lost on the E-body due to poor sales.
In that same light, all the Cordoba really did was hold off Chrysler’s dire financial straits for a few years. One can only wonder what would have happened at Chrysler if not for the success of the Cordoba. Would Iacocca still have been available? And, if not, who would have been able to take the reigns and bring them back?
Imagine if it had been DeLorean, and not Iacocca, who was asked to take over at Chrysler…
My brother is also a car nut at one point he went to the states to tour about get a job etc he bought one of these same colour combo as a Centura I was driving in OZ must have early 90s he drove it down the west coast and inland road trips sold it in LA, from that time till now he has never mentioned it. After the 73 V8 Falcon he had in NZ it must have been a huge come down in driveability.
I have to wonder how much of the intra-brand warfare is the result of distribution. Running five separate divisions is expensive. And engine and platform costs were rising as well. But I’d always thought the real villians in the American car industry were dealerships.
That being said, VW is really in the same pickle. Skoda eating into Audi, Audi eating in Porsche, SEAT eating into VW.
Whenever I see one of the (early 70’s?) Chrysler ads that states that Chrysler is the only upscale brand that only offers fullsize cars, I snicker a little bit since I know that the Cordoba was just around the corner. In retrospect, the ad was rather hypocritical. Cordoba was probably in the product planning pipeline at the time, but maybe it was still slotted to become a Plymouth?
Chrysler was certainly late to enter the “personal luxury” segment with the Cordoba. Sure they made a flurry of concept cars starting in the 50’s, which we’ve been discussing a lot here recently. Then they (or rather Ghia) made the small run of Turbines that they loaned out to people in 1963-64, the bodies of which arguably were in the “personal luxury” segment. Perhaps Chrysler should have gone into production with the Turbine body, just with a conventional IC engine fitted?
I believe that it was in 1961 – when the Buick Special, Pontiac Tempest and Olds F-85 debuted – that Chrysler ads began trumpeting that the division did not offer a “junior edition.” That year the Newport debuted. It was a lower-priced Chrysler that, in many ways, occupied DeSoto’s slot.
I’ve seen a 1962 Chrysler ad that boasts of “no junior editions to jeopardize your investment!”.
Chrysler ads throughout the 1960s bragged that it didn’t make any smaller cars, and that “all Chryslers are big.” This was long before the Cordoba was in the development mill.
The DeSoto Firesweep of 1957 and 1958 that actually used a modified Dodge front clip was one of the cars that always made me wonder why it was built. DeSoto-Plymouth dealers didn’t need a cheaper DeSoto; they had Plymouths to sell, and selling DeSotos with two different front clips must have cost more.
After DeSoto was dropped, the Corporation found that it needed a big Dodge as well as a lower-end Chrysler to cover the gap. For all that there wasn’t really much difference between the 1962 Dodge 880 and the Chrysler Newport of the same year, it’d have been cheaper to make just one or the other – it seems to me that making them both would have cost almost as much as keeping on with DeSoto.
One of the ways that the Chrysler brand covered so wide a price range was by varying the trim quite a bit among the different series. After all these years I don’t remember specifically for 62-64, but I do know that in 1965 Newports, 300s, 300L’s and New Yorkers each had different grilles, side trim, interior trim, and rear trim between the taillights. Although 300s and 300L’s shared a wheel cover design, Newports and New Yorkers each had their own.
Paul, I can’t remember, have you ever done any Chrysler “deadly sin” articles? Does the Cordoba qualify, for cannibalizing sales from other Mopars, and taking Chrysler itself downmarket? The Aspen/Volare should certainly qualify. I would also nominate the pathetic 1990-93 K-car based Imperial.
I would call today’s new CC a DS, but it was already too late by the time it arrived.
“…to buy her any car of her choice. She turned him down to keep the beloved Cordoba.”
And that’s what a lotta folks don’t understand when they look down on an old car owner. They think “eh, old folks.” Or if it’s a younger owner, “they just can’t afford it.” Truth is, unless it’s a beat up old rustbucket owned by someone who really can’t afford anything else (and in that case one can usually tell), then it isn’t any of that.
What it is, is that some of those cars had personality in spades, timeless looks, and were quite comfy not to mention adequately equipped. Wiring in an aftermarket stereo/speakers isn’t that hard, and if it had a stock sunroof, then all of a sudden the car becomes a place you look forward to being in, as in, an EXPERIENCE and a tiny escape from the everyday life, as opposed to a point-A-to-point-B appliance. And then if you can fix um, bring um back to how they were when they were new, and then maybe swap in some new stuff to further tighten up that suspension and make her handle a bit livelier… well… then all that’s left is a rust conversion, fresh paint and the clear, and then forget the new cars, thank you very much. All of that work and maintenance costs less than a low end new car anyway. And just like that you have something unique. We all want something unique (well, some people just won’t admit to it, lol).
What a wonderful find, Paul. I’ve always liked those Cordobas. Thank you for yet another great write-up.
I went to a Star Trek Convention where Montalban was speaking, He had a Cordoba story, he said when he went in to do the voice over he pronounced Cordoba in the proper spanish way- Cor-DO-vah, and the marketers stopped him and said the city may very well be pronounced that way but the car was a Cor Doh Baa. He was very much aware as a spanish speaker it was being pronounced incorrectly but defered to the client.
Ricardo Montalbán was in so many movies and TV shows, but today seems to be remembered only as the Cordoba “soft Corinthian leather” pitchman and his role as Khan in Star Trek (in only one original-series episode and one movie, but maybe the best Star Trek movie and one of the best episodes (“Space Seed”). Maybe Mr. Rourke in Fantasy Island too.
I have always liked these cars, in both early and late editions. I particularly liked the “300” version of the later car, with the E-68 360 motor. I managed to finagle a drive in a couple of those back in the day, and they weren’t too bad!
“It was a pretty handsome job, given that lead designer Allan Kornmiller still had to work with the basic B-Body from 1971, as is so clearly evidenced by the A-pillars and windshield.”
The “new B-body,” the modern retro Dodge Challenger bears resemblance to the Cordoba. If malaise-era automotive fashion ever makes a comeback, it would be easy for FIAT to revive the Cordoba with a reskinned Challenger. All the glass pieces fit. Only the rear quarter window needs to be reshaped into an “opera” window with a vinyl “landau” roof, just like the original. The body hard points are similar. The wheelbase is off by only a couple of inches. Chrome side view mirrors and “turbine style” alloy wheels would complete the package.
The conversion can even be done by an aftermarket company. It will be more convincing than the many Camaro-based Firebird revivals. The overweight “pony car” Challenger is more suitable as a “personal luxury” car anyway. Unfortunately Mr. Montalban is no longer with us. Perhaps FIAT could hire Andy Garcia to say “soft Corinthian leather.”
That would be a radical shift in automotive fashion since everyone wants outdoorsy functionality now (Fiat would’ve done well to bring in the 500L in Trekking form only).
All the brand-blurring might have started during the Depression, when many of the mid-to-higher-end makes offered budget models to stay afloat. Most notable among them was the Packard 120, which later evolved into the Clipper. By then, the luxury market had shrunk to the point that an indie manufacturer couldn’t survive exclusively on it, as Pierce-Arrow and others discovered. Maybe a deadly sin in retrospect, but that same rejuvenated Packard built Merlin engines for Mustang fighters in World War II. Without the 120, it might never have gotten there. Besides, Packard’s truly deadly sin was merging with an unhealthy Studebaker.
It’s true that the dealers had a lot to do with it, as they were the ones calling for volume models to sell even if they were featuring upmarket makes. And to their credit, the manufacturers did a decent job fine-tuning their offerings to the point where you could see a definite difference between a Plymouth Fury III and a Chrysler Newport, even if the Fury might be better equipped. What it did in the long term was irrelevant if your job hinged on your latest sales numbers.
The Cordoba was pretty popular in Mexico, too, where Chrysler has a historic foothold, hence Montalban’s stated willingness to take on the campaign. Wonder if the commercials there pronounced it correctly (COR-do-ba)?
To me, the Cordoba brought Chrysler brand to reality, since the Olds Cutlass Supreme was a huge seller in the ‘mid price’ brands. But, on the other hand, it was a copy of the ’73 Monte Carlo, with Spanish trim.
Say anything about Chryslers, but that so-called Corinthian leather sure held up. I’ve never seen a Cordoba with torn up leather seats! And their gold badges never tarnish, it’s amazing…
I still insist they should have stuck with the round headlamps, though…
in Consumer Reports tests of Chrysler mid sizers prior to 76, their noise levels were generally higher than their Ford and GM competitors. however, i remember a CR’s test of the Cordoba (I don’t remember the year) showed the “sone” levels to be down on a level of the GM and Ford cars. in fact i noted a few other Chrysler Corp cars like the 75 Sport Suburban Wagon and the 76 Coronet were testing as quiet as the Ford & GM cars. Chrysler must have done something to make these cars ride quieter. The ’81 Imperial was considered “dead silent”.
these cars also started to look nicer both inside and out than the years prior to 75. not sure if you agree tho
Of course I am looking back at a disadvantage of almost 40 years; but I really don’t recall my Mother’s ’76 Cordoba being noisy on the inside.
Now my friend’s ’70 Satellite 2 door did indeed have some noticeable road noise when cruising on Interstate 10. Which he covered up with a Cherry Bomb dual exhaust muffler system.
The B-bodies benefited (?) from a big anti-NVH rework for 1973…mostly, the K-member and rear leaf spring plates got rubber isolators, the spring hangers got larger bushings, and I recall the torsion bar crossmember may have also gotten rubber-mounted. It made for a quieter, more-compliant ride at a cost of losing some handling ability.
I knew a guy who didn’t know anything about cars, but he loved the Ricardo Montalban commercials. He walked into a Chrysler store and when they asked him what he would be interested in, he said, “the one with Corinthian leather.” He ended up with a blue Cordova to match his daughter’s eyes.
I just bought one of these cars. Reminds very much of the 71-74 B-Body it is based on. I’m here near Indianapolis so if someone wants to photograph and do a write up then that’s fine. Mine is Cadet Blue with the Dark Blue Corinthian Leather Interior. I can post some pictures I took shortly. Mine has a 360 4bbl with the 340 camshaft. No lean burn. It has 2.45 gears but, still moves out decent.
There are a couple of us here, so perhaps we will see you out and about. Sounds like a neat car.
Hard to miss this one.
After reading all of the comments on folk’s experiences and memories of this car, I thought I would share mine and a photo of the ’77 triple black cordoba with a sunroof no less! This was my first car I drove during most of the eighties. The photo was taken in December 1981 in upstate NY. It had a 400 4 barrel with the lean burn removed and lots of upgrades added over the years. It definitely was my pride and joy! Lots of fast driving, late nights and swagger. It really was pretty bad ass for the day. My best buddy kept it (and me) going and out of trouble. When he passed away suddenly, things were not so fun anymore and driving the beast was tough. So sold it to some lucky guy and ended up with a new dodge daytona turbo. Not exactly a big block 400, but it went pretty damn good and lasted longer than the big ‘ol ‘doba. Maybe so, but in the cordoba, I felt like king of the road, haven’t felt that way since!
This, and the Lincoln Versailles, is the essence of some kind of automotive “lost innocence”, something, in retrospect, so sadly and achingly in need of being seen as the accepted standard of success and good taste (despite their obviously re-badged versions) that it moves one to see these cars as the forgotten artifacts of an extinct civilization, a more naïve. less sophisticated, yet somehow more humane one, rather than the cold, anonymous, characterless, mean-faced automobiles of today, which reflect a more cruel, ruthless, and essentially diminished world, beset by the fears of apocalypse, technology, and terrorism.
I hope the guy at Chrysler that said the Cordoba should be a Chrysler got a nice bonus check – he saved the company for at least a few more years. Paul’s point that mid-price brands were hot in the ’70s, and a great way to get a little extra margin during the era meant that Chrysler definitely needed something to do battle with the Cutlass Supreme, among other cars.
In hindsight, the move may have helped keep one criticism away from this car – the original front end was obviously a rip-off of the Monte Carlo, and if everybody had put this new Plymouth next to the Monte, there would have been no end to the comments.
Parked next to an Olds Cutlass, Buick Regal, or Pontiac Grand Prix, the front end of the original looked classy and obviously competed well.
The stacked headlights of this model look even more like the ’77 Monte Carlo, don’t they? The original Cordoba is much easier to spot with the upright grill and running light positioned inboard of the headlights. There is a discernible difference. You can barely tell the left side ones apart.
The gas crunch of 73-74 had Plymouth become the “Valiant-Duster” brand. Nearly all their ads promoted the A bodies and forgot the others.
The ‘small Fury’ was overshadowed by the ‘small Chrysler’, which was virtual “sliced bread”.
Chrysler styling may have been the most schizophrenic in the industry in the mid 70s. They turned out some of the ugliest cars ever (like the B body Fury and Monaco sedans), some of the most bland (Volare/Aspen and the R body Newport) and some of the most beautiful (74-78 Imperial/New Yorker and these.)
I remember the introduction of “the small Chrysler”, and compared to the Newports and New Yorkers they had been churning out (slowly) they were small.
These were the first Chryslers I could remember that were getting GM and Ford buyers to trade in competing cars for Cordobas. Unfortunately, with Chrysler’s infinitely variable quality control of that time, many switched right back again for their next one. But when you got a good one, their owners were real fans.
My parents bought a Cordoba in 1976. I always thought it was a nice car and compared to the Buick Regal or Cutlass Supreme. My mother loved it because it was not a station wagon. They kept it for 10 years and then gave it to my brother.
My Mom wanted one of these desperately when they first came out, but given the precarious state of my parent’s finances in the ’70s it was not to be. I like the stacked square headlights look just as much as the round headlights. It’s not a bad look, just different. I also liked the ’77 Monte Carlo with the stacked lights too. This was one of Chrysler’s bright spots during that turbulent decade.
I am just glad Ford did not put stacked rectangular headlights on the ’83 Ranger truck. It would have killed them. The ’78 Fox body Fairmont, and the tremendous success of the ’83 Ranger 4X4 pickup, not to mention the Fox Mustangs and Aero T-bird, is what saved them in the ’80s. Not the Taurus. It allowed them to build the Taurus. Ranger, to this day, gets no recognition for its accomplishments.
No American car (or truck) was ever “born” with stacked square headlights; it was strictly done as a last update for an aging model, usually the 1971-3 generation gunboat “midsize” on the car side. That being said, my favorite application of stacked squares (and one of the last) was on the ’81-87 high series GM fullsize trucks.
The closest I can think of a vehicle “born” with stacked rectangular sealed beams was the 1979 Dodge vans. Of course the basic design of the B-series van went back to 1971, but ’79 brought a completely new, longer snout that was originally designed for stacked rectangular lights. Yes, lower-end versions used single round lights, but the shape of the grille was clearly designed for the rectangular lights, with the round lights in large square bezels looking like afterthoughts.
I can think of one vehicle that looked to be designed from the start for stacked rectangular lights: the first-generation Chrysler minivans.
I prefer the stacked lights to the single round headlights…mostly, because I much prefer having the high beams in their own housings.
I was never a fan of the Cordoba way back when. Although I do prefer the early round headlight models. After acquiring a 78 Cordoba earlier this year however, I don’t mind the stacked headlight look so much. And overall the look of the car has grown on me.
Still, I can’t keep it. Won’t fit in the garage and I’m not really a Mopar guy.
I’ll take it!
WhAt was the last car to have round. Sealed beams? Mark vi?
Among US domestic cars I’m going to guess you are probably right. That would be 1983.
+1 The Mark series is interesting too because they held onto round sealed beams longer, then just skipped rectangular lights altogether and became one of the firsts with composites.
FWIW I believe the Olds/Pontiac W body coupes may be the only cars in history to actually go back to sealed beams after having composites
For cars, probably…though I recall TJ Wranglers used them from 1997 to 2005.
Give me a bucket, hose, some Armor All, and a few hours in the garage and that sow’s ear would be a silk purse!
I had a fraternity brother that showed up in a brand new one in ’75 and beat the snot out of it as a party Wagon. It was hard for me- who could only dream of a brand new car watch this beautiful specimen of all that I coveted pummeled every day and especially weekends! That was the first tremor of my Mopar affinity. About 1985, I bought my first wife a fully optioned Lancer ES and loved the car, the epitome of my unrequited Mopar desire.
Today as I putter around in my ’08 GC Hemi Overland, it is amazing to think that things have come full circle.
I actually prefer the stacked quad headlights. Once you mention Jaguar, I see where they were trying to go, but this does not look like a Jaguar. When I was a kid in the eighties, rectangular headlamps were hip and round ones were dated, and nowadays cars with round headlamps like jeeps and porsches are going for a consciously dated look.
Out of all the Chrysler two doors, there’s some detailing in the opera window/targa top that makes it look less hideously disproportioned from top to bottom. All the larger/other Chrysler two doors seemed to have tiny little greenhouses and enormous raft bodies below.
These things were everywhere in the ’80’s, and like all Chryslers, suddenly vanished about 10 years after they were made. The K cars all disappeared in Atlanta in the mid to late 90’s and these were all gone by the late 80s.
Given build quality, I still wouldn’t pick a Cordoba over the Cutlass Supreme/Buick Regal. The Malibu was horrible looking to me, I might have gone with a LeMans or Grand Prix though, and the Fords .. ugh.
For me, the ’78 restyle was kind of like when the Cordoba got “glasses”. Still attractive, but…
I liked these cars better than the Ford equivalents during this time era but still prefer the GM intermediates like the Cutlass or Grand Prix as an example. What I do remember vividly was the owner complaints regarding the lean burn system on the Chrysler products and many owners chucked this system after the warranty ran out. It’s cool seeing the rare example at our local car cruise in shows. If I had to pick a mid sizer in the 1975-77 time frame it would most likely be a Grand Prix SJ with snow flake alloys and 400 V8.
These were a kind of flash-in-the-pan success. My father bought one of the first ones off the truck in our area, and my grandfather followed within months. Both ’75’s were quality challenged. Oddly enough, both had transmissions replaced under warranty (almost bizzare, as the torqueflights are known as nearly bulletproof). My grandfather’s car had electrical gremlins that rendered it undriveable in wet weather. Both were gone in ’77. Dad’s was traded for a Monte Carlo, and my Chrysler loyalist grandfather traded his for a ’77 Lebaron coupe. My mother went on a tirade upon hearing that he’d bought another Chrysler after being burned, but the Lebaron was a good car, which I actually took ownership of briefly in the late 80’s before selling it on. I remember a lot of people complimenting the Cordoba when we first got it, but by ’77 it was old news, and apparently sales figures show this too. By the time we got rid of ours at just 2 years old it seemed outdated, outclassed by the newer cars, and it was basically passe’ to own a Chrysler anymore. We were back to Mopar by 1980, but for those few years in the late 70’s buying a Chrysler was akin to booking a trip on the Titanic.
I like the first generation’s front clip better, but even this one is pretty fetching. I saw one a little while ago that was still in decent shape soldiering on as a DD.
Please get that car a nice detail and polishing job….it will look spectacular.
When contrasted to a same year Chevy Monte Carlo; I viewed the original Cordoba, esp the ’76 model with the thin bladed grille, as a “Quietly Classy”, under-stated car.
A “Packard” compared to the more vulgar, swoopy fendered, flashier “Cadillac” type of design contrast.
In December 1974, I was a 10 year old kid. My family had suffered for almost 5 years with a hideously unreliable, gas swilling 1970 Pontiac LeMans (350 engine) When the earliest ’75 Cordobas began popping up towards ultra late 1974, they ordered one from the factory. In April 1975, they took delivery of a silver Cordoba with a maroon landau roof. It had white leather and even a rare manual sunroof. Power windows, seats too. Pretty much loaded silly. The engine was the standard 360 2bbl.
Totally bucking the trend of poor quality control, this car was totally rattle-free, and hardly ever saw the inside of a mechanic’s shop. After the awful 11 MPG Pontiac that my parents traded in, the Cordoba must have felt like a Prius at the time. (15 MPG around town and slightly over 20 mpg open road) Perhaps we got lucky was this was a pre-Lean Burn car.
They sold the 1975 Cordoba in late ’79 only because they needed more room for my aging grandparents. The replacement was the much unloved 1979 New Yorker (R Body) that really was a quality control mess, but that’s another story)
I disagree that Cordoba was down market. Mid size PLC’s were the sweet spot starting with ’68 Grand Prix, and base-strippo big cars were dying off. ‘Doba’ had more class than the “old folksy” plain-jane Newports. Just look at the pics of the ’71 Royal model in another CC post, far from “classy”
Cadillac and Lincoln even had PLC’s, though highly priced. The idea that in the red hot PLC market of mid 70’s, Chrysler should have ‘stuck to only big cars’ is silly.
Plymouth was declining as a full line make, and known as the “Duster brand”. Ma Mopar couldn’t afford three “full line” brands anymore with the recession/gas crisis/near bankruptcy.
#1 [thru 10] deadly sin for 70’s Chrysler? Poor quality.
The round headlights and parking lights were a vital part of the original Cordoba’s style and popularity. The stacked rectangular lights accentuated the ‘doba’s visual flabbiness.
If Plymouth had a version of the Cordoba (which it was supposed to be strictly Plymouth or exclusively Chrysler’s) it would have been called the Sebring deriving indirectly from its predecessor the Satellite Sebring which actually was also replaced by the the RWD B-Bodied Fury coupes, sedans and wagons.
It looks just like a GM car of the era. That’s probably why it sold as well as it did.